Fragrance Review: Lalique Encre Noire

Lalique Encre Noire

In modern-day perfumery, vetiver fragrances seem to have become the alternative for men who are sick and tired of Cool Water and its innumerable shower-gel-like successors which dominate the men’s fragrance market. Aftershaves based on the vetiver note still tend to smell both fresh and pleasing enough to evoke the image of a man who’s just stepped out of the shower, but they lack the obnoxious, in-your-face quality of the common deo spray charm of a masculine fragrance. That’s why so many men reach for aftershaves like Terre d’Hermès, Guerlain’s Vetiver or Cartier’s Déclaration to get something different, if not quite extravagant.

Encre Noire - the dark and earthy vetiver


That being said, there’s hardly a vetiver fragrance for men the likes of Encre Noire Eau de Toilette, Lalique’s take on the dark, bitter, inky quality of the vetiver scent. Having been introduced to the market in 2006, it most definitely has the potential to prop up your ego with extra confidence, but there is very little bright and carefree about it. While it might have the capacity to seduce, it’s also intimidating in equal measure.


The dark, barely see-through and utterly minimalistic glass bottle isn’t the only thing about Encre Noire that can bring up images of quills and secret manuscripts. The very name of the fragrance - Black Ink - hints at the creative idea breathed into molecules, the one conceived by stellar perfumer Nathalie Lorson. The idea of something mysterious to the point of potentially swerving just a tad to the creepy side. The idea of summer nights spent scavenging old castle ruins and sleeping under the stars in the middle of the woods… all right, maybe not quite as heavy on the gothic novel feeling, but you get the gist.


Encre could indeed scare you at first sniff. The initial outburst of strangely acrid cypress is almost enough to make you dizzy, but it calms down in a matter of minutes and rolls out into a greenish woody scent with a distinct earthiness to it. It’s grass, but not of the freshly-cut and juicy green variety. It’s the roots, the soil enveloping them and the bitter freshness seeping through it all. The body of the scent then gets progressively rounder and smoother before turning a bit green again in the drydown. If you spray it into the sleeves of your jacket, you’ll be able to enjoy the pleasant mellowing of the fragrance for days to come.

Not a shy creature


So what kind of a man (or a woman) is most likely to suit Encre Noire? First of all, even though the fragrance does boost up self esteem on its own, it will no doubt work better if there’s already something to build on. Put quite simply, if you’re planning on giving it a go, the idea of standing out should not be a frightening notion to you. Encre will draw attention. Encre will make a few people do a double take while they’re passing you in the street. It is not a shy creature, and neither should you be.


On the other hand, don’t simply imagine some animalistic beast akin to Yves Saint Laurent’s Kouros. We’re talking about a different kind of power here, more botanical in its nature. By now it should be pretty clear that Encre Noire is by no means a light weight among aftershaves, and although it doesn’t punch quite as hard as some of the really heavy fragrances out there, its might is to be reckoned with and it’s probably not the best one to buy completely unsniffed. At the very least you should first see how you like the more subtle vetivers that are readily available everywhere, the ones reminiscent of salty breeze and warm pebbled beaches, and then imagine the same thing with the relative atomic mass of polonium.

Unique and affordable aftershave


There is perhaps only one fragrance which treats vetiver in a similar way - Sycomore, one of Chanel’s elusive and sophisticated Les Exclusifs. Encre, however, sits at an entirely different price point while not lacking anything a refined fragrance should have. This fact might go some way in explaining why it’s been unwaveringly popular with customers despite being a bit of an acquired taste – people try it as an affordable way to sample something different, and then simply fall in love with it. While it was joined by the female version called  Encre Noire Pour Elle in 2006, the two bear very little resemblance and don't speak to the same kind of a perfume lover, be it a man or a woman.


That is the ultimate magic of Lalique Encre Noire. It doesn’t need marketing hype to be successful, it sells itself with what it truly is: By far one of the best vetiver fragrances you can get your hands on.