Chocolate is a challenging note. The sweet chocolate with which we are familiar is created with the help of vanillin, a principle odorant of vanilla that is used to flavour chocolate, but tuning that up alone would make for an intensely sweet milky bar. The rich overtones of fruits, flowers, spices, and woods are needed to bring out a grand cru chocolate, but the dense note of cocoa can also mask these, leaving the composition flat. For this reason, I am amazed by the sumptuous chocolate accord in Noir Aphrodisiaque (by Kilian, 2016) replete with complexity and glow.
The subtle layers of notes add to the nuances of dark chocolate, making it rich and decadent. Bergamot, juicy lemon, and citron provide a bright prelude that quickly makes way for the confection. Chilly iris lends its cool, dusty texture of chocolate, whilst fruity jasmine bestows its voluptuous, narcotic scent. A dusting of cinnamon serves as a spicy contrast that balances the languorous richness. It feels as though I had just had a bite into Choc-Abricot of Sprüngli: the dried apricots reveal their intense fruity and floral notes wrapped in bitter-sweet chocolate from Santo Domingo cacao.
These largely confer refinements to the chocolate, but the secret to a bitter chocolate impression lies in patchouli. Its warm, woody, balsamic facet is the perfect foil for the chilly, dusty iris, and its diffusiveness helps lift the composition. The effect is similarly observed in Dior Homme (2005), Coromandel (Chanel, 2007), and Borneo 1834 (Serge Lutens, 2005).
As it develops, it furthers explores the nuances and becomes most addictive. The bitter chocolate impression led by patchouli is softened by creamy and tantalising smoky notes. Here, sandalwood provides the milky chocolat chaud fantasy and tonka bean lends the sweetness and warmth of toasted almonds. The dark woody tang contrasted by a mellow baked good suggestion keeps the dry down engaging and airy.
Perfumer Calice Becker authored Noir Aphrodisiaque, and her signature luminosity and layered complexity are telltale. It is chocolate from beginning to end, but it does not feel dense and flat. Instead, it peels away in layers to reveal nuances of citrus, floralcy, spice, wood, and vanillic sweetness. It is polished and each transition seamless. I can imagine wearing it at just about any occasion; it is just as alluring and elegant.