It continues to fascinate me that scent fanciers can have such disparate experiences when smelling the same scent. Perhaps it is partly because we each bring our own expectation of what a scent does, or should, smell like. And I think Encre Noir is a prime example of this.
Before offering a description of my general impression of Encre Noir, I wish to focus on two almost universally perceived scent notes. The first has been described as ink, smoke, a toner cartridge and insecticide. But I donít experience it as any of these. I spent my boyhood around cut wood and wood of all sorts being cut. Freshly cut wood is naturally and often profoundly fragrant. And is similar to a fine scent in often having top, middle and base notes.
I never cataloged the scents of various woods, but sometimes a final note could be detected in old objects from which it was made. And often this final whisper of what began as the round and full fragrance of a wood was very, very dry. And that is the note that I experience in Encre Noir. Neither ink, smoke or insecticide, but a very dry wood. Dry to the point of bitterness. Even harsh. A couple of woods are sometimes named in descriptions of the Encre Noir scent notes. Cashmere wood? Is it any of these? I canít say. Such descriptions are often misleading.
Many seem to like this scent note, while others hate it. But I find it essential to the composition. It creates a dynamic tension with the other scent notes and elevates what might otherwise be a very nice scent to something much more interesting. This note shows up early and stays throughout. Curiously it is absent for the first couple of seconds after application. Then it arrives and plays counterpoint hide-and-seek with the other scent notes throughout the entire life of the scent.
And what are these other scent notes? Some insist itís straight Iso E Super. May be, but Iíve never been handed a vial of Iso E Super, so except from otherís written descriptions, I have no idea what it smells like. But I have also read that Vetiver Extraordinaire has the highest concentration of vetiver essential oils. If so, it is interesting because the scent to which Encre Noir is most similar is Vetiver Extraordinaire. Though Encre Noir is a deeper, rounder vetiver with the counterpoint of the aforementioned bitter wood note.
Many also seem to experience Encre Noir as very similar to Sycomore, but I do not. While the vetiver heartnotes may be somewhat similar, Sycomore substitutes a musk note for ENís bitter wood. This note also arrives early and stays for the entire duration of the scent. It is a common musk note that is currently in vogue for many womenís fragrances, and unfortunately, one that I dislike, finding it both cloying and a clichť.
So what does Encre Noir smell like? Rather than a typical progression of notes it is more a duality of heartnotes in perpetual dynamic tension. You see, the vetiver is accompanied by what seems a sweeter wood creating an accord that is both surprisingly deep and round. Thatís one of the secrets of EN; one of the two heartnotes is actually round and deep, and might even be described as sweeter, or at least, not dry.
The other half of this duality is that bitter wood. These two heartnotes persist from virtually the beginning to the end of the scent, but generally not together. First one is more noticeable, then the other. That is in large measure the brilliance of EN. These two opposites alternate. This provides a note of bitter interest to what otherwise would be a sweeter composition. The overall effect is a round, deep vetiver/wood with a bitter counter note.
A greater mystery than what it smells like is its progression. Hide-and-seek; now you can smell it, now you canít. Projection? Yes, but subtle. Duration? Good, and the duality does tend to lessen toward the end as the notes meld a bit more.
Iíve learned itís important not to use very much. Perhaps more so than some other scents, EN interacts with oneís own skin to work its magic. More than a spray or two can inhibit this and cause the bitter note to dominate.
I wear scent to please myself. It helps elevate my mood. I donít wish it to be objectionable to others, and try to wear it discreetly. But I must admit that I was delighted when, out of the blue, two female acquaintances professed a passionate fondness for the scent of Encre Noir.