There are some brands that have a cohesive olfactory aesthetic – we call this a “house style”. Prada has it, with its sparkling, fizzy iris theme at the core of most of what it does. Hermès used to have it when Jean-Claude Ellena was at the helm, when everything he created felt like a mineral watercolour, painted with delicate strokes (Nagel’s style feels more diverse). Heck, CHANEL has it too, with their flowers, aldehydes and clarity of execution. Narciso Rodriguez is another however, their house style is somewhat more subtle and is reliant on one key theme, which finds itself blurred into the genres of chypre, woody, floral and more: the theme of musks.
We’ve seen many musk-powered fragrances from Narciso, each utilising the materials to create a distinct sense of colour – usually a block, neutral colour. Their latest, Musc Noir, is no exception. It’s technically a flanker to their flagship fragrance For Her (a musky, rosy chypre) however, it feels several flankers removed from the original at this point. Musc Noir was created by Givaudan perfumer Sonia Constant and is seen as a more sensual essay on the darker side of For Her’s musks, whereas Pure Musc, which launched in 2019 (I never got around to reviewing it, but I enjoyed it) celebrates the lighter side. Comparing the two, they really are light and dark, and Musc Noir stands out as a unique entry into the Narciso Rodriguez collection. Let’s sniff!
Top: Juicy Plum
Heart: Heliotrope and Musc
Base: Leather Suede Accord
Sonia Constant (Givaudan)
How Does it Smell?
Musc Noir opens with a soft, purple fruit note. It doesn’t feel particularly tart or juicy, instead it’s more soft and out of focus, accented by a delicate spice accord, with a gently bubbling current of cumin being the dominant theme in the mix. It immediately feels intimate and sexy, smelling like naked skin – the complete antithesis to Pure Musc and it’s delicate, milky white flowers showered in transparent musks. Musc Noir really is more, well, ‘noir’!
Whilst Narciso are billing this as a musk, it really feels like a leather to me, because the leather suede accord is the most prominent theme. This accord evokes sleek, shiny black leather in a very similar way that L’Artisan Parfumeur’s iconic (and frankly bonkers) Dzing! does, just without all of the sawdust, toffee apple, cardboard and tiger poop accompaniments that make that olfactory circus so weird. This is a cracked leather jacket in jet black, or maybe it’s a leather harness. I’ll leave that up to you. This leather impression perhaps isn’t as raunchy as Dzing! but it certainly feels raunch-adjacent and it firmly positions Musc Noir in my mind as a leather fragrance accented by animalic musk.
But what about the musk itself? Well, it feels animalic and soft, with a plush texture. There’s a floral element too and a touch of powder. Whilst it may not be the world’s most beastly musk, it certainly stands out amongst its mainstream contemporaries as a decidedly sexy taken into musk. Clean, sanitised and laundry-like this is not, and that’s exactly why we included in our latest #EscentualScents blind discovery box (Best New Launches), because it showcases musk in a daring way.
Musc Noir is really beautiful and surprisingly for such a mainstream launch, it isn’t afraid to present the more animalic facets of musk. OK, sure, this isn’t a distinctly erotic or skanky musk (it’s not going to smell like the inside of a thigh or the back end of a camel, sorry to disappoint) but it does smell much more dirty and intimate than any other designer musk I can think of (in recent years, anyway). What makes Musc Noir so unique, is the fact that it presents a sensual, human musk in an elegant way. It is undeniably chic and unlike so many fragrances that promise sex and deliver, well, anything but, Musc Noir actually dares to get naked and have a bit of (chic and elegant) fun.
Musc Noir is available in 30ml (£50), 50ml (£75) and 100ml (£98) Eau de Parfum.
Images are my own. Sample provided by Escentual as part of our #EscentualScents campaign. I have a paid affiliation with Escentual however, this is not a sponsored post.