L’Artisan Parfumeur Mont de Narcisse : Perfume Review

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Narcissus is a flower that doesn’t smell floral. In general, the perfumery palette abounds in aromatics that play tricks on the senses. For instance, an iris note in fragrance smells more of carrots than of blossoms. Patchouli, a leaf, smells like woods. And so on. Narcissus, however, is one of the most intriguing ingredients. If you expect petals, April showers and gauzy lightness, you’ll be in for a surprise.

On its own narcissus absolute smells of woods and leather and has a facet reminiscent of damp hay. If you let it develop on a blotter and sniff it the next day, you’ll notice caramelized spices–cinnamon and clove–and a hint of musk.  It’s a powerful material and it often plays the role of a supporting player in the composition, lifting up the delicate floral or citrus accords or else accenting the woods and animalic notes. Guerlain’s Vol de Nuit is one of the best examples of narcissus in classical perfumery.

Several years ago perfumer Anne Flipo visited Lozère during the flower harvest, and she was so fascinated by the scent of the narcissus that she created a series of fragrances inspired by this blossom, including a limited edition called Fleur de Narcisse. It let narcissus take center stage, with few other elements distracting from its dark, angular beauty.

This year, L’Artisan Parfumeur released Flipo’s creation, Mont de Narcisse. It’s a  different fragrance from Fleur de Narcisse, because the note is more blended and has more layers. Flipo allows narcissus to unfold in all of its dark beauty, but she augments each of its facets, making the note seem even deeper and richer.

Mont de Narcisse opens on a vibrant accord of pink pepper and cardamom, which brighten up the spicy nuances of narcissus. The effect is not fiery, but gently smoldering, with a clear citrusy note. Since it’s transparent, you can glimpse the leather facets of narcissus almost immediately, and Flipo cleverly adds osmanthus, another floral note that approaches leather, to highlight the illusion of touching suede.

The tangy, spicy leather lasts as long as the perfume–and on my skin, it’s several hours. The other main component of the composition is wood and amber, creamy and smoky, spicy and caramelized. Given its lack of sweetness, Mont de Narcisse will appeal to those who like chypres. It will also make a great perfume for a man. After all, Vol de Nuit makes one of the best masculines for someone who’s looking for a fragrance off the beaten track. Among other things, narcissus is a chameleon.

In sum, Mont de Narcisse is a fragrance to try for those who like their flowers dark and their leather soft. It conveys perfectly the duality of narcissus, a delicate blossom with a brooding soul.

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52 Comments

  • Austenfan: I’ve got two Paperwhite Daffodils in my living room, giving of their complex and wonderful scent. It’s one of my favourite smells in nature. Partly because it’s an announcement of spring, partly because it’s not an obvious scent, in that daffies don’t smell like we think flowers “ought”to smell.
    This is a very roundabout way of saying that I’m dying to try this, and hope to do so soon.

    Have you ever been to a narcissus harvest? March 15, 2019 at 7:34am Reply

    • Victoria: I haven’t been to see the actual gathering of flowers, but I’ve seen the production of absolute, which is fascinating. And yes, unlike rose, jasmine or orange blossom, it smells nothing like what you’d expect looking at the blossoms.

      Speaking of paperwhites, I grew them last year, and entering the living room in the morning, I sometimes wondered who cooked bacon the night before. They smelled so smoky and meat! Which variety are you growing? March 15, 2019 at 8:45am Reply

      • Austenfan: They are called Bridal Crown. And yes, sometimes the smell is a bit odd, but that is good.
        I saw a documentary once which featured the harvesting of daffodils in the Cantal. It made me want to jump through my tv screen to be able to smell!
        I’m kind of crazy about daffodils. I love seeing them appear and I love their smell, both as a flower and in perfume. I always associate them with hope and courage. March 15, 2019 at 9:21am Reply

        • Victoria: I do like the smell too, although I know many people who don’t. I also like how rewarding these flowers are. Only a couple of bulbs and you have a whole put of blossoms. March 15, 2019 at 10:19am Reply

          • Austenfan: They are generous little soldiers of spring! March 15, 2019 at 12:18pm Reply

            • Victoria: And the wild hyacinths too. I love those flowers. March 17, 2019 at 9:33am Reply

          • Nancy Chan: I grew some Paperwhites Daffodils out of curiosity for their fragrance. The type I grew were of the Grandiflora Paperwhites, using glass pebbles in water. Once the flowers came into bloom, the fragrance is like that of Jasmine flowers, nail polish and decayed teeth all rolled into one. Yes, these tiny flowers can fragrance a whole room! March 15, 2019 at 7:42pm Reply

            • Victoria: Andy mentioned once growing a particular type of paperwhites, and I’ve been interested in them since then. This year I went the lazy route and bought the hyacinth forced bulbs. March 17, 2019 at 9:39am Reply

      • PrincessTonk: That bacon reference made me laugh! When I first spray this I always smell smoky, ketchup-y barbecue sauce through suitcase leather. March 16, 2019 at 3:08pm Reply

        • Victoria: Makes total sense! 🙂 March 17, 2019 at 9:40am Reply

  • Zazie: Ohhh, sounds wonderful, and that bottle!!!
    Vol de nuit is one of my all time favorites, but I am not familiar with the narcissus note, so I’m not sure I can pick it up from the Guerlain.
    I just know the perfume is special. I have the extrait, and curiously enough to me it smells very similar (actually it’s the other way around!) to the much cheaper New York from Patricia de Nicolai. Does New York also feature narcissus, in your opinion? There is a bitter raspiness in both frangrances, among the decadently plush layers, which I absolutely adore.
    I think Mont de Narcisse might be right up my speed! March 15, 2019 at 9:09am Reply

    • Zazie: PS just wanted to mention that I do not expect any decadently plush layers in a L’artisan fragrance! 😀
      But sometimes you long for a baroque painting, sometimes you wish for watercolors… March 15, 2019 at 9:16am Reply

      • Victoria: It’s one of their richer perfumes, but since it’s not sweet, it may not be as baroque as the classical Guerlains. March 15, 2019 at 10:18am Reply

    • Victoria: I don’t remember narcissus in New York, but there might have been a tobacco note and it sometimes, in combination with florals, give me a narcissus impression. March 15, 2019 at 10:17am Reply

    • Klaas: Zazie, you’re absolutely right, it’s that bitterness that makes Vol de Nuit such a remarkable and unique perfume. It always makes me think of walnuts somehow….. March 15, 2019 at 10:35am Reply

    • Lydia: Zazie, your post makes me certain of something I’ve suspected – I must be anosmic to some note(s) in New York. All I ever get is the bitter raspiness – sadly no plushness. I’m always puzzled by 5-star reviews of it and now I may know what I’m missing.
      Hopefully I’ll fare better with the l’Artisan. March 27, 2019 at 11:50pm Reply

  • Sandra: Wow..sounds gorgeous . How is the sillage? March 15, 2019 at 9:32am Reply

  • Dorothy Van Daele: Love Vol de Nuit and did not know it contained narcissus, a flower I avoid bringing inside. The transformation! I will experience it differently now. Thank you. March 15, 2019 at 9:39am Reply

    • Victoria: You don’t like the smell? March 15, 2019 at 10:19am Reply

  • Klaas: It’s been on my ‘to smell’ list for a while. I just don’t dare go into my local perfumery that stores the brand. I spend so much time smelling there (and not enough buying I’m affraid) that I start to feel self concious. I’ll pop in and out on a really busy Saturday and hope to stay unnoticed 😉 March 15, 2019 at 10:39am Reply

    • Matty: Popping in and out on a busy day seems like a good plan. I feel the same as you do. March 15, 2019 at 11:37am Reply

    • Victoria: It’s one of the best launches from L’Artisan, so it’s worth trying. But I understand your reluctance. It’s too tempting. March 17, 2019 at 9:31am Reply

  • Carla: Nicely woven in after your post about soft leathers! This sounds like one I should try. March 15, 2019 at 12:01pm Reply

    • Victoria: Yes, leather has been on my mind! March 17, 2019 at 9:31am Reply

  • Debby: Interesting, I was thinking of asking for narcissus recommendations for the next recommend me a perfume!
    Though it seems daffodils and narcissus get confused, and they smell very different. Some daffodils only smell of pollen, I have some pale yellow ones that smell really pretty though, but entirely different to the very heavy almost disturbing narcissus (white with a very small orange centre) that flowers in late spring. Paperwhites are something else, I grew them for the first time recently, and they do smell very meaty, not floral at all!
    Ostara seemed to have more of the scent of my early pale yellow daffodils, the only thing I’ve found with that dark, heady quality of narcissus is Shocking, but I’d love to find some more dark ones. I’ll definitely give this a try, I’m a fan of L’Artisan. March 15, 2019 at 12:10pm Reply

    • Victoria: That was a very important observation, so thank you. You’re completely right! I ended up using a photograph of narcissus poeticus that I snapped during the blooming season in France. Yellow daffodils smell nothing like it and many varieties smell very faint. March 17, 2019 at 9:33am Reply

      • Debby: They are the ones I love, the perfume is haunting.
        I think my pretty pale yellow scented daffodils are a variety called Pueblo, they were here when we moved in, so not sure. We planted some Replete in autumn, they haven’t opened yet, but the fragrance is supposed to be really good. Unusual for a daffodil in appearance, they are a salmon colour! March 17, 2019 at 5:10pm Reply

    • Lydia: I’ve never smelled shocking, but now I must hunt down a sample.

      Ostara is one of my favorites and it’s in large part because of the daffodil note. It reminds me of spring in Georgia. Where I lived there were big daffodil hillside patches that started blooming before the cold weather was done and were like a bright, sweet overture to the gorgeousness on its way. March 27, 2019 at 11:40pm Reply

      • Debby: Shocking is marvellous and so very sexy, you just can’t get things like that anymore, and mine is the 90s reissue, I’d love to smell it in true vintage form.
        Ostara has been toying with me for a couple of years since I got a sample, but I finally decided to buy a full bottle after this article, it’s gorgeous, can’t believe I waited so long! March 28, 2019 at 7:20pm Reply

        • Lydia: Glad you took a chance on the Ostara bottle! It’s so gloriously beautiful and unusual. I’ve smelled notes from it in other floral perfumes but nothing ever really comes close to it. March 28, 2019 at 10:34pm Reply

  • Paula Deroy: I am in the minority here. I can not bear the scent of daffodils, narcissus or paperwhites. They are overwhelming in a way no other flower (except stargazer lilies) are to me. They take over my senses and give me a terrible headache. There is nothing subtle about them. I grow many varieties of these flowers for their visual beauty but they must always be kept outside. It’s interesting how differently scents affect us. March 15, 2019 at 1:31pm Reply

    • Victoria: I find that daffodils don’t smell of much, but I suppose that it depends on the variety. Paperwhites can be borderline unpleasant smelling to me too. March 17, 2019 at 9:34am Reply

      • Theresa: I am a member of the American Daffodil Society, and grow hundreds of different kinds of daffodils, so I can tell you that some kinds smell a lot, but many have hardly any scent. Like many other highly hybridized flowers, the smell seems to have been bred out of the daffodil, unfortunately. The type of scent varies considerably among the different types of daffodils. There is one kind (called Fragrant Rose) that even smells faintly like a rose! Poets have that spicy clove-y scent, while Jonquilla/tazettas are much sweeter.

        It is interesting about paperwhites. at flower shows, I ask members of the public to smell them. Some like the scent, and others think the very same scent is unpleasant.

        So the bottom line is, you may find SOME daffodils to have an unpleasant scent, but each kind smells differently, and many of them don’t have any odor at all.

        I urge you all to look at the extremely informative website of the American Daffodil Society, and seek out a daffodil show in your area – you will see literally hundreds of different types of flowers. who knew there were so many? March 18, 2019 at 1:47pm Reply

        • Austenfan: I would love to have 100’s of different daffodils. The soil in my garden isn’t great for bulbs and the only daffodils that seem to survive are Tête-à-têtes, lovely to look at, but no smell. I had some tazetta’s a while ago and they smelled heavenly. And thanks for the info about the website, I’ll certainly have a look there. March 18, 2019 at 6:20pm Reply

        • Victoria: Thank you, this is fascinating. I know that the daffodils my great-grandmother grew had a strong scent, but it wasn’t at all like narcissus or paperwhites, sweeter and spicier. But the daffodils I buy in bunches are rarely scented. As you say, they’ve been bred for looks and longevity once cut, not for scent. March 19, 2019 at 8:28am Reply

  • Mare: Smoldering is a perfect way to describe Mont de Narcisse, a scent that I have enjoyed wearing since I purchased a bottle last fall. Your descriptions are so beautiful, and I love to read your posts. March 15, 2019 at 3:16pm Reply

    • Victoria: I’m glad to hear that you like it too! March 17, 2019 at 9:36am Reply

  • Fazal: When I saw this review, I immed. thought of Chloe Fleur de Narcisse that I smelled in vintage parfum formula in 2017 or early 2018 and loved it. Coincidentally, it was also made by Anne Flippo and released in 1994.

    Even though Mont de Narcisse is Flipo’s second narcisse perfume for L’Artisan, more than ten years after her first one for the brand, it seems she has been fascinated by narcisse for a long time and keeps embracing the opportunity to create another narcisse one when the opportunity presents itself. March 15, 2019 at 6:55pm Reply

    • Victoria: I was curious about this fragrance, because while I liked the first narcissus perfume L’Artisan released, it only proved to me that narcissus functions best when blended with other florals, woods or leathers. It’s complex and interesting, but it’s not enough to be its own star. March 17, 2019 at 9:38am Reply

      • Fazal: Fleur de Narcisse is definitely in the style of 80s and 90s perfumes. It is heady, and for that reason I think it is really best in parfum version and only when dabbed so that it is just detectable to those within your personal space.

        My personal scent philosophy is that ideally your perfume should only be detectable to those within your personal space (whether you are sitting or standing close to them or when you pass by someone). I have never understood why so many guys are fascinated with monster projection and want their perfumes to be detectable miles away. March 17, 2019 at 7:55pm Reply

  • Tara C: Narcissus often smells like gasoline and leather to me. I didn’t like Fleur de Narcisse for that reason. I need to resmell my Vol de Nuit to see what it smells like to me now, as my perceptions may have evolved. March 15, 2019 at 11:40pm Reply

    • Victoria: A very good description, Tara! March 17, 2019 at 9:40am Reply

  • Aurora: Thank you for describing narcissus so interestingly, I have a bottle of vintage Vol de Nuit EDT and it’s not my most worn Guerlain but sometimes that’s all I crave. Shiseido Koto is another perfume with narcissus and it’s a soft leathery number, do you know it Victoria?
    Mont de Narcisse sounds definititely like a scent worth trying! March 17, 2019 at 8:00am Reply

    • Victoria: I used to like Koto, but it’s been a while since I’ve smelled it. Do you like it too? March 17, 2019 at 9:41am Reply

      • Aurora: I like it very much. It’s such a soft leather which I can even wear in summertime. March 18, 2019 at 1:23pm Reply

  • Silvermoon: I am intrigued and will definitely test this perfume. I don’t know many narcissus based perfumes, but I love Ostara (especially what I consider it’s narcissus note). How does it compare.

    Reading the review reminded me of one of my favourite poems, very suitable for the season and this review. Of course, I am thinking of William Wordsworth’s I wondered lonely as a cloud (often simply referred to as Daffodils). I read it for my pleasure and thought I would just copy and paste the last stanza here as I find it most evocative of the mood in the perfume review.

    For oft, when on my couch I lie
    In vacant or in pensive mood,
    They flash upon that inward eye
    Which is the bliss of solitude;
    And then my heart with pleasure fills,
    And dances with the daffodils. March 17, 2019 at 10:40am Reply

  • Andy: This perfume sounds really interesting. My current narcissus favorites (in heavy rotation lately) are Eau de Narcisse Bleu and, of course, Le Temps d’Un Fete. I didn’t grow any paperwhites this winter but now wish I had. There was a small yellow daffodil with a white cup in the center that grew around the house growing up, and it had the distinction of a curious lipstick note, with a touch of violet and rose. I’ve never smelled another like it since. March 18, 2019 at 9:40am Reply

  • OperaFan: Daffodils are popping up all over my yard, getting set to bloom in a few weeks. There are quite a few varieties And range from odorless to strong, animatic scents.
    Besides Ostara (which I bought a couple of years ago thanks to your review), about 10 years ago I picked up a bottle of Miller Harris Jasmin Vert – which was neither Jasmin-y nor green, but it does smell of clean narcissus.
    I’d be curious to give this one a whiff to see how well it resembles the flowers in my garden. March 18, 2019 at 8:49pm Reply

    • Victoria: Ostara was the best from Penhaligons, but it figures that they’ve discontinued it. March 19, 2019 at 8:29am Reply

      • Lydia: I also fell for Ostara because of your review, Victoria. Many, many thanks.

        I share your dismay over its discontinuation. The one upside that occurred to me is that they didn’t do a poor reformulation of it, so when you get a bottle of it (provided it’s authentic) you don’t have to worry that it will be some thin immitation rather than the real thing.
        In general I would prefer that companies discontinue the great perfumes rather than desecrating them. I don’t mind flankers, but call them what they are – different perfumes. March 28, 2019 at 10:44pm Reply

  • Austenfan: I just tried this today and I’m smitten. Not at all what I thought it would smell like as I could not get a lot of floral notes, but the smoke, the transparency and the hint of fruit were all there. I didn’t try on skin as I was covered from head to toe already, but I got some idea of just how wonderful this fragrance is. At times it reminded me a little of Eau du Fier.
    Tried Bana Banane as well, fun but not quite my cup of tea, and Un Air de Bretagne and Mandarina Corsica. Bretagne is one of those great quiet fragrances and I adored the opening of Mandarina. March 28, 2019 at 1:16pm Reply

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