Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Versace Crystal Noir

I'm not sure why I would characterize Crystal Noir as a guilty pleasure. I don't group many of Antoine Lie's other fragrances under that category. Crystal Noir is as satisfying a scent as most of the perfumer's Etat Libre D'Orange compositions, and certainly isn't as low rent as his Pi Neo for Givenchy or Everlast Original 1910. I suppose I start apologizing for any Versace fragrance I happen to like before I even get down to the notes because I'm slightly embarrassed. Something to do with Donatella, maybe. Making it known that she curated Crystal Noir doesn't, of course, do the perfume any favors. The Versace aesthetic is about broad strokes, brassy pastiche, and a blatant disregard for craftsmanship. Far from eschewing parody, Versace embraces the baldly synthetic. Witness Donatella's various plastic surgeries. While nowhere near famous Cat Lady Jocelyn Wildenstein's excesses, Versace and her surgeons aren't exactly going for photo-realism, either.

I waited a long time to write about Crystal Noir. I kept thinking I'd come to my senses. How would anyone ever take me seriously again? I stuck it in a drawer, trying to forget about it. I pulled it out of the drawer a lot. I came out to Abigail about it, inspiring her to buy a bottle, but she was unimpressed. It didn't last very long, she said, so I reconsidered. But it does last on me--and in eau de toilette. Today I pulled it out again and decided it's ridiculous to go on pretending I'm better than Crystal Noir, with its Cadillac-sized cut diamond cap and its deepest purple glass. Maybe I'm just easy. So be it.

Listen, I'm not alone. There are 112 reviews on, awarding it an average of 3.9 out of 5 lippies. A whopping 68% say they'd purchase again. Now I know, popularity doesn't always indicate greatness. Often, quite the opposite. But there are many more popular, even more ubiquitous brands than Versace, and Crystal Noir isn't sold in most department stores, unlike some of the company's other fragrances. People seek this stuff out. And I should just add that the makeupalley reviewing public doesn't strike me as a demographic that hands out faint praise or minces words.

Crystal Noir is supposed to be a gardenia-centric fragrance, right? I don't get that. I get tropical, for sure, and nocturnal. But the tropics are darkened fruits, like succulent fig and plum and, say, grenadine-drenched coconut. For all that, there's a saltiness to the aroma. While it might be slightly candied, it has some weird, inexplicable savory undercurrent, creating an interesting tension throughout. It would smell good on a sweaty dance floor, wafting up from moist décolletage. It would smell just as good to me on a guy. I suppose there is that dread thing, the synthetic amber, here. I guess there would have to be. But isn't that the point? It corresponds with the sensibility. You don't get anything remotely like development. That's like asking Donatella to age in reverse. After a strong opening it is remarkably mellow. But if you've spent any time with the brand, you know better. You don't ask for much in your Versace fragrance; just that it might not be as bad as Versense. Crystal Noir isn't.


Carly said...

I have loved this fragrance for years. It went away for a while and came back as an EDT with a weird hairspray note at the beginning, so I buy the edp when I can. I have rarely replaced an empty bottle but this stuff is so damn good I've done it 3 times. I had a person who doesn't even wear perfume tell me this is the best thing she's ever smelled. I think the bottle is beautiful too.

I sometimes choose perfume based on the colors I am wearing that day and it is definitly a purple scent. The plum is so juicy and I love the coconut, and it does smell salty and very hot to me. The newer version is very perfumey at first but give it a chance and it could very well wow you. The first time my husband smelled this on me he said "forget that Musc Ravageur shit,THIS is what a woman should smell like" LOL!

brian said...

Okay, Carly, now I'm curious. It went away for a while? And came back as an EDT with a hairspray note. Those hairspray notes really do grab people the wrong way, though I for one have always loved the one in the Insolence EDT. This makes me want to try the EDP. What's the lasting power like?

Marko said...

No need to feel shame, Brian - VCN is creamy and dreamy, and favorite of mine (that I don't wear often enough).......but I have a different take on the fragrance. To me the fragrance smells like a Gardenia Pixie Stick (as if there were such a thing) rubbed into the skin of a sweaty child. That "salty" note that you talk about reminds me of the smell that emits from my friends' VERY active 5 year boy....after a day of running, biking, rolling and climbing. Little Ben never smells "funky" or like BO, but more so like wet salt (this must be a perceived/conceptual smell because, to the best of my knowledge, salt doesn't have a particularly strong odor - wet or dry).

VCN is a great scent and I always get compliments when I wear it (usually from men, believe it or fact, the last time I remember wearing VCN was last summer in the blazing So. Calif heat and stopped into Home Depot to pick up some items and 3 different guys asked me what what "aftershave" I was wearing.....)


Carly said...

The EDp starts off like the EDT ends, if that makes sense. And I think it skips the perfumey nonsense of the beginning and is mostly just the dreamy drydown. But it is quite tenacious and the silliage is fierce! This is what a real perfume should smell like!

BTW, I think the bright crystal was a dumbed downed version for all the people who are too scared to smell like anything;-)

Arachne said...

Ooh, I am right withcha in liking this. It was a dear friend's signature for a while so I really cant wear it myself, but I bought a mini anyway. Definitely a take-no-prisoners nasal assault, in the best possible sense.
Wear it in good health :)

Anonymous said...

CN is what perfume shud smell lyk dark and deliciously warm. Not many can pull this off!

Anonymous said...

hello, well I totally agree with what you said, I had the same feeling, never imagined I could like a Versace fragrance or anything, but against all odds, I really had a crush for this one! Guess it must be the "Donatella" thing, anyway I was really surprised, and slightly embarassed, to love this one, like with some kind of "cheap" celebrity frag. But the more I wear it, the more I love it, it's going to be one of my steady fragrances; but better in summer, for me this one really gives its best with hot temperatures, the gardenia-coconut accords are so sensual then, without being ever too cloying ot sickening sweet.

Anonymous said...

Lady Gaga's Fame should smell like this glorious scent instead of the pale offering as it is now. What a bloody shame...

Now back to the fragrance. An either love it or hate it fragrance thus, those who want something different and unique, will definitely seek this out. I love, love, love this fragrance. Too bad, when I discovered this gem, it is only offered in EDT. Am wondering how does the original EDP smells like though.