Black No. 1

– a review of Narcisse Noir by Caron

A few days ago, I was cleaning out the Augean stables of my storage room, and found a few scant drops of early Eighties vintage Narcisse Noir stashed away at the bottom of a box full of odds and ends. I had completely forgotten I had it or had even managed to hold on to it for this long, but one pull at that black stopper, and out floated memories and words…

In my novel, “Quantum Demonology”, which I’m currently revising when I’m not writing perfume blogs, my protagonist has a nemesis named Melina.

“Melina was the product of a Greek father and a Danish mother who had met on Santorini and never quite recovered. If you ever wondered what a Greek Goth Goddess looked like, there was Melina, all six feet of sheer drop-dead intimidation.”

Melina, we find out later, has a weakness for Caron, which is currently not available in Denmark. Our heroine bribes her at one point in the story with a bottle of urn extrait Narcisse Blanc, later followed by Narcisse Noir, with ulterior motives, of course!

Which is precisely how I think of Narcisse Noir – a perfume with ulterior motives. Think of the associations…Norma Desmond in “Sunset Boulevard”, worn by Anaïs Nin in the 1930s, created in 1911 by Ernest Daltroff, the notes of narcissus, dark rose and orange blossom, incense and civet.

If any one perfume embodies Gothic femininity and sensibilities, the quintessence of Goth, it would arguably be Narcisse Noir. My vintage version was dark, dark, dark…smoldering and sexual and dangerous even, with that animal incense drydown that lasted forever and a day.

This stuff should be banned. It smells the way I imagine taking laudanum feels…floating away on a dark and dismal cloud of dangerous bliss, the kind you could never, ever tell your mother about. Unless you actually stole this from your mother, as I did.

My mother was all her short life the total perfume addict. Her list of fragrant loves was as elegant as it was classic, and I’m rather disheartened by the fact that I can’t wear them because she did; Mitsouko, Joy, Jolie Madame, Shalimar, First, Bal à Versailles, Fidji. As a Scorpio, she was no stranger to the Femmes Fatales of perfume and indeed was rather fatale herself.

One day, long after I had left home to make my way in the world, I came by to say hello, and in the course of the evening I discovered the most fatale of them all – stashed away nearly behind her vanity mirror was a bottle of Narcisse Noir. I had heard rumors of this one, seen “Sunset Boulevard”, knew it had been worn by Anaïs Nin. This was history, pedigree and devastation all in one small bottle.

I stole it. It took a few months before we were on speaking terms again.

Meanwhile, there was havoc to wreak, so I did. In that Stygian abyss known as the Goth underground in the mid-1980’s, Narcisse Noir had one of two possible effects on the opposite gender. Those guys either ran for the hills or the Himalayas, whichever was furthest, or they fell prey like so many drugged fruit flies. There was no middle ground.

This is one of the few perfumes that to me encompass everything “black”. Black suede, black velvet, black satin sheets. It takes no prisoners, does not take no for an answer, has all the attitude issues of black widows everywhere. Come closer. Dahling. So I may eat you alive. You will love every excruciating minute, I promise. Dahling.

The perfect scent for a succubus!

Perfect for the Capa of the Black no. 1 Mafia in my story, Melina. And perfectly described in female terms in the song “Black no. 1”.

I’m stashing it away behind lock and key, where its radioactive charms can be contained. I could be forgiven for wearing this at age 22, before I completely knew what it meant to be a woman. I’m now 47, and I know exactly what would happen if I ever ventured out wearing Narcisse Noir. I’d drape myself languidly over the stairs, sweep my hair back with one crimson-nailed hand and say:

“I’m ready for my close-up, Mr. De Mille!” Or else just ready to eat the next hapless male unlucky enough to walk by…

My version was a mid-Eighties vintage parfum, and the notes below are for the reformulation – I’m guessing the latest one, since my version definitely contains civet. I think there may be about ten drops of it left.

Notes according to Fragrantica:
Top notes: African orange flower and narcissus
Heart notes: jasmine, orange and tincture of rose
Base notes: vetyver, musk and sandalwood

19 thoughts on “Black No. 1

  1. Great post! I want some of that vintage now. I'm a middle class, middle-aged mousey-blonde Canadian woman who tends to wear black… parkas — but I need me some of that.

  2. I can totally relate. I would have to say, however, that it should be worn with caution – even in a black…parka! Or else beware the consequences…;-)

  3. It is such the Scorpion Scent!!!

    I loved the description of that memory with your Scorpion Mother, it just was the perfect moment of pissing off one of those Females and knowing that the only reason you were left standing breathing was because you were her child…

    That is the scent you should wear out with that Scorpion Male my dear Sister T……LOL

  4. Probably, or else it was that bottle of Cabochard she lifted from me…;-)

    Fair's fair. And no, I don't think I'll wear it to see my goofball Scorpio friend. I'll save for an occasion where I really, really need to wreak some havoc of a very particular kind! 😉

  5. What a wonderful review! I need a vintage bottle, now! I have a new bottle. I love it. I feel very film noir when wearing it.
    But, vintage, it sounds darker, heavier, more like black velvet. I'm a “closet goth”. Someone that listens to Industrial and wears black “granny” boots. My wardrobe is 90% black. This is what I can get away with at work 😉 Would a spray of vintage NN blow my cover? 😉

  6. Would it blow your cover? In the vintage version – I'd have to say…yes. Especially with all the fruitchouli fans! LOL

    But you would be black, in Black, and in vintage Narcisse Noir. I need to get a new bottle ASAP, just so I can compare.

    You can take the drrrrrty out of the Goth, but you can't take the Goth out of the girl! 😉 Not even this one!

  7. What a review, actually more of a short story, one that had me enthralled from the first word. Thank you for that, first of all.
    I just recently smelled Narcisse Noir (albeit the contemporary version) and thought I am not woman enough to wear that scent. Seems I have been right. I couldn´t be further from a goth when you look at me. I get associated with the color white a lot. I am not a scorpio either.
    Do you think that will stop me, dear Tarleisio?
    How could I not try this antithesis of me. It´ll be a match made in heaven. 🙂

  8. A match made in heaven – but of course! There's no better way to confuse your surroundings than by wearing something entirely unsuitable! You go, girl! And I want to hear all about it when you do! 😉

  9. What a lovely post.. and i remember one of the bottles I “had” an old probably from the 50s bottle of Narcisse noir, a little extract perfume. I used to watch the bottle and never tried the scent…

  10. Awesome! I just read that chapter last night (and loved it–St. Peter is a delight),and for once don't feel totally out of the loop 🙂

    I can't believe you stole that perfume; I'm sitting in my little “office” and just bleated out a laugh that would raise eyebrows in a circus.

    As B. said, you're writing is absolutely enthralling. I'm totally bewitched! Oh, and yeah, I'd like to smell NN. 😉

  11. Vintage Lady, I can't believe you! yes, the parfum bottle is gorgeous (it is, it is!) but…puleeeeze…how can you have a bottle of perfume and not sniff it????? I think the Perfumed Court has some vintage NN for sale…you have got to try it. Just to blow your own mind! 😉

  12. Dee, Saint Peter is a joy…and he was a joy to write. If you could believe the movie I had in my head when writing his very first scene, which was the Chelsea, early morning! Just wait! Ah, but the fun isn't over yet. I believe you're referring to “Quotidian Pleasures”, which introduces Melina…

    You should try to find some NN. Really, you should. But don't say I didn't warn you!

  13. tarlisio… If I had to explain this.. you won't believe it. But I had many old bottles NEVER OPENED and inside their cases most of them. At that time and probably even now, the fact to see something So beautiful made me want to keep it that way, it was so old but new since nobody had opened it.. it was a mystery I wanted to keep that way. But then there was an eathquake and I was not there, thanks God but everything was lost. I don't complain but I feel very emotional about all this, because those bottles were my collection and even though they would be very expensive had I today to sell them *with the juices never opened or sniffed* they would be expensive. The emotional side is what really touched me. but call me strange, I hope the people who smelled all these bottles as they broke would feel some kind of help because to me they are heavenly. Much Love

  14. And Vintage Lady, I apologize for my slightly insensitive comment – and for your losses. But should you ever get the chance – try Narcisse Noir! There really is-nothing else like it.

  15. I love the name so much, I tried it at the counter at Bergdorf's but on me it was not what I expected or craved, so had to pass. It seems like the eighties version would have hit the spot. All the noir versions of perfumes draw me in.

  16. You and me both! There are days when only noir anything will do!

    I haven't had the opportunity to try the newest version of Narcisse Noir, but after the radioactive bomb in my cabinet, anything else would have to be a letdown, I should think!

    Ah…IFRA – what hells have you wrought upon the art we love so much? :-O

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