Noir Exquis Eau de Parfum by l'Artisan Parfumeur ≈ Perfume Review & Musings
Noir Exquis is autumnal in its makeup, and this is explained by the fact that it leaves room for perfumer Bertrand Duchaufour's personal expressions rather than just being a dutifully fulfilled brief about a pheromone-laden - we can imagine - gourmand coffee fragrance meant to symbolise an amorous exchange in the context of Parisian café society. 15 years after Tea for Two, L'Artisan Parfumeur have decided it is time for a "Coffee for Two" named "Exquisite Coffee."...
The main coffee note is reportedly one of Brazilian coffee absolute. It is associated with the smokiness of maple syrup, the sweetness of glazed chestnuts, and orange blossom.
The new perfume shows Duchaufour's predilection for two very separate worlds a priori, that of the forest and that of the feasting banquet. But are they, really, truly, madly separate? Not in Duchaufour's universe, and neither is it in many folk tales: think of the gingerbread house of Hansel & Gretel or the buttery galette in Little Red Riding Hood, all on a background of forestial scents.
In Duchaufour's Méchant Loup, the forest is ever present, with its lurking, centuries-old human diffuse fears. In Poivre Piquant, he manages to soften the blow of pepper by adding a river of milk and honey. In Noir Exquis, these currents of inspiration both foresty and biblically honeyed come together around a café gourmand - a black coffee presented on a platter with a selection of mini pastries - in which a forest hides. Noir Exquis smells of mellifluous honey - like a small pool of honey in which something complex happens: the olfactory imprint of the forests and meadows that the bees foraged.
You first wonder: what does this undercurrent of green, sylvan smells have to do in a fragrance meant to convey the atmosphere of a tête-à-tête between two lovers in a pâtisserie? It a priori does not belong in here. The discreet splash of greenery does not even smell of angelica - a good green note for gourmand fragrances, one apt at expressing softness of mores and ancestral sweet recipes. No, here, we are faced with the scent of fresh humus, of rich black soil mixing with that of the edge of a forest.
One study has shown that the smell of mushrooms can provoke orgasms in women. It might also be an autobiographical note for the perfumer - I seem to recall after smelling these nuances that Bertrand Duchaufour's life at some point was entwined with that of a neighboring forest. He's also created a set of fragrances for Eau d'Italie which is very much grounded in the loaminess of the earth.
At any rate, be forewarned that in Noir Exquis, there is a larger mythological landscape - personal and cultural - at play behind the Parisian scene of an amorous exchange, perhaps at Angelina's. I am led to thinking of this gourmand landmark in the City of Light because of how the scent of glazed chestnuts translates in the perfume, where they smell of a Mont Blanc. Angelina's Mont Blancs are some of the best and a legendary dessert among the sweet-toothed. They come with Chantilly, meringue and a mop of crème de marron vermicelli-like strands of hair. They both melt and lightly crunch in the mouth.
There is also a saltiness to the perfume leading you to think of caramel salé au sel de Guérande presented in a leather, maroquinerie box. It's a well blended impression of chewy sweetness - with a hint of animalistic presence - hide, then salty-sweet ambergris. The coffee note is not very pronounced to this strong black coffee drinker - it is more like a vapor of coffee. Now comes a touch of almondy macaron - there is a nuance of sweet almond milk. The drydown is honeyed, discreetly warm and with a noticeable ambergris character.
While Noir Exquis offers the merit of sending you back to other works by Bertrand Duchaufour rather than to, say, Thierry Mugler A * Men, at the same time, the composition has a tendency to come across as answering a minimum quota of satisfaction for the niche aficionado. It is a pleasant, rather subdued and soft sweet oriental which will appeal to people who are looking for that family of fragrances, albeit in a lower key and urbanite mode. It has that quality of being conceptually on the economical side. The fragrance is a bit intriguing, yet ultimately it makes you feel like Duchaufour operated a bit in automatic pilot mode. Still, you might be taken by its suavity.