Frederic Malle Noir Epices : Fragrance Review



Star rating: 5 stars–outstanding/potential classic, 4 stars–very good, 3 stars–adequate, 2 stars–disappointing, 1 star–poor.

The orange opening Frédéric Malle Noir Epices is dark and dimly lit, as opposed to sparkling like a handful of glitter. Touched by the soft apricot notes, rose begins to unfold gently, wrapped in a foil of velvety green and herbal notes. The moment the orange sweetness is dimmed, the transition is akin to throwing open a door into an idealized vision of a souk, where spices are displayed in colorful mounds.

Created by Michel Roudnitska, the nose behind Parfums Delrae, Noir Epices (2000) appropriately evokes the spice market, as it was born out of a fragrance originally designed for Roudnitska’s olfactive ballet “Quintessence”. Combining dance performance and scent, “Quintessence” was based on the theme of five elements. The element of fire was illustrated with the fragrance that was inspired by the Spice Route imagery. Fiery “Route des Epices” became a starting point for Noir Epices.

Yet, spices in Noir Epice do not burn, but glow softly, their characters melding into a tapestry of radiance and warmth. The dryness of pepper flows into the sugared wood element of cinnamon, while the floral character of nutmeg reinforces the dark carnation aspect of clove. Interspersed with floral elements, the spice veil has a luminous, and yet austere feel, given the relative dryness of the composition. On a strip, it softens into a dry mélange of woods, ornamented with rosy touches, however on the skin, I also notice a floral element of carnation that is caught in the dark and earthy haze. A note of dry, warm sandalwood emerges much later.

Its oriental opulence is made more subtle by the lack of obviously sweet and vanillic notes, and the result is a dry elegant composition that would be closer to Caron Poivre than to Serge Lutens Arabie.

Editions de Parfums fragrances are available from Frédéric Malle boutiques, Barneys New York and Frédéric Malle Editions de Parfums website.

Illustration: from art-et-parfum. Image M. ROUDNITSKA.



  • Sisonne: Dear V, what a perfect description 🙂 !
    I do like Noir Epices because of the lack of overwhelming sweetness. About two years ago I bought SL Arabie & wore it rather often, but then it got too sweet for my liking. I cannot wear it anymore though it isn´t a bad scent – to tell the truth I can´t (& don´t want to) imagine SL creating a bad scent 😉
    Noir Epices is a wonderful autumn/winter perfume, not too light nor too heavy which should also appeal to people who generally don´t care for spice based fragrances. In my opinion it´s rather easy to wear.
    Do you think I´d like Caron Poivre? I always thought it would be to peppery for me. October 17, 2005 at 6:31am Reply

  • julien: Hello Dear,
    I know this fragance and i find it very “baroque”,a kind of COCO by Chanel,with less flowers,very chic but sad too.
    Something dark about it…
    I imagine it as the perfect woman perfume response to POIVRE by CARON:no compromission,purely amazing,disturbing and yet chic.
    Love it,even though i could not wear it. October 17, 2005 at 10:24am Reply

  • julien: Well COCO has something very weird:it is “too much” at first,and then it becomes very sweet spices on skin and even though it is chic,it ‘s boring at long…i have had the same experience. October 17, 2005 at 10:45am Reply

  • julien: We will make a club of coco bored people!get ready chanel,here we are! 🙂 October 17, 2005 at 11:30am Reply

  • julien: These are interesting but i can’t wear them at all…
    I prefer Cuir de Russie.
    Well, i figure it now that i do not wear any chanel…But the one i hate most is ALLURE for women…i know a girl who just wears it and it is too much…beurk,as we say in France “elle cocotte”.
    I would be interested in smelling Bois des Iles on a woman skin…
    So,i am alone in my club,i guess?lol
    😉 October 17, 2005 at 11:43am Reply

  • julien: Oh,no,i forgot,i wear CRISTALLE in edp,Truly beautiful! October 17, 2005 at 11:43am Reply

  • Robin: I actually just tried this recently. How interesting that it was created for a dance piece, I would have loved to have seen it! Can’t wait to see your interview tomorrow, V, Michel Roudnitska is one of my favorite perfumers. October 17, 2005 at 12:10pm Reply

  • mreenymo: Ooh, did I spark something in you the other day, darling V, when I got father and son confused? If I did, I am so glad!

    I love all of Michel’s PdR creations (save Eau Illuminee), so I will definitely test this one when I visit Barneys for the November 4th L’Artisan celebration. I like the fact that Noir Epices does not rely on that ubiquitous vanillic note.

    As for Chanel, I love Coco and Cristalle EDP. Of course, I wore No. 19 “back in the day.” :):) Since Coco can become a bit monotonous, I started layering it with Coco Mlle. Go figure, but it smells glorious!

    Love you! October 17, 2005 at 12:33pm Reply

  • julien: mreenymo, you layer it with coco mademoiselle edp ot edt?
    It is interesting to try some mixtures…sometimes it works pretty well…i have read that Claudi shiffer layers CINNABAR with Boucheron. October 17, 2005 at 12:41pm Reply

  • julien: Well…interesting,yes,but it does not appeal me.

    I have tried shalimar with opium for men…it is to die for! October 17, 2005 at 12:50pm Reply

  • mreenymo: Hi, Julien!

    I layer Coco Mlle. EDP over Coco EDP.

    Happy layering! October 17, 2005 at 1:02pm Reply

  • Marina: Lovely review V! Noir Epices stands out among other orientals because of its dryness. That dryness is also the reason I admire it only theoretically. I need a little “sugah” in my orientals 😀 October 17, 2005 at 9:17am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: C, thank you very much. I had the same experience with Arabie, which is extremely sweet for my tastes. It also reminds me of a dessert my Azeri stepmother would make. It is delicious, however I do not want to smell of it.
    I think that you should not find Poivre too peppery, however it is a dry dark fragrance, with a pronounced clove aspect. I actually think that the lighter version, Coup de Fouet is easier to wear, although it lacks richness that makes Poivre interesting. October 17, 2005 at 10:15am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: M, thank you! You are absolutely right about it standing out for that reason. I am curious, which “sugah” accented orientals do you prefer? 🙂 October 17, 2005 at 10:17am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Julien, Coco is another good reference, although it is a bit sweeter to me. I had a strange experience with it–wore it for a period of time, and then suddenly it stopped appealing to me. Perhaps, I need to revisit and see what exactly went wrong. October 17, 2005 at 10:35am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Yes, that is exactly it! I do get tired of that drydown, and it seems to persist and persist on the same note. October 17, 2005 at 10:56am Reply

  • Tania: I don’t know why I could never get into this one. It was too friendly to wear. I actually like it sprayed on the sheets or on the curtains, so it becomes an ambient fragrance, more than I like it on myself. It has an airiness about it that seems too mild to be called Noir! And there is a cool, breezy element to it, as well. I used to think I couldn’t wear it because it was overwhelming, and now I realize that I can’t wear it because it’s too light. Funny, right?

    (By the way, Coco bores me too.) October 17, 2005 at 10:59am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: T, interesting observation. I agree that it has a cool element woven through the spice notes, which I find quite interesting, as it is different from many fragrances of its type. I also like the lack of vanillic notes. Finally, the sandalwood that emerges in the drydown is quite appealing to me. October 17, 2005 at 11:06am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Thankfully, Chanel has plenty interesting things, such as my favourite Bois des Iles and No. 19. October 17, 2005 at 11:38am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Cuir de Russie is another favourite, although I do not wear it often. I also like Cristalle, however I much prefer the EDT concentration, as it has a slighly more austere feel, which I like. October 17, 2005 at 12:02pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: R, I would have loved to see it as well, especially given my orientation. Today I am wearing Bois de Paradis, and it is perfect for today’s sunny, yet chilly day. October 17, 2005 at 12:16pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: R, of course, I will have to try Coco layered with Coco Mlle. You always have such fascinating ideas. October 17, 2005 at 12:36pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Here are some combinations that were suggested by Jean Claude Ellena in French Elle. I have never tried them, but they sounds intriguing. I am too busy sampling things on their own these days:
    No5 de Chanel
    [to enhance the] Iris: Après l’Ondée (Guerlain)
    Masculine notes, aldehydes and lavender: Tabac Original

    Shalimar de Guerlain
    Lavender: Pour un Homme (Caron)
    Spices: Pour Homme (Cacharel) or Comme des Garççons
    Patchouli: Etro, Santa Maria Novella

    Arpège de Lanvin
    Ylang-ylang: Beauty (Sarah Schwartz)
    Lily of the Valley: Diorissimo

    Joy de Patou
    Rose: Ombre Rose (Jean-Charles Brosseau) or Rose Muskissime (Maîître-Parfumeur et Gantier)
    Green jasmine: Diorella October 17, 2005 at 12:44pm Reply

  • julien: I am not sure rejection from roots is something always easy to percieve in perfume tastes.

    I mean,i am french,i have spanish,asiatic and arabian bloods, i love oriental scents as well as spiced ones,soft ones…and i feel french: i was born and raised here in france,this is the place i know better.
    For some family relatives,i maybe reject my roots but it is not something we can find out (if it is true that i reject my roots,which i don’t think)in my tastes of perfumes.

    Everyone has a personal “nose” and feeling about scents,that’s all,i guess.
    Sometimes we try to find reasons where it is only nature talking… October 17, 2005 at 6:15pm Reply

  • carmencanada: Dear V.,
    I haven’t sampled Noir Epices yet but I smiled when you mentionned your Azeri grandmother. I had an Azeri lover some years ago. He could absolutely not stand my oriental SL perfumes (Santal de Mysore, La Myrrhe) because to him, they smelled of his homeland. The only one he could bring himself to like was Un Lys. Guess it was some sort of rejection of his roots (he did convert from Islam to Orthodox Christianism). I wonder if that’s a common phenomenon (Oriental men hating Oriental fragrances — maybe it was a sort of weird incest taboo ?). October 17, 2005 at 2:15pm Reply

  • linda: V, thank you for a lovely review! I adore this fragrance. I recently got a bottle on ebay. It is perfect for this spice lover! October 17, 2005 at 7:25pm Reply

  • julien: Oh yes it is interesting, i just wanted to explain another point of view.
    🙂 October 17, 2005 at 7:29pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: D, that is an interesting observation, and I am sure that you are right in drawing your conclusions. I think that it probably has to do with the relationship one has to one’s cultural identity. Had my experiences with my school teachers in Ukraine were more positive, perhaps I would have liked Red Moscow perfume better! October 17, 2005 at 4:09pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Julien, very sensible approach! You are right, perhaps it is just reading too much into things. On the other hand, sometimes that kind of analysis is very interesting to undertake! 🙂 October 17, 2005 at 7:15pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Linda, thank you! I am glad that you managed to win that auction. Enjoy your fragrance. October 17, 2005 at 7:33pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Julien, thank you for your thoughts. It is always great to hear another point of view–why else would I want to have a public forum on perfume! October 17, 2005 at 7:34pm Reply

  • monsieur: My favorite frederic malle perfume.I live this fragrance.İn fact,an interesting rose perfum.Not spicy at the name.The different interpretation of a rose.What dou you thing abaout the portrait of a lady.. January 24, 2012 at 2:43pm Reply

  • Victoria: I like Portrait of a Lady very much–rich, memorable, distinctive! January 24, 2012 at 11:18pm Reply

  • Anna Minis: Dear Victoria! as an ardent perfumelover I learn a lot reading your excellent reviews (please write another Guide!) But I was disappointed smelling Noir Epices. To me it smelled like Grand Marnier, nauseating and not spicy at all. Kind regards, Anna May 28, 2012 at 12:31pm Reply

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