L’Artisan Parfumeur has the distinction of being one of the first niche fragrance houses. Founded in 1976, L’Artisan has been creating unique and high quality perfumes for almost fifty years, many of which – such as Timbuktu, Tea For Two, Dzing!, Passage d’Enfer, or La Chasse Aux Papillons – are now rightly considered classics.
Noir Exquis is one of the brand’s newer creations, having been released in 2015. How does it compare to L’Artisan’s other legendary fragrances?
L’Artisan Parfumeur Noir Exquis is a lovely gourmand vanilla scent full of warming notes like coffee, chestnut, and maple syrup. A high quality fragrance, Noir Exquis offers good performance, presentation, and value for money, making it a great addition to any vanilla lover’s collection.
Want to know more? Let’s take a closer look at L’Artisan Parfumeur’s Noir Exquis.
Top Notes: chestnut, orange
Middle Notes: maple syrup, orange blossom, coffee
Base Notes: vanilla, ebony, tonka bean, heliotrope, sandalwood
Noir Exquis is a gourmand fragrance through and through. If you’re not sure what a gourmand fragrance is, feel free to check out this article for more details.
Essentially, though, a gourmand fragrance is a scent with “foody” notes like vanilla, chocolate, and coffee. Some gourmand fragrances – like the fragrances from a brand called Kyse – are hyper-realistic and will have you smelling exactly like a cookie. Others, like Xerjoff Naxos are a bit more discreet about their gourmand leanings.
What camp does Noir Exquis fall into? Definitely the latter, rather than the former.
It is absolutely a gourmand fragrance, but it never forgets that it’s a perfume, not a holiday candle. The gourmand elements, such as coffee, chestnut, vanilla, and maple syrup, are front-and-center in the blend, but they’re cocooned with florals and woods and employed in such a way that they’re never too much – never too sweet, never too vanillic, never too juvenile or crass.
In line with L’Artisan’s long history, this is an exquisitely blended perfume created with a sense of elegance, sophistication, and care.
The opening is a broadside of juicy orange, powdery heliotrope and orange blossom, chestnut, and a deep, rich, almost boozy vanilla, reminiscent of real vanilla extract. Soon, though, everything starts to come into focus.
The orange fades, and the coffee starts to bubble up from beneath a golden haze of maple. This is not a harsh, bitter coffee like in By Kilian’s Intoxicated or Sebastiane’s Espresso Royale, but more like the pleasing whafts you might get when you come down for breakfast and a fresh pot of coffee has just been brewed. This coffee blends seamlessly with the chestnut and the thick, boozy, and slightly smoky vanilla.
As time goes on, the ebony wood comes more to the fore, and overall the fragrance becomes drier and less sweet. The heliotrope and orange blossom provide a lush, velveteen texture. Where other gourmand fragrances might eschew floral notes altogether, these flowers are used skillfully to add a suppleness to the fragrance that elevates it from a simple vanilla to something more complex and balanced.
What you’re left with for hours and hours after initial application is a warm, sensual vanilla flecked with coffee beans, white flowers, a drizzle (not too much) of maple syrup, and dry woods.
In a few words, Noir Exquis is: warm, sweet-but-not-too-sweet, smooth, sophisticated, smoky, floral, woody, and grown-up.
As is the case for all L’Artisan fragrances, the presentation of Noir Exquis is simple but chic.
The box of Noir Exquis is simple black cardboard, with the name of the fragrance and the brand on it. If you have the older packaging like I do, the name of the fragrance is written vertically in a gold box. If you have the newer packaging, the name of the fragrance is written horizontally on a white background. There are few additional accoutrements within, but hey, that’s fine by me.
The bottle is the same design as other L’Artisan hexagonally shaped bottles. There is a difference, however, between the black capped newer bottles and the gold capped older bottles (which I own).
One difference is of course the color. The older bottles are transparent, have a black label instead of a white label, and of course have a gold colored cap rather than a black cap. The new bottles have darker, tinted glass, a white label, and a black cap.
No matter which one you get, though, the formula is pretty much the same, and L’Artisan bottles are exquisite no matter what. My bottle is made of thick, weighty glass that feels super sturdy. The cap is metal and really snaps into place with a satisfying clink.
The whole thing feels like a great piece of craftsmanship that is going to stand up to whatever you throw at it. In fact, I dropped my bottle of Noir Exquis on my tile floor this morning when I was spraying it on, and from a height too. It was totally fine.
Overall, the presentation of Noir Exquis is streamlined and refined, with not a detail out of place.
The performance of Noir Exquis is somewhat restrained, in typical L’Artisan fashion.
The longevity of Noir Exquis is excellent.
Four to five sprays on my perfume-eating skin give me around eight to nine hours of longevity, and more on fabric.
No fragrance made by L’Artisan Parfumeur is a beast, especially since most are eaux de toilette. Noir Exquis, however, is an eau de parfum, and performs exactly how you might expect an EDP should. Don’t know the difference between an eau de toilette and an eau de parfum? Why not take a look at this article and find out?
In the end, though, eight to nine hours is more than enough for me. If you’re looking for greater longevity, you can always apply more.
Projection & Sillage
The projection and sillage of Noir Exquis are on the more discreet end of the spectrum.
Four to five sprays on my perfume-eating skin give me around an hour of soft projection and quiet sillage.
This is more of a personal fragrance than something that is going to fill up a room. I wouldn’t say that it’s a skin scent, because I do continuously pick up whiffs of it throughout the day whenever I move. However, it’s definitely the kind of fragrance that sits closer to the skin, and someone will need to get pretty close to you in order to smell it.
For some, including myself, that is actually a good thing, as I often like to wear quieter scents to work, especially during COVID time when most people won’t even be able to smell you.
For those looking for a fragrance with high longevity and more muted projection and sillage, Noir Exquis fits the bill to a tee.
Value For Money
The value for money for Noir Exquis, and for pretty much all L’Artisan fragrances, is quite good.
A 3.4 oz (100 ml) bottle of Noir Exquis retails for €145, or $163.76. That’s $1.63/ml.
That is fairly standard pricing for a niche fragrance. However, L’Artisan often runs sales on their products, and so it’s entirely possible to get Noir Exquis on a discount. Sometimes, a 1.7 oz (50ml) bottle (like the one I have) will also be available, so you might be able to get one of those for a lesser price.
Noir Exquis is also widely available on discount websites like FragranceNet or FragranceX.
At the time of writing, Noir Exquis is available on FragranceX for $108.52 USD. That’s $55.24 less!
I’ve also seen it go for less than that, so you can definitely find deals on Noir Exquis if you shop around.
Of course, some will consider that Noir Exquis might not be worth the money due to its relatively low projection and sillage. However, I think that the longevity, quality and beauty of the scent, and the presentation do make up for it.
Ultimately, you will have to decide for yourself whether you’re willing to fork over the coin for a more polite and personal scent like this. I found a deal on it, and am more than happy with it.
Who Would Like It
I would characterize Noir Exquis as an “adult” scent. I don’t mean that it smells “mature” or “old”; rather, it’s the kind of thing that you will only really be able to appreciate if you’ve spent more than a mere handful of orbits around the sun on this Earth.
You know, say, when you were a kid and you didn’t really like 85% dark chocolate because it was too bitter, and you preferred to eat the milk chocolate Oreo flavored chocolate instead? But now, as an adult, you kind of actually love and crave 85% dark chocolate? Noir Exquis is kind of like that.
Gourmand fragrances often get a bad wrap for being too “juvenile”, sweet, sugary, and not serious enough for us super serious straight-faced and straightlaced big boys and girls. To be honest, I kind of agree (not about the big boy part; fragrances could stand to be a little more fun), but about some of them being wayyyy too sweet and realistic for me.
Noir Exquis is a fragrance for people who might like the idea of gourmands, but don’t necessarily actually want to wear a gourmand. You get a gourmand experience here in an exceedingly tasteful package, presented with sophistication and elegance rather than punctilious realism.
So who would like Noir Exquis? Both people that like and don’t like gourmand fragrances; people that like vanilla or coffee in their fragrances; and people who can appreciate a perfume that is a little bit more pared down and artsy.
I would imagine that it would suit someone who is at least in their mid-20s and up; I don’t really see the 18-20 college club crowd gravitating towards this. Noir Exquis is also 100% unisex, and suits men and women equally well.
When To Wear It
Personally, Noir Exquis pretty much screams fall. For me, a fall fragrance should be a little bit drier than a winter fragrance, and focus on warmth, woods, spices, and earthy notes. While Noir Exquis is not really spicy or that earthy, it is warm, woody, and fairly dry, despite the boozy vanilla.
The nuttiness also brings to mind fall – walnuts or pecans roasting in the oven for use in pies and other baked goods. The coffee note, combined with the maple syrup, reminds me of eating a nice hearty bowl of oatmeal with a drizzle of syrup, washed down with a swig of coffee from my favorite mug, on a crisp, sunny autumn morning.
That being said, you could definitely wear Noir Exquis in the winter as well, though I don’t think that it would stand up particularly well to extreme cold. The chestnuts do call to mind winter time in Europe or in certain parts of the US, where chestnuts are roasted and sold on the streets and fill the air with their smoky, slightly sweet fragrance.
But for me, Noir Exquis is a fall fragrance through and through. Due to its polite performance, you could wear it almost anywhere – the office, on errands, casual hangouts, date nights, even formal occasions. It’s not a fragrance that is at all challenging or weird, and you might even get a compliment or two.
Noir Exquis has long been compared to By The Fireplace by Maison Martin Margiela, which shares notes of chestnut and vanilla. Personally, I don’t see it; By The Fireplace is way smokier and screechier to me, and I really don’t like it much at all. Still, it is one of the most popular designer fragrances in this genre, so if you’re looking for an (only slightly) cheaper option, you might check it out.
Bond No. 9’s I Love New York, Carner Barcelona’s El Born, Thierry Mugler’s A*Man Pure Tonka, and Penhaligon’s Babylon are all in the same kind of deep vanilla ballpark, but none really strike the same kind of balance that I enjoy in Noir Exquis.
I would say that there aren’t really any clones of Noir Exquis out there, but there are a lot of similar scents. If you’re unable to get a hold of Noir Exquis, then almost any of the above would be a good substitute.
Pros & Cons
- Rich and sophisticated vanilla fragrance
- Excellent packaging
- Pretty good value for money
- Performance is not the best, although longevity is quite good
- A somewhat muted experience; not a ton of “wow” factor here
- Not the most versatile fragrance
The Final Word
Overall, L’Artisan Parfumeur’s Noir Exquis is a high quality, rich, and elegant vanilla blend that pretty much any gourmand lover is going to appreciate. It offers good, if not superlative performance, excellent presentation, and is a decent value for money proposition for a niche fragrance. If you’re looking for a good niche vanilla fragrance, this is as good an option as any.
However, there is just something about it that keeps me from falling in love with it. I had a similar reaction to Penhaligon’s Babylon, a vanilla fragrance in a similar vein as Noir Exquis – while I definitely enjoyed wearing it and appreciated its quality and composition, it was just lacking that little bit of oomph to take it over the top.
Noir Exquis is a lovely perfume, but it’s just a bit too polite, too chic, too sophisticated, too safe. It’s missing that je ne sais quoi, that little bit of magic, that a fragrance like, say, Tea For Two, also from L’Artisan, has. So while I do enjoy Noir Exquis and am glad that I have it in my collection, it’s far from a masterpiece.
Still, for gourmand and vanilla perfume lovers looking for something a little bit more grown-up, Noir Exquis might be just the thing.
★★★★☆ 4 stars out of 5