A deliciously dark and heady perfume based on rum, gardenia and tobacco.
Une Voix Noire by Serge Lutens is the latest release in the firm’s exclusive line and is available from its headquarters at the Salons de Palais Royal de Shiseido in Paris, or by mail order. US customers can also get it from Barney’s, but at a massive price hike from the 160 euros tag it carries in Europe for the 75ml bell jar.
Inspired by Billie Holliday, the press materials accompanying the perfume paint a picture of Serge becoming Billie as he listens to her music, and of Billie herself, relying on rum, tobacco and coffee to get through the day, burning her hair with curling tongs and placing a gardenia flower in it to cover the damage.
On opening the flagon, the headiness of the fragrance is immediately apparent. I tried it on a bunch of friends in a restaurant and they were entranced by it from across the table. On myself, my immediate impressions were of softness, butter, velvet and femininity.
There is something chocolatey about it too – the very best quality black chocolate (several people have said it reminds them of ‘something edible’ in their childhood). It recalls Tubereuse Criminelle without the menthol tang, but there’s violet leaf or root in there too – dark and woodsy.
Ten minutes in and on this blue-eyed blonde, the sweet rottenness of gardenia appeared. Like all these heavy white flowers – jasmine, tuberose, datura – there is a touch of sweet decay about gardenia, due to compounds these flowers share with rotting flesh.
The tobacco note, which I expected to be dark, is more blonde and Virginian.
About 45 mins in, the fragrance became more metallic and at one hour in, it was very definitely helionic – the smell, as Luca Turin puts it, of a sucked silver spoon. Four hours in, and it had settled to woody and plummy – more Gardenia du Bois than Gardenia Criminelle. A beautifully settled fragrance that takes a lovely route to drydown.
Two of my three friends pounced on the offer of decants, though one – a Diorissimo fan – thought it too heavy for her colouring. And although at first I thought it a feminine fragrance, I’ve amended my opinion to unisex, though I’d bite the hand off any man who tried to steal mine.
A really gorgeous masterwork from Messrs Sheldrake and Lutens.