Paco Rabanne Black XS : Fragrance Review



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

If Armani Privé Ambre Soie could be envisioned as richer, sharper, deeper, with the warmth of amber underscored by darkly resinous woods, Paco Rabanne Black XS might be the fragrance that such contemplation would paint. Ambre Soie veils its amber with a gourmand, chocolate-like layer that softens the final result, while Black XS sets amber in a frame that highlights its balsamic woods and fine tobacco facets.

Created by Olivier Cresp in 2005, Black XS is another fragrance from the recent masculine releases (like Dior Homme with iris and cocoa and Lanvin Arpège Pour Homme with jasmine and iris) that blends the gender line effortlessly. In the niche market, its gender specification might well be unisex. …

While it is not effeminate, Black XS is a fragrance that would not be jarring on a woman, since its woody warmth is accented by enough spicy sweetness to soften any of the masculine references. Many Paco Rabbane fragrances have attempted to play against the rules, beginning with Calandre (1969), the brief for which sought a fragrance that evokes a couple making love on the hood of a car. La Nuit (1987) is so savagely animalic that it is difficult to imagine an occasion fit for wearing it.

Black XS is less controversial, however like its predecessors, it is a sensual composition that plays upon the various facets of amber to weave a tapestry dominated by it, yet possessing enough depth to create an interesting olfactory experience. The citrusy notes create a sparkling prelude for the spicy sweetness of the heart. The dusky caramelized element is never allowed to assume a candy-like quality as the balsamic, pine-bark like richness begins to deepen. While hinting at the interesting dark fruity sweetness, the arrangement evolves to reveal the tobacco aspect of amber, underpinned by the facets of woods overlaid in mosses and warm musk. Where Ambre Soie has a hazy quality of a watercolor painting, Black XS is more like oil on canvass, its hues possessing vivid and distinct character.

Notes include Calabrian lemon, kalamanzi, tagete, sage; cinnamon, tolu balm, black cardamom, praline; rosewood, black amber, patchouli and ebony wood.



  • julien: Thanks for the review.
    It is really interesting as a man perfume.
    Gourmand and fruity.
    By the way,i prefer A MEN and ROCHAS MAN for they have something less sweet thanks to the coffee part in them.

    But it is still a good perfume and it is sexy.
    We can easily imagine it being worn by a young man.

    j. December 27, 2005 at 8:31am Reply

  • Laura: This sounds like an Ormonde Jayne fragrance on steroids. How would you compare it with ormonde for Men? It would clearly be sweeter, for starters. So many and such notes would make me feel a little claustrophobic, I’m afraid. December 27, 2005 at 5:54am Reply

  • Prince Barry: I tried it when it was first released. It was nice but not outstanding in the ‘unusual’ department for me..LOL.

    I loved the guy on the advertising poster though…Ha ha! December 27, 2005 at 1:41pm Reply

  • Marina: I want. Or at least I want to try. Sounds very appealing. Also, I was eyeing La Nuit on ebay for quite a while now, it is incredibly cheap there.I might just cave unsniffed after reading that it is “so savagely animalic that it is difficult to imagine an occasion fit for wearing it.” Just to see what it’s like 🙂 December 27, 2005 at 9:31am Reply

  • Prince Barry: Here is the advert and video for your viewing pleasure.

    Enjoy! December 27, 2005 at 5:56pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: L, Black XS is an amber dominated fragrance, however it is not the warm, powdery, vanillic amber, but woody, sharp and dark amber. It does not have much in common with OJ Men. I would prefer for it to be slightly softer, but I do not mind the resinous/woody bit that is present in some synthetic ambers. December 27, 2005 at 8:19pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Julien, I cannot say that it strikes me as gourmand, however I can definitely see what you mean by fruity. On the strip, it is even more so, while on the skin, it plays upon the woody/tobacco aspect more. Will try Rochas Man next! December 27, 2005 at 8:21pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: M, La Nuit is fascinating, although I cannot imagine myself wearing it much. Do you want me to give you an extra reason to seek it out? It is done by the same perfumer as your beloved Fifi! 🙂 December 27, 2005 at 8:22pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Barry, I would not call it very unusual either, although for the non-niche release, it is definitely walking that line. Will Chalker, the model in the ad, is very appealing… What else can I add? 🙂 December 27, 2005 at 8:25pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Thank you for the link! December 27, 2005 at 8:25pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Co, sounds like a great choice of Dior Homme. I love it too and find it very interesting and special.

    Black XS is a fragrance that a woman can easily wear. I would prefer it to be a touch smoother, but even as it is, the composition is quite nice for an amber lover. I know that Strawberrynet based in Hong Kong carries it, however I am not sure how much it is distributed outside France and UK at this point. I hope that you will get a chance to try it.

    La Nuit is fascinating in its ability to weave animalic notes with dry elements. I have a bottle, and perhaps I will wear the fragrance tomorrow. Cannot agree more with you! Life is too short to seek special occasions. December 28, 2005 at 1:41am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: No worries! It is something to do with the server. December 28, 2005 at 1:42am Reply

  • Håkan Nellmar: Thank you for the review. I atill haven’t smelled it, but it does sound interesting. And if Will Chalker comes as a gift with purchase I might just buy it. December 28, 2005 at 4:56am Reply

  • co: …I really wanted to find this before the holidays! as a present for my boyfriend….well, this city (Hongkong) is so mainstream and then very slow for perfumes…I’m still hoping it will hit the shelves soon enough before the dreadfull humidity sets in again, time until March! 😉
    ..guess I would like to wear it also myself, the “woody, sharp, dark amber” sounds just right!

    So I had sniffed on Bulgari Blu Notte and Dior Homme instead and the Dior Homme has won easily! how magnifique, so much in it’s own league, non-comparable and very attractive to smell on my sweetheart…but I wouldn’t wear it myself.

    La Nuit was my favourite for a long time! It is stunningly elegant, dry, classy and yes, you want very special things to happen when wearing it, hey life is short!!! go for it! December 28, 2005 at 1:21am Reply

  • co: triple post? so sorry! pl delete 1 and 3, thank you Victoria!!! December 28, 2005 at 1:31am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Håkan, he was a great choice for the marketing campaign! Hope that you will find Black XS interesting. December 28, 2005 at 11:44am Reply

  • julien: Well on me the tobacco part never happens.
    But it has something of a fruity sirup.
    And it is pleasurable… December 28, 2005 at 12:43pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Yes, the tobacco part is rather subtle, but the end result has that fruit syrup aspect, albeit not too strong. Have you tried Armani Prive Ambre Soie? December 28, 2005 at 12:57pm Reply

  • co: dear Victoria,

    …thanks for the strawberrynet hint, they have quite a few interesting scents…but being conservative in choosing perfume I would always need to make my sniff test first!

    that’s great to hear you may be wearing La Nuit today! Enjoy and be open to all the little precious moments that are there each second, everyday…just got to see/feel/taste/smell them! December 28, 2005 at 10:18pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Co, I agree. It is best to try before purchasing.

    La Nuit was most enjoyable today, and it even managed to dispel the gloom of this winter day. So, thank you for being an inspiration. 🙂 December 29, 2005 at 3:58am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Well, it would be then fair to say that it is mutual. 🙂 December 29, 2005 at 5:01am Reply

  • julien: Yes,i have tried the armani.
    Ambre soie is my favorite one.
    But i think they are not creative enough to justify that price. December 29, 2005 at 5:28am Reply

  • co: 🙂 …you’re making me blush! the inspiration factor is totally on your side! December 29, 2005 at 4:52am Reply

  • linda: Am I the only one on whom Ambre Soie doesn’t last? Thank you for a great review. I will have to find Black XS after reading about it. December 29, 2005 at 1:39pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Julien, they are rather expensive, I cannot agree more. Even the packaging is not enough to justify that price for me. December 29, 2005 at 3:31pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: L, I discovered that I have to put the double amount of Ambre Soie to get it to last. I really enjoy it, but the lack of tenacity is frustrating. December 29, 2005 at 3:32pm Reply

  • julien: And i know from an Armani salesman(said me so and told me not to repeat it!lol) the packagings are not even made of wood as they say,it is plastic like wood.
    You are right,interesting,pleasant but they don’t deserve the price.
    And i feel the same for many confidentials now:Guerlain,Aramani…the only ones that i accept in that case are Lutens ones.

    Kisses dear. December 29, 2005 at 6:48pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Julien, oh, that is a pity. I really thought that the packaging was made of wood. In that case, the price is even less warrantied. December 29, 2005 at 9:17pm Reply

  • DAMIR: I’v just bought it today! MY LOVE AT FIRST SMELL! After having Black code, City Glam, and Dior Homme, now I’v found my new love and others leaving to smeel behind… far in the past! Becoming a new bad boy with a gothic heart of white roses… 😉 May 5, 2006 at 6:56am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Damir, congratulations on a great acquisition! I also love this one on a man, although when in certain moods, I can wear it myself, layered with Armani Prive Ambre Soie. May 5, 2006 at 11:46am Reply

  • ChM: Congratulation for your comments on Black XS, I recognize here a real fan of fragrances with a really good ability to smell. Anyway, I’m the one who develop the fragrance with Olivier Cresp! Working at Paco Rabanne for several years, I can confirm that “la Nuit” has still a really strong power on lapsed users! I sometimes received letters that ask me to find some extra juice for big fans!! They could do anything to find some more! September 27, 2006 at 12:44pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: ChM, my compliments to you and Olivier Cresp then too! Black XS is excellent, and it is one of my favourite releases of last year. La Nuit is also a great fragrance, and I am sad to see it discontinued. At least, it is difficult to find in the US. September 28, 2006 at 12:35pm Reply

  • paco rabane: paco rabane November 6, 2006 at 12:28am Reply

  • Maggie: LA NUIT is one of the filthiest perfumes ever made. Wear with Care ;). August 19, 2007 at 1:32pm Reply

  • Zoi: I bought this to my boyfriend its wonderful im in love with this perfume. March 5, 2013 at 12:20pm Reply

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