Dark Fragrances


Below are only some of my favorites from the dark category, encompassing chypre, oriental and floral, vintage and modern.

Black Cashmere by Donna Karan— incense in a tapestry of serene darkness
Bandit by Robert Piguet—archetype of leather chypre genre, shocking, yet unforgettable
Dzing! by L’Artisan Parfumeur—animalic made ethereal
Fracas by Robert Piguet—rich tuberose, redolent of sandalwood and warm skin
Musc Ravageur by Frédéric Malle—postmodern Shalimar, a seductive combination of cool top accords and warm animalic base
Narcisse Noir by Caron—almost sinister black flower hiding under the luminous orange blossom touches
Opium by Yves Saint Laurent–spices and woods melt over dark carnation into a composition that cannot but capture one’s attention (be it in a positive or negative way)
Rose de Nuit by Serge Lutens—rose petals scattered over a dark ambery base

If you have your favorite dark fragrances, I would love to hear what they are.

Opium advertisement from psine.net.



  • Sisonne: Dear V, I would consider L´Artisan “Passage d´Enfer” & “Vouleur de Rose” to have a pretty dark quality.
    Another one which I just discovered is Norma Kamali “Perfume”, it´s dark, sophisticated & rich.
    I also think that patchouli based fragrances are a bit “on the dark side” ;), but since I still haven´t found a patchouli I really like I can´t give any examples. October 13, 2005 at 6:28am Reply

  • julien: I wore it…i love it and the old “flacon”…mmmm
    Opium is Youth Dew with less spices and patchouli,more flowers too…it is not that strong in fact.
    The problem i how people put it…One of my favorite. October 13, 2005 at 9:55am Reply

  • julien: Ohhh,i forgot to answer…
    Well,FRACAS is my favorite dark fragance,it is the perfume for perfect divas,but a cruel one.
    I see it as a psychotic scent…narcotic,dark,it is poison but the temptation is so sweet that you let yourself go…then it takes you,it’s over,you’re dead.
    That’s my vision of FRACAS,which i worship so much…
    Kisses from paris my dear. October 13, 2005 at 9:58am Reply

  • Liz: There is no electric light within a hundred mile radius of Fumerie Turque. October 13, 2005 at 10:12am Reply

  • Liz: OK, between you and Luca, I really do have to try this La Nuit. October 13, 2005 at 10:31am Reply

  • mreenymo: Fracas, Ambre Narguile, Nu, Angeliques Encens, Vol de Nuit, Shalimar, and Chergui are all big favorites of mine. I have a small decant of Black Cashmere and plan to test it this winter.

    My friends often associate me with clean fragrances, but when colder, gloomy weather bears down on southern Cali, I love to wear those “heavier” fragrances.

    Fracas is an exception: I wear it in the spring around Mothers Day. Wicked, wicked mommy! :):)

    Hugs! October 13, 2005 at 12:42pm Reply

  • Marina: Oh yes, dark fragrances! My inner Goth salutes to your choice of a topic 🙂 I must say, for me, most incense scents, especially Regina Harris and Messe de Minuit are dark. Definitely Opium, Bandit, Shalimar,Une Rose, Rose de Nuit, and I agree with Sisonne about Voleur de Rose. October 13, 2005 at 9:00am Reply

  • carmencanada: Opium I have yet to try. I was a “passive sniffer” in the 80’s and loathed it back then…
    Bornéo 1834 is truly the heart of darkness, a blast of subtropical heat, muttering “the horror, the horror” while reclining on a chaise longue on the veranda of your plantation, plotting adultery and refined revenge.
    Paco Rabanne’s La Nuit is the essence of darkness too, all sweat and wilting flowers and overripe fruit.
    SL’s A la Nuit is walking in an alley of Seville or Marrakech and being overwhelmed by jasmine before seeing their little white stars splling over a walled garden.
    CdG’s Avignon is the cool darkness of a Gothic cathedral. October 13, 2005 at 10:18am Reply

  • carmencanada: Liz, you took the words right out of my mouth about Fumerie Turque ! October 13, 2005 at 10:19am Reply

  • Ayala: My favourite dark perfumes include Feuilles de Tabac, Arabie, Guilt, Espionage, Epice Sauvage, Finjan, Dzing!, Nuit de Noel, Femme, Bvlgari Black, to name a few…
    I love oriental, chypre and leather perfumes so that makes it easy…
    I do not get along well with the original Opium, but lurve Fleur de Shanghai. However, I don’t consider this one to be dark – it actually pretty lighthearted despite the vast amount of myrrh – due to the sheer magnoli heart and the fresh mandarin top. It should be available year around andnot a limited edition in my opinion – hope YSL is reading this and seriously considering my plea!
    Ayala October 13, 2005 at 11:31am Reply

  • Tania: Nearly everything I own is dark. 🙂 October 13, 2005 at 12:05pm Reply

  • julien: Well,it is true,my vision of Fracas is very dark but you know,it also has something romantic or like a fairy tail..i imagine FRACAS worn so perfectly by the bad queen in snow white…don’t why…my devasted mind,i guess!lol
    And what about poison?
    I love it too,dark,honeyed…i have bought esprit de parfum today(well i know,after Jicky,shalimar and also Cèdre thanks to you,my friend 😉 i should stop buying so many perfumes…it is my drug!)it is darkly beautiful…always the same,just put a few drops,and it is perfect.
    Esprit de parfum is absolutely wonderful.

    Does anyone like it too?

    Kisses,my dear.
    Julien. October 13, 2005 at 4:12pm Reply

  • carmencanada: Liz : if you’re considering La Nuit, get the parfum. Much smoother. Very 80’s. Very interesting. October 13, 2005 at 1:06pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: C, you are right about incense. A touch of it, especially when it is the burned incense kind makes the fragrance dark. Both of your choices would fall into the dark category. October 13, 2005 at 2:21pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: M, how could I forget Messe de Minuit? On the other hand, it is so strange, I cannot comprehend wearing it on my skin. I still hope that Etro makes it into a candle form. October 13, 2005 at 2:25pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Julien, I love the flacon (designed by Pierre Dinard). The fragrance is definitely to be applied lightly, because it can overwhelm easily. October 13, 2005 at 2:28pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Julien, that is a great description, even though I admit that your vision of Fracas is much more sinister than mine. What I would love is to try the pre-reformulated version and see what it was like. I bet that it was even darker. October 13, 2005 at 2:29pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Liz, another quote to remember! I cannot think of a better way to characterize Fumerie Turque. October 13, 2005 at 2:30pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: D, thank you for these additions and stunning descriptions. I can understand how Opium can be unpalatable to someone who passively overdosed on it. It is the same thing with Angel and other loud fragrances. Alien is remarkably tenacious as well. I thought that it was interesting (not at all what I expected though), but they definitely have to put a warning on the bottle–spray with caution. It lasts and lasts and lasts. October 13, 2005 at 2:34pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Liz, you definitely have to try it! I cannot imagine Bandit woman like you not being taken in by La Nuit. October 13, 2005 at 2:34pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Ayala, wonderful list! Now, you are making me regret that I never tried Fleur de Shanghai, particularly because I love myrrh. Made transparent, it could be very interesting. October 13, 2005 at 2:37pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: T, why am I not surprised? 🙂 October 13, 2005 at 2:38pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: R, another wonderful list with so many of my favourites. I can just imagine you wearing Fracas as the most elegant mother on that day! Wicked and elegant–now, that is a great combination. October 13, 2005 at 2:40pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: D, I do not know whether I should thank you or scold you for bringing something else I need to try to my attention. 🙂 Of course, I am just teasing you. I will definitely try to find parfum. October 13, 2005 at 2:42pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Julien, I will admit here that I like Poison, but mostly in theory. I love tuberose, and Poison is an example of potent 80s style tuberose, which is almost unbearable if worn like a normal fragrance. A drop is the only thing one needs, and even then it is something I prefer to be kept for the privacy of my house. I do like some other Poison offsprings, like Pure Poison. October 13, 2005 at 4:26pm Reply

  • Katie: Caron’s Nocturnes is a dark fragrance to me – but I do think this is because there is something in it that reminds me of when I was little, and my dad and I would go out into the yard at night to dig up earthworms for fishing the next day. Which doesn’t SOUND like a very complimentary thing to say, but I do mean it in a postivie way. October 13, 2005 at 4:30pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Katie, you made me laugh out loud, which is what I needed right now. No, it sounds like a perfectly complimentary thing–a scent that brings up a recollection from childhood is very special indeed. I need to revisit Nocturnes, which is one Caron I recall not giving proper attention. Thank you for another inspiration to try something I have overlooked. October 13, 2005 at 4:34pm Reply

  • carmencanada: There is in fact a whole “after dark” perfume category: A la Nuit, Messe de Minuit, Nuit de Noël, la Nuit, Nocturnes, and some lesser known ones such as Eau de Minuit (Lempicka), Ombre de la Nuit (Ungaro), Parfum de Nuit (Ferretti), Belle de Minuit (Nina Ricci), although I haven’t smelled these and wouldn’t know if they qualified as “dark”.
    About the incense scents: a friend of mine was commenting on Avignon when I sampled it, saying “why would any woman want to smell like a place?”. I’ve taken it to spraying it on a wall hanging in my bedroom to experience the scent, rather than on myself. Though it is the signature scent of one remarquable woman, fashion journalist Diane Pernet,whom you can see here : http://www.la-couture.com/portrait/diane_us.htm. It suits her perfectly. October 13, 2005 at 6:17pm Reply

  • carmencanada: P.S. The link I just gave you doesn’t seem to work. Try http://www.la-couture.com and click on “portraits” to see the real Avignon woman. October 13, 2005 at 6:23pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: A period added by mistake was the culprit: here is a corrected version.

    Thank you for sharing. She sounds like a remarkable individual. I shall have to read her blog as well.

    You are right in pointing out the entire dark genre. Darkness is seductive, as it does not allow one to be able to predict what happens after one crosses the line. It is the mystery that seduces.

    To end with Lorca (from the Gypsy and the Wind):
    “The sea darkens and roars,
    while the olive trees turn pale.
    The flutes of darkness sound,
    and a muted gong of the snow.” October 13, 2005 at 6:45pm Reply

  • sarcon: Bandit
    Aromatic Elixir
    Bulgari Black
    Feminite du Bois

    I love Passage d’Enfer, but I don’t consider it “dark”. It has a crisp, airy quality to me.

    Fracas – not a favorite of mine, but it does have a dark Norma Desmond-y thing about it! October 14, 2005 at 4:36pm Reply

  • Dain: Mechant Loup! It is the scent of sarcasm, a wicked grin, done with the classic L’Artisan lucidity. October 14, 2005 at 4:50pm Reply

  • Tara: There is in fact an Etro Messe de Minuit candle – I bought it not 2 months ago from Neiman Marcus online. However, I was disappointed in it. The throw was very poor. Such a pity as I was really looking forward to that dank basement, moldy book smell filling my house. October 14, 2005 at 5:58pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Sarcon, I love your list. Bulgari Black is definitely in the dark category for me. Feminite du Bois strikes me more as plummy/winey for some reason. Perhaps, it is a tinge of violet aspect of aromachemical (Iso E Super) used to modify cedarwood. October 14, 2005 at 7:17pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Dain, I have not revisited Mechant Loup for a while. It is about time. Thank you for mentioning it. October 14, 2005 at 7:18pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Tara, thank you for mentioning it. I am now very much disappointed, because I was really looking forward to the candle form of Messe de Minuit. Oh well… October 14, 2005 at 7:19pm Reply

  • Campaspe: I am one of the few people who loves the days getting shorter and shorter as the winter solstice approaches. The chilly twilights, leaves blowing around the streets … to me it is very beautiful. Then after Christmas, like everybody else I am thinking, enough with the dark!

    I think Nuit de Noel is a beautiful dark fragrance. So many Carons would apply here since they share that famous undercurrent. October 15, 2005 at 6:09pm Reply

  • Miriam: Late to this discussion, yet again, but my favorite dark one is Ormonde. I don’t think you can get any darker than Black Hemlock laced with Violet, Jasmine and Amber!

    I’m also discovering that I rather like Guerlain’s new Angelique Noir, also a lovely, more herbal, calmer dark (thanks, V!)

    I agree with Sarcon, that Passage d’Enfer is too sharp, cool and crisp to be a dark scent. Gothic, yes. Cathedral, yes. Incense, yes. But in the daytime. October 17, 2005 at 1:26am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: F, I feel the same way–I like the cold only for a very short period of time. Good thing I live where I do then, despite my various complaints about the city. Of course, I cannot agree more on Caron fragrances, especially the older ones. October 16, 2005 at 10:47pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Miriam, I am glad that you were able to find something to love in that array!

    Incense in general falls into the dark category, however there are differences. While Norma Kamali Incense as well as Comme de Garcons Avignon are my dark incense fragrances, and Passage d’Enfer and Zagorsk are among the light, perfectly suitable for daytime. October 17, 2005 at 1:35am Reply

  • Miriam: Oh, I have hardly even got through the entire array yet! I’m trying one per day. 😉 October 17, 2005 at 5:20pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: I am glad there is enough to last for a few days then! Enjoy it, dear M! October 17, 2005 at 7:16pm Reply

  • Songscent: Sigh. You have such a way with words. I’ll just say Mitsouko for me–she wants to be a proper lady but her dark past always gives her away. I love it but it’s darker than I’m in the mood for on most days. 🙂 October 18, 2005 at 10:22pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Sali, what a perfect description of Mitsouko! I admit that I tend to think of it as a mossy, overgrown peach garden in the fall, but your description is much more intriguing. October 18, 2005 at 11:27pm Reply

  • sarcon: I forgot about Sisley Eau de Soir. Another dark and haughty scent that I enjoy. October 19, 2005 at 3:32pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: I have not tried it in a very long, but now I have to! Thanks for mentioning Eau de Soir. October 19, 2005 at 5:45pm Reply

  • kristen: I LOVE Black Cashmere. Sometimes I think it might be too heavy for me, but I’ve settled on the good old technique of spraying it into the air and then walking into it. It’s the only way I can wear it without it overpowering me (or, anyone standing near me!). October 21, 2005 at 9:18pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: I do the same thing with Black Cashmere, because a light mist over skin gives a much better effect. Whatever the case maybe, it is a beautiful dark fragrance. October 21, 2005 at 10:15pm Reply

  • Cat: I was lurking and decided to post because “dark” fragrances are so rare! Many smell too chemically or overpoweringly sweet, so I was happy to see some recommendations here.

    Etro’s Messe de Minuit is nice out of the bottle, but it is one of my favorites because on *my* skin it gets warmer and muskier as time goes on. The only thing I don’t like about it is that it wears off so fast, and was so expensive – a little doesn’t go a very long way, and I don’t like to be bathed in perfume.

    Guerlain’s Orange Magnifica is also a bit “dark” – but again I prefer the smell after sleeping with it on.

    Speaking of the Darkest of the Dark, does anyone know Goth Rosary? I just got her samples, and absolutely fell in love with Heathen and Crypt (I am a big oak moss fan). The names are a bit kitschy, but the smells are WonDerFul, all natural, vegan, cruelty-free, and it’s a small woman owned business too. I was always waiting to find such fragrances, and only Messe de Minuit comes close.

    Although I am now a grownup, and not a goth anymore, I love these smells still and find them elegant and feminine without being cheap or chemically, and highly recommend them! January 22, 2007 at 9:58am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Cat, what a great list! I am now tempted to go and put on Messe de Minuit. Thank you for sharing your favourites. January 22, 2007 at 12:13pm Reply

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