Notes: Thyme, Sage, Lavender, Cedar, Coffee, Immortelle, Saffron, Leather, Violet, Vanilla, and Licorice
Eau Noire is one of the original offerings from Maison Christian Dior’s La Collection Privée, which was launched in 2004. For the launch, Hedi Slimane partnered with different perfumers to release 3 fragrances – Bois d’Argent, Cologne Blanche, and Eau Noire. Eau Noire is the creation of Francis Kurkdjian.
In early 2019, Dior decided to make us all crazy and make some of their most beautiful offerings European, or even France exclusives. Eau Noire along with Granville, Mitzah, Vetiver, Cuir Cannage, Leather Oud, and Milly-La-Foret, have become exceedingly difficult to get your nose on, and near impossible to purchase in a full size.
I am extremely late to the Dior Collection Privée party, and only first smelled Eau Noire this past August. It was 100% influenced by thatsmellygirl on instagram, when she shared a photo of the candle version and a list of its notes. I declared I’d procure a decant, which I did from Surrender to Chance. Of course, once I took my first whiff on that hot August day, I knew that I had to have a full bottle of Eau Noire. I dreamt about it. I scoured eBay ($600-800 for a bottle, most used, and none included the original box). I researched international forwarding services. You know…the usual madness that comes with obsession.
A few days later, I remembered an online acquaintance and fellow fragrance lover with whom I’d struck up a friendship was headed to Germany for a month. I wouldn’t normally have done this, but I had it bad, and asked if he could help. Magically, he agreed, and after few snafus, including having a nightmare of it arriving broken and dripping a muddy brown concoction of green juice and brown cardboard (actually happened to the first bottle when Dior shipped it to Germany from France!), it arrived in one piece. So now, that you know the true depth of my obsession, let’s dive in to the actual fragrance.
The opening of Eau Noire is herbaceous with hint dark citrus and pine which are subtly enhanced (even brightened) by thyme, sage, and lavender. It does move to peppery, and becomes thick with molasses within a few minutes, which within about 5 minutes turns a bit medicinal before unveiling réglisse. And I use réglisse, because I imagine French réglisse confections of my childhood. Sweeter than straight anise. It then begins to intermingle with soft woods.
As the fragrance begins to dry down, the pepper and herbs remain, but really, the réglisse, woods and molasses become the stars – dancing together nicely. For something with such strong sounding notes, after the initial opening, it becomes much more of a skin scent. It becomes slightly spicy with distinct hints of cinnamon. Combined with the woods and chewy molasses, the effect reminds me of pumpkin. Please don’t misunderstand, this is not going to make you smell like a saccharine Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte. Rather, the pumpkin is fresh – maybe one that has been foraged and cut open to then bake into only the most delicately sweet pie.
There is a moment of nostalgia about 15 minutes in. I’m questioning for a split second if it’s something like a Hallmark candle, but no. Nothing in here smells synthetic or cloying. Immediately my mind flashes instead to elementary school memories of the early festive season – Halloween and Thanksgiving parties. Is it memories of Pumpkin juice? Of plaid and laughter outside. Do I detect a hint of pencil shavings? But it’s still so much more refined than that.
One hour in, I can detect more wood, definitely cedar, and even a hint of smoke. After 2 hours, I can smell wet coffee grounds. From there, the notes flip between the beautiful spicy pumpkin and smokey woods.
3 hours into the drydown, I can detect some greener notes. There is a very light floral (is the lavender finally trying to come through?) but the effect is still delicately sweet and spicy. On the third wearing this was most pronounced. I could actually detect lavender and coffee at this stage. The effect, however, is short lived.
For me, I find Eau Noire at once both refined and extremely comforting and completely bewitching. The effect of the herbs, immortelle, licorice and woods are truly magical. It’s like alchemy – turning each note into a magical pumpkin in the smoky, chilly Fall woods. It is long lasting and completely unisex. I enjoy wearing it at home, in my sweatpants and toiling away at my desk. Equally, I’d happily wear it to the office, or for a fancy evening out – from sweatpants to black tie.
Is Eau Noire full bottle worthy? Have you been reading? I asked a poor soul I barely knew to haul it from Germany to New York for me! YES! It is one of the most beautiful, if not the most beautiful fragrance composition I have ever had the fortune to lay my nose on. It can be worn in any situation, and personally I find it seasonless. Albeit, I may be more inclined to reach for Fourreau Noir in the heat and humidity of the summer, which I find to be the perfect love child between Encens et Lavande and Eau Noire.
If I could give this fragrance, 1000 stars I would.
Eau Noire is exclusively available from Dior in continental Europe. It can be purchased in French boutiques, but otherwise can be purchased online from Dior France, Germany, Italy, Spain, etc.. That is, when it’s available. It is currently out of stock. It comes in one size – 250ml, and retails for approximately for 285 euro (278 if you order from the German site).
If you’re like me, and don’t live in Western Europe, but have to have it – Eurosender is your best bet (Read more here). Be sure and choose a service that includes checking the contents of the package. Unfortunately, the first bottle my friend received arrived completely broken. The situation was rectified, but only after he sent them back the broken bottle.