I’ve said it before: I love jasmine, but jasmine soliflores scare me, partly because of the gasoline-like, migraine-inducing fumes the absolute gives out, and partly because I have such vivid memories of jasmine-scented Sevillan nights. Still, I’m always game to try a new variation on the flower.
While we wait for Serge Lutens’ new Nuit de Cellophane which features jasmine prominently according to Elisabeth de Feydeau’s blog (along with mandarin rind, jasmine, osmanthus, myrrh, sandalwood, castoreum and civet, the scent could be a variation on Sarrasins – or not), I decided to dig up my samples of Pierre Guillaume’s Drama Nuuï (Parfumerie Générale’s latest launch along with Felanilla) and Bulgari Jasmin Noir.
As soon as I spritzed it on, Drama Nuuï made me feel somewhat like Patrick McGoohan’s character Number Six in the 60s cult series The Prisoner, forever pursued by that huge bouncing ball on some Welsh beach: I could smell nothing but what I’ve come to call the Big White Green Bubble, the muguet motif that seems to be placed inside so many contemporary fragrances to open up a space between the notes.
The BGWB is so central it seems to be forcing out the star player, until it just barely hangs on at the edge of the frame: a very delicate, green jasmine, shorn of any animalic note, with a hint of bitterness at the outset (absinthe is listed) and a pinch of spice. This is jasmine as virgin: lovely, fresh and shy.
Bulgari Jasmin Noir, by IFF veteran Carlos Benaïm along with Sophie Labbé, is equally subdued, as though the volume of this fragrance had been turned so love as to be almost imperceptible, at least to my nose. Apparently, I’m not the only one to be stricken by this peculiar anosmia. Robin of Now Smell This had the same experience: “It smells good, but it doesn't smell much", she writes. Like her, I find Jasmin Noir wears “incredibly close to the skin”; but what can be smelled is absolutely exquisite. As in Drama Nuuï, the headiness of the jasmine is cut with green (in this case a “green sap” note); but interestingly, instead of going for something like vanilla to bolster the woody-ambery base, Benaïm and Labbé selected a similarly burnt-sweet note, licorice, which gives the fragrance an almost leathery feel at times. Its cool anise-like accents are an ideal match for jasmine. The licorice and woods probably account for the “noir” in the name; although I can’t help thinking that it may have something to do with a black hole sucking out most of the sillage. As Octavian Coifan remarked in his 1000fragrances review, Jasmin Noir is so utterly poised and refined that it could pass for a Chanel. This is jasmine as introvert: chic, brooding and secretive.
Image: Magenta, Black, Green on Orange by Mark Rothko (1947), Museum of Modern Art, courtesy Wikipedia.