Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Puredistance Black: fragrance review

Fermented prunes, cognac in oak barrels and handfuls of woolen knits folded into camphoraceous tissue paper that emits that borderline vibe between poison and medicine. Shadows growing longer and longer as the passage of the sun on the horizon wanes; lacquered furniture glowing in the flick of tallow candlelight; crayon designs fatty and saturated hanging off the walls depicting strange faces of old Asian men. There's a certain oiliness and smokiness about Puredistance Black, the upcoming perfume launch by the niche company founded in Vienna, Austria,, adorning it with the striking bone structure of a silent film icon, when shadow and light played the game of drawing the eye across a never ending vista of possibilities; even the slightest tremor of facial muscles gained reinforced nuance in this medium. Or to quote Lydia in Beetlejuice: "Well, I've read through that handbook for the recently deceased. It says: 'live people ignore the strange and unusual'. I, myself, am strange and unusual."


Puredistance has wisely limited its aromatic outpour to one fragrance per year (or even less frequently) choosing to differentiate itself from the many niche brands who dilute their essence in too many simultaneous launches. It has also set the bar pretty high with their stupendous masculine M fragrance and their graceful I and Opardu perfume for women, so expectations are understandably high for their newest release. Black doesn't disappoint, especially since it fills a void in the line that we hadn't realized was there. It's different enough from the leathery and attention-grabbing M fragrance with its elegant 1960s character, and projects as something darker, untamed by the ways of the civilized world. The concentration of 25% essence in Black certainly guarantees a rich experience, however the concept of a whispering scent is adhered to most faithfully; the secrets of Puredistance Black are revealed very slowly, discreetly, from mouth to ear rather than on speakers, a feat by perfumer Antoine Lie (famous for the infamous Secretions Magnifiques and many Etat Libre d'Orange fragrances, among others), given the intensity of the raw materials.

The company doesn't give away any of those raw materials. I absolutely love this; it will make reading and hearing impressions by those who will subsequently test Puredistance Black a real treat, as the mind often interferes with what the nose perceives. Mine is attacked by a quasi-brutal opening with a tangy citric fruitiness allied to the darkest, earthiest patchouli possible, like snails coming out of the bush in the dusk, but the cloak of the night soon mollifies it with a woody cluster of honeyed plummy-cedar notes reminiscent of the Lutens canon and a "suede" orientalism. The sweet melange is also reminiscent of pipe tobacco, laced with a boozy aftertaste that lingers. (I hypothesize smoky cypriol/cyperus and vetiver should be featured too). Chewy, a meat course for non vegetarians.

The essence of the concept for Black by Puredistance was to create a perfume that is close to the wearer and releases sensual and elegant scent layers in a whispering way—without shouting. A mysterious fragrance that stays in the shadow, giving away —only every now and then—part of its nature. Perfumer Antoine Lie loved the concept presented by founder Jan Ewoud Vos and created a sophisticated perfume full of charm with the same elegant personality as the timeless classic Puredistance I, but then more masculine and oriental.

via shootxmylife
If I were to offer a comparative assessment, even though the press material does coach me not to analyze too much, I'd say Puredistance Black reminds me of the darkness and weirdness factor of Goutal's Un Parfum Cheri, par Camille, fueled by an intense Indonesian patchouli grade replete with all its earthy chocolate and darkness "dirty" facets. But whereas this shadowy woody chypre flopped for Goutal, alienating the regular customer who hankered after delicate florals resting atop angels' wings, Puredistance has the cojones to follow through on the sheer sparsity and clarity of their line: there is no "definitive" demographic for Puredistance (yet) and this plays to the company's advantage.  Black would be also liked by those who appreciate Borneo 1834 and Bois de Violette or by oudh and tobacco fragrances fans, as the bittersweet oriental feel would appeal. Although marketed as a masculine, in many ways it's what Coco Noir might have been (a scent marketed to modern women who shun florals and sweet gourmands). Minor gripe about the name (thingamagick) as we have discussed before, but one can't deny its evocative powers.

According to Puredistance, Black is created in Paris by the famous French perfumer Antoine Lie and it will be available from December 2013 in 17.5, 60 and 100 ml flacons.

In the interests of disclosure I was sent a sample vial by the company pre-release.


  1. intrigued... i was somewhat concerned that the puredistance concept might not be a good fit for me, as perfumes tend to wear very lightly on me already. their "whispering layers of reveal" might be completely inaudible on me?

    i like the faintly gothic sound of this one, though. seeing it tagged as woody chypre further entices me...but i prefer oakmoss to patchouli, and this patchouli sounds like a beast. i do like oudh, though, and "bittersweet oriental" should work for me too.

  2. I honestly feel it has good lasting power, though the sillage is modest. But really it is always a matter of personal sampling. I think the patchouli-vetivers can be good when tastefully done and not too sweet.

  3. Superb review, Helg! I get much of what you do from Black; it actually reminds me a lot of Serge Lutens Fumerie Turque, while still very much being its own unique scent. I'm diggin' it! Also, I think Puredistance was smart to go with Antoine Lie for this type of composition (Secretions Magnifique aside, I love a number of his scents, especially CdG Daphne).

  4. Thank you Suzanne! :-)

    It's interesting to compare with Fumerie Turque which is a sweet perfume but shares that boozy tobacco note in there, as you say Black is its own unique scent.
    There is an interesting approach to Puredistance's choices in the perfumers and the style of the compositions and although I find that some of the "stories" (the 20s of Opardu, the "black" mystery of Black) can appear a bit maudlin at first to a cynical perfume collector who has seen -almost- everything, they prove to be very well crafted, solid in their aesthetics and devoid of too much ornamentation. They're among the better niche brands, in short.

    It's a shame I have not -still!!!- sampled Daphne or I'd have something smart-ass to say, but as it is I don't...I will therefore take your word for it that it's pretty spectacular!

  5. Anonymous21:33

    have yet to try any puredistance perfumes, but now i just might. i love that particular goutal, and if this rings similar bells, it could be fun.


  6. annemariec00:26

    I cannot afford Puredistance but I very much enjoyed your review. I'm disappointed to hear that Mon Parfum Cherie, par Camille flopped. I'm afraid its patchouli made it hard for me to wear, and indeed that is the perfume that had a colleague of mine wondering where the scent of fertiliser was coming from. But it was a magnificent piece of work. Just not a good fit for the brand, by the sound of it.

  7. Minette,

    you should! They're quite lovely indeed. I is classical, M is a very elegant masculine leather, Opardu is elegiac floral with a fine lilac in there and Black is worth sampling for sure.
    I can't say that the prices are very indicative of me owning more than my current bottle right now (will have to rely on samples etc.) but if given a chance later on I wouldn't throw it away. ;-)

  8. AMC,

    I believe it started as a limited edition anyway, but yes, the regular Goutal customer was alienated, it was disjointed to them. Then again they had discontinued some of their most "bold" ones, such as Tubereuse, Eau de Monsieur (now re-issued, but citrus-ed up) etc.
    "Fertiliser" is a great comment, hadn't come across that one before, noting it down! :D

  9. Anonymous03:13

    I own Puredistance I and like the others well enough that it took me a couple of years to choose. This is one of my most anticipated scents this year (also looking foward to the new Neela Vermeire). I also like applaud their not listing the notes, which are usually a fantasy anyway. nozknoz


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