Estee Lauder Sensuous Noir ~ perfume review

Estee Lauder Sensuous Noir

Sensuous Noir is one of two flankers from Estée Lauder this summer, the other being the Pleasures Bloom that Angie reviewed yesterday. I have always had a soft spot for Pleasures: whenever I smell it I am brought up short again by how great it smells, and it's so much better done than the many other squeaky-clean florals of its ilk. Still, I have absolutely no desire to own or wear it. Sensuous is another matter. I would not argue with anybody who said Pleasures was the better fragrance of the two, but Sensuous was the one I bought. The pale honeyed amber works perfectly as a casual, not-quite-oriental (and not particularly sensuous) fragrance and wears well in almost any weather; it is one of my (many!) "what to wear when you don't want to think about what to wear" scents.

Sensuous Noir, I take it, is supposed to be the sexy, evening-wear version of Sensuous. Estée Lauder is calling it a woody chypre, but prior to the recent fashion of calling anything with a clean patchouli base (and this patchouli base is very clean) a chypre, it would surely have been classified as an oriental. It's darker and woodier than Sensuous, and a bit spicier and creamier. The florals seem more prominent, and the honey less so, although it's only marginally less sweet than Sensuous (think less honey, more candy). It's heavier — and less casual — but I don't find it any sexier than the original; if the reviews at the Estée Lauder website are to be believed, many consumers disagree with me on this point.

I don't mind Sensuous Noir — it's perfectly wearable, and as usual Estée Lauder has done a good job — but it doesn't really appeal to me: for one thing, it feels less distinctive than Sensuous, given that there isn't exactly a shortage of these sorts of modern (clean) woody chypres floating about the last few years. Still, if you need such a thing, it's worth a shot.

Estée Lauder Sensuous Noir features notes of purple rose, jasmine, black pepper, melted woods nature print, creme noir accord, patchouli prisma, spiced lily, benzoin, vanilla, honey and amber. It is available in 30 and 50 ml Eau de Parfum ($48-60).

Shop for perfume

Parfums Raffy


Leave a comment, or read more about commenting at Now Smell This. Here's a handy emoticon chart.

  1. RuthW says:

    I do plan on trying this, having bought the original Sensuous for my much younger sister.
    It sounds like a my kind of throw it on and run out with the kids to Kroger scent – they like sweet, especially in the car – and Mama loves orientals.
    So is this leaning more towards cotton candy or creamy frosting sweet?

    • Robin says:

      I’ve seen some people call it marshmallow, but it doesn’t really smell like marshmallow to me, just creamy vanilla.

      • RuthW says:

        Mmmm, creamy vanilla – thanks! Though I have no issue with marshmallow either, if there is some spice involved.

  2. Abyss says:

    I tried this recently and it reminded me of the likes of Coco Mademoiselle and Narciso Rodriguez For Her. I’ve nothing against those (used to wear CM, still own a bottle of NR) but it feels like EL are pretty late to the musky/woody patch party.

    I also tried the original Sensuous for the first time at the same time and was struck by how likeable it was. Lovely fragrance, I agree.

    • Robin says:

      Exactly — there’s plenty of this around already. If I wanted a modern chypre thing, I’d probably get Dior Midnight Poison or something.

  3. FragrantWitch says:

    I sprayed this in Debenhams the other day and was surprised to not like it. Like you, Robin, I own the original and think it is a great ‘ just throw it on’ scent. I fully expected to like a darker version of it but found it much too sweet and cloying with an odd Christmassy scent in the drydown. It felt like being trapped in the kitchen by a drunken
    A a after half an hour I scrubbed it off

    • FragrantWitch says:

      Whoops! I meant to
      Say… drunken acquaintance who got soused on Chambord and Vanilla vodka whilst admiring the host’s orange and clove pomanders. Definitely a conversational
      Encounter you want to cut short!! After 30 minutes I scrubbed it off. I’ll stick to the original thanks!

      • Robin says:

        I was surprised I didn’t like it better than I did too. I don’t dislike it, mind you, just don’t feel any need for it.

  4. halimeade says:

    I sniffed this at Macy’s yesterday, and I have to say I did like it. You can at least discern the link between Sensuous and the flanker! I really enjoy Sensuous, though not enough to buy a full bottle. It truly is my idea of the perfect wearable fragrance.

    Ar least Noir is darker than the B&BW ‘Dark Kiss’ scent. All that smells like is fruit!

    • Robin says:

      I think a lot of people will like it better than the original, and agree — definite link!

    • mals86 says:

      Yeah, Dark Kiss read like “Angel, plus Berries, minus Patchouli” to me. Dark? Hah.

  5. RusticDove says:

    I’ve been a fan of the original Sensuous and purchased it as soon as it was introduced. I tried Noir last week [on paper, not on skin] and thought I may like it even better. I do need to wear it before coming to any definite conclusions, right? I probably don’t need both in my collection though.

    • Robin says:

      I would definitely wear it before you make up your mind. No idea if some people will buy both — I find them different enough that I could justify it if I wanted it :-)

      • RusticDove says:

        Well, you’re quite the enabler Robin. ;-)

        • Robin says:

          Ha…I’m not even anywhere near the top of that scale around here!

          • Rappleyea says:

            Sure you are. You’re just more subtle. ;-)

  6. AnnS says:

    Robin – thanks for the review. I can’t actually smell the original Sensuous, so I’ll be interested to test this one. But I am wondering also how you think it compares, overall in appeal/wearablilty & “amberness” to the Prada eau Ambree? I’ve tested it (and like it too), and agree that there is a definite Infusion d’Iris-ness to Ambree, but otherwise, the amber is good. What say you about SN and the Prada?

    • Robin says:

      The Prada is way lighter and dryer than Sensuous. I would call it a niche version of Sensuous? Sensuous, to me, is casual, the Prada is elegant.

      • FragrantWitch says:

        I agree. Sensuous is white t-shirt and jeans and the Prada is crisp white blouse and tailored wool trousers.

      • AnnS says:

        Thanks for the feedback – that is very helpful. I’ve about drained my sample of the Prada and change my mind every week whether I want a FB or not….

        • Fuddy Duddy 101 says:

          Stepping onto the enabler platform…I vote that you grab a FB of Prada Eau Ambree! It’s addictive and can be very versatille. I wear it to work, I wear it out to dinner, I wear it to my kids events, etc. The more you wear it, the more you want to wear it.
          However, I liked Sensous too but not enough to buy. It was a bit too masculine for me. I find the Prada to have a better balance of masculine and feminine. And I am a huge fan of EL in general but this new one didn’t do it for me either. I have never regretted any of my EL purchases.

  7. APassionateJourney says:

    I reeally liked this fragrance. I still haven’t tried it on my skin but I’ve tested it three times and I really like it. I’ll probably get the 1oz

    • Robin says:

      It’s great that they’re doing the 30 ml again.

  8. kjanicki says:

    “melted woods nature print, creme noir accord, patchouli prisma” – the marketing people really outdid themselves with the made up notes didn’t they?

    • mals86 says:


    • Robin says:


    • Dixie says:

      I recoil at this “modern chypre” thing when no oakmoss is involved. Revolting!

      • Rappleyea says:

        I’m with you on that Dixie. I was reading a post on Robert Tisserand’s blog about the whole Safety in Cosmetics act and someone wrote that since it was known that stress caused cancer and the Safety in Cosmetics people caused stress, then they should be banned for causing cancer! This would apply to the IFRA.

    • sayitisntso says:

      At least they were honest! The phrase ‘Nature print’ I first noticed with the Coach men’s scent (also done by Lauder) and it appears to be a trademark owned by fragrance and flavor company Firmenich – they’ve applied the term to a group of their ‘captive’ aromachemicals.

  9. maggiecat says:

    Wouldn’t “creme noir” be an oxymoron?

    • lovethescents says:

      What about a dark chocolate mousse? Or souffle? Both ”noir” and ”cremeux” :-) I guess I’m hungry :-)

    • Joe says:

      All I keep thinking, pedantically, is that it should be “crème noire” if anything… though Google turns up like 30x as many results for “creme noir.”

  10. Tama says:

    I tried this the other day and found the opening really cloying to the point of wanting to get it off of me. But I did like the far drydown well enough. There is something in some of these sweet new releases that really gets me, like the buttered caramel in Halle that was almost there in Latifah Queen. Some gooey, clingy, almost oily note. Which is funny, because I can take a lot more sweetness than a lot of perfumistas (I think I am the only person who would happily wear any of the Costamors).

    I did like the original Sensuous, but never bought any. I’d wear it if it was a gift.

    • RusticDove says:

      Ah-ha, good to know. I’m adding a little mini to your package. [When I get around to it that is – still haven’t decanted.]

    • Robin says:

      It is funny because I don’t really think it’s any sweeter than Sensuous, but the sweetness in SN bothers me more. Couldn’t say why. Might just be because it doesn’t feel so heavy.

  11. lovethescents says:

    Thank you for the review. I love the original Sensuous on others but find the drydown a bit cloying on my skin….or at least that’s how I felt last year. I’ll give this a try when I see it though.

    But, Robin, I’m dying to know, based on your quote, “it is one of my (many!) “what to wear when you don’t want to think about what to wear” scents.”…what are some of your other go-tos?

    • AnnS says:

      Just this morning I was thinking that “go-to” scents would be a great next open thread. I was pondering about my go-tos b/c I’ve been a bit of a zombie in the mornings recently.

      • lovethescents says:

        Great idea, AnnS!

        • Fuddy Duddy 101 says:

          got my vote! And Robin already started it! Should we wait for a new thread or just go now!?

    • Robin says:

      In summer, Estee Lauder’s Bronze Goddess & Guerlain Cologne du 68 both get a lot of that sort of wear. Also L’Artisan The Pour Un Ete & Hermes Eau des Merveilles & Claire des Merveilles, Body Time Egyptian Musk, Thierry Mugler Cologne. All of these things are relatively light so you don’t have to think through where you’re going and what might be appropriate, or whether they’ll work with the weather or your clothing or whatever.

      • lovethescents says:

        Thank you for taking the time to post that!

  12. I too own the original Sensuous and am worried that this might be a bit fuzzy, in the way Valentino V Absolu is a harshly fuzzy (and imo inferior) version of regular V. And if it is not like marshmallow, I take it it doesn’t smell like L’Eau Par Kenzo Indigo Pour Femme, which I also own, but regret buying now, on account of its extreme fluffiness.

    • Robin says:

      It is not at all like the Kenzo — it’s much heavier/darker than that — but waiting to hear if anyone else thinks it smells like marshmallow.

  13. annemarie says:

    I’m wearing a real chypre today – Miss Dior. So phooey to Sensuous Noir.

    Actually, I probably will give it a sniff. The original was a scrubber on me, but maybe this will work.

    • Robin says:

      Yay Miss Dior!

    • Dixie says:

      Love Miss Dior! Try Dioressence if you can-oampss and patch!

      • Dixie says:

        That’s oakmoss!

        • annemarie says:

          Indeed, I wiil. Thanks. I’m also happy to say that I am wearing vinatge MD, so hopefully it does have genuine oakmoss in it.

    • L says:

      Aaaah! Wish I had some Miss Dior! The original Sensuous was a scrubber for me, too, but even my earnest scrubbing couldn’t fully rid me of a very strong cough syrup note.

      • Robin says:

        It is not easily removed…I find it lasts through a shower. Same with the new one.

    • Fuddy Duddy 101 says:

      For EL chypres, I prefer the EL Knowing. It always feels “different” than most other people that I smell these days. It can be a bit “heavy” for some but I can’t wait for the cooler weather to bring it out.

  14. Joe says:

    I didn’t really love the original the couple times I tested it when it was launched. I didn’t hate it either, but it wasn’t something I wanted to wear.

    I’d definitely be game for doing a skin test of the two side by side, since that’s occasionally my pathetic idea of fun. :D

    And while I’m at the EL counter, I may as well give Pleasures a sniff.

    • Robin says:

      LOL — that is occasionally my pathetic idea of fun too.

      Pleasures, to me, just smells good — not interesting, not edgy, but good. But can’t argue with Angie’s perfect take on it: “a clean, diffusive floral that smells to me like a stainless steel soap dish in the downstairs powder room of a house in a nice Connecticut suburb”. That’s true too. Still, it smells darned good: that downstairs powder room really couldn’t do any better.

      Part of it, I think, is that it is hard to let go of the fact that these days, a gajillion other fragrances smell quite similar — in other words, Pleasures now has a kind of “generic” feel that it probably didn’t have when it came out.

  15. Rappleyea says:

    You got me thinking with your comment about “go-to scents” and I realized that I don’t really have any particularly easy, breezy go-to scents – not that I need anymore perfume! lol! The closest thing I have, I think, is my Jicky edp.
    Thanks for the review!

    • Robin says:

      HA — but then apparently then you DO need more perfume, LOL…

  16. rlikestosmell says:

    When I tested Sensuous Noire, I got top hit of milk chocolate, and a dry down of patchouli. The patchouli made it a scrubber for me, but this review made me want to go back and try the original Sensuous. I remember semi-liking it from one spray, and then I forgot about it. Thanks Robin.

    • Robin says:

      Interesting about the milk chocolate. I found the opening fruity but missed the chocolate…will have to try again.

  17. asuperlongusername says:

    I would like to try this, but I can’t say I loved Sensuous much. Smelled very rough/synthetic on me. Like… graham crackers. But weird. I dunno. I won my bottle from BdJ, so I can’t regret buying it or whatever. I’ve thought about getting rid of it but I honestly can’t work up the energy to bother. Selling/swapping can be such a nightmare.

    • Robin says:

      Like graham crackers! Interesting. Wonder if that’s something about the honey?

  18. ceelouise says:

    It does annoy me the way the word “chypre” is flung about carelessly.

    • Robin says:

      I’m not sure it’s carelessness…they do use it for a very particular kind of scent, not just random perfumes. It’s just not the same scent that *used* to be called a chypre, and I’ve never understood why they want to use the word when most consumers don’t know what it is anyway.

  19. ceelouise says:

    Maybe because “chypre” sounds French, and therefore sophisticated. In my mind, there are precious few real chypres out there.

  20. laurabird says:

    I loved Sensuous at first but now it just sits on my shelf-there’s something weird about it I can’t explain! If it had a voice, it would be shrill, which is not at all how I thought of it originally… Anyway, Sensuous Noir sounds nice, so I think I’ll have to at least give it a whiff :)

  21. garamascara says:

    I have never before had the courage to actually post my opinion but I feel I must now come to the rescue of this lovely perfume. I do not understand why so many people are poo poo’ing Sensuous Noir. On Saturday I was at Macy’s with my mother and I sprayed Noir on my left shoulder and regular Sensuous on my right. I couldn’t stop smelling the Noir shoulder, it lasted all night and I dreamed that night about buying it. I am only allowing myself one perfume per month and I was already planning on purchasing Etat Libre d’Orange’s Sex Pistols perfume in September but I had to have Sensuous Noir. This could be my go to everyday scent. Sex Pistols has been rescheduled for October which is probably more appropriate anyway for the Halloween season. Oh by the way, the right shoulder on which I sprayed the original Sensuous did nothing for me; it just smelled generic like so many other mall perfumes to me.

    So, on Monday I went to the Estee Lauder counter and purchased the 1.7 oz bottler of Sensuous Noir. I bought the larger bottle so that I would qualify for the second free gift which included mascara, which I needed to purchase anyway. I do not regret my purchase because I love love love the perfume but the EL mascara is crap and so is the eyeliner, the make-up bags are nice though.

    I kept thinking that Sensuous Noir reminded me of something and then this morning it came to me. It reminds me of YSL M7. It’s peppery and woody but there is more sweetness. I love M7 but it is a definite masculine, so I think Sensuous Noir is a perfect fit for me this September. Yay!

    • Robin says:

      So glad you love it, and congrats on your new bottle!

  22. APassionateJourney says:

    Robin, I ended up getting this last night! I know Macy’s is sick of me, lol! Earlier in the week I bought Bleu de Chanel and Beauty! Somebody stop me! I can’t stop! This is such a spicy scent but creamy at the same time, if that makes sense. I only got the 1.0 but if I can’t stop spraying I’ll have to spring for the 1.7 :). I hope they make a body cream or a lotion!

    • Robin says:

      Sick of you?!? No way, they must LOVE you!

      Will be kind of surprised if they do body products for this one, but who knows. Would think it would work fine over regular Sensuous lotion though.

  23. perfumesecrets says:

    I bought a 1 oz. bottle today. Love it! I think it works with my chemistry, and just in case the love fades, I still have a small bottle to go back to when I’m distracted by other perfumes

  24. jonr951 says:

    In the new Allure there’s Estee Lauder Wild Elixir. One of the woman on the street who tired it said it’s too floral and tame for the name. Not a good start. LOL! It has madarin, freesia, and jasmine. Doesn’t sound that WILD but I still want to try it. : )

    • Robin says:

      Wild Elixir! Is that in the Sensuous line? Dumb name either way.

  25. jonr951 says:

    No it’s not a Sensuous flanker. LOL! : )

  26. me2too says:

    I think it smells like a spicy men’s cologne dipped in marshmallow or vanilla cream. I bought it on a whim, based on recommendations from Macy’s fragrance finder. It’s a little sweeter than something I would normally wear, but it’s growing on me.

  27. CharlieChuckles says:

    Both my mother and I have each burned through a 30ml bottle of original Sensuous. SN to me just seems like the origina with patchouli on top. I didn’t really like it at all. The camphor really stood out at first. In the extreme drydown, SN smells very similar to Sensuous. I don’t hate patch, but I don’t like this treatment of it. I’ll get another bottle of original Sensuous instead.

  28. OVincze says:

    I have always been a big fan of Sensuous, in fact I used it almost exclusively for two winters and used up two 30 ml bottles of it, then when Sensuous Noir came out I knew I had to try it, so I got it unsniffed at a discount price. I agree with your review quite a bit but I do feel this fragrance has quite a bit of a character. Though not as original as I would like it to be and not as sexy, people seem to disagree as I get compliments on it every time I wear it especially from men. For some reason it appears that men often prefer fragrances, which are not as strongly floral but gourmand or woodsy fragrances or at least that has been my experience. Also, women complimented me on it a lot as well. They say that it really fits me and maybe that is what it is, it really fits my personality. Even though I am a tadbit bored with it, I can imagine wearing Sensuous or Sensuous Noir on almost any day and almost any occassion. I especially love it on dark, rainy days and for evening occasions. I actually dislike the new Sensuous Nude, to me that is too sweet almost sickeningly so. It is not bad again and could be good but I tend to stay away from sugary sweet scents. A bit too much sugar, I would imagine Nude to be something totally different and would rather call the original Sensuous a nude scent because that one in my opinion really is.

    • Robin says:

      Sounds like this line really works for you! Agree on the naming of Nude…the original Sensuous is sexier & perhaps a better fit.

  29. OVincze says:

    Yes and to this day I am torn whether I prefer the original or Noir, in a way I think the original is the one I like the most but of course would like certain things to be changed about it. Noir is more characteristic in a way but I find the patchouli a bit much (but then again I am not a fan of it in general) and also like you wrote in your review I would like to see a bit more originality or something extra. OTOH, what I love about Noir is that I find it the best done of its class from what I have tried so far. It lacks the sourness and sharpness of so many of its kind, chypres or orientals whatever we want to call it now and it is not dry at all. The warmer scents which are similar to it are often too fruity for my taste (cannot stand too much fruit sorry), I guess it will not ever be possible to create a perfect fragrance but perhaps it is not a problem since this way we can own many different fragrances and things will never become boring:))). I definitely get my Sensuous Noir moods, today is one.

Leave a reply