Parfums Caron launched Narcisse Noir in 1911. It was created by Caron founder and perfumer Ernest Daltroff, and features notes of orange blossom, bergamot, petitgrain, lemon, rose, jasmine, jonquil, Persian black narcissus, musk, vetiver, civet, and sandalwood.
Narcisse Noir was not Ernest Daltroff's first fragrance, but it is the earliest of his creations that is still in production today. According to perfumer Guy Robert, it was Daltroff's first big fragrance breakthrough:
An immediate success in France, it was a sensation in the States. Its phenomenal success allowed Caron to compete on equal terms with Francois Coty, who had already conquered North America with L'Origan (1905). (Quoted in Perfume Legends by Michael Edwards, p. 50)
Narcisse Noir starts very heady (even in the Eau de Toilette), with sweet citrus and orange blossom. The orange blossom is joined shortly by the narcissus, but maintains its prominence through the dry down. Once the top notes fade, it is deep, rich, and very elegant, but no longer particularly heady or overly sweet. As one would expect from a classic Caron fragrance, it is dark, but it is less so than some of the others, and it is also surprisingly clean, with hints of soap and powder. A wisp of smoke — very like sandalwood incense — runs through the floral notes, and along with the civet provides some depth and counteracts the sweetness.
It is a stunningly beautiful fragrance, but one I esteem rather than adore. It has many of my favorite notes, and while it does smell old-fashioned, it is not unapproachable, so I am not sure why I feel no emotional connection to it. Alpona is still my favorite of the classic Carons, although I mean to revisit many others from the line this fall.
The parfum is, of course, more stunningly beautiful than the Eau de Toilette, but all the same I find the latter easier to wear, and Caron, unlike many of the other venerable old perfume houses, does not seem to have dumbed down the lighter concentrations.
Narcisse Noir is not one of the urn fragrances, and so can be purchased without visiting a Caron boutique. It is available in Parfum (15 ml) or Eau de Toilette (50 and 100 ml spray). If you shop around, the smaller Eau de Toilette can be found for around $25, and even the parfum can be found at discount.
Tomorrow: Caron Narcisse Blanc