Perfumery is normally not an art form which concentrates on difficult internal visions, desolate landscapes and stark portraiture of humanity - I am thinking for reference of the series on peasants eating potatotes by Vincent Van Gogh - but is communicative, amiable and wishes to please and seduce. Its not-so-secret hope is to become part of the intimate lives of millions of women if possible then follow suit with their daughters and grand-daughters ideally and therefore courtship is in order. Perfumery loves women and wants to be loved in return.
In Lalique Encre Noire pour Elle (lit. Black Ink for Her) this instinct is magnified and made more systematically evident in the showcasing of a floral bouquet in its heart which collapses three families of florals together. Abandoning the purist's stance, perfumer Christine Nagel seems to have wanted Encre Noire pour Elle to be as much as possible everything to every women by appealing to three main ideal floral types: the fruity-floral lover will appreciate the apricot-y nuances of osmanthus; the classic rose lover will find comfort in a cuddly rose-vanilla accord; the white floral lover will find whiffs of a classic white bouquet scent coloring the composition. Even the woodsy-floral and clean-musky-floral girls will find something in the scent for them.
This hodge-podge of inspirations instead of making the composition feel as if it were confused, crowded and desperate for approval weaves the three main floral personalities in a clever way. Encre Noire pour Elle, riding on the wave of olfactory oecumenism, even manages to balance out known Eastern and Western olfactory preferences by balancing out transparency and depth with a deft hand...
In the end, Lalique Encre Noire pour Elle might be most interesting because it reveals to you if you were still in doubt that a perfume is not just a celebration of the bounties of mother nature but a celebration of culture and of femininity in this case. I could only think of Fellini's film The City of Women to stress the point that we are faced here with a scent that celebrates women.
Encre Noire pour Elle coming after the masculine Encre Noire, you might have expected it to be a feminine vetiver through and throughout but it takes liberty with this expectation which was encouraged by the PR talk on it being launched for those women that loved Encre Noire so much,they kept stealing it from their men. In fact, it is clear to me that Lalique wants them to continue buying the original, a crossing of the perfume aisles that made it a success (actually being offered as a niche scent, it readily is grouped with the sex-indifferent lot). The floral notes in Encre Noire pour Elle are too prominent in my view to correspond to the model of a masculine and feminine vetiver duo à la Guerlain although there is vetiver in it. But here the vetiver self-effaces behind the florals making the fragrance be almost a feminist statement of independence.
Encre Noire pour Elle to me is more about defining the socio-cultural boundaries of what femininity is relative to masculinity as expressed by a duo of perfumes rather than a feminized vetiver. If it is a feminine vetiver, then it needs to be explained why vetiver is not used centrally to convey that idea but is symbolically made little apparent.
Christine Nagel clearly thinks that women need not be born out of Adam's rib even when they bear the same name.
The perfume opens up on a transparent cellophane-like textural effect soon followed by slightly fleshier florals making me initially see visions of abstract peach and apricot blossoms. Smelled blind, it strikes me that I would probably think that Encre Noire pour Elle is a perfume devised for the Japanese market despite the rather earthy yet discreet patchouli and rather synthetic-smelling ambergris peeking through from the base of the scent.
With Guerlain having issued Mitsouko Fleur de Lotus, Chanel Eau Première and Cristalle Eau Verte, Serge Lutens proposing an atypical for him rather clean osmanthus with Nuit de Cellophane then L'Eau Serge Lutens explicitly devised for this market and François Demachy of LVMH traveling recently to Korea on a perfume trek, we have to realize that who is being courted now are women in Asia.
Lalique Encre Noire pour Elle furthermore is not unlike another Japonisant scent, Tann Rokka Kisu but the transparency here is never aquatic or marine like L'Eau d'issey and it is much more about rose (Turkish rose) than rosewood. Looking at the flacon I cannot help but think that it would make a lovely gift-and-counter-gift object precisely for that market which is characterized by a high level of symbolic exchanges putting the accent on the gesture of giving rather than on the perfuming gesture.
The ambery-musky counterpoint that anchors the florals is a bit hard at first, metallic and generic, with a dash of citrus. The perfume here signals once more the reign of white musk (see Part 1 & Part 2 on White Musks) with that nowadays desirable laundromat facet. Encre Noire pour Elle is a composition of its times incorporating the collective cue on cleanliness and even addiction to cleaning and deodorizing products. The connoisseurs will be able to recognize the powderiness of Bounce dryer sheets.
Yet all the while a sticky vanilla facet is present also which now is imposing its presence more. The floral rose-vanilla accord becomes identifiable as a thread. At this stage, an Asian chinoiseries motif surfaces again with the blossoming of osmanthus flowers with slightly woody olive-scented nuances dappled with some discreet touches of gold (bergamot). The one realizes that a white floral bouquet reference is also present, reminiscent of the jasmine and tuberose pairings, in the directions of Carolina Herrera for Her, Blonde by Versace, Number One by Parfums de Nicolaï, Watch by M. Micallef.
The drydown is woodsier and soft with the olive accents of osmanthus becoming more characteristic. It can smell exquisite at times.
I think that one of the qualities of this scent is that it is easy to wear. You tend to not be afraid of wanting to veil yourself in it as the transparency and balance of the composition absorbs any excesses. It is not frustratingly wan either - please bear in mind that many perfumes nowadays are not long-lasting - but endures on the skin for very long hours. It can definitely take the red eye with you.
The most tangible link I see between the two Encre-Noire compositions is in the designs of the bottles. It encourages us to imagine a duo of Lalique Encre perfumes gleaming on a bathroom shelf in the morning symbolically sealing the harmony of the couple. And perhaps that it does work.
Lalique Encre pour Elle is bound to be of interest more to those who are looking for an osmanthus perfume or a rose-vanilla one as those two aspects are the most prominent to my nose. It even manages to offer a classic white floral impression superimposing itself on the composition like a familiar sensation inherited from Quelques Fleurs d'Houbigant. Appreciating modern soapy white musks is also a prerequisite. If you are allergic, metaphorically speaking, to them they will probably bother you. Decoration fiends will also be interested by the bottles.
While Lalique Encre Noire the original was a smoky vetiver without the shadow of a doubt, its feminine counterpart is more elusive on that account. The official list of notes indicates Haitian vetiver is in the base notes. If you concentrate you can discern a soft haze behind the florals and it becomes more apparent in the drydown but the vetiver seems to be held down for the most part on the ground under the heel of a lady who does not want to let it go run around freely. If this is yet another perfume symbol indicating who is mistress of her destiny, it might work too .
My recommendation if you desperately want this Encre Noire to be a more accentuated vetiver composition is to spray it on top on the original as the first one is like a vetiver soliflore.
I realize now that perhaps this is what Lalique wanted all the time, a versatile duo for women. Otherwise why temper the vetiver so much? And also who would ever want to cannibalize the successful feminine sales of the first one?
Sicilian bergamot, Indonesian ambrette seed, freesia
Turkish rose, osmanthus, kaphalis wood
Haitian vetiver, Texan cedar, white musk
Pictures: www.schweizer-illustrierte.ch; www.luxury-insider.com