- Sep 16, 2018
Nothing more to add. Very detailed breakdown.As promised, thoughts on Encre Noire et al and Sycomore:
I'll admit, while they're not without flaws, almost everything about the Encre Noire line appeals to me. As Andy mentions, they each start with a central dark vetiver/cypress accord; they're all minimalistic, edgy, and focused around dry woods; and the pricing at discounters is ridiculous. If you like what they do, they're an insane value and all three versions are distinct enough to own (more on each in a moment). That said, none are particularly easy wearing and I understand why not everyone is enamored with these. They remind me of CdG fragrances in the way they feel overtly synthetic and seem to revel in a kind of "industrial" perfume aesthetic. Besides the core vetiver/cypress, all three Encre Noires go particularly heavy on ISO E, which lends the same unnaturally dry pencil shavings vibe of things like TdH and Wonderwood. As with other ISO E-heavy scents like these (plus Fahrenheit, Burberry London, and others), I can go nose blind to Encre Noire depending how close I spray to my face. If I apply too heavily, it can even give me the old ISO E headache. But if I apply just so, they actually perform quite well, and I'll catch wafts of glorious ink-black vetiver throughout the day.
As for the differences between the three: EN feels stripped down, almost entirely focused on the vetiver+cypress accord; when cast across that glimmering lake of ISO E, it feels pitch black, arid, maybe even acrid, but somehow fascinating. It's dark without being heavy, like a thin black film that doesn't completely block out the light but distorts it enough to warp your perception. Not for everyone but definitely for me. The original EN is still my favorite but I find it arguably the hardest to wear. EN Sport adds some citrus and lavender plus the faintest touch of barely-there aquatics, which sounds insane on paper but somehow rounds off the harshest edges of EN and comes out a bit easier to wear. EN a L'Extreme adds dark incense and bone-dry sandalwood, and I see why this gets compared to Sycomore EDP due to the vetiver+cypress+sandalwood combo, but its still a fairly linear, minimalistic, dry-woody-industrial thing that wears differently than the Chanel. I'm not sure what's responsible for the incense note, but there are days where it doesn't really work for me. It can come off as slightly musty to my nose, and I assume this is what folks mean when they talk about the "canned peas" accord. For what it's worth, my wife, who usually only comments on fragrances if I spray too heavily, said it smells like "an old man's coat packed in moth balls". Still, I love all of these! Just not as much as Sycomore.
Full disclosure: I've never tried Sycomore EDT. I assume it's as memorable as everyone says, though it sounds like it's a bit smoky and possibly harder to wear than the (purportedly) rounder, richer, less edgy EDP. I sampled the EDP after spending a lot of time with decants of the Encre Noire line and it felt like a revelation: a goldlocks vetiver that has the same dark woodsy character but more or less solves for every issue someone might have with Encre Noire (besides pricing). Whereas EN is edgy, harsh, and industrial, Sycomore sands off the rougher edges and delivers a much richer experience with the addition of classic Chanel aldehydes up front, some subtle florals in the heart, and the same creamy sandalwood base accord from Egoiste and BdC Parfum. I have no idea if Sycomore has any ISO E, but it doesn't wear like an ISO E heavy scent to my nose, and that makes a huge difference in performance and overall presentation. It lasts quite well on my skin, doesn't do the ISO E disappearing act, and I never seem to go nose blind. Meanwhile, the central vetiver/cypress accord still feels dark, distinct, and occasionally even dank (sometimes you get a waft of unsmoked ganja, not that I'd know what that smells like, of course). All in all, I find it more satisfying as an actual vetiver fragrance than the Laliques.
Is the current formulation of Sycomore EDP worth the drastic upcharge compared to Encre Noire or a L'Extreme? For most folks, probably not. For me, absolutely. It strikes the perfect balance of wearable and interesting, and it's up there among my all-time favorite fragrances. I wouldn't encourage blind buying given the pricing, but if you're even curious, you should definitely try a sample. I got a 5 ml decant on ebay for about $20, and I'm really glad I did.
Sycomore is superior to ENE, but how much suprerior? How to quantify that? I see ENE as a lower def Sycomore, but that allows the movie to be seen and fully enjoyed nearly at the same level. Yesterday I shifted my Netflix UHD subscription to the standard HD one (in spite of owning a UHD tv), because it was just a 25% premium. So at a 1,000% premium for Sycomore, it was a no-go before for me, and even more so now that Chanel has (disgustingly) increased their pricing by ~20% in one shot. I'm done with them - just better bang-for-the-buck around, from other houses. Especially true when seeing Chanel's release of the last 5 years.