Encre Noire by Lalique
There are some scents that are peculiar in their nature. This peculiarity could come from their composition, the notes that emerge through the phases of development, the complexity of the scent that it exudes, and some scents like Kouros even baffle me with their audacious civet opening. And others like Black Aoud captures my attention with a very potent, "viscous", yet unoffending Aoud opening. Why does Kouros open with a rather 'controversial', and animalic opening note? And why does it not try to cover it up with something else sweeter, and control the drama? How does Black Aoud manage to start out with something as charismatic, and strong a note as Aoud, and yet make you feel unoffended and uplifted?
The answers to those questions are not important - what's important is that this peculiarity is often required, for the fact that the perfumer decided to represent the fragrance itself with this peculiarity. It's like a résumé for the fragrance in one way or other. Taking the same example, Kouros goes on and on to be bold, loud, animalic, and manly. It never gives it a rest, and continues to go on the peculiar road that it chose to be on. If you notice, you'll realise that Black Aoud is peculiar because it somehow manages to be outrageously strong, and yet very magnetic and appealing! Some of the best fragrances are standing on top, because they're cheerily peculiar in some way or the other.
News flash: Encre Noire is peculiar in more than one way.
In perfumery, the top notes play a pivotal role, because they create the initial impression of the fragrance to the wearer. Therefore, most fragrances have carefully composed, unoffending, and "safe" top notes. They're usually pleasant, well-behaved, beguiling, and sometimes can fool the wearer into believing that it's just fantastic, immediately after taking the first whiff.
Encre Noire is peculiar, in the sense that it does NOT have any top notes. Losing hope already, are we? Hold on, there's more: You spray a bit of Encre Noire on your skin, and it welcomes you with a strong Vetyver note that slaps your olfaction brutally hard. It's like plucking a generous handful of vetyver grasses with their roots off the soil, and slapping you right on the face. **THWACK**
And you may think, "Oh my God, that opening is quite rude! What were they thinking?!". I do not blame you, because you're spoiled by the sweet, dulcet, honied, gentle openings of many other fragrances, from both niche and massmarket lines. But here, I'd like to remind you that we have no "opening". The perfumer wants to take you right into the middle of somewhere -- quite daring, I must say. If you give up your ego and take a good sniff, there's this Earthy, Moist, and may I dare to say, "Bewitching" note of vetyver that's saltating in front of you.
Encre Noire is peculiar, also, in the sense that it is almost a linear scent. There's not a load of complex notes that's competing with one another to grab the attention of the wearer. It's ALMOST vetyver, all the way through. However, Encre Noire throws egg in the faces of people who have a preconvinced notion that linear scents cannot be splendid. Encre Noire IS splendid, even with its limited number of notes.
As it 'progresses', the sharp vetyver note is tamed down constantly, but slowly by a Bourbon note. For good measure, Nathalie Lorson thought it would be a nice idea to make it Vetyver Bourbon, instead of any other Bourbon. And guess what? Strange, but holy smokes, it's worked!
The bourbon staye on top of the Haitian Vetyver for a while, and keeps trying to make the whole drama look polite. There's Cypress Wood, which stands aside and watches this scene unfold. The wood smells like it's been freshly cut, and looks gentle, in this play rather carried out by two Vetyver notes. It doesn't seem to be wanting to particularly dominate, but it's THERE.
Encre Noire continues to unfold its beauty in a linear path that's been decided hours ago. Slowly into the base, and there's some musk and some more Smokey wood. Strangely (or not strangely?), the vetyver is still detectable, and the whole thing smells magnanimous now.
It won't win a competition in projection and sillage, but hey, it's beautiful in its own accords, and that does it for me.
Call me an imbecile, but I see Encre Noire as a masterpiece; and is one of the finest vetyver scents out there. If you're a fan of the scent of unadulterated vetyver, then it's a sin not to have Encre Noire in your wardrobe.