The best mainstream designer pillar fragrance launched in the last 15 years or so, at least on the feminine side–an opinion borne out by blockbuster sales, rapturous industry and critical response, and excited user reviews. I almost did not bother to write a review, but I wear it so often that I suspected–and was correct–that I could start, and finish, a user review in one go.
So, Narciso is that all-purpose scent, that goes with everything, from slouchy going to the post office house cleaning clothes/loungewear, to one's most pressed dinner ensemble–even a fun evening out, just consider how bewitching this could smell when leaning in ....). It is perhaps my most versatile fragrance, fine for office wear (worn appropriately discreetly) but with a flamboyant southern belle Gardenia accord, that will not hide under a bushel–no, it's going to let itself *not* glow. It's like cool, steady, and smoothly diffused moonlight, not a flickery candle, or bothersome invasive rays of the sun.
It is exquisitely beautiful, which I suppose, I have failed to state, until now (and is not always the case with bestselling and even beloved fragrances, not that many are not attractive, but few have Narciso's ephemerally gorgeous decadent floral/austere Vetiver, especially stated and balanced with such precision) . Its category, of powdery musks, usually circumscribes and ghettoizes itself with pretty cosmetic and powder accords, often more suited to bed, or to women who might put pink grosgrain ribbons around their head a la Snow White in the daytime, not funky-tailored tomboys like your humble scribe. I love those powdery little things, adore their retro juvenile associations, and collect and keep them for after-shower dryoff, bedtime, and sleepless nights when I want some fairy godmotheresque comfort. (Milk Musk, take me away!). This–perfectly legitimate–perfume category belongs to a wider family of sometimes maligned perfumes that mostly don't develop along the usual pyramidal lines (such as they are), and prize a single aggregate chord or effect over a long, complex development, and featuring a single musk material–animal/vegetable/mineral–dressed up a little, but the supporting players don't need to do perform too much work, as they exist to only decorate and enhance the primary Musk, after the drum roll, leaving a trailing puff of powder at the end for the curtain call, if the composition is long lasting and high enough quality.
Narciso is a floral musk, which means, it uses a lot of powder. I am not a perfumer, but all the floral musks I know, depend on this scent of powder, a powerful base musk–the perfume's raison d'etre. So, floral musks are really powder musks, although I suppose floral musk sounds better for marketing reasons. The character of every powder musk depends on its floral accords–the aforementioned (and most common imo) rose/violet accord, or maybe just a rose with a little jasmine or sweet fruit, or the bolder heliotropinesque Aprée l'Ondèe musk composition that somehow became Sweet Dreams. But floral musks do not tell the whole musk story, as there are also sweet musks (I think Pink and Gold Sugar kind of fall in here), animalic musks (the oldest kind), and even metallic musks. Narciso Rodriguez's first perfume, For Her, was an orange blossom and patchouli composition that looks a fruithouli chypre on paper, but actually forms a lovely solid state musk perfume with the two complimentary sweet/spicy elements of its accord running on parallel tracks without tipping the perfume's balance.
These compositions are essentially static, as how you smell when you leave is very close to how you return. So what, you may ask, differentiates musks, from modern linear perfumery? History and technology–classic modern llinear perfumes, like CKOne, borrow the static character of musks, add new and much more aggressively projectile modern ingredients to produce a relentlessly fresh perfume that projects miles around and does not quit, but have none of classical or postmodern musk's references to skin or to the body. In contrast, musks stay close, without loud projection (even under pressure), and the chemical components of musks help them achieve a sense of no particular point of origin. They speak of body and skin but also
feel ephemeral. They form an aura, but not an aggressive one. A soft aura, a gauzy aura–that is musk, as opposed to the science fiction shield aura of 90s linear perfumes.
This effect of nowhere/everywhere is exceptionally well achieved in Narciso. But it wouldn't be worth all the fuss if it were not so ridiculously gorgeous smelling. It has a near-perfect Gardenia accord (imagine, for a moment, composing that, and then having the restraint to not bolster it into a big soliflore–because this Gardenia might lack a little indoor and nail varnish but it is not a poorly masquerading Tuberose/orange blossom/jasmine, as one might expect)), thoroughly blending it with the perfume's powdery musk until the fragrance suggests a very expensive Gardenia afterbath talc–clean, dry, elegant.
Then comes the coup de grace–a tomboy twist, a pair of Chuck Taylors with the gauzy gown, as a rooty yet still refined and powdered Vetiver finishes the base. The Vetiver is the twist that elevates this perfume from an excellent Gardenia (hard enough to do) to a brilliant, modern, delicious and addictive creation.
I suppose you could describe Narciso as feminine, enough so that average wearers (presumably female, as online reviews confirm) don't object to its woody and classic masculine base. In fact, powdery Vetiver fragrances, go back, as far as guerlain's classic, powder bomb Vetiver, and further back than that, most of which were marketed to men. The question of who is carpetbagging upon whom–well, it doesn't even matter. Narciso R has built an empire of great although confusingly-named musk fragrances. I am becoming increasingly obsessed with the house, now that summer is causing my amber/incense/gourmands to lose their luster, and I hope to augment my collection with quite a few more of these.
I have worn Narciso several days in a row with no end in sight. I have trouble growing tired of it. It will be one of the first perfumes, I have ever wanted to buy at least four backup bottles–excessive, yes, but what's the point of a perfume hobby without excess?
I also want to try some of the flankers– the edt, I hear it is really different but excellent, the Poudré cousin, the fleur musc and so far. I also have my eyes on their Amber Musc–a perfume that has KHANADA written all over it, with the fantasy of donning it as summer ends.
Narciso is not a projection beast, it is not meant to be, so if you want to leave traces of yourself and call attention to it, add extra to your wrists (movement and pulse points), your chest/cleavage (same), crooks of your elbows (ditto), and one on the back of your neck. Even then it will be subtle, but that will be too much for ordinary office wear, where a normal 2-3 spritzes will more than do. It never reaches much of a crescendo, just hums along at its pleasant mezzo-mezzo for at least ten hours, and sticks very nicely to skin. If you can bear to misuse a little, add some to your pillow or soft hair accessories like scarves, bandanas, and fabric hats, which will subtle refresh your locks.
One final comment. Please do not fear the frequent references to powder. This is not the choking, old fashioned toilet water style powder. It is not thick, has no iris, and feels contemporary and light, yet also comfy, bearing an almost minimalist my house is all white upholstery and carpet vibe, yet done by the Anthropologie catalog stylists, with their signature textured pillows, and stitched coverlets. and fuzzy jute interest pieces. And if you just cannot got over your fear of powder, contact me and I will take yours if you made a bad blind buy).
This stuff is glorious. 5 glowing hazy stars and 2 matte milky thumbs up. Extra credit for NR for making this dreamy perfume at a busy designer house with a zillion flankers and spinoff projects. I want to believe the big houses are watching its success, and, hopefully learning. Guerlain, Chanel, Dior–is how it's done. Insert finger snap emoji.
One of the most wonderful things about perfume is its power to evoke completely different reactions in people.
On my skin, Narciso EDP is almost entirely cedar overlaid by musk. I have a box of cedar chip (Virginia red) incense cones, which I compared side by side with Narciso EDP. Yep, there it was in Narciso–that sharp yet surprisingly sweet scent of fragrant wood.
I am aware that most cedar' notes in contemporary perfumery are not from the true cedar tree. Nevertheless, the image Narciso paints in my mind is linked to the cedars of Lebanon, miles and millennia away from the clean cut marketing image of Narciso and most peoples' perception of it as a basic office fragrance.
To me this is the scent of the great hall of the ancient Persian palace of Persepolis. Crimson rugs embrace the floor, a plucked instrument accompanies the low hum of conversation, monolithic stone columns rise towards darkness. And, although the majestic cedar planks of the ceiling are concealed in the shadows, their scent mingles with the fragrance of musk-anointed robes of princes and princesses as they tread softly around the room.
The perfect iteration of an upscale mall scent. This and Alaia's new frag smell like tear out magazine samples and/or Sephora encapsulated. Bland, uninspiring, and utterly artificial-smelling. A plastic perfume for people who don't really like perfume or want to know much about perfume.
This is the platonic ideal of a modern office perfume. It is all about the seamless texture of florals, powder and musk. It is very radiant and quite warm, with none of the notes being overly obvious. Very smooth and long lasting.
I had to visit a number of stores in order to test this particular perfume - it has taken a complete backseat to the recent launch of Narciso Rouge, Poudree, and the pink For Her bottles. While I'm not a fan of the For Her perfume, I found Narciso to be very agreeable. Totally inoffensive and can be worn by anyone.
Touted as a 'powdery' perfume, it doesn't have the overwhelming powder notes that I usually detest. I enjoyed the musky wooded dry down the most as it has a most delicious almost candy floss scent after a bit that continually has me mushing my nose onto arm to keep inhaling the scent.
While there is nothing earth shattering about Narciso, this is one of the mainstream perfumes out there that I plan to eventually purchase a full bottle of.