smell this: Lalique Encre Noir

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Lalique’s Encre Noir is aptly named. It does indeed smell like black ink, specifically like the black ink I have from the calligraphy shop in Chinatown (different inks can have quite different odors, depending on their origins and ingredients). Put any ideas of unpleasantly chemical toner cartridges out of your mind, proper black ink smells incredible. There is something dark and earthy, like rich, freshly unearthed soil, as well as a slight saltiness combined with a metallic tang that I find reminiscent of both blood and the more enticing of of the various darkroom chemicals. A certain mustiness might creep in, yet it is not unappealing. Rather like the smell of only just moldy bread, the richness of yeast with the touch of mold adding a bit of depth and interest.

Ink smells like… ink, OK?

So to this concept of dark, earthy black ink is added an equally dark and earthy vetiver. This is neither the bright, sparkling vetiver of Guerlain Vetiver nor the rich creamy vetiver of L’Occitane Eau de Vetyver, and it is worlds away from the sweet sophistication of Vetiver Tonka. This is the darkest of my vetivers, and it has the kind of powerful, distinct personality you would remember. It is closer to the raw scent of vetiver oil, which is, undiluted, basically unpleasant. Imagine the root of a bitter grass any human would know instinctively not to eat, and imagine it is still covered in loamy earth, and imagine there are cuts in the root emitting a bizarrely fresh scent, almost minty (in countries where vetiver is harvested people will scrub the roots clean and put sections in a pitcher of water to add a bit of zest, as one might do with mint or lemon). Then you add a bit of smoke, a bit of bourbon, a bit of cedar, a teeny bit of musk (this comes forward later in the day), and goodness knows what else.

This is unapologetically dark. An obvious masculine, which means, of course, that it is fabulous on a woman who loves it*. So obvious a masculine, though, that I think a lot of men wouldn’t touch it, either. It’s not for the faint of heart, and watch out if you do touch it. Vetiver is a common base because of it’s excellent lasting power on the skin, and the smallest drop of Encre Noir lingers for hours on skin and for days or weeks on the inanimate (coats, scarves, sweaters, watch bands, pajamas, etc). For some people the booze is too prominent, for some the smoke, for some it is just too much vetiver (depends on your nose and your taste). That said, for me, this smells goood. This smells alluring. Dare I say it, sexy. It’s dark, rich, intriguing, unforgettable. I apply with a light hand and only when I’m in the right mood (usually when it’s cold out, it can be too much for me in the warm weather). Sometimes I’ll just spray it on a coat or a scarf at a distance to get a gentle cloud of it that isn’t too much a part of me. Great bottle (though the pump sprays copiously, which I find not ideal). Not difficult to find it at a great price, either.

*There is an Encre Noir pour Elle but I haven’t had a chance to smell it yet. Curious, though.

smell this: L’Occitane Eau de Vetyver

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L’Occitane’s Eau de Vetyver is a rich, creamy vetiver, wonderfully enveloping in the winter months. Here we have a species of vetiver quite distinct from a fresh, bright vetiver (my prime exemplar being Guerlain Vetiver). This is dark and earthy, closer to straight vetiver essential oil.

It’s a shame vetiver isn’t one of the scents we tend to have on auto-recall, like the banana or rose. Please, go smell something that smells of vetiver and teach your nose about this great fragrance. I have yet to smell a vetiver dominated fragrance that I actively disliked. This is personal to some extent, of course, but vetiver has the sharp green brightness of mint as well as the slightly different acidic brightness of citrus (a different quality of light, if you follow), the visceral appeal of rich, healthy earth newly overturned and full of living roots, and that masculine tug that comes from being used at least minimally in the base of nearly every western fragrance (and not so minimally in many of the masculine ones), and so being vaguely, can’t-quite-put-your-finger-on-it familiar.

To all of this, in the case of L’Occitane’s offering, is added a measure of sweet cream, softening all of the edges and giving the fragrance a feeling of warmth, like the illusion of warmth one gets from smelling cinnamon or amber fragrances. It can be used sparingly as it is a powerful concentration and has excellent longevity on the skin (and even better longevity on fabrics).

This isn’t showing up on L’Occitane’s online shop anymore so I suspect it is being discontinued. I snagged a bottle from my local store to have as a backup, is how much I like this fragrance. Many of L’Occitane’s fragrances are pleasant to me though few touch me as personally desirable. I do like the Magnolia & Mûre from their new La Collection de Grasse line but that is a story for another day.