If you ask me how I ended up with a big bottle of Noir Épices in my perfume wardrobe, I couldn’t give you a straight answer. Of course, I haven’t lost my mind, I do know from the logistics’ point of view, HOW it happened, but I’m not entire sure WHY it happened. Because you see, Noir Épices it’s so removed in style and feeling from what I naturally gravitate towards, that it may be well possible that my mind is not in its usual place anymore. This perfume wasn’t on my radar at all for a very long time, but once it came into focus it stayed there. It grabbed me, not at a gut level, it was more of an intellectual fascination rather than the sensual-emotional connection I generally have with my fragrances. Noir Épices was different, and certainly very different from the image I had of it in my head, which was partially prompted by an old Frédéric Malle promotional photo, this one underneath:
When I first smelled Noir Épices, the huge gap between what I imagined it to be and what it actually was, made me laugh. The naïve exoticism proposed by the aforementioned poster was completely missing from Noir Épices, in fact this fragrance it’s so emphatically, maybe not necessarily French, but at least European in its esthetic, that it could spank you, and not in a playful manner. I’d say let Bertrand Duchaufour cover the Franco-Arab-Asian corner, he does it so well after all, and just revel in the modern elegance with a sensual twist that the Roudnitska family has excelled at, starting with the great Edmond and continuing with Michel. So far, I think Noir Épices is the only Michel Roudnitska creation I had the chance to smell, but it did strike me as quite different in mood and atmosphere from his father’s perfumes. Just as elegant, yes, but less warm, less tender, less human even. Whereas fragrances like Diorella, Le Parfum de Thérèse, Eau d’Hermès, Rochas Femme (all signed by Edmond Roudnitska) have a seducing hint of sweat and skin at their chore, which gives them a cheeky, sexually subversive flavour – in the immortal words of my significant other, Diorella “smells like piss, but in a good, floral way”- Noir Épices eschews all bodily signals in favour of a somewhat haughty demeanour, something that goes beyond mere arrogance, and hints at power and seriousness. It is classified as an oriental, but the aldehydic fizz, the utterly dark dryness and the chypré allure give it an almost uncomfortable vibe as opposed to the cozy, warm feeling we so often get from the genre. Basically, Noir Épices is proper bitch perfume, one that I could make my own as opposed to Chanel no. 19 which nearly scrapes off the insides of my nostrils with its soapy galbanum edge. And it is sexy, oh lordy, it is. That dry champagne accord, the illusory fiery carnations (probably the effect of geraniums interacting with cloves,) caught up in the white froth, with a hint of orange sweetness, the ever so slightly creamy woods drydown (I do suspect a bit of vanilla in there, even if not listed) create a perfume that is simultaneously attractive and frightening. It reminds me of Helmut Newton’s photographs, with their particular type of cold eroticism with a fetishistic tone. And if I’d want to attach a face to this fragrance, it would probably be that of Catherine Deneuve, empowered by going against all societal rules in her role of “Belle du Jour” or that of Charlotte Rampling, with those Syberian wolf eyes and high cheekbones, the kind of gal you’d only dare looking in the face even if she parades in front of you naked. Noir Épices is that intense and heavy, or again in the words of my beloved: “Hey, don’t laugh, sex is a serious thing”. The only other necessity when wearing it, it’s a submissive partner.
* All photographs used apart from the Frédéric Malle promotional one are the work of the legendary photographer Helmut Newton