Daniela Andrier 2005
Family: green, oriental
Notes: bergamot, angelica seeds, pink pepper, pear, jasmine, caraway, angelica root, vanilla, cedarwood
Crunchy vanilla pear
Period: The haute cuisine years
Angélique Noire was part of the first trio of L'Art & la Matière perfumes. Dedicated to an emphasis on raw materials, these scents are Guerlain's answer to the niche trend in perfumery, and the first ones were officially signed by various outside perfumers under supervision of Guerlain's then artistic director, Sylvaine Delacourte. Niche perfumery is characterised by very small businesses and a deliberate avoidance of massive appeal, targeted at the discerning few, but the concept has been somewhat diluted since most major brands nowadays offer a "niche" line.
A niche perfume should above all be simple and unadorned in structure, and not too rounded or easy to wear, which in essence is the exact opposite of the Guerlain philosophy and signature. Guerlain solved this dilemma by incorporating a gourmand element in the L'Art & la Matière fragrances all the while maintaining a simple composition. This, both the gourmand and simplicity aspect, was particularly true of Angélique Noire — so much so that Luca Turin in his review denounced it as being "banal" and "something put together in a hurry".
Created by Daniela Andrier, Angélique Noire was what Guerlain terms, somewhat paradoxically, a fresh vanilla. That a vanilla fragrance can be worked into something refreshing we already knew from Eau de Shalimar and Metallica. In Angélique Noire, part of the freshness came from angelica, an aromatic plant whose seeds and root contain oils that smell herbal, fruity, peppery and anise-like. Dried angelica seeds have a black-brown colour which may explain the name of the perfume. The other fresh element was a pear note, a cool, fruity scent of ripe pear of the sort we got in the first Terracotta fragrance, Voile d'Été. The mix of angelica, pear and bergamot achieved a crunchy, slightly bitter effect which was completely contrasted by the gourmand drydown, with rich, warm, oily notes of jasmine, caraway, cedarwood and vanilla. Guerlain called the composition an olfactive "big bang", and it surely was big, juicy and sweet.
Probably it would have been too much, like a fruit jam, if sandalwood had been used, but with the dryness of cedar the sweetness of the rest was tempered so that even a gourmand-loving man could wear Angélique Noire. The striking contrast between the crunchy top notes and the vanilla cupcake base recalled Jean-Paul Guerlain's perfume Chamade, whose evaporation curve is considered one of perfumery's longest and most exceptional. Angélique Noire may not be in the same league, not as refined and balanced, more rushed and more straightforwardly gourmand, but those who admire Chamade, yet find it too ladylike, might enjoy Angélique Noire as a delicious fragrance that is, well, easy to wear.
The bottle for the L'Art & la Matière line is an oblong slender block of glass, decorated on one end with a golden metal strip with the perfume's name imprinted on it, as if it were the spine of an old leather-bound book.
We love: that you could almost eat this
Some images courtesy of guerlain.com
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