Perfume Review: MFK Lumiere Noire pour femme

A Rose in Winter by Kathleen Woodiwiss, at

I have to blame Denyse of Grain de Musc for this one, which she described as a “bodice-ripper rose.” Because, baby, it really is.

(Not that I regularly participate in bodice ripping of any type, since I never wear bodices, except possibly to church, which is not exactly prime bodice-ripping real estate. It might be Frowned Upon. Even if the church meets in a middle school auditorium and sits in plastic-and-aluminum chairs and listens to music played upon drums and electric guitars. Maybe especially then.)

Ahem. As I say, Lumiere Noire pour femme is one of those woody-patchouli-rose concoctions that I seem to be a total sucker for. I enjoyed Agent Provocateur and its limited edition flanker, DD (Diamond Dust). I liked the part of Guerlain Rose Barbare that did not smell like Rose Barbare-shop (I’ve pretty well convinced myself at this point that this effect is due to an “amber” material that smells like Barbasol to me). I liked Parfums d’Empire Eau Suave. I liked Teo Cabanel Oha. I liked Etat Libre d’Orange Rossy de Palma – one of the few ELdO scents, along with Putain des Palaces and everybody’s dividing line, Secretions Magnifiques, that I’ve bothered to smell. I liked Parfums de Rosine’s gritty Folie de Rose. I even liked the reformulated Lanvin Rumeur, for heaven’s sake – not enough to buy it, but enough to spray from the sample vial and say to myself, “Hey, this isn’t bad!” The fact that Francis Kurkdjian seems to be fond of this kind of thing, to the degree that he keeps playing with variations of it (i.e. the aforementioned Rumeur, Juliette Has a Gun Lady Vengeance, Rose Barbare), doesn’t really bother me at all, despite the blogospheric sneers that we’ve smelled it all before: Derivative. Smells like Stella smells like Rose Barbare smells like Sisley Soir de Lune smells like Lady Vengeance smells like Perles de Lalique smells like Coriandre. Boring. Show us Something New.

And I agree, woody-rose-patchouli has been Done Before. L’Artisan Voleur de Roses might have started the revival of this style of fragrance, according to some sources, but it was dreadful: a choking cloud of earthy, oily, yet sharp patchouli, dusted with dried rose petals. I lived through it, but I was definitely not cheerful afterwards.

Also a fact to keep in mind: I really don’t care much for patchouli. Okay, full disclosure: most of the time, I hate patchouli. I seem to be very sensitive to it and can pick it up at extremely low levels, in fragrances where it’s not the focus. It tends to dominate fragrances, so that even if it’s not a star player, it seems like one to me. I don’t have any overtly headshoppy or hippie references for that; in fact, I don’t think I’ve ever been around any serious hippies and I’m quite sure I’ve never been in a head shop. It’s just that usually, patchouli seems dirty to me – musty, dusty, funky like old shoes, and I find it unpleasant.

I’ve seen a number of scent bloggers complaining in the last twelve months or so about the proliferation of “clean” patchouli in mainstream fragrances, and how boring that is, how un-patchouli-like, how unimaginative. But all I can say to that is that I rather like clean patchouli. It can be a bit astringent, when stripped of its earthiness, but that is preferable to me. Sometimes you’ll see this referred to as “patchouli heart note” or “refined patchouli,” and it is indeed a grade of patchouli oil that has been refined to remove certain aspects of the natural material.

Another thing I’ve noticed about my reaction to patchouli is that I seem to get on much, much better with it when the patchouli has been aged. It seems to soften and become more herbal and grassy, less dusty and earthy, as if the dried material has been revived to become fresh green leaves. It’s still pungent and aromatic, and almost camphor-y, but it seems that I like patch that way – surprise, surprise! Some of my very favorite fragrances contain a nice herbal-smelling patchouli note, I realized recently: Le Temps d’une Fete comes to mind, in particular.

I like patchouli still better when it’s paired with rose, as I was mentioning earlier with all that talk about Agent Provocateur and Rossy de Palma. There’s just something about sweet, lemony, floral rose that marries well with the herbal-woody-aromatic strength of patchouli; the materials contrast, but somehow share a vibrancy and brightness. The combination is something like a good duet, where the two voices have similar timbres and vibratory frequencies, though they’re singing in different octaves.

Im Boudoir, by Karoly Teuchert, public domain via Wikimedia Commons

Lumiere Noire pour femme does not disappoint me. Right after applying it, I get a moment or two of bright, lemon-candy patchouli, and then I can smell the rose-patchouli duet. There is a period when I really notice the lily of the valley, although I might simply be familiar with the rose-patchouli-muguet combination from smelling Guerlain Idylle EdT (not the original EdP), which has quite a lot of muguet in it as well as those other items. After this bright start, the heart notes settle more deeply into the rose-patchouli territory, the fragrance darkens, and I begin to notice the slightly warm and dirty influence of narcissus and of cumin, both leading toward thoughts of sweaty skin and (dare I say it?) the boudoir. There’s also a hint of something dry and smoky in the drydown, perhaps just a tiny bit of frankincense? It has the sort of lime-pine effect that frankincense sometimes does, and that’s what I think I’m smelling. The entire effect of the fragrance is of light shading toward dark, as if the neon lights and chandeliers of a dressy evening out have led to a passionate personal encounter in the dimness of a private room.

Needless to say, I find it very sexy.

During the short period of time that I owned a small decant of Frederic Malle’s hugely-popular Portrait of a Lady, I compared Lumiere Noire pf to PoaL, one on each wrist. Before that, I would have described Lumiere Noire to be a Dark Rose, a dark gothic rose with kohl-lidded eyes. But next to each other, Lumiere Noire glowed like a candle, while all light disappeared into the far, far darker Portrait of a Lady, proving PoaL to be the true Darkest Rose I’ve come across. Eventually, I grew tired of the heavy balsam in the drydown of PoaL and sent my decant off to a good home with a friend. Although I think PoaL is a truly wonderful fragrance, I just couldn’t manage to wear it myself.

Theda Bara as Carmen, movie still from 1915, Wikimedia Commons

Then I tried Lumiere Noire next to Agent Provocateur Diamond Dust. APDD is recognizable as another rose-patchouli fragrance, but it is another mood altogether, flirty and girl-next-door-sexy compared to the serious, vampy Theda Bara all-out-seduction of Lumiere Noire. The Agent Provocateur is sweeter, with lighter florals (I think I smell jasmine), and friendlier, with more wood and light musk than patchouli.

Notes, according to the MFK site: rose, narcissus, pepper, lily of the valley, patchouli, balsam, orris, cumin. I don’t smell orris or pepper, and I’m not sure what FK means by “balsam,” unless it’s that note I thought might be frankincense. It is available at LuckyScent and Neiman-Marcus, as well as Liberty in the UK, and the Maison Francis Kurkdjian website, at $165 for 70 ml. My decant is about half gone, though I save it for special occasions.

Other reviews:  Denyse at Grain de Musc, Patty at Perfume Posse (brief), Octavian at 1000Fragrances.  In brief blog mentions or comments, Katie Puckrik called it “bombshell rose”, but Brian at I Smell Therefore I Am was underimpressed.  (I was disappointed.  Brian and I often like the same sort of thing.)


17 thoughts on “Perfume Review: MFK Lumiere Noire pour femme”

    1. Comparisons always do seem to be helpful in understanding what’s going on in a fragrance, don’t they?

      If you like Agent Provocateur and some of those other rose chypres, it’s worth trying.

      1. For sure. I’m too easily influenced by nice reviews. I will think “Oh, that sounds good. Not sure about x ingredient, but it’s such a good review!” and then I get a sample and I’m horrified.

  1. I really liked Lumiere Noire. A LOT. I wish they did smaller bottles though. It didn’t strike me as particularly dark, though- there is something luminous about it..It’s sooo pretty, isn’t it? I remember it being a lot less sweeter than Rose Barbare (which I also incidentally liked though not as much..:)). Rossy Palma, is also lovely- love its coolish greenness..We seem to like similar kind of rose perfume..:) (I’ve been soo lazy about sending you that sample to do so eventually)

    1. I think it’s gorgeous, too. I only have a 10ml decant… okay, now there’s about 5ml in it… and that ought to do me for awhile. I think I got it through the Scent Splits wiki page (google it!) and it wasn’t ridiculously expensive.

      Rossy de Palma was nice, but I already had Lumiere Noire (and L’Arte di Gucci), so I didn’t feel like I needed any. (“Needed” – ha!) I did not like Rose Barbare, but that was because of the amber material that smells like shaving cream to me.

      You’re right, there is something glowy and luminous about LN – I just didn’t experience it until I tried PoaL next to it.

  2. Hi Carol, glad you’re loving the MFK Lumiere Noire pour femme. It is a beauty, isn’t it? Except not on my skin, alas. That tad of cumin in there amps something fierce on me and distracts me from the rest of its loveliness. Oh well.
    Perhaps I should send mine on to you. Hope you and your family are having a fun summer, though it sounds plenty busy. Take care …

    1. I kind of like that cumin note… not too attention-wrenching for me, thank goodness. And yep, busy, but that’s okay!

      (Do I have anything you’d like in exchange for it?? I think you have my email…)

  3. I love me some woody-rose-patchouli too. I just recently got around to trying Portrait of a Lady, just a spritz from a tester, and it was nice, but underwhelming after all the hype — I didn’t like it as much as Rossy de Palma, which to me is the same basic materials but done in a brighter, happier sort of way.

    I might need to break out a rose perfume tomorrow! They don’t get a lot of rotation in the hot hot summer.

    1. I did like PoaL a lot, until it got to that balsamy Opium thing that I just hate. But I was underwhelmed with RdP, which I found pleasant but uncompelling. Maybe there’s a narrow bandwidth there for which rose-patch scent just pushes each person’s joy button?

      1. No, haven’t tried Noir de Noir. That’s a Tom Ford, right? I thought it was d/c… it’s not like the Tom Fords are just lyyyyyyyying around on counters here waiting for me. (Pity party for me. I rather liked Tobacco Vanille. Would like to try Amber Absolute.)

        (Ooh, you know I think I know someone who has a bottle… maybe I can cadge a sample… off to FB to beg. Shamelessly.)

  4. Sadly for the me the cumin ruins it all. The littlest bit is so distracting, I cannot enjoy the entire perfume. Your review make it sound so lovely though, I am tempted to get out my sample once more (only to be disappointed by cumin the destroyer again…)

    1. Ehhhh. If you hate cumin, I wouldn’t bother to try this one again! I tend to like it, but it doesn’t smell all that much like body odor to me.

      I once had a college suitemate who was Indian, and she did smell sort of cuminy, but I always interpreted it as a foody spicy smell rather than an unwashed sweaty smell. Her roommate, who was Iranian, just despised the cumin smell, and things went downhill in their relationship very, very quickly… names were called. Personal items were stolen. It was not pleasant until Shashi moved out of the suite and in with her brother, who had an apartment elsewhere in town.

  5. I also do not like patch. I’d put that in caps, but don’t want to scream. However, I am fond of rose/patch (by the way, I get no patch in Rose Barbare). I think there’s a little patch in L’Arte di Gucci, which I like (although it’s pretty big). You might want to try Heeley’s Hippie Rose. Just lovely. Something like PoaL, but not as big. Another patch/rose I really like is PG’s Brulure de Rose. I got a nice decant of this in a swap without knowing anything about it – a very pleasant surprise!

    1. I usually have that patch-reaction: hatehatehate. Except for rose-patch.

      Yep, there’s some in L’Arte, but there’s so much going on in L’Arte that it’s not primarily rose-patch. Lots of moss and amber and musk and other stuff as well. Have tried Brulure de Rose and thought it was all ambery-sweet, very little patch – but I might have to retest.

      As I say somewhere (did I do a review of RB?? can’t remember) it was a nice rose-patchouli completely eclipsed by shaving cream. Bleargh.

      1. It’s interesting about Brulue de Rose – I’ve read reviews that it’s very sweet, but I don’t get sweet at all. I’ve worn it at night when it’s coolish – maybe it would be sweet in warmer weather. If you still have some, I’d love to hear how it works for you when it’s cool (like next November!).

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