I have a miniature bottle of Black and had been dabbing it, but finally decided to decant the bottle into a spray atomizer, for convenience. Well, no wonder I wasn’t getting any staying power from this stuff. With one spray on each wrist and one at the base of the neck, I smelled myself all day – without violating my 3-foot sillage guideline. Black is, in my opinion, a wonderful scent, but nothing like the brainy, astounding wonder Perfumes: The Guide calls it. I like it a great deal; it’s something of a comfort scent to me. A genius perfume? Huh. Probably I don’t know enough about aromachemistry to realize geniusity when I smell it. Black smells to me of Lapsang Souchong tea, smoky vanilla, and the powdery, exciting, slightly-bitter smell of new bicycle tire.
Here are the notes for Black, from fragrantica.com (which categorizes it as a woody oriental, by the way):
Bergamot, tea, jasmine, sandalwood, cedar, leather, amber, musk, vanilla.
I work in an auto parts store, doing the books part-time. I love it when the counter guys have to make a new hose: they choose the correct metal hose end and the proper type and diameter of hose, then cut the rubber hose and attach the end with a piece of equipment that is located fairly near my desk. I love New Hose days – the entire back room smells of that faint rubbery dust. Mmm. I’ll walk through the area just to smell it. This is the rubber accord you’ll smell in Black – new tires, new bicycle tires, new auto-part hose. Oddly, it doesn’t smell funky or unpleasant or tarry (no CDG Garage here), but clean and dusty.
I puzzled for a very long time over Luca Turin’s description of Black as being “emerald green plush fit for Napoleon’s box at the Opera” and “a floral note green as a banker’s desk lamp.” That’s greeeeen. I still don’t smell greeeeen like that, not even after I pulled out my vintage (60’s era) bottle of Je Reviens and dabbed some next to Black. Good black tea smells quite floral to me, but I still smell “smoked tea” in Black, whereas Je Reviens smells intensely floral, with an overlay of the pleasant smokiness that you smell right after you blow out a candle. I see the family resemblance now, but I don’t think I’ll ever have a mental reference to this note as “green.” On the contrary, I now think of Je Reviens, in the vintage before they screwed it up (don’t bother with the currently available synthetic blue mess), as afternoon tea, with a bouquet on the table and blown-out candle smoke in the air.
Turin also calls the other big accord in Black “a big, solid sweet amber note.” This note is what I think of as the powdery version of amber, and it seems very vanilla-ish to me, without being terribly sweet. It’s not that gorgeous labdanum-y amber you get in 31 Rue Cambon, Attrape-Coeur, Alahine, and even Mitsouko (what is that stuff, the famous Ambre 83 base?), but what you get with Black is quite pleasant.
Black doesn’t seem to have a traditional development – it keeps cycling through its three stages of new rubber, smoky tea, and powdery vanilla, over and over. I find it somewhat fascinating and somewhat brainless comfort, depending on what phase it’s in, which is in itself sort of freaky. It’s like mercury – hard to put your finger on! When dabbed, it doesn’t last more than a couple of hours on me. Now I spritz four spritzes, and it lasts a good 4-5 hours.
Black is sometimes sold as being “for men,” and sometimes as “unisex.” Reviews on fragrantica and basenotes seem about equally split between “I can’t imagine this on a man,” and “Women shouldn’t wear this, it’s masculine.” Which is, de facto, a good reason to call it unisex. I did have a lot of fun wearing it to the Cub Scout’s Pinewood Derby races last year; the tire bottle seemed perfect.
I first wore Black and wrote down my impressions about it in my (in)famous Excel worksheet before reading either NST’s review or Bois de Jasmin’s, and I find that their reviews are so similar to mine that you might think I plagiarized. Not so. It was, however, vindication that I was smelling what several other people were smelling. To be honest, I still don’t really get part of Luca Turin’s review (a “battle hymn for Amazons”? Um, nope, too much fun for that), but I don’t care at this point. I like Black.