Perfume Directory

Coco Noir (2012)
by Chanel

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Coco Noir information

Year of Launch2012
GenderFeminine
AvailabilityIn Production
Average Rating
(based on 151 votes)

People and companies

HouseChanel
PerfumerJacques Polge
Parent CompanyWertheimer

About Coco Noir

Coco Noir is a feminine perfume by Chanel. The scent was launched in 2012 and the fragrance was created by perfumer Jacques Polge

Coco Noir fragrance notes

Reviews of Coco Noir

Coco Noir is misunderstood, and it is partly Chanel’s fault. This house so rarely makes missteps, that, when it does, they stick out, like a sore thumb. Luca Turin says that Coco Mademoiselle’s runaway success was a surprise, as it was intended as a limited run flanker, so I will concede that Coco Mademoiselle’s confusing name isn’t the cynical cash grab that many perfume houses have tried since its success, by modifying the name of a classic pillar fragrance, and then filling the new bottles with a generic Modern Musky Floral or a sticky, sugary gourmand (do not even get me started about Black Opium). So, I give Chanel a pass on the name of Coco Mademoiselle, even though the perfume itself is not for me.

Coco Noir, on the other hand, deserved something better. The handsome bottle—Chanel’s presentation is always impeccable, I’ll give them that—is a stroke of genius, but, at the least, the name lacks imagination, and at the worst, it looks like a hop onto the bandwagon, from a house that normally holds itself to higher standards. It is misleading in the same annoying way as its Black/Noir ilk usually are, and it insults lovers of the original, legendary Coco, one of Chanel’s greatest fragrances, one that has inspired fanatical devotion from its birth onward. Because this is not Coco, not even close, and I understand why anyone would feel disappointed with it, if they were expecting something of similar grandeur. Coco Noir should have been called something else, and Chanel should know better.

I came to Coco Noir forewarned, and, perhaps, that is one reason why I don’t feel obliged to dislike it. I was one of many young women who fell for Coco, all those many years ago, and my expectations of Coco Noir were low, so I stayed away from it, until recently. What finally intrigued me about it, was that its reviews are all over the map, nearly evenly divided between thumbs up, down, and sideways, and some of the people who genuinely like it, are not just young women who only wear Modern Musky florals, but serious perfume people, whose opinions I respect. Anything that inspires that level of conversation is worth a chance with me.

And it does not disappoint. Before I get into the reasons why I like it, I want to point out something, that I think people don’t always acknowledge about Chanel’s perfumes. With the exception of No. 5, Chanel is generally not a house that breaks new ground with its fragrances. What it does, and it does this brilliantly, is follow, and consolidate, established fragrance trends. No. 19 is a great example of this. It was launched in 1971, when the green trend was in full swing. Coco appeared years after the massive success of Opium. Coromandel has a similar relationship to several Serge Lutens’ early, great orientals. These perfumes don’t smell exactly like their predecessors, but they do rearrange their components, into the ineffably elegant Chanel house style. There is nothing wrong with this. To paraphrase TS Eliot, or Ezra Pound (and it is ironically appropriate, that it is not clear who said this first), mature poets borrow, while mature poets steal. This is the Chanel way, and I wonder if part of Coco Noir’s failure to catch on as it might have, aside from its confusing nomenclature, is that its potential buyers expected something astonishing, and new.

Coco is not that. It does what Chanel does best. It distills the best of the current fragrance trends, uses materials of impeccable quality, and composes fragrances of great beauty, elegance, and delicacy. About ten years ago, Jean-Claude Ellena said that Chanel’s then recent perfumes were beautiful, but not of crazy brilliance, and I think he is right. I suspect that the haute bourgeois style of Chanel, as a whole, considers obsessive trendiness, as a kind of vulgarity, and so their creative team waits, until something has a firmly established foothold, in the market, before they risk the house’s reputation, with something new.

Coco Noir does that. It’s the Chanel version of Narciso Rodriguez for Her, the original musky floral Patchouli Lite, done with Chanel’s signature effervescent aldehydes and elegant rose/jasmine duo at its heart. It smells like its forbears, to a large degree, but it also demonstrates how the a perfume’s basic accord is not all there is to a perfume. Ingredients, balance, calibration, texture, compositional coherence—these matter, and the array of “notes” is not what makes a perfume good, or bad. Chanel has done here, what they do well, reimagining a popular perfume trend, assimilating it to its house style, and presenting it with exquisite taste. I find most Modern Musky Florals boring as hell.
This one is not.

The opening is just gorgeous, a brilliantly rendered fizzy patchouli, which, by the way, must be really hard to do. Aldehydes do weird things to patchouli, they tend to bury it in the mix, or they add a weird and unpleasant plastic quality, usually smelling like hairspray, to a material that smells so earthy, so redolent of Mother Nature, that it must make an awkward fit with most lab-grown materials. Coco Noir never goes there; it brings these often incompatible materials together, and holds them at the same dizzying altitude as Chanel’s great No. 22, which does the same thing for tuberose. The patchouli has the same appealing chocolate as Serge Lutens’ Borneo, Bois 1920’s Real Patchouly, and Chanel’s own Coromandel, earthy but not swampy. It’s a brilliantly executed opening, and it sets up the rest of the perfume, which is made of silky florals, an airbrushed jasmine, and a pillowy rose, with the lovely patchouli persisting throughout, reappearing and disappearing again, giving the perfume a sense of elusiveness and mystery.

These polished florals seem to be what most reviewers find objectionable, and I understand why, as Chanel’s jasmine is usually, somehow, both quicksilver and indolic. Coco Noir’s heart is sweet, but it is a tempered sweetness, never overbearing, almost like a milky sweet tea. I see why this might not be appealing, if you prefer your florals dirty. If this perfume were not so carefully blended, I would find it bland, but with the gorgeous patchouli, it works, the same way Angel works, in a much lower key.

The perfume rests on a very light, very smooth, sandalwood accord, and a soft, clean musk, and that is another reason why, I can imagine, that some people don’t like it. There is an unmistakable, fresh laundry component, that would be a deal breaker for me, if it weren’t so subtle, and so appropriate to the perfume, as a whole. Leave it to Chanel, to find a way around the typical bludgeoning laundry accord, using it with a very light touch that reminds me of the excellent recent reworking of Balmain’s Ivoire. It makes sense, in the context, of this very well-mannered perfume, that accommodates so many common elements of modern perfumery, and still smells, unmistakeably, Chanel. The aldehydes, the rose-jasmine, the sandalwood, you can’t miss the signature, and that puts it over the net, for me.

I find Coco Noir to be a very easy wear, a perfume that feels right, in any context, polite enough for day, or at the office, and with enough presence for special occasions. An all-rounder, really, that belongs with YSL’s lovely Cinema, as a safe, but smart, and interesting, option, in a time when people wear scented laundry detergent, lotion, and hair products, but claim to hate and eschew perfume. Its projection is as carefully measured, as the perfume’s accords are composed, and its projection is perfect, just a little past arms’ length. It lasts at least twelve hours on my skin, which seems to be about average in its tendency to hold perfume.

I find it ironic, that its obvious desire to please, is what seems to make Coco Noir so divisive. People find it attractive, it is one of only a couple of perfumes I wear, that gets compliments from random strangers, and my boyfriend loves it. I don’t wear perfume to please other people, but that is what most people, who are non-crazy perfume addicts like me, look for in a scent, and I am not writing this review for myself, so I think it is important to mention that. I hope I have convinced, whoever is reading this, to try it, or give it another chance. It succeeds on its own terms, and I think it’s the best of its kind, a Modern Musky Floral, with an actual personality. Thumbs up.








12th September, 2020
This is an oriental Woody fragrance. When I first smelled coco noir I instantly bought it for my aunt who has worn Red by Giorgio Beverly hills for years. I thought that it would be perfect for her. Now when I smell it I smell mostly a darker coco mademoiselle. If you want something a little deeper and sexier this is it.
22nd July, 2020
Coco Noir (2012) makes sense to a degree, but is still hugely disappointing. The name and bottle graphics imply that Jacques Polge created a darker and more alluring interpretation of his classic Coco Chanel (1984), but what we actually get is a serious non-ozonic "full frutchouli" take on Coco Mademoiselle (2001), which is the furthest possible thing from either a "Noir" concept or a unique variation of Coco, since all the hallmark characteristics of either Coco Chanel or Coco Mademoiselle are all but lost in the transformation. I can understand the thought process, as something like Coco Noir was probably built with fanbases of both "Cocos" in mind, but it leans far too much into the direction of mainstream feminine perfume tropes to really serve either, even if it is a more mature take on Coco Mademoiselle for women who want to move away from the Jolly Rancher candy accord of Mademoiselle and into something more appropriate for evening use. If Coco Mademoiselle was training wheels to eventually move into the original Coco Chanel, Coco Noir is a full-on adult tricycle for those too afraid to ever create their own balance.

The Coco Noir experience begins similarly to Coco Mademoiselle but with the sweet lemon and dayglo lychee replaced with larger amounts of grapefruit for a more adult vibe. Coco Noir is only really "Noir" in these opening moments, as it presents a darker citrus melange with a slightly-indolic bordello rose and jasmine combo, leading into that huge glob of denatured patchouli which anchors the accord. From here, things lighten up with the vanilla, tonka, laundry musk, and that smooth buttery Polge sandalwood compound which lives in everything from Chanel Pour Monsieur Eau de Toilette Concentrée (1989) up through Chanel Allure Homme (1999) and Sycomore Eau de Parfum (2016). I like this patent sandalwood compound of his because of it's "better Mysore through science" sort of aesthetic (although nothing beats the real stuff for sure) but even this perfumer's hallmark note can't save the sheer nasal anathema that is the sweet gummi fruit over bleached patchouli roundness which I find so irritating about the genre. Coco Mademoiselle distracted from this with all its zany tartness, but not so here. This starts dark and a bit alluring, then finishes heavy and annoyingly decadent but without character, like a piece of plain prepackaged cheesecake at a buffet restaurant.

Coco Noir ends up a heavy and semi-cloying scent like most fruitchouli fragrances and therefore best for cool or evening romantic use. If this sort of thing is your bag, then my protests may be in vain, but I really think this is horribly mislabeled. My vote would be to call this "Coco De-Mademoiselled" or "Coco Mallbamboozle" but somehow I think neither of those would have flown past the marketing team. In all honesty, this is just "Mademoiselle for Grownups" and therein loses all its former charm as a silly and sassy reminder of the Y2K period of high-energy fragrances meant to bomb the halls of High School and the dorms of college campuses in a post-90's youth generation tired of grunge. This is the scent of that same generation now approaching middle age and just plain tired from news about capitalist society's collapse into corporate feudalism, a planet dying from climate change, and anti-vaxxers telling us that reviving dead plagues through their uninnoculated spawn is a right. Much like most of this news, and all the choices made by people which led to this awful timeline in which we live, I hate Coco Noir. What a shame too, since this bottle is really sexy in a Robert Piguet sort of way. Two big thumbs way down, but test and see for yourself.
17th May, 2019
I'm trying Coco Noir for the first time today, and am sadly finding it very disappointing, like every other Jacques Polge fragrance I have tried.

Coco Noir, on my skin, is like a mixture of original Coco and Mugler's discontinued Eau de Star: the oriental notes of Coco mix with the heavy patchouli of Eau de Star, along with a heavy dose of orange blossom. The overall result is more individual than the majority of vanilla-patchouli-white musk fragrances that are so common today, but I'm afraid Coco Noir is still very sickly and completely throwaway.
09th December, 2017
Coco Enigma
The pink sparking flowers of
Black gloss fruitchouli.
11th November, 2017
The opening is gorgeous, but then it goes to something very generic and average. A bit disappointingly light. It’s nothing like Coco. A totally different fragrance.
05th November, 2017 (last edited: 09th June, 2018)

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