Created by Caron founder Ernest Daltroff, Narcisse Noir, often categorized as a floral oriental, is indeed heady. It is sweet like the white Datura flowers flourishing in the front yards of San Francisco Victorians and whose white flowers surprise you by growing upside down with Satanic portent. But just as Narcisse Noir's almost cloyingly sweet flowers rise up — its musky/incensey/civety/sandalwood base, like a moll's gangster standing behind her with a drawn gun — reminds you that she's not that innocent.
I've seen different perfume notes for Narcisse Noir listed. I detect a sweet floral plus huge doses of honey, sandalwood, amber, and civet. (Am I just imagining the honey?) Writers often talk about orange blossom, and perhaps I don't have enough reference points for that, or that the animalic base so distorts the florals that I simply can't tell what they are individually. I will list below the notes Roja Dove confirms in The Essence of Perfume about the vintage parfum.
Top notes: Narcissus, orange blossom
Heart notes: Rose, jasmine
Base notes: Sandalwood, vetiver, civet, musk
I was initially so repulsed by Narcisse Noir months ago when I first smelled it that I almost didn't want to open the vial again, but I've since given it a try again and as overwhelmingly sweet as the opening is — like downing syrup in one gulp — the perfume really does seduce you. The stunning sweetness is immediately accompanied by the darker, muskier and sexier base.
One of my favorite perfume writers, the perfume historian Octavian Coifan from 1000Fragrances cites Chanel No. 5 creator Ernest Beaux's opinion of Narcisse Noir. In his notebooks, he wrote of Narcisse Noir that it was a fragrance of the most striking vulgarity ("parfum d'une vulgarite tapageuse"). For me, generally, something vulgar tries to be beautiful with its flashiness but fails. Narcisse Noir is flashy, no doubt, but it is unmistakably beautiful in its too muchness.
Other commenters on Basenotes and elsewhere:
"Floriental, dark." "So strong is the orange blossom that it reminds me of Poison and its giant tuberose in its toxic sweetness." "Animalic orange blossom supported by incensey dark base." "It smells exactly like opium (the drug) in the drydown. Very musky, vulgar, delicious scent that makes you want to close your eyes and let 'the lady' hold you close."