Whilst the ginger-pepper-bergamot-orange opening is quite pleasant, the drydown becomes a non-descript woodsy mélange on my skin that shows little interesting development. The performance is nothing special either, with moderate sillage, acceptable projection and four hours of longevity.
A nice start, the rest mediocre. 2.5/5
Cologne Noire opens with a classic fresh accord of pepper, Iso E, citrus/bergamot, sandalwood, perhaps vetiver, and mossy-balsamic notes. As minutes pass the cedar note emerges more clearly, together with a slight aldehydated soapy accord. Pretty much it, a classic, clean, sharp, refined, office-safe cologne, quite dull and frankly a bit cheap and uninspired. Dozen of less expensive (is this expensive?) scents come to mind. Another grain of dust in the eternal purgatory of decent crowdpleasers.
I've already written this in a different review, but I just can't believe that the people behind the VC&A "Collection Extraordinaire" approved not just two similar lily perfumes, but also two peppery incense scents.
Cologne Noir is one of the peppery incense perfumes, alongside Bois d'Iris (which was mostly pepper and frankincense with iris for depth and a horrid cheap cotton candy drydown). Cologne Noir is the better of the two, but that's not really saying much. It's mostly black pepper, with a pinch of bergamot and some herbs underneath (I mostly smell oregano, so it reminds me of cooking), supported by frankincense and some thin cedar. While I generally enjoys scents like this, they've become a dime a dozen in the niche landscape and Cologne Noir isn't one of the best. It's quite weak, or maybe "thin" - it lasts all day but wears close and requires a heavy hand to really come to life, but even then it's mostly just a blast of pepper. Watered down Bang? Maybe...
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I have to say that this hesperidic fragrance is not so bad at all. The beginning is a bit familiar and lovely, a bit on the Aromatic Lime Montale vein, so appealing and almost bracing in its cinnamon/pepper/orange accord on the side of a sheer heady bergamot. In this fase the fragrance is classic and distinguished in its quite sharp evocative (of some eau de cologne of the past with a sheer bergamot presence) substance. I catch a lovely peppery presence in this phase and the work produced by cardamom is interesting with conjurations about 7 de Loewe and a bit Cacharel Pour Homme (but with a more orangy temperament). I agree that in this phase the experiment is a lot on the side of some Diptyque or Comme des Garcons (or Askett&English and Crabtree&Evelyn i would add) and the classic citrusy sharpness holds on its run for a relatively long time but unfortunately not so long to persist steady till the end of the trip. A certain level of cedary powder and almost soapy linearity starts to rise up and turn the smell out more common (yes, tamed) and uninspired. At this final stage the fragrance is faint and shy, the dusty/prickly spiciness is tamed and i would have liked a more virile, ambery (ambergris/patchouli) and smoky feel. Probably minimal hints of soothing balsams swirl in the blend but it is not a so interesting story. I have to anyway say that i'm not able to dislike this dignified composition far better appointed than many other recent V&A mediocre releases.