Lalique Encre Noire, 2006

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(image source echonetdaily)

Perfumer Natalie Lorson

Encre Noire is a nicely designed vetiver with a beautifully-defined linear feel. It rotates through its range of notes rather than simply having one tone, only louder at the beginning.

But I don’t wear it. Along with a few other perfumes from its era it reads as a treatise on Iso-E Super. I found that a number of perfumes shared the same trajectory, the same qualities or tones. Suspicious, I bought some Iso-E Super.

It wouldn’t be so bad if these perfumes simply had a note or range of notes in common. The problem is that Iso-E Super is known more for the olfactory textures it imparts rather than simply how it smells. Encre Noire has come to serve as the bellwether of the continuing trend. Along with others such as Hermes Terre d’Hermes and Ormonde Jayne Woman, it creates the Iso-E Super genre.

These perfumes share the woody, turpentine/cedar scent of Iso-E Super, but it is the pervasiveness, the seeping quality, the almost ultrasonic background tone that ultimately makes them unwearable. The code-word for this characteristic in perfume criticism is “radiant” and I now cringe when I read the word.

I own some other Iso-E Super-heavy scents (eg. Serge Lutens Bois et Fruit and Slumberhouse Sadanne) and enjoy them. But I’ve also stopped wearing a few other perfumes from the Iso-E genre such as Comme des Garçons 2 Man and Avignon. I know also that many other perfumes I love contain significant percentages of Iso-E Super. Clearly it’s not simply the aromachemical that bothers me. I assume that it is certain ‘styles’ or configurations that trigger distress.

It’s common to point the finger at vetiver fragrances and complain that they smell like just one thing. Usually, though, it’s vetiver. Poor Encre Noire. It’s certainly not the first or worst use of Iso-E Super, just one of the more egregious, and in 2006, the last straw.


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