Friday, December 12, 2008

Angelique Noire by Guerlain: fragrance review

The inconcistency between name and scent is probably an intended characteristic of the boutique exclusive L'Art et la Matière line by Guerlain, as discussed before in the Cruel Gardénia (a scent that smells nothing like gardenias really) and Rose Barbare reviews, because Angélique Noire (Black Angelica) is certainly not noire, at least not in the manner of which we have been thinking of, courtesy of the Golden era of Hollywood. The grotesque look of Gloria Swanson in Sunset Boulevard that simply screamed for its daily dose of Caron’s sumptuous Narcisse Noir as a talisman against mediocrity and decline is nowhere to be found.

There is a historic factoid that might be a piquant reference: A black slave by the apt name Marie Joseph Angélique was a personage in the history of Montreal, accused of being the incendiary of the 1734 episodes; someone suited to the scent of Angelique Noire? Far from such upheaval and restlessness or the promise of fallen angels, here we are dealing with a pre-Raphaelite Madonna with curly hair and silky robes that is lost in mystical reverie over the impending Nativity or a post-romantic painting by Waterhouse; carte-postale style in both cases: somehow too pretty for a truly striking effect!

Created by nose Daniela Roche-Andrier in 2005 for the renovation of the flagship store at 68, Avenue Champs Elysées, the Guerlain brief for Angélique Noire went something like this: "A composition based on angelica, weed known to be an elixir promoting longetivity. The bergamot and angelica notes are fresh, vibrant and slightly bitter. They contrast with the sophisticated fullness of the vanilla”.
The core of the perfume is undoubtedly the pairing of bergamot and vanilla which in Guerlain terms would translate as musky, troubling Shalimar, surely. Or Shalimar Eau Légère/Shalimar Light, modern-style, even! But this is a Guerlain through non-Guerlain eyes, ergo the treatment is completely different. Angélique Noire is a sweet oeuvre of pleasant and cherubic notes, full of the tart juice of bergamot and toiling harvesters eager to gather crops as it opens with the tangy and difficult to obtain angelica, garlanded with a spicy touch enough to intrigue; this phase is quite suited to both sexes in fact. Later it cedes to a soft heart of milky-almondy haziness and drying down to ever persistent, creamy vanilla.
Angélique Noire is not especially reminiscent of any of the Loukhoum scents (Serge Lutens, Keiko Mecheri) that feature some of the same notes nevertheless, nor is it laced with aromatic nuances as one would except from a fragrance named and inspired by angelica. Guerlain has based its reputation on the quality of its vanilla and it always features in one way or another in their perfumes, usually along with tonka bean. This is no exception. I don’t know if angelica is supposed to prolong life in humans really, and how that could be a good thing in a world that despises old age, but the fragrance lasts very well (which is a blessing or a curse depending on what you think of it).

Notes for Angélique Noire by Guerlain:
Angelica, bergamot, vanilla

Angélique Noire forms part of the L'Art et la Matière line sold exclusively at boutiques Guerlain and the Guerlain espace at Begdrof Goodman, in tall architectural bottles with the name on the side in a wide golden "band" and an optional bulb atomiser included (My advice on those is not to leave them attached on the bottle as they allow evaporation of the juice).

Related reading on Perfumeshrine: the Guerlain series, Fragrances with angelica.

Pic of fallen angel sent to me by mail unaccredited. Pic of bottles via Guerlain.


  1. This sounds like something right up my alley; I might actually be over coming the Guerlain pain, the other day I sprayed Mitsouko on myself and it actually smelled quite good.

  2. Anonymous19:43

    What a coincidence that you mention the Serge Lutens Loukhoum in the review.

    True story: I first tested Angelique Noire a couple of weeks ago. I liked it, but I really was (as you mentioned) expecting something darker. I figured maybe it was my skin, or maybe I needed to retest it a few times before it evolved that way on my skin. The 2nd time I tested it, it was all cherries, sugar, syrup - I remember thinking that it got even worse than the 1st time. It wasn't until the end of the day, that I realized I had NOT sprayed the AN on that 2nd time, instead I'd sprayed Rahat Loukhoum!

    Talk about blind testing! :)

    I do need to test it again though. I happen to love angelica, but AN is just so different than anything I've ever smelled with this note. Very Luten's, in style (and bottle) though.

  3. A Guerlain through on non Guerlain eyes... intriguing

  4. This sounds interesting . I don't know if I would purchase it but sometimes its just enough to smell something out of your comfort zone.

  5. I have a bit of Angelique Noire, and have only tried it a few times, moderately early in sniffery. I was one of those surprised noses...had been gearing up for something "serious," preparing for olfactory resistance, and found something...sweet? I was confused, because I though "noire" would be something else...was so proud that my nose had so quickly "evolved"... ;) ...if I recall correctly, decided to think of it as a comfort scent. Am going to try it again; has been a while.

  6. I love the name and love the bottle... not sure how much I would like the perfume itself- it is one I must sample.

    Thanks for the great review!


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