Happy May Day, and welcome to the May Melange Marathon! In previous years, I have written blogging marathons in the month of May, celebrating the lovely lily of the valley in a “May Muguet Marathon“, and my beloved roses in a “Roses de Mai Marathon.” This year, I wanted to write about a number of the green fragrances I love, but I didn’t think I had enough to post about one daily for 31 days. Also, I have some new (to me) muguet and rose fragrances. So the solution is to go with the theme of “April showers bring May flowers” and write about a melange of scents that evoke different aspects of a garden, with a mix of florals and greens.
First up: Christian Dior’s La Colle Noire. Launched in 2016, it is named for the Provence estate of designer Christian Dior, outside the legendary perfume city of Grasse. One of the reasons that Grasse became so important in perfumery is the abundance and quality of the roses that are grown there for their essential oil, especially the “Rose de Mai”, or centifolia rose, also known as the Provence rose. Perfumer Francois Demachy wrote of La Colle Noire:
“In the springtime, the Centifolia Rose takes over the garden of La Colle Noire, Christian Dior’s beloved home in the Grasse region. It is an extraordinary time, when the flower’s plump, honeyed and fruity scent lingers in the air. This fragrance is an ode to that magical place and the unique rose that grows in the land of my childhood.”
Although M. Dior had been raised in Normandy, he loved Provence and the South of France. When he bought La Colle Noire in 1951, he set about creating spectacular gardens that reminded him of Normandy but also took advantage of the Provencal climate and sun, full of roses de Mai, lilies of the valley, Grasse jasmine, and his other favorites. LVMH, the conglomerate that owns Maison Dior, bought the estate in 2013 and set about restoring it to M. Dior’s original vision, including the gardens. It completed the work in 2016, when it launched the fragrance La Colle Noire, which is based on rose de Mai absolute.
The fragrance’s top notes are Black Currant and Lemon; middle notes are Rose, Peony, Raspberry, Lily-of-the-Valley and Peach; base notes are White Musk, Agarwood (Oud), Honey, Sandalwood and Amberwood. When first sprayed, the black currant and lemon burst with sunshine, like a sunny, breezy day in a garden. The rose is apparent from the very start, and takes center stage as the top notes drift away. It is a strong, fruity/spicy rose, very true to life. It is lively and silky, not stuffy at all. This is not your grandmother’s rose fragrance! The other middle notes of peony, raspberry, lily of the valley and peach all combine beautifully with the rose and set it off.
Real roses do actually have very complicated fragrances that combine many fruity and spicy notes. Different varieties of roses can smell very different from each other, though all recognizable immediately as “rose”. I grow a number of roses in my Southern garden, and I can go from one to another, smelling each, and detect how different they are, while still soaking up their undeniable “rosiness.” Some roses do have a strong tone of peony or raspberry fragrance. Lily of the valley and peach notes are more like companion plantings; their identifiable scents complement the rose and other notes.
One aspect I really enjoy about La Colle Noire is the way its woody notes ease forward as it dries down. Fear not — this is not a dreaded tidal wave of oud, a note I like but which I think has been terribly overdone in fragrance for several years, and sometimes just terribly done. Here, the oud is very soft and gentle, while still evident. It is softened by the notes of musk and honey, and complemented by sandalwood. The rose persists throughout the development of the fragrance. As much as I like the opening and love the middle of La Colle Noire, I must say that the drydown is very special and lovely. The garden evoked by La Colle Noire is complete: it has sun, a warm breeze, fruits and luscious flowers, woody stems and branches.
This is a very sophisticated, elegant, but lively rose fragrance. It doesn’t project very far, it wafts gently off the skin, but it has good longevity and I’m inclined to try it layered with a complementary body cream. I would love to be able to visit La Colle Noire in real life one day, as I have a great fondness for Provence, where my husband and I spent part of our honeymoon (including a visit to Grasse).