Who would have thought such a dark fragrance could come from a glassmaker whos success relies on their ability to manipulate light? Lalique has over 100 years of experience in working with crystal glass and almost 20 years of fragrance history. Encre Noire Pour Homme was launched in 2006 and is an astonishing good vetiver scent that competes with the best vetivers on the market, which often cost four times the price. I was pleasantly surprised last Christmas to be introduced to this fragrance wandering the refurbishment of Myers department store in Melbourne. Retailers were in overdrive with the gift-giving season in full swing. Myer’s Melbourne flagship have added a boutique style fragrance section funded by Trimex, Australia’s main importer of niche perfume brands such as Etro, L’Artisan, Caron, Keiko Mecheri and Juliette Has A Gun. I spent some time talking to the boutique staff, actually one of Trimex’ own staff who was helping kick-start the business for the opening. He understood my interest in vetiver and introduced me to Lalique. Perfumer Nathalie Lorson created the men’s version of Encre Noire. Employed by perfume giant Firmenich, Lorson has created scents for brands such as Jil Sander, Adidas and recently Le Labo. Encre Noire is a simple yet sophisticated statement. The black glass with dark timber cap is reminiscent of an old inkbottle. Encre Noire (black ink), if I could, I would write with it.
This is the beauty of vetiver. On one hand it is simple, on the other it is complex. Encre Noire showcases vetiver for what it is. I can spend hours wandering its silage discovering new facets: smoke, wood, powder, iris-like roots and grass. What is interesting about the structure of Encre Noire is the complete absence of florals and citrus that in simple terms would be classified as top notes. It is purely constructed on vetiver (both Haitian and Bourbon variants), cypress adding an aromatic green note and what Lalique describe as musk and cashmere wood, most probably Iso E Super and a range of musks like Cashmeran and Galaxolide. Previously I thought Frederic Malle’s Vetiver Extraordinaire was as vetiver as they come, but I think Encre Noire takes the Oscar for the vetiver award. It only has one note or theme and one volume. For me, it fits perfectly between Malle’s vetiver that is clinical, about purity and Chanel’s Sycomore that is smoky and more seductive. This is a great example of a true vetiver, earthy and tribal.
If I smell vetiver on a person my gaze always lingers just that little bit longer as I try to decipher their personality and any clues as to how they chose their fragrance. Vetiver is slightly harder to love. It has no attached mental imagery. When you smell rose, in your mind you picture the flower or a garden. When you smell a standard men’s sporty cologne, you think of cleanliness and strength. For most people vetiver is abstract so it’s always interesting to smell someone who has invested him or herself in the scent of vetiver. Encre Noire should have a wide appeal. Chanel Bleu wearers looking for something less commercial may appreciate this scent, although men under twenty-five might find it too mature for their palette.
Frederic Malle Vetiver Extraordinaire, Etro Vetiver, Chanel Sycomore, Guerlain Vetiver Sport, Hermes Vetiver Tonka, Chanel Bleu de Chanel, Comme Des Garcons Series 4: Vettiveru, Christian Dior Vetiver, The Different Company Sel De Vetiver.
Perfumer: Nathalie Lorson (Firmenich)
Bottle designer: Lalique creation studio
Release date: 2006
Typology (via Fragrances of the World): Woods