Monday, September 24, 2012

Serge Lutens Une Voix Noire: fragrance review & draw

The melancholic timbre of Billie Holiday's voice, the "black voice" behind the inspiration for Serge Lutens's latest Paris-exclusive perfume, is reverberating through the unusual paths of the fumes rising from the bell-jar bottle with its beautiful brownish, maroon almost, shade of juice inside. The waxy, thick petals of gardenia with their irresistible browning that is poised between sweet rot and carnal abandon have a way of capturing hearts like mine...and Billie's too, who wore one tucked beneath her ear as a trademark. But to designate just gardenia to Une Voix Noire would be doing it a disservice.
Guy Bourdin photo via

Gardenia and tuberose are olfactory allies in crime. Both nocturnal creatures with creamy white blossoms which exude a kaleidoscope of weird and wondrous facets, from sharp greenness that recalls camphor, to blue cheese and mould, all the way to meat rotting in the heat to help attract various pollinators, they're fascinating flowers to cultivate in a warm climate that oozes with the dangerous atmosphere of a film noir. Lutens and his trusty perfumer Chris Sheldrake have been no strangers to tuberose's wiles thanks to Tubereuse Criminelle with its jarring contrast of rough edge against smooth silk.
But Une voix Noire is to gardenia a new take on the flower, less simplistic and more complex, with an abstract background that brings it closer to a Bois variation than a fleshy, photorealistic photo of the opulent flower with its blue cheese timbre that Tom Ford put in the forefront for his (now discontinued) Velvet Gardenia or the spring-like styralyl acetate greenness it exhibits in Lauder's life-like, budding Private Collection Tuberose Gardenia. The candied plumminess of the cedar & fruits base is certainly progeny of the Feminite du Bois school of mock dilettantes (posing as less serious than in reality) and the rich, satisfying, warmly honeyed core to be explored on further wearings would be most pleasurably received by those who have enjoyed Mary Greenwell's Plum, Botytris, Jar's Jardenia and -naturally- the rest of the Lutensian series of "woody" cedar & fruits melange fragrances.

The perfumer and the art director play in chiaroscuro with extreme grace in Une voix Noire, bringing on an opening tuberose-gardenia note that is fresh and real but dissipates fast into clean and metallic notes that ring like cold air in the stillness of the night. Smoky and indolic, almost animalic facets slowly reveal themselves, darkening the proceedings through a sweetish, leathery, tobacco and boozy (rum, according to the official notes) phase which creates an effect worthy of a blues singer velvety sighing her pain into hard vinyl.

Like Billie's voice, Une Voix Noire is indelible...lasting a lifetime and then some.

Une Voix Noire is a Paris-exclusive Lutens fragrance available as Eau de Parfum 75ml in the bell jar bottles.

For our readers, a generous decant of the new Une Voix Noire is available. Draw is open internationally till Friday 28th midnight. Just answer in the comments what "a black voice" conjures up for you to be eligible. Draw is now closed, thank you!

Related reading on Perfume Shrine: Serge Lutens news & fragrance reviews


  1. Anonymous16:17

    I'm not sure if "a black voice" conjures the sound of Billie Holiday who had so much nuance and color to her vocals. But the name does conjure the elements of the perfume that you describe: complexity, tuberose richness, smokiness and indoles, leather, tobacco and rum.


  2. Anonymous16:27

    I love old blues music, and one of the best was Ma Rainey, so if I go "literal" on a black voice, that would be one I'd think of !

    Thanks for the draw !


  3. Anonymous16:29

    To be eligible, a «black voice» must have a deep kind of velvety roughness, translating a life and showing the beauty of a soul.

  4. I supose this is random, but i thought of miriam makeba!

  5. I guess Tom Waits' voice would qualify as black. or Marianne Faithfull. Rough and marked by years of drinking and smoking I guess is how I would imagine a black voice. Billie Holiday's could only qualify as black in her last two recordings, when her voice started sounding damaged yet beautiful.

  6. The first voice that came to mind was Edith Piaf but I can't really explain why. I may be confusing a "black" voice with a haunting one.

  7. Stephan17:13

    For me a black voice reminds me before anything else of the raspy, crackling, smokey voice of Louis Armstrong. But surely this is not what this fragrance means to evoke.

    Thanks for the draw.

  8. Funny how "Un Voix Noir" sounds so sexy and evocative but "a black voice" sounds flat and borderline offensive. That's French for you! I'd love to try this, I love both white florals and boozy notes.

  9. I think of Holidays voice more of dark dark blue velvet. Thanks for the draw

  10. Black voice to me conjures the image of Lana del Rey singing Blue velvet or the voice of Janice Joplin singing Take a piece of my heart or Nick Cave and with his song Loverman

  11. LaLa17:54

    I immediately thought of Amy Winehouse, which is probably a testament to the power of marketing. However, her voice and music certainly had a dusky vibe that made her seem fresh and unique amongst the sea of blonde, auto-tuned pop princesses.

  12. thank you for the wonderful article and draw...

    although i usually only enter all natural draws... i suppose it's time i experienced a Lutens creation.

    and the idea of a "black voice" is intriguing. a black voice, to me, is the aroma carried on the New Orleans breeze at night when the damp and mossy secrets find their way through narcotic and indolic floral.

    when you can breathe the history of some kind of voodoo mixed with the painfully powerful whiskey and cigars of men who should know better... but don't.

    it's the voice of history but moreover of hidden truth; beautiful and back breaking.

    and it sings the kind of lullaby that sets you down in velvet wafts into a sort of slumber from which you don't want to awake.

  13. Great article. I think id Dinah Washington with that sexy voice. Thanks for the draw!

  14. "a black voice" (agree that this phrasing is very awkward in English) to me, makes me think of African American preachers in the sound, preaching for liberation.

    Thank you so much for the draw. It sound really nice.

  15. I agree with the earlier comment that 'a black voice' sounds much better in French! That aside, it conjures something rich, full and sultry with the ability to move you.

  16. First off, excellent choice of song!
    Second, i love quizes. Black voice, black voice... black voice. The phrase seems to have a double meaning to me. Ok yes many black singers come to mind but also I can give a gothic interpretation. A voice deep and sinister that would have a different scent expression. It would be incense, anise and clove, a decaying white floral and chocolate. What all these scents have in common is the underlying facet of blood. BLACK VOICE, MUAHAHA

  17. Black voice makes me think of a raspy, deep, melancholic voice. Thanks for the draw!

  18. therese1921:32

    Perhaps black voice could be construed as dark voice or dark sound.

    Just like Lady Day's music, lyrics and life.

  19. Anonymous21:35

    would love to try it...
    black voice for me is Amy Winehouse.... back to black!

  20. Maureen21:37

    I love jazz and love all the lovely divas...Billie Holiday, Dinah Washington, Ella Fitzgerald...but Louis Armstrong will always be the ultimate"black voice to me. Thanks for the draw.

  21. 'Black voice' for me is not race-centric. My immeidate thought is deep, black silk velvet. Frank Sinatra, singing "One for My Baby"


    ps. "Strange Fruit" is, and always has been, a nightmarish song.

  22. Phanie22:46

    A white flower for a black voice
    is kind of a paradox isn't it?
    However small,both bold and heady strong.
    On the one hand a small flower giving such a powerful scent ,on the other other hand a woman coming from a small marginalised community overcoming a traumatic childhood and becoming a music legend
    In Greece we use to give gardenia flowers to singers on stage.
    Also laiko-ρεμπετικο is considered to be the greek version of american jazz
    Both coming from otherwise ostracized minorities expressing same feelings of sorrow(usually) but generally accepted as an music of exquisite quality
    So, a "Gloomy Sunday" by Billy Holiday for a "Synnefiasmeni Kyriaki" by Vassilis Tsitsanis

  23. Anonymous22:48

    i think of those terrific operatic sopranos, leontyne price, jessie norman, etc. all the depth and power and smokiness, but with the high notes and the fabulous technique.


  24. Woland23:01

    For me black voice is Tom Waits or Nick Cave. Definitely black!
    Thanks for the oppotunity

  25. For me, a black voice is Leonard Cohen singing "I'm Your Man". A voice that is rich, deep, and experienced. Dark, but not cold or bleak.

  26. Nina Z.01:24

    Shane McGowan of the Pogues. Because of his deep, raspy, dirty, sublimely emotional voice and maybe the horrible black teeth as well. Or maybe because of the lyrics to one of their most amazing songs:

    Life's a bitch, then you die
    Black Hell
    Hell's ditch - naked howling freedom
    The killer's hands are bound with chains
    At six o'clock it starts to rain
    He'll never see the dawn again
    Our lady of the flowers

    (As an American, I have to concur with others that name does not translate well.)

  27. Isayah01:38

    Black voices are many and beautiful, from the deep timbre of Mahalia Jackson's gospels to the metallic beauty of Dinah Washington singing Bessie Smith blues. But Billie had something special, profoundly touching, incredibly warm and so beautiful, it goes directly to my heart.

  28. For me, a "black voice" would be a holy voice, smelling of incense, cold earth, and smoke perhaps tempered by dark roses. But the gardenia sounds absolutely fascinating! Please enter me in the draw!

  29. For me, a "black voice" would be a holy voice, smelling of incense, cold earth, and smoke perhaps tempered by dark roses. But the gardenia sounds absolutely fascinating! Please enter me in the draw!

  30. What a great review, as usual! You make me want to buy it blind ... I love true gardenias, they are both clean and "white", and dark and dirty at the same time. So far, the black voice for me was Manoumalia's tropical gardenia-like flower.


  31. I thought of Fiona Apple when I heard a black voice...not sure why

  32. I think of Aretha Franklin

  33. Anonymous04:53

    Your review was poetic; it was so evocative that it left me craving something I might be allergic to. Or maybe not. Like describing chocolate cake to somebody on a strict diet.

    When I think "black voice" I think of Nina Simone, who was dead before I even discovered her. Especially her songs about the civil rights era in the US. Some are very dark and scary.

    But also,there are Celtic singers who have what I think of as "dark voices". They can sing about ancient legends in such a way that you only are aware of the beautiful voice - until you realize what the lyrics were about. (Ex: Heather Dale's songs - Mordred's Lullaby and Changeling Child)


    PS-pls ignore my first comment. I hate typing on my phone.


  34. I would not have thought "Billie Holiday" with the name "black voice". Black voice seems threatening, supernatural, sepulchral and chthonic - the voice from off-stage, from the deep, from the dead. If not threatening, than at least... ominous.

  35. wonderful review, thank you
    a black voice should be any deep, soft but persuasive, singing or talking of a revelation

  36. Hmm .. the phrase makes me think of a gravely, smoky voice, with real depth. And probably songs about sorrow. I don't associate it with a particular type of music or singer, so much as connotations like dark/heavy/thick/slow/textured/challenging/nuanced

  37. solanace09:47

    A black voice conjures depth, complexity, having gone to hell and come back to tell. I'm really curious about this one, as so many recent launches make me think of high school girls talking too fast, too loud and too high-pitched with nothing to say.

  38. When I think of a black voice "eligible" is not a word that would accompany it... a black voice should be everything but this... like when Diamanda Galas sings the blues. A heart torn from its roots, the cry of an illegitimate child begging for love... that's what always found common to those amazing divas like Diamanda, Billie, Nina, Etta...
    Thank you for yet another great post and the chance to ponder on things less mundane and ordinary.

  39. A Black Voice: deep and throaty with traces of too many cigarettes, too many glasses of gin and too many late, lonely nights trying to piece together a broken heart.

  40. Merlin10:19

    I'm thinking of some of the singers in Lynch's movies: like in Mulholland Drive - there is a singer in 'Club Silencio' who collapses half-way through an anguished Spanish aria - but her voice continues...

  41. for me a "black voice" will always be nina simone or louis armstrong. i rest my case.

  42. Zazie10:58

    Oooooh... What a lemming...
    I cross my fingers and hope...
    Une voix noire - if I concentrate on the "voice", and imagine what a pitch black voice could whisper, I hear the the Italian actress Monica Vitti, with her broken voice, that sounds haunted like the wind whispering in a ruined castle, and promises darkness and secrecy...
    That said, I more than welcome SL's own association of une voix noire with Billie Holiday, a singer that I deeply love.

  43. To me it sounds very deep, dark & mysterious.

  44. Thank you for the draw! It sounds to me to be warm and soft and rich.

  45. sophi12:23

    -Aretha Franklin

  46. Anonymous12:52

    Louis Armstrong for me, though I'm not so sure he'd wear this fragrance!

    manon729 at yahoo dot com

  47. For me, it conjures a voice that is deep, velvety, and mysterious. Thank you for the draw!
    -Christy C

  48. Anonymous14:08

    For me, a black voice is Holly Cole. Her voice is velvet like soft and black like night.
    Black imaged voice make remind me of tuberose.


  49. Cesara Evoria, singing her heart out in the humidity and heat of Lafayette, Louisiana and sipping brandy backstage. The melodies of the Cape Verde Islands are sparkling, but her voice was black, deep, world weary. The fragrance sounds lovely, like life itself: rotting yet joyous.

  50. A black voice makes me think of a voice that is aged, gravelly and rough. Tom Waits immediately sprung to mind.

  51. It makes me think of the scene in Mullholland Drive from the Club Silencio: "une voix noire" is the voice from the subconscious, the voice of dreams, the voice of desires repressed, a cry for liberation.

  52. I would Love to try this latest Lutens/Sheldrake creation.
    For me a black voice would be Brownie McGhee, a voice soft as black velvet.
    An honorary UK Black Voice has to be the late, much missed, Jo-Anne Kelly. Chack her out on youtube if she's new to you

  53. Sometimes the sound of a "black voice" to me is Louis Armstrong; other times it could be Billie Holiday. I guess it depends on the mood I'm in!

    Thanks for the draw!

  54. A black voice, for me is not necessarily about colour, but about depth, soul, and pain, and pleasure. It is highly nuanced and multi-dimensional.

  55. Jazz. The Blues. Not about race, but about a certain type of heart and soul...

    Great opportunity! Thanks.

  56. MariaA18:44

    SL boutique was kind enough to send me this (along with other 4 ?)perfume in wax sample and iy is trully divine!
    Black voice has to do with emotion to me not so much with skin color. The depth of the feelings expressed and exposed...

  57. Black voice for me evokes raw, gigantic surges of the human spirit in all its fullness and glory. It is not about is about spirit.

  58. Franca19:54

    Thanks for the draw!
    Black voice? Louis Armstrong!
    Your description of the fragrance makes me feel so thrilled about it. I can't wait to try this gardenia par Monsieur Lutens...

  59. Akimon21:08

    To me, Black Voice = Tom Waits. Not as beautiful as Billie's, but just as effective!

  60. Gisela21:29

    Black voice for me is Matthias Hölle singing as Il Commendatore in Mozart's Don Giovanni.

  61. Oddly I am at this moment watching a documentary on Josephine Baker, an altogether different kind of black American Voice and personality! But really I think of James Brown, Aretha Franklin, early Tina Turner, bring on The Funk! Very curious to sniff this new scent, it sounds complex and nuanced in every way! Xxx

  62. Anonymous23:43

    Barry White, soft velvety bass, that is black voice :-) Not particularly white flowerish ;-) The perfume sounds well worth visiting, though. Thanks for the draw! Maria

  63. Anonymous23:43

    Barry White, soft velvety bass, that is black voice :-) Not particularly white flowerish ;-) The perfume sounds well worth visiting, though. Thanks for the draw! Maria

  64. Miss Heliotrope02:48

    The "black voice" of Sauron is less sexy than some of these...

  65. Kandice03:24

    For dark, raspy, and powerful, I would pick Nina Simone. For smooth and deep, like velvet, I would pick Nat King Cole. Thanks for the draw - I'd love to try this!

  66. Karen B04:04

    To me a 'black voice conjures up depth and raw emotion. It has great soul and an earthy quality.

  67. What "a black voice" conjures up for me? Something distinctive - rounded, with depth and an air of certainty. Forceful, but with humor and soul.

  68. I think "soul" ~

  69. Anonymous05:35

    To be truthful, my first impression of "black voice" is Darth Vader! Billie Holiday would not come to mind; "honeyed voice" is more like it.

    As Elisa pointed out, the name sounds so much sexier in French.


  70. In a generic fashion, "a black voice," conjures warm, languid, rolling tones that express sorrow, joy, love and disappointment. It comes from the depths of the earth but spears the soul and lives in the gut. It's a female voice. And it knows all.

    The best black speaking voice, of course belongs to James Earl Jones.

  71. I would have to second what many already have said, Louis Armstrong comes quickly to mind for me, a Billy holiday a close second. Hers is just so classic, I love listening to her music.

  72. Tom Waits absolutely. :)
    rough and emotional in the same time...

  73. When I first heard the name of this frag, I did not think of a person of color. I thought of the way the dark black ink of Japanese calligraphy looks against the white paper. Very strong, covering the white and contrasting with it. A black voice could cut through noise and stand out sharply. Incisive more than loud. Haha, none of this is much in accord with the frag! Well, I am interested in the draw, anyway!

  74. mariablogrom10:44

    Freedom, a lot of freedom in the black voice. The ability to improvise and express unexpected nuances, things which you wouldn't believe could be there.

  75. Anonymous12:14

    'Hush now,dont' explain
    You're my joy and pain
    My life's yours love
    Don't explain.'

    ...and so is to me a black voice:
    something that conjures sorrow and roughness with something sweet,as well as in Billie’s songs. Pure,innocent and indolic gardenia with smoky,leathery tobacco and rum smell (and sound) the same: they are different enough to be amazing together. Why?Well... dont' explain,just dream.


  76. Anonymous16:25

    AH, Helg!

    You always make me think :) Thank you.
    Black voice-Charlie Patton, of whose voice there are very few recordings. A subtle and rare performer.

    Also, Sonny Boy Williamson-Little Village. I really like the version with a false start, whwere everyone is chattering and laughing.


    Carole MacLEod

  77. Vivian C.16:34

    Black voice - Nina Simone. Velvety, buttery, and awesome like a great glass of scotch.

  78. Lutens/Sheldrake duo and reviews that I read have me visiting Serge Lutens official site daily and excercising a weird game of self-control: shall I push the "add to basket" button today? My impression is that although it is not a Noire gardenia it is a Billie Holiday gardenia.

  79. Anonymous00:28

    What?! no mention of Sassy! (Sarah Vaughn) Count me in for this drawing. This perf. seems provocative, to say the least!

  80. brie10:49

    A black voice is anything soulful. thanks for the draw!

  81. Anonymous17:33


  82. Anonymous05:05

    "A Black Voice" makes me think of something a villan in a Disney movie, or an evil spirit. Luckily, SL's intention wasn't so dark ;)

    Lauren B.

  83. What a nice review! I think that Nina Simone is the ultimate black voice but it's difficult to relate her to gardenias. On the other hand my mind goes somewhere in Cuba. A poor neighborhood in Havana, smells of dried tobacco and black rum, the story of a great love with sad end and the nostalgic voice of Antonio Machin singing "Dos gardenias para ti".

  84. A black voice conjures up for me my time as a white child in South Africa, sitting with my parents friends who would ell stories and sing about their hopes for freedom in the future.

  85. Makes me think of cicadas, not singers.

  86. memento198121:11

    a black voice is a dark, brooding which haunts.
    thanks for the draw!

  87. Well, Diamanda Galas, actually. I'm reading "black" as the void, though.

  88. Joaquim13:48

    I think that the draw is close now, but I want to say that a black voice for me is psychedelia, is the voice of Nate Hall from U.S. Christmas, one of my favourite bands.

    Thank you anyway for the draw!

  89. Anonymous17:51

    I am a huge white floral fan, so I just can't wait to try to this one.

    The name conjures to me amazement with a touch of sadness.

    quimerula at hotmail dot com


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