Monday, January 5, 2009

Jack Black: Signature Black Mark

I smelled Jack Black Signature Black Mark last year at Nordstrom, the only place I've ever seen it. I admired the way it handles cedar, which often smells slightly dull and cold to me, or is presided over by incense accords to such a degree that it leaves the category of cedar altogether, opting for midnight mass.

Incense accords have, for me, typically sharpened cedar in a composition, giving it some projection and precision, but at the cost of what I look for in a cedar-inflected fragrance in the first place; namely, cedar. Black Mark takes the opposite approach. Burnishing the cedar with Kashmir saffron, leather, and coriander somehow softens it, lending a velvety texture to the smell, which is fuzzy rather than flat. Estee Lauder's Cinnabar is a useful comparison, not because it smells anything like Signature Black Mark but because it shares that fuzzy quality, a quality which makes the scent feel three dimensional, something you relax into, like a comforter or a sweater, rather than a veil of smoke or an inert bed of sawdust.

It surprised me, when I looked up saffron on basenotes, to discover how many fragrances I own and love in which the note plays a prominent role. How did I miss it before? Chaos, Comme des Garçons 2 Man, Costume National 21, Black Tie, Lancome Cuir, Guerilla 1, Palisander, Opone. I can see similarities between each of these and Black Mark and it occurs to me that saffron could very well be what most attracted me to all of them. Opone is the only fragrance which immediately came to mind when I started thinking about Jack Black's Signature Black Mark. I like Opone. I like Olivia Giacobetti, the perfumer behind it. But something about Opone fails for me, and I'd attributed the failure to saffron. I find this theory less convincing, now that I know I've apparently liked the note more often than not. Opone's anemia has little to nothing to do with saffron, as far as I can tell.

Another useful comparison when considering Signature Black Mark is the aromachemical Cashmeran, which imbues fragrances such as Alien and Dans Tes Bras with a creamy density, as the name might lead you to expect. Cashmeran makes Alien seem a fitting name for that Mugler fragrance, as well, endowing jasmine with an otherworldly texture, sturdy and formidable, rather than the practically ethereal treatment the floral note often receives. In Dans Tes Bras, Cashmeran seems to drizzle the mushroom accord everyone discerns in that Maurice Roucel creation with mist, giving it an impressionistic volume. It could be the saffron which makes Signature Black Mark seem similarly tactile. Regardless, as with Alien and Dans Tes Bras, you feel as much as smell the resulting effect.

Signature Black Mark is certainly intended as a masculine and is regarded as one by the basenotes community. To me it's decidedly unisex and would smell just as feminine on a woman as it does masculine on a man, and vice versa, for that matter. The fragrance lasts well and projects respectably. I can smell it hours later, wafting up from its points of contact. It was created by Yann Vasnier, who contributed to DK Gold, another lovely scent. It costs about 65 dollars for 100 ml, uncommonly affordable for that size. Also rare: it's concentration is Eau de Parfum.

I originally bought Signature Black mark that first day at Nordstrom. A few days later, I returned it. I'm not sure why. I'm guessing I probably felt that it was too easy to like. I didn't trust it, maybe. Months later, I couldn't get it out of my head. I couldn't forget how wonderful it smelled and the cozy but heady mood it put me in. I eventually purchased it again online, and have thoroughly enjoyed it ever since.

I'm learning.

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