In the same fashion that I wanted to run from the room whispering "I am not worthy" when I reviewed Caron Or et Noir ... I put my head in my hands (so my wrist is still in sniffing proximity) when faced with the challenge and honor of describing Nombre Noir.
Much, much better fragrance reviewers than me (including V, R and M) have parsed the heritage and delineated the notes of this vaunted classic.
The objective information I can provide is that Nombre Noir was created by Jean-Yves Leroy (d. 2004) for Serge Lutens and Shiseido in 1981 and then immediately discontinued so that fragrance fanciers might be tormented for the next 25 years.
It is difficult to get hold of even a sniff and it is only by the grace of clearing and her generous nature that I have been able to experience it.
Where do I start? Oddly, with Serge Lutens' more recent creation, Rose de Nuit. I believe -- and the reference made to this scent in most reviews of Nombre Noir underscores my belief -- that Rose de Nuit must be the fresh faced daughter of the dowager queen Nombre Noir.
Nombre Noir, of course, would sneer ...
But I scent a definite relationship between Nombre Noir and Rose de Nuit. In my review of the younger fragrance, I had noted: "Initially, I experience an intense fruitiness in Serge Lutens' Rose de Nuit, with the apricot note in ascendance for much of the first hour. This is replaced by the lush richness of yellow jasmine with a total combined effect of deep sweetness -- but not an overwhelming sense of rosiness ... as drydown progresses, I can discern amber and sandalwood, with the musk notably absent to my nose and the chypre very subtle."
V has noted that the damascones forming a prominent aspect of Nombre Noir are reminiscent of the apricot note I found in Rose de Nuit. Then substitute the jasmine florality of RdeN with the osthmanthus supposedly in NN (not many of us can pull that one off, the topnotes of our aged samples obliterated by time) ... add the drydown woody quality that is present in RdN and predominant in NN ... and I think an argument can be made for the relationship.
Mother/daughter ... crone/maiden ... wth. Do jewels appreciate with time? Does beauty appreciate with age? Is NN an "old lady fragrance"? You know better than to ask me that.
I did appreciate this aged beauty.