Over at Fragrantica.com is a review of Encre Noire by Lalique by a member named LaPoesieDesSe. I’ll begin the quote from where this person describes the actual smell of this scent:
At first it comes off as acrid and dense with a sour top note. I was skeptical. But the magic starts once it melds with your skin’s own chemistry, after which the more subtle characteristics slowly unfold – dry wood, vetiver, minerals, musk, incense.
This is a scent of contrasts: sophisticated but not stuffy – classic but not dated – natural but avant-garde. People will notice but it exudes in a subtle way. The dry down is warm and lingers for quite a while. And over all there is something familiar and inviting about it yet it is mysterious and fleeting.
EN has a relatively similar feel, in my experience, as ‘Terre D’Hermes’, ‘comme des garcons 2’ and ‘cdg 2 Man’, but without the bitter citrus of Hermes, less metallic than cdg 2, and without cdg 2 Man’s “pencil shavings” notes and not so monolithic.
I find Encre Noire to be a good balance of intrigue and simplicity. This definitely is not for everyone, but if you want something poetic and elegant as an extension of your style, this might be the right composition for you…
There are a number of things that are worthy of discussion here, IMO, but I want to first address the notion of a “poetic” scent. Though I’m not sure I understand this claim, I realize that many people like to say this, or something similar. Rarely do they explain exactly what they mean by it. Let’s consider the basic definition of poetry, as given by the Wikipedia.org article on it:
Poetry (from the Greek poiesis — ποίησις — with a broad meaning of a “making”, seen also in such terms as “hemopoiesis”; more narrowly, the making of poetry) is a form of literary art which uses aesthetic and rhythmic qualities of language—such as phonaesthetics, sound symbolism, and metre—to evoke meanings in addition to, or in place of, the prosaic ostensible meaning.
Basically (to put it “prosaically), poetry is a way to “spice up” language, perhaps in more than one way, while putting forth some sort of idea, though its meaning may be shrouded in symbolism. I’ve always been of a more pragmatic and “down to earth” mindset, so I’d like others to comment if they are of a more poetic bent, but the point is that you can’t just say a scent is poetic and leave it there. You have to tell the reader if you mean that it has a flowing quality while it changes over time, for example, while you find other scents to be “choppy” or harsh. As I said, I don’t know what is meant by this, and it seems to me to mean that the person really enjoyed the scent, found it different from many others he or she tried in the past, and so not knowing what else to say, called it poetic.
Another idea is that a scent is evocative of certain emotions. I think most would agree, however, that this is a “culturally-conditioned” situation, meaning that in our society certain scents have become associated with “cheap aftershave” while others are perceived as unusual, for example. The cheap aftershave ones do not evoke anything “poetic,” but by poetic the person may just mean certain emotions are generated, perhaps a longing to go to exotic places and not be tied down to the nine to five “rat race.” Again, I don’t know, and the reason is that they don’t tell us! Rather it seems like this word is used so that they don’t have to get specific, though I’m not claiming they are doing this intentionally. Instead, they probably just don’t have the understanding to first be prosaic and tell us what it smells like, and only after doing that tell us why they enjoy it and what it evokes for them, if anything.
Secondly, the “magic” skin melding he mentions is what iso e super is supposed to do, from what I understand, and so he seems to be reiterating the obvious (without telling the readers about iso e super). I can’t get past the irritation caused mostly by the iso e super (in large amounts, as is the case here), apparently, but he clearly can and enjoys the other elements of this scent. As with “poetic,” claims about EN being sophisticated, classic, and avant-garde are open to interpretation, so once again explanation is required (and don’t most people think that classic things are the opposite of avant-garde ones?). The claim that it is “natural” smelling, however, seems to be far-fetched. I don’t know anyone who I think would say Encre Noire smells “natural,” other than to say it smell like a fire at a garbage dump site, for instance, and I don’t think that is consistent with what most people think of in the context of something they would describe as poetic. Now a poem about a fire at a garbage dump might indeed be evocative and successful, but I would argue that this supports my notion that it is problematic to call a scent poetic !
We are also told that EN is not for everyone. Why not? We are told the scent begins with harshness, but that is quite common, and doesn’t seem to be related to the claim. Instead, it sounds like the person wants us to think this is an “exclusive” or “insider” scent. Perhaps the Oracle at Delphi wore something similar! Seriously, if you are going to make such a claim, shouldn’t you mention other unusual scents, such as Secretions Magnifiques, and supply the reader with more specific information? The “good balance of intrigue and simplicity” sounds like a slogan, and suggests that the person is just unfamiliar with such scents, though others are mentioned that possess quite a bit of iso e super as well. This inconsistency makes the review sound somewhat like something the company itself might write about the scent !
However, my guess here is that this is not the work of a “shill,” but rather an honest opinion by someone who may have been able to relive a pleasant aspect of his or her youth while wearing Encre Noire, and what I want to point out is that any scent can do that for you. In fact, not long ago, I decanted some vintage Brut 33 for someone and was reminded of how my grandfather smelled on Sunday mornings, several decades ago. Scents certainly can evoke emotions, but I find claims about their “poetic” qualities to be at least somewhat elitist, as if what a niche, “top designer,” or highly-touted scent evokes for one person is somehow superior to what a “cheapo” scent evokes for someone else. The lack of specificity only enhances my suspicions. In my experience, a scent can evoke memories, landscapes/natural environments, food items, or various scented products, but to say that one is essentially a work of poetry is a bit too facile for me, especially without ever furnishing the reader a prosaic explanation that contains some context for your lofty pronouncements.