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