Friday, September 01, 2006

Christian Dior Bois D'Argent and Eau Noire

When Hedi Slimane toke over the men's division of Dior in 2004, he launched an Eau de Cologne collection featuring three limited release fragrances: Cologne Blanche, Bois D'Argent and Eau Noire. The scents have been well-received, with each finding a devoted fan base that champions their favourite as the best of the three. I recently tried the latter two; if any powdery sweet Cologne Blanche finds its way to me, I'll review that as well (though I'm off the almonds lately).

The notes listed for Bois D'Argent are iris, honey, myrrh and other incense notes, patchouli and leather. It was created by Annick Menardo, who also did Bvlgari Black and the best of Dior's deadlies, Hypnotic Poison. The cologne starts promisingly with a beautiful buttery scent that turns... well, peppery. Yes, it's the same pepper/iris/incense note that is currently everywhere (Ormonde Jayne's Isfarkand and Orris Noir, L'Artisan's Dzongkha, Paestum Rose, etc. etc.) and is being used as a kind of shorthand for a masculine or unisex quality. After about half an hour, a wee bit of butter wafted back with the leather, and a very slight nutty carmel note cut the dryness, but these accents were too subtle and too late for me. It is elegant, expensive-smelling and extremely smooth, but ultimately I found it just a tad boring. When I was wearing it, however, a woman at a gelato shop who was making a espresso milkshake for me suddenly and loudly insisted I smelled "really fabulous" - so what do I know? The sillage must be detectable and the lasting power is superior for a cologne.

Eau Noire, created by the dashing Francis Kurkdijan, is another story. The star here is immortelle (Helichrysum or everlasting flower), a savory-sweet note that Luca Turin describes as "an odd, fenugreek-like smell halfway between curry and burnt sugar." Previously, it was famous for being the centre of Annick Goutal's Sables, where it was frequently mistaken for maple syrup. (Fenugreek is used to flavour the artificial versions - who knew?) Here immortelle is fresh and light, with lavender and clary sage giving the cologne a breezy, outdoor quality. There is still a pronounced sweetness, but it is an airy, organic-smelling one, rather similar in spirit to that of L'Artisan's Vanilia. It is both an arresting and comfortable scent, a strange duet that feels completely natural even though it shouldn't work. I think it smells "really fabulous" and is one the best men's releases in many years.


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