Dark deep and swirling vetiver and woods. I had put off trying any of the Encre Noir line but finally blind bought A L'Extreme and it was instant love at first sniff. I'm glad I started with the flanker because it compelled me to buy the other two(this and Sport). I love all three and already backed all of them up, which is something I rarely do. That's how much I love this line. Even the bottle design is impressive. Trying Encre Noir is like discovering a band that is not popular as far as airplay, but is musically complex and amazing. A band that only those who deeply appreciate musical talent, depth and diversity would 'get'. Not everyone gets the Mars Volta, or Mastodon, or even Coltrane or Zappa. But those who do, are treated to an elevated and enlightened art experience. I hope others that get the opportunity to experience any of the Encre Noir trio find them enlightening and rewarding. Encre Noir is a deep dark vetiver masterpiece that rides the dichotomy of being both simple in composition but providing a rich and complex experience. Thumbs up.
The first time I smelled Encre Noir, I didnt like it. I cut my teeth on vetivers from Guerlain, Givenchy. Goutalthe pre IFRA good stuff, grassy, wild, smoky, almost enough to make you sneeze, with their wild untrimmed personalities contrasted against gentlemanly bewigged powdery bases (except for the Goutal, that stuff was extra scruffy). I loved those compositions for bringing the outdoors to the tailored gentlemans aesthetic of the classic masculine, especially since much of what we think of modern gentlemans tailoring is based on the country life of the European nobility, a life of riding and shooting and hacking through countryside, a life not so different from growing up in some of the last untamed land in the American South-West, our southern coastal country of marshes, beaches, cattle farming, rodeos, and Spanish Missions dripping with moss.
Many of the more aspirational boys I knew from my parents country club, and also went to university with, wore Guerlains handsome Vetiver, so I have pleasant associations with that scent, memories of dressing for dances and those warm humid moments when you and your date are both still freshly scrubbed and groomed, and nervous, helping a boys sometimes trembling fingers pin a corsage on the bodice or the sweetheart neckline of a new dress. (The pre-dance scene in Blue Velvet always quickens my heart a little, I was just that age when the movie came out). I would always inhale my dates scent and sense the warm body underneath the starched buttoned up shirt, and I am sure he could smell mine, too, our scents mingling as surely as the clinch that usually ended a night that involved a date with a dance.
Encre Noir didnt bring forth those memories with the same uncanny accuracy as other Vetiver fragrances, likely because it didnt exist back then, and it is different. This is a modern Vetiver, messy bits trimmed away, and no old fashioned powder-musk. Its Vetiver accord smells good, although I miss the rest. However, I have warmed up to it, especially since pre IFRA Vetiver soliflores are hard to find, and expensive. Encre Noir is _very_ affordable, attractively packaged, and so easy to wear that I cannot be mad at it.
It is also _very_ uncomplicated. It smells like Vetiver, lifted and diffused with the complimentary mild pine scent of ISO-E-Super, which gives it a soft and pleasant radiance, instead of the brown-around-the-edges, almost swampy and oxidized scowl that some vetivers adopt once they pass their opening stages. There is no citrus fanfare, no jackboot polish anchoring it, just a Fresher and then Drier Vetiver Sensation, and then the ISO-E gets to work creating a nutty-grassy aura for you to walk around in all day.
Unlike some Vetiver creationsDiptyques wonderful Vetyverio (a great personal favorite not yet in my collection) for instancethe composition does not lean into a toasted hazelnut accord that sometimes emerges from simple Vetiver fragrances. I like the perfumes that do this, but I also respect Encre Noir for sticking to its guns and just being Vetiver, Vetiver, and then some more Vetiver. As I mentioned above, it also does not have a recognizable base as such, so cleaned up is it, minimal modernizedand perhaps just a touch synthetic, but only in the service of maintaining its cropped, controlled, very precisely composed accord.
I believe untrained perfumers probably do not understand how much work must go into creating something that smells so simple, never goes off message, and ends on the same path from which it starts. I am not a perfumer, but I smell so many bad perfumes in proportion to the good ones that I believe that I have some sense of how easily things can go wrong. Encre Noir is a successful exercise in singleminded discipline. I almost forgot one other point. It smells really damn good. (I notice some thumbs-down reviews for EN here on Basenotes, but they seem mostly to complain of Vetiver smelling like Vetiver, which is silly, as it does not try to be anything else).
A note on the name and conceptTania Sanchez, in her review of EN in Perfumes The Guide, remarks on Encre Noirs witty resemblance to its namesake. I do not smell black ink, India Ink, or whatever ink she was thinking ofnot like Byredos aggressive tribute to photocopier toner cartridges, M/Minkas a former longtime admin assistant, I dont miss that smell at all (now, if someone could bottle the scent of blue mimeograph paper, or has, I hope they contact me, because they have a buyer, eagerly waiting here). Encre Noirs Vetiver has a roasted, nutty profile, but it isnt edible, and it only flirts with the idea of machine materials. I believe more ISO-E, either concentrated alone, or with some specific ingredient, could produce that true inky smellnot a terrible idea, just not what Encre Noir is doing, for which I am glad, as M/Mink is a fun bit of arty ness but not a versatile fragrance like this one. I would and do wear Encre Noir everywhere, from meditative afternoons with a cuppa and a poetry book to evenings out when I want my fragrance to stay in the background of food and conversation. It is handsome on a man, but alluring and mysterious on a woman, a surprising twist on the usual come-hither feminines. (It would also be an excellent gift for the incorrigible tomboy in your life, to help wean them from their Light Blue dependency, should they be so inclined).
As to its performanceat the risk of repeating myself, Encre Noir is all Vetiver, all the time, to its (deliciously) bitter end. Even quite generously sprayed, it is not a massive projection beast, I think you have to find the Extreme flanker if that is what you want, and I have not tried any of its flankers, including the now hard-to-find and quite expensive Encre Noir pour Elle, which I might have liked, even if that was not what I had hoped it would be, a slightly more feminine Vetiver, badly needed these days, as Vitamin V is one of the few ingredients that IFRA does not seem to have it in for. (If you have found a source for Encre Noire pour Elle that does not cost a fortune, would you please contact me? Compulsive perfume curiosity is tough to live with, and I want to know what it actually smells like). My Encre Noire gets me through eight hours of comfortable albeit not overwhelming wear, and its low scent profile makes it less embarrassing if oversprayed than some other more perfumey accords, so spray away.
A few more words in praise of Vetiver, since this review is already much longer than I expected it to be/. IFRAs permissive attitude toward Vetiver is probably one of the few reasons modern perfumery is not an entirely lost cause. The remarkable versatility of this ingredient seems to sit under the hood of many of the best mainstream and niche creations of recent timesAngel Muse, Rogue Vetifleur, Narciso Rodriguez Narciso (White Cube and its gorgeous EDT), as well as classics like Gucci Rush, and evergreens like Habanita. Its grassy-smoky scent stands in where oakmoss is forbidden to go, at least in designer perfumery, so we dont have to solely rely on patchouli to get our chypres through these dark times.
Encre Noir is now a modern classic. Its simple versatile scent profile, which knows no age or gender (just ask Sarah Jessica Parker, although I believe she prefers Guerlains Vetiver, I am sure she might like Laliques crisp take as well), plus its clever and elegant bottle design, IFRA-dodging composition, and excellent value for money make it one of the few perfumes that I think everyone (unless you just hate Vetiver, in which case I wonder just a little if we could really be friendsbut thats so damn judged, and you probably do not care anyway. De gustibus non est disputandum. I came here to praise Vetiver, not to fight about it) should have in their collection. It is typically one of the first fragrances I see newbie guys but when they join BN, and theres a reason for that . If you have not worn it in a while, or think you have moved beyond it, perhaps now is the time to revisit, especially since Indian Summer is creeping up, with its humid summer hangover hanging around while we all long for turned leaves and crisp nights.
5 stars, with the extra point for originality going to the marketing and research team, for creating a modern must-have.
Are the flankers worth checking out? My message box is open.
Encre Noire altered the scape for vetiver scents with a daring, rustic minimalism that bordered on niche; proving that a modern masculine perfume of this nature could break against the conventional tide of sweet appeal, as well as the traditional soapy-centric lemonades, and strike a chord with the masses. Imagine the smoky, dank peat of Islay fermenting on an aura of dry, earthy cypress and sensual wood musks as a contemporary scent of fashion, beyond vogue. Truly, the unconventional became a new convention that distanced itself from the definitive 20th century mossy, citrus, spicy hay where vetiver seemed to be gift-wrapped as an elegant barbershop (ex. Carven Vetiver, Guerlain Vetiver, Givenchy Vetyver, distinctively notable in their own right). This 2006 release brought a futurist rendering to a finicky genre that seemed so boxed in and limited to these classic templates. Encre Noire merely opened the box and let the dark cool vapour of vetiver breathe as a new urban hip that was fittingly sober and all business... It begins with a cypress opening that is dry, earthy, sharp and green, along side a vetiveryl acetate, giving off a citrus-like conjuring that transitions towards a hearty possession of an ethereal, clean Haitian vetiver and its Bourbon brother, whose smoky streak is nutty, leathery, and soiled in flavour. Each a complementary, each a contrast, each a vetiver strain, that functions in dualistic fashion, beating harmoniously with its linearity. This one-way direction heads towards a base of cashmere wood musks, shaped by Iso E Super, that surrender to the vetiver rush, giving the design its inky billing. The mere absence of any floral or citrus notes in the accord is remarkably audacious, and its strictly vetiver theme is astonishing given its wrinkled nose reputation. Encre Noire is a pure work of art, a standard to be judged by, from a masterful perfumer and a house that continues to remain beautifully edgy and refined within the designer orthodoxy. Bravo!
This was a blind buy for me, because of the price and the comments, but it is not a fragrance I can truly enjoy despite not being averted by it either.
True, it is a compliment getter but that's just because it is so old-school masculine, somewhat in the vein of Paco Rabanne's Pino Silvestre.. No, patriarchy is not dead yet.
After a choking-strong opening where cypress dominates, it dries down to a pleasant but non-descript lemony and somewhat fruity (is this the tahitian vetiver?) musk. Pleasant is all that it is but other than that nothing else.
It isn't nauseating, like most designer perfumes, but then it is way too simple and basic, so much so it doesn't feel like a real perfume to me. I would call it a scent rather than a perfume. Actually, it reminds very much of an insect repeller, as another reviewer has said.
I bought this as a blind buy as I'd come in to a little extra money and had been meaning to pick a bottle up for some time.
I am not disappointed.
Encre Noir to me is a really dry, woody vetiver. That said I pick up a scent in this that I have found in many fragrances before but in other fragrances has never sat well on my skin. I get a bit of an Incense vibe from it.
Some of the Comme des Garcons fragrances spring to mind like Incense Kyoto and there is also something in here that reminds me of EDPFM French Lover. Both fragrances I loved on paper but EDPFM FL didn't work on my skin at all.
Suffice to say Encre Noir does work on my skin and I quite love it.