Perfume of the day: Caron Narcisse Noir

Caron Narcisse Noir

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

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Black and orange (blossom)–how perfect for today! Happy Halloween, NST!

  2. Anonymous says:

    Wonderful review! I must admit though *hangs head in shame* that I can't even say I esteem Narcisse Noir, let alone adore it. I absolutely failed to understand this scent, I am not “digging” it at all. :-( Farnesiana is my classic Caron of choice and I love Parfum Sacre and Violette Precieuse.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Beautiful review dear R! I do like NN a lot but I agree with you that the EDT is more approachable. The parfum is gorgeous too.

    It is one of my favs from Caron along with extraits in Farnesiana, En Avion, French Cancan, Fleurs de Rocaille, Tabac Blond etc…

    Hope you are well.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Happy Halloween to you too L! It is going to be 70 degrees here today…it just doesn't feel like Halloween!

  5. Anonymous says:

    M, will join you in the hall of shame…I simply can't stand Violette Precieuse. It is the fragrance that cured me (well, almost) of buying unsniffed.

  6. Anonymous says:

    N, I am still working on the others…so far, only Alpona has really captured my heart :-)

  7. Anonymous says:

    Lovely review, R! I think that you pointed out the same difference between the parfum and the EDT I have always felt. While the former is richer and more beautiful, the EDT is just easier to wear.

    Like you, I admire NN from a distance more often than I wear it. I much prefer Narcisse Blanc.

  8. Anonymous says:

    I think NN is my favorite Caron, at least it's the one I wear most often, and I think you articulated the reason for me. Despite the “darkness” of the scent, NN is “clean” smelling and approachable, beautiful and sensuous without being “sexy”.

    I'll wear it today!

  9. Anonymous says:

    V, I will do Narcisse Blanc tomorrow, but don't think it is going to be a favorite either. Marlen loves it though :-)

  10. Anonymous says:

    C, it is often described as a “femme fatale” scent, but it doesn't strike me that way at all — would completely agree with 'sensuous without being sexy'.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Oh I adore NN! The parfum is a total diva of parfums!!!

    You wear NN and walk taller and carry yourself with the don't even think of messing with me. Hey I don't do stairs!! A la Mariah. HA!

    I also love Narcisse Blanc.

    Lovely review,please more Caron.

  12. Anonymous says:

    R, I will search for my sample of Narcisse Noir, I haven´t tested it so far. I love Caron fragrances in general – they´re surely not easy to wear & I know that a lot of people find them to be oldfashioned – which they are indeed, but I don´t think that has to be a bad thing.

    I do love & own Tabac Blond & Farnesiana (both Extraits de Parfums). At first I had problems with the perfume version of Tabac Blond – it starts really masculine on me.

    As you already pointed out, the EdT versions are much easier to wear. But after comparing both versions, the perfume won ;)

  13. Anonymous says:

    I think that is just it, D, I am rarely up to a diva of a perfume! Frederic Malle Parfum de Therese is my “Hey I don't do stairs” perfume ;-)

    But will keep working on the Carons, some day, maybe I'll grow into them.

  14. Anonymous says:

    S, I agree completely that old-fashioned is not always a bad thing. Am looking forward to trying both Tabac Blond & Farnesiana again — neither of them suited me last year, but I am way older now ;-)

  15. Anonymous says:

    I have never smelled Narcisse Noir, but the notes sound very nice.

    Happy Halloween!

    (I was hoping you'd review J. del Pozo's fragrance “Halloween” – I've always wondered what it smells like. Ever sampled it?)

  16. Anonymous says:

    I have never smelled it, but it was reviewed today on Scentzilla (see link on left under “other fashion, beauty & perfume blogs”). It doesn't sound very Halloween-ish!

  17. Anonymous says:

    I've always wanted to try the Farnesiana and the Alpona in the high-test. R, I was thinking I'd email the store as you suggested after your New York trip.

  18. Anonymous says:

    Do — the samples are (I think) very reasonably priced for the amount of parfum you get. I have a sample of the Farnesiana in the parfum and will get to it soon, have only tried the EdP (or EdT?) so far.

  19. Anonymous says:

    Thank you for reminding me of the beauty of Caron creations.

    For a few years Caron had a boutique in Melbourne, Australia. I'd never seen such a drop dead chic shop.

    I chose Tacac Blond and the assistant asked if I would like to witness the decantering.

    I walked away with my baccarat bottle filled with such a scent I had not experienced before.

    Must visit Paris again and relive the experience through

    Narcisse Noir.

  20. Anonymous says:

    The New York boutique is lovely, too. I hear they may be moving into a larger store with other products distributed by Ales, though, which is too bad if it is true. I love the store as it is now.

  21. Anonymous says:

    I had heard that the EdP/T format had a more floral lean to it, with a strange kind of playdough note, while the parfum highlighted the almonds more, without necessarily being more gourmand/gustative – it seems to be preferred. I'll certainly get in on the sample program once I get paid on Friday. You haven't steered me wrong yet… :) (I love those Malle samples. They last forever – I'll never get to my bottles!)

  22. Anonymous says:

    You know, I just checked their website and they no longer list any concentration other than parfum for Farnesiana. I wonder what it is that I tried??

    Oh dear, the pressure is on. Sooner or later I am bound to recommend something truly horrible ;-)

  23. Anonymous says:

    Never mind…seeing the EdP online at several of the discounters, so that must be it.

  24. mals86 says:

    Oh-kay. Gotta ask: has Narcisse Noir been drastically reformulated? Just tried some today (edt, from The Posh Peasant), and it is NOTHING like what I expected. I mean, NOTHING. This thing smells like soap and green tea and lemons and some sweet pretty floral whatchamacallit (orange blossom??). It is totally insipid.

    I really like narcissus: PdN Le Temps d’une Fete is chock-full of it, and the new MFK Lumiere Noire is an amazing blend of rose, narcissus, and patchouli (yeah yeah I don’t wanna hear about me and the patchouli, it’s still an iffy thing). And I happily recognize it in Ivoire de Balmain and Ungaro Diva, and Jolie Madame and Parfum de Peau…

    So where’s the narcissus in the Narcisse Noir??? Three hours plus and not a sniff of it – and my nose usually finds it right away, if it’s there. Am I losing it?

    • Robin says:

      Almost all the classic Carons have been reformulated, and many of them severely, sorry to say. But I have not personally tried the “new” Narcisse Noir. The review of the EdT in the latest version of Perfumes: The Guide is pretty dismal.

      • mals86 says:

        Thanks for info! Forgot to go check PTG… they call it “pretty and safe” – apparently NN *has* been drastically reformulated. I think I’ll just have to be happy with my PdN and MFK (not that that’s hard).

        • Ceylon says:

          Wow, thanks for the post! I am new to perfume, and I just ordered a sample of NN based on this review. When it arrived, I thought, “that’s weird, to me this just smells like dried flowers and hard candy.” Good to know I’m not completely crazy!

  25. lornaw says:

    I have worn it for years and the last bottle was very different, its become a humdrum floral withut that magnificent drydown of sandalwood that made it wonderful i adored it and wore nothing else for a decade l i have defected back to Guerlain currently wearing mitsouko (which i abandoned after many years for narcisse noir) and l’heur blue

    • Robin says:

      Reportedly many of the old Carons have been reformulated…and of course, real Mysore sandalwood is now prohibitively expensive.

  26. Jillie says:

    Gosh! You’re still replying to comments here after all this time! I’m so lucky, ‘cos I wanted to share with someone my joy at receiving today (with bated breath) a vintage Infini parfum – and it’s lovely! Just like it was when I wore it in the 70s, and nothing like the current reformulation. It’s somehow richer and just smells more expensive. If you compare them, they are almost different fragrances. I was really concerned about going for this purchase, having read so many bad things about evil-bay, but on this occasion it has turned up trumps and I am thrilled. Thank you for sharing my happiness!

    • Robin says:

      Oh, congrats, that’s wonderful! I do think some people have had bad experiences buying vintage on eBay, but yeah, many people have also had wonderful experiences.

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