The Djinn in the Bottle

A review of Magie Noire (Lancôme, 1978)

She knows tonight will be the night it happens. She knows because it has built up to this since the beginning, since that August afternoon she looked up from her book at a sidewalk café and a man she had never met before asked her if the other seat was taken.

His smile had been just wide enough for her to put the book down. The rest of him had been so interesting they had sat there and talked like old friends until the café closed nine hours later.

So it began. All this civilized concourse later, the conversations at that café, the dinner dates, the movies, the exhibitions and openings and the concert, and all the while, it was a question of time and opportunity before it came to this moment, this instant, this very particular kind of anticipation both intellectual and erotic.

Oh, yes. Tonight. It had been hard enough to wait this long, but that was also half the fun – to put it off, to wait, to get to know him, to torture and titillate him just enough to make him realize how good it will be.

He won’t stand a chance, he’ll never know just how much she has planned for this. The black silk velvet and the satin under, the embroidered lace, the smooth and polished heated skin beneath it all – all of her nerve endings tingling at the idea of his touch, of what happens when.

But even despite her preparations, she knows it will not be her clothes, her laugh, or her conversation that makes him cross the line.

It will be her perfume. Tonight, only one of them will do. Tonight of all nights is when the djinn gets out of the bottle, the bottle shaped like the glowing reliquary of some satanic sacrament, with the contents that smelled of danger, of desire, and of desires that are dangerously alluring, perilous to resist.

Like hers. Like his. Like tonight. Like not being able to resist any more.

She opens the bottle, and the djinn slithers out.

“So then, mistress. It has been a while. This one? Are you sure?”

The heady floral blend shapeshifts into a velvet-black and thorny rose, a rose with eerie secrets.

“Oh, yes,” she whispers back. “I’m sure. I’ve known it for weeks.”

The rose unfolds and glows in the light of her bedroom, whispering the secrets she needs to know. And the civet, the patchouli, the oakmoss, the dark and witchy blend that exhales smoke and fire and double-dares only the bold and audacious to come closer, unfold their potent bloom upon her skin.

She is ready. The djinn is out of the bottle, lurking in the scent-trail she leaves behind her, an invisible ghost in the room.

The doorbell rings. It’s him. Tonight it will finally happen.

Tomorrow, she will blame the djinn she let out of the bottle. Tomorrow, the djinn will make sure that he stays for breakfast, too.


The bottle I reviewed was a pre-reformulation eau de toilette sold in the flat, long bottle with the black top and cap, not the glass, gold-capped bottle sold as such now, a ghost of what it was. It can be found, if you’re lucky and know where to look.

Top notes: Cassis, bergamot, hyacinth, raspberry, green note
Heart notes: Honey, jasmine, lily of the valley, tuberose, narcissus, orris, rose oriental
Base notes: Patchouli, castoreum, civet, vetiver, musk, oakmoss, benzoin

Image and note information: Yesterday’s Perfume

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