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December 07, 2005

Fragrance Review: Eau Noire by Christian Dior

Meninas

Eau Noire is one of the fragrances from Christian Dior cologne trio. In contrast to the recent feminine releases, which seem to be partaking of the trend for fruity and sweet, the Dior masculine line includes a number of unusual fragrances launched under the guidance of Hedi Slimane. Like his menswear collections, the cologne trio is marked by the attention to quality and detail, from the understated elegance of the packaging to the intriguing compositions.

The most memorable fragrance from the range, Eau Noire was composed by Francis Kurkdjian, the creator of my other favourite, Cologne Blanche, a musky almond overlaid with orange and bergamot. Eau Noire ornaments a vision of dark woods with the honeyed bitterness and the caramelized sweetness. Its multifaceted quality resembles the richness of colours in Baroque paintings, where the golden hues merge into the vivid carmines against the textured interplay of light and dark. The initial floral sweetness of lavender is woven through the rich herbal mélange, reminiscent of the windswept hilltops under the blistering August sun. ...

Helichrysum with its scent reminiscent of fenugreek and celery seed drizzled with dark buckwheat honey lends a surprising facet to the composition. Also known as immortelle, everlasting and curry plant, helichrysum (helichrysum italicum) indeed resembles a scent of masala, an Indian spice mixture used in curries, and its exotic spiciness lends a luscious, intoxicating element to the composition. As it darkens, the arrangement attains a subtle sensual quality and the herbaceous bitterness melts into the resinous sweetness of woods, taking one from the meadows and into the old castles, where the candle smoke has permeated the wooden panels on the walls and the flames of the fireplace have charred the polished stones.

Eau Noire is associated in my mind with one of the most remarkable of Velázquez’s painting, Las Meninas, both for its darkness, its ability to make the elements of the composition to fall into place with an effortless precision, and a poignant emotional aspect. Looking at Las Meninas, I am touched by the precocious dignity of the golden haired infanta and by the sullen presence of the court dwarfs who are there to amuse a little girl tired of posing for a painting. The lustrous trappings of the court life conceal the ambiguous undercurrents. Eau Noire is a far more abstract composition, however its baroque richness conceals an introspective quality and a gentle touch of vanillic sweetness balancing out the darkness, just like Velázquez’s compassion for the individual softens the deadpan realism of his work.

A woman who enjoys Caron Pour Un Homme, Parfums de Nicolaï Pour Homme and Annick Goutal Sables, will find Eau Noire appealing. In fact, it is less masculine than Caron in light of its sweeter tonality, and it is easier to wear than Sables due to the fact that lavender lightens the composition. Eau Noire is in the category of fragrances that I enjoy first and foremost for myself, given its comforting and warm quality that wraps around me like a blanket of sweet darkness. Although the initial stages of the composition are made rather masculine by the honeyed bitterness of helychrisum, the drydown softens considerably. An abstract patisserie note is swirled through the darkness of woods, which have nutty warmth that is between caramelized juices dripping from Tarte Tatin and antique cedarwood panels.

Eau Noire, like the other two colognes, Bois d’Argent and Cologne Blanche, is available in 4.2oz, 8.4oz, and 16.9oz bottles, and can be found at Eluxury and Neiman Marcus, as well as the Dior boutiques.

Painting (please click to enlarge): Diego Velázquez. Las Meninas (The Maids of Honor). 1656/57. Oil on canvas. Museo del Prado, Madrid, Spain. From spanisharts.com

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