La Colle Noire is the latest addition to Dior‘s Privée Collection, highlighting the beauty of a sweet May rose with few other distractions. That singular focus is not uncommon for the Privée line, which frequently takes one main note (like tonka, patchouli, vetiver, or labdanum) and tries to give it the most polished, fluid, and refined treatment possible. Dior succeeds here, as it often does; La Colle Noire is just as smooth and elegant as its siblings. But such minimalism bears the risk of seeming boring or overly simple, and I truly don’t know how people will perceive the fragrance. In truth, my own feelings are mixed. I think it will come down to how much you love this style of rose. If you do, then La Colle Noire may be one of the prettiest fragrances you’ve tried lately. If not, then I suspect you may well be underwhelmed.
La Colle Noire is a new eau de parfum created by François Demarchy, the artistic director and nose for Parfums Dior. It was inspired by Grasse, its floral queen, the Rose de Mai, and the Chateau de la Colle Noire that Christian Dior purchased in the area in 1951. On its website, the company explains that Monsieur Dior used the château as a haven where he grew the roses that he loved so much and which had already become a signature note in his fragrances. Dior then adds:
François Demachy, Dior Perfumer-Creator, drew inspiration from this bountiful place to build his fragrance around an intense, expressive and dense Absolute of Centifolia Rose. “La Colle Noire” is an incisive floral. A faceted fragrance that is rosy, woody, ambery and musky all at once.
“La Colle Noire celebrates Rose de Mai melded with spices, woods, amber and musks. The Grasse Rose is unique, spicy and powerful.
It is not overly sweet, it conveys all the raw and sun-drenched beauty of this region in the south of France.”
François Demachy, Dior Perfumer-Creator.
Dior doesn’t provide a note list. While that description talks about spices and “ambery” notes, the company only explicitly lists Rose de Mai Absolute for the top, Sri Lankan sandalwood for the middle, and white musks for the base. A new release posting by Now Smell This mentions possible additions of clove and guaiac, but I haven’t seen those notes included elsewhere. Fragrantica merely lists the things in Demachy’s quote:
May rose, spices, sandalwood from Sri Lanka, other woods, white musk and amber.
La Colle Noire opens on my skin with a very pretty, and immensely fruity, pink-red cabbage rose that is half in bloom so that its berried, honeyed, quietly lemony, subtly ambered, and delicately spiced aromas swirl around you in a cloud as soft as its petals. Yet, it’s not so ripe or lush as to be syrupy, musky, thick in feel, or heavy. This is a fresh, clean, fruity rose above all else.
What’s interesting to me are the various paradoxes at play. The first thing that strikes me is the contrast between the richness and depth of the rose and its simultaneous lightness and freshness. The rose is strong and strongly sweet with its honeyed, raspberry aromas, but it also feels incredibly fresh, almost airy, at the same time.
All of it feels very feminine in a warm, approachable, and elegant way. This is no screechy, cloying Tea Rose bouquet. (Thank God.) It’s something much smoother, more rounded, and with a more balanced sweetness that feels completely naturalistic and fresh out of the garden. It’s far more polished than the old Tea Rose fragrance, more elegant and chic. At the same time, there is something retro or a little old-fashioned in having such a classical cabbage rose bouquet. Perhaps that’s why I keep envisioning a woman holding armfuls of fat, pink cabbage roses plucked straight from the garden while wearing a Laura Ashley dress.
There isn’t much else to La Colle’s bouquet for most of the first three hours. If there is any clove, amber, sandalwood, or guaiac in the opening hours, I can’t detect them in any distinct, clearly delineated, solid way. It feels as though they’ve been added in delicate amounts merely to accentuate the rose’s innate characteristics from honeyed goldenness to the spice, the fruitiness, and the tiny drops of lemony freshness. The amber might be the only one to leave some sort of foot print, albeit in indirect form, as I think it’s responsible for the sense of soft warmth and possibly honey surrounding the rose, but the rest are essentially irrelevant until much later in La Colle Noire’s development.
The main impression for the vast majority of La Colle Noire’s first 3 hours is really just the most basic one: a fresh, sweet, lightly honeyed, quietly lemony rose that is coated in raspberry fruitiness and then sprinkled with a pinch of spiciness. After about 20 minutes, a few wisps of clean musk pop up on the sidelines, followed later by a soft, quiet, clean, and wholly indeterminate woodiness as well, but neither one is significant at this point. The scent is simply about the rose and, as a result, as simple as you can get.
As someone who isn’t particularly enamoured by rose fragrances, the result leaves me torn. On the one hand, I find La Colle Noire’s first stage very boring. Pretty, polished, chic, but overly simplistic and boring nonetheless. On the other hand, I really appreciate the naturalism of the bouquet, its unmistakable quality, and the lack of anything artificial or synthetic. Plus, as roses go, the lush Centifolia cabbage variety is more my thing than Rose Otto or Damascena which sometimes turns overly sharp, lemony, or soapy on my skin.
Finally, it’s hard not to be impressed, as always, with Demarchy’s signature style of polished smoothness and balance. In fact, his restraint seems more on show here than usual because the rose is not: excessively sweet, not too spicy (actually not particularly spicy at all), not too ambered, not goopy in its fruitiness, not too excessive in… any way whatsoever actually. It’s as though he plucked the rose from Ambre Nuit (not Oud Ispahan), and added more raspberry, more freshness, but also subtracted more amber, spice, and muskiness.
The result bears the typical Dior polish but, truth be told, it consistently reminds me of other fragrances as well in the first stage. On Basenotes, a few people compared La Colle Noir to Guerlain‘s Acqua Allegorias or one of its lighter fruity florals, and I think they’re right, but I personally think more frequently of a Mai rose soliflore from another brand: MFK‘s A La Rose. The difference is that La Colle Noire isn’t doused in a tsunami of Francis Kurkdjian’s signature laundry musk, the rose isn’t half as citrusy as the one there, and the two fragrances subsequently diverge quite a bit by having completely different heart or drydown stages. Still, the resemblance between the two is enormous during La Colle Noire’s first stage. (There is also a rose soliflore from Tocca, I think, that is also similar, though lighter and even cleaner, but it’s been a while so I may be confusing Tocca with another brand that I smelt in Sephora.) The point is, other than the undisputed Privée quality and smoothness, La Colle Noire isn’t a particularly distinctive or remarkable composition in its first few hours as compared to other rose fragrances, and much of that has to do with the fact that it’s an incredibly simple, basic bouquet.
La Colle Noire shifts in only the smallest of ways as the first stage unfolds. Roughly 40 minutes in, the raspberry fruitiness grows stronger, while the lemony nuances weaken. The honey fluctuates, along with the fragrance’s general degree of sweetness. About 90 minutes in, La Colle Noire’s body, richness, and strength feel as though they were cut in half. The projection and sillage drop around the same time, hanging closer to the body. The clean musk becomes more noticeable around the same time. As a whole, La Colle Noire smells primarily of a raspberry rose, drizzled with a bit of honeyed sweetness, flecked with clean musk, then veiled with a soft warmth (that doesn’t smell remotely like real or distinct amber).
La Colle Noire enters its main or heart stage roughly in the middle of the third hour. The sandalwood emerges and melts into the rose. At the same time, the heavy coating of raspberry fruitiness weakens, and retreats to the sidelines. Its replaced by a profusion of dark spices that hints at clove and, possibly, some nutmeg as well. Once in a blue moon, if I smell my arm up close, there is the merest wisp of woody smokiness in the distant background, no doubt from the guaiac, but it’s a minor, fleeting, and very elusive note. Much more significant is the sense of “amber” that is slowly, inch by inch, beginning to take shape in the background by the start of the 4th hour.
The cumulative effect turns La Colle Noire into a spicy, woody rose flecked with small threads of berried fruitiness and a touch of clean musk. It’s no longer so fresh or clean as it was at the start, but the paradox of richness and lightness continues. The scent may be thinner and quieter than before, but the rose itself somehow feels deeper, darker, and richer as a result of the changes. Instead of evoking MFK’s light, fresh, fruity A La Rose, every now and then I think of the dark, spicy, meatier rose of Tom Ford‘s Noir de Noir (prior to its powdery, Turkish delight stage).
By the start of the 5th hour, La Colle Noire’s heart stage is in full bloom and there is a surprising role reversal emerging, as the spiced, ambery woods become the focal point and it’s the rose’s turn to be subsumed within. Well, some of the time. La Colle Noire is blended so seamlessly that it’s difficult to separate out the two main notes at this point. Sometimes, the rose feels as though it’s been swallowed up by the spiced woods; just as often, it floats above it almost as a separate layer. What’s odd is that, when I catch La Colle Noire wafting up from my arm in the air around me, it’s almost all rose — a deep, dark, heavily spiced rose infused with dark, ambery brownness — and not really woody. But up close, and particularly at the start of the 7th hour, the woods seem to be the center point, with the rose quietly enveloped inside it. By the middle of the 8th hour, La Colle Noire is primarily spiced, ambered woodiness with fluctuating levels of rose and clean musk. It’s drier, less sweet, and no longer fruity.
Things become a little strange after that. La Colle Noire begins to do a ghostly dance where both the rose and the actual fragrance itself seem on the verge of fizzling out, only to suddenly return as visible as ever. At the end of the 8th hour, I actually thought La Colle Noire was starting to die, and there was certainly no scent trail to speak of at all. But suddenly, strong whiffs of a dark, spicy, ambered rose would start to puff out, actually sending out tendrils in the air around me. Then, they vanished, leaving only a woody spiciness and darkness that coated my skin and that I could only really detect only up close. But the rose kept coming back, fluctuating in both strength and sillage. The fragrance itself constantly vacillated between near-death and perfect health, albeit in that soft, discreet drydown sort of way. By the 10th hour, La Colle Noire seems to have made up its mind to stay, tossing out most of the woodiness, and sticking primarily to its main core essence, the spicy, dark rose. At this point, it stopped sending out even the tiniest tendrils of scent into the air, contenting itself with hanging out right on the skin. I had to put my nose on my arm to detect it, but the fragrance clung on tenaciously for a number of hours to come.
La Colle Noire had soft projection, moderate to soft sillage, and good longevity. Using several smears equal to 2 sprays from the bottle, the fragrance opened with about 4 inches of projection and roughly 5-6 inches of sillage. After 40 minutes, the numbers dropped: the projection was between 2 to 2.5 inches, while the sillage was about 3. After 90 minutes, the projection was down to about 1 to 1.5 inches, while the sillage was close to the body. However, when La Colle Noire turned spicy, dark, and woodier, and particularly from the 5th hour onwards, the sillage actually rebounded, grew stronger, and even sent out small puffs when I wasn’t moving. The fragrance turned into a skin scent about 6.5 hours into its development. The sillage constantly veered between nonexistent and quietly noticeable, albeit in little puffs or tendrils. It was unusual, and a little perplexing. Things settled down around the 10th hour, as noted above, and La Colle Noire coated the body as a gauzy wisp. In total, it lasted just under 14.5 hours.
On Fragrantica, early reviews thus far are mixed in terms of how people feel about the scent and, also, how they rate its longevity and sillage. In terms of the latter, the votes and comments are all over the place, though most people appear to think its a heavy scent with a long lifespan. In terms of actual bouquet, several people were disappointed by La Colle Noire’s simplicity. Quite a few men also find it excessively feminine in nature and definitely not unisex. To wit:
- I was misled by what appeared to be an overly ecstatic Dior rep who promised me this was a fragrance that could be easily worn by a male. One spray and 20 minutes later, the fragrance was packed up and on its way back to the store. Absolutely uneventful and 100% feminine. There isn’t one ounce of masculinity here and I am a fan of rose. This is basically a light and fresh feminine clean musky rose. There isn’t anything else to it. Guys, unless you are okay with smelling like a woman, I would seriously recommend a pass here. […] Two thumbs down.
- This scent is nothing to do in Dior’s private collection. Smells like any current heavy rose base perfume with certain quality. [¶] Regarding the composition, I can say it’s a pure red rose with a net geranium leafs back note, nothing else. Longivity and projection sounds over avarege going to heavy. [¶] […] announced for women and men? no way, for women only (my own opinion).
Thus far, none of the commentators seem to be women, so they haven’t shared their perspective or how they feel about La Colle Noire. Still, two other male posters do seem like the fragrance. “J Anderson” wrote that he was “underwhelmed” at first sniff, but grew to love La Colle Noire as it developed, saying “what a soft, warm sunny haze of scent!” He found it to be the “yin” to Ambre Nuit’s yang, and easier to wear because it wasn’t as strong. “Antonpan” liked it as well, writing:
It is close to Ambre Nuit from the same collection. I would name it an Ambre Nuit and Le Labo The Noir daughter – fresh and rosy, with some woody ambery undertones. Starting off with a fresh roses bouquet, La Colle Noire becomes warmer and sweeter, ambery and woody in the direction of Ambre Nuit.The fresh fruity element is similar to that in Le Labo The Noir. I feel different kinds of rose here. The sillage and longevity are average. [Emphasis to names added by me.]
In a Basenotes discussion thread, feelings are equally mixed, but tend towards the disappointed end of the spectrum. For “Dane,” La Colle Noire was a “let down,” and a fragrance that smelt “panel tested” to death:
this was such a letdown – a tarty fruity floral. Something you would expect in the Acqua Allegoria line. A tad peachy, a tad rosy, well blended to you can’t distinguish any particular flower. YAWN. [¶] From a collection that already has Grand Bal, a lovely jasmine, New Look 1947, a nice tuberose, and Milly la Foret, a nice new-age chypre, this is completely unnecessary. [snip to his next comment]
Crisp, tidy floral with not a hint of anything offensive. Smells like it was panel tested until there was nothing interesting left.
Other comments reflect the mix or split in opinions:
- its quite feminine and Dane pretty much explained it best a fruity floral in the vein of Guerlain’s lighter floral scents.
- A light powdery fruity floral that surprisingly wears well on my skin, especially the dry down. Didn’t find it feminine as others did. My favorite Prive? – No. Sorry I bought it? – No.
I agree that La Colle Noire feels extremely feminine, but I think that’s most prevalent for its opening phase. To me, its spicy, woody, ambery middle and drydown phases are more unisex. It just takes about 5 hours to get there. I also share the view that there is a similarity to the Acqua Allegoria style but, again, I think that’s most applicable to the first phase, at least on my skin.
The main thing to draw from these comments is that your feelings about La Colle Noire will depend strongly on the way you like your roses treated and, even more importantly, on your gender. I think every single one of the reviews left on both sites at the present time are from men. And I think rose-loving women are bound to have a very different take on the scent, particularly if they’re fan of things like the Acqua Allegorias, MFK’s A La Nuit, or even Ambre Nuit. If you adore fresh, clean, sweet, fruity, and, yes, feminine roses that later turn darker, spicier, woody, and more ambered, then I think you’ll probably love La Colle Noire as well. If you’re not a rose lover, well, I don’t know what you’ll think. I’m rather skittish around rose soliflores (many of which send me running, screaming into the night), but I actually liked parts of La Colle Noire. I wouldn’t buy it for myself but, if a bottle fell into my lap, I think I would wear it once in a blue moon. And the main reason why is that dark, spicy, ambery drydown combined with the Demarchy signature of sophisticated, smooth elegance. This is a retro rose with a classical style, a lot of quality, and some very appealing bits. I actually found my head turning on occasion when a waft of scent breezed by me, and thought, “I smell quite good.” But, at the same time, I can’t shake the thought that the fragrance is also completely unremarkable and overly simplistic.
Can something be simultaneously boring, very pretty, and elegantly chic at the same time? The answer, apparently, is yes. But since “boring” is in the eye of the beholder, you should try it for yourself, unless you’re a man who dislikes any sort of femininity in his roses.