Thursday, 24 June 2010

Black pepper blues

Why the blues you ask? Well, I love black pepper in cooking - hardly a meal I cook or eat is without this now ubiquitous, but formerly precious, spice. Yet for some reason I find it a very difficult note to deal with in perfume. Not so much when it is well-blended with other spices, but when it is the primary focus of a fragrance. Two such perfumes with a heavy use of black pepper spring to mind, Piper Nigrum by Lorenzo Villoresi and Noir Epicee by Frederic Malle. Fragrantica list the notes for Piper Nigrum as watercress(!), mint, star anise, citrus and green notes, pepper, nutmeg, olibanum, petitgrain, clove, rosemary, spices, elemi resin, styrax, amber, benzoin, myrrh, peru balsam, virginia cedar and woodsy(!) notes. That's a list of notes for you! On my skin the top notes, in particular mint and citrus, are quite clear, and there is a definite greenness to it. However, after that it is predominantly a pepper scent on my skin and a lot of the other notes are lost. In fact, if I hadn't read this list, I probably would have identified very little other than perhaps the clove, incense and perhaps a touch of amber and myrrh. Piper Nigrum was one of the first perfumes I ever sampled and I've worn it quite a few times. It is a weird fragrance, strangely compelling, and the pepper is just bearable for me.

Noire Epicee's notes include nutmeg, cinnamon, clove, pepper, orange, geranium, sandalwood and patchouli. On my skin, this is a powerhouse of a pepper fragrance, dark, austere, severe, even melancholy, I find. It may seem strange, but I always feel every so slightly depressed wearing this. The spices are very intense, but ultimately, Noir Epicee smells to me like someone has savagely pounded a mortar-full of black peppercorns and rubbed the resultant powder all over me. I may like pepper, but I don't want to smell exactly like it. I have read that Noir Epicee has a chypre-like effect and I can see where this idea comes from. There is that austere effect that I often get from a dry chypre. I find Noir Epicee a challenge to wear, I really do, but I can certainly see people either loving or hating this. Try it for yourself. One thing is for sure, you won't be bored by it!

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  1. Interesting. I like black pepper in cooking very much but I have to admit I haven't really encountered it in such a manner in perfume. I have to try this, if only for learning purposes. :)

  2. Good luck Ines. I think Piper Nigrum is the more wearable of the two, but I must say, Noir Epicee is intriging, if a bit temperamental.

  3. As far as pepper in perfume goes, I have to say I'm kind of fond of the simple but nonetheless impressive "it's pepper! no, it's milk! trick" that L'Artisan Poivre Piquant pulls off. I tend to use it as a gentle demonstration of morphing for friends who are "perfume curious." :)

  4. ScentScelf, I haven't tried Poivre Piquant. Might keep my eye out for that. Thanks.



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