Magie Noire is in the category of perfumes that actually might scare romantic prospects away rather than attract them. But if you aspire to be a retro femme fatale rather than a fruit cocktail-scented Girl Gone Wild, add this to your arsenal to weed out the wusses from the keepers.
From its goth name, to its Satanic bottle design suggestive of blood-red setting suns during harvest time (you know — the harvesting-of-young-virgins time), to its predatory, animalic rose scent — Magie Noire is a perfume to fall in love with.
I write about it as if it's the first time I've smelled it, but in fact this was my mother's perfume when I was growing up. I wonder sometimes if I'm so drawn to the chypre category* because that's what my mother wore and it signifies what perfume is for me, or if, as with food tastes, part of it is genetic and I share her tastes. Whatever the reason, revisiting it in vintage form after becoming a serious perfume collector and developing a better sense of what makes a good fragrance has created a whole other set of associations beyond "mom." And thank heavens for that — who wants to think of her mother as a High Priestess of the Dark Side?
I may be overplaying the perfume's malignant connotations, but they're obviously there in the name and in the juice itself:
Top notes: Cassis, bergamot, hyacinth, raspberry, green note
Heart notes: Honey, jasmine, lily of the valley, tuberose, narcissus, orris, rose oriental
Base notes: Patchouli, castoreum, civet, vetiver, musk, oakmoss, benzoin
Perfumer: Yves Tanguy and Gerard Goupy
Is there really much more that I need to say here? There are the narcotic elements of honey, tuberose, narcissus and rose (a dark, forbidding rose rather than a come-hither one), intensified by top notes that don't sparkle or sweeten or even introduce the perfume so much as stand behind the heart notes and back up their message of dark beauty. (Berries and currants, sweet in a heavy, uncandied way, recall magical fairytale forests.)
By the time you're hooked by the perfume's confusing sensuality (the way a bug might be attracted to a carnivorous plant), you're happy to be dissolving in its poison if that means lolling about in patchouli, civet and castoreum. (Did I mention this perfume might appeal to you if you have a dark side?)
This stuff leaves me bewitched, bothered and bewildered.
*Technically, Magie Noire is categorized as a floral Oriental, but its personality to me is chypre.