Monday, February 28, 2011

Lancome - Magie Noir (Vintage)

Beautiful Witch

Magie Noir was launched in 1978. The generous JoanElaine at Redolent of Spices recently sent me  a vintage sample of it that has me bewitched.

Although it's classified at an oriental floral by Fragrantica, to me Magie Noir smells like a chypre. Its opening notes are those of a traditional chypre base. Dark, mossy and bitter, the opening of Magie Noir slaps you in the face with its "chypre-ness" and a healthy animal note of civet. She growls.

The earthy darkness of the opening stays throughout, but Magie Noir's gorgeous bitchiness softens after a few minutes. It has a sort of backwards progression from that of most perfumes. After opening with traditional base notes, honey, fruit, and flowers join Magie Noir and seem to smooth out her mood. Nevertheless, it still feels like the fruit and flowers are under the base notes, not the other way around. The red and black fruit, cassis and raspberry, are present but only if you smell closely. From arms length, I still smell mostly the patchouli and oakmoss.

The florals of Magie Noir are subtle but wonderfully complicated. I think I can smell hints of narcissus and a spicy greeness from hyacinth and galbanum. These notes make it a spring time perfume for me. Magie Noir reminds me of early spring, when the everything is still chilly and dark, but the daffodils and hyacinths are just beginning to sprout out of the black earth.

In the end, Magie Noir reverses direction and goes back to base notes of amber, and wood. Like an unpredictable woman, she keeps you guessing.

Unfortunately, Magie Noir has been reformulated and it has suffered. The current formula is harsh and chemical in the opening notes. I can see how the basic structure of dark notes over fruit and florals has been imitated, but the magic is gone. There is something sour about the fruit, and the dark base notes are not as rich, missing the oakmoss and civet. Only after the dry down does the new version become a tolerable, if slightly powdery, facsimile of the original. It's a loss.

House: Lancome
Nose:  Gérard Coupy
Notes: cassis, raspberry, galbanum, hyacinth, bergamot, bulgarian rose, honey, tuberose, jasmine, ylang ylang, lily of the valley, orris, cedar, narcissus, spices, sandalwood, amber, patchouli, musk, civet, oakmoss, vetiver.
Where to buy: skip the new stuff and try to find the vintage online.


  1. Oh, I agree: it's a chypre, baby. The vintage stuff "eats my head" to the degree that if I'm wearing it, I cannot think of anything else. Which does sort of limit its wearability, but that's okay, my stash is quite limited.

  2. I've been curious about this one, so thanks for the review. I *need* a bitchy perfume!

  3. OMG! This is one of my immortals for a reason - it's that good and THAT compelling! I can't imagine life without it - and so I hold on to my vintage version as best I can, use (very) sparingly and...wisely, too! So sexy, it's very distracting - and any resistance will be - futile! ;)

  4. I am glad to hear about the big difference between old and new. I hated the new Magie Noir, your review tells me why. A loss, indeed.

  5. This was my mother's perfume for many years. Wasn't Gérard Coupy its creator?

  6. Thanks Vintage Lady, I'll add that in!

  7. Amazing review, K. Looks like despite her bitchiness, Magie Noire and you have become very good friends. Everybody has a bitchy friend they love, don't they?

    Magie Noire is such an oddity to me. It's not like anything I have ever smelled. When I wear it, it's just like Muse said, it "eats my head". I love MN with a passion, and wear it only when nothing is required of me, when I laze about and do whatever I want/nothing.

    Is that Elizabeth Montgomery? MEOW!

  8. Hi JoanElaine! Yes, that's Elizabeth Montgomery. I wanted to be her when I was a kid.

  9. Magie Noire was quite bewitching in its day -- you captured it perfectly! I used to buy it for my mother back in the early 90s, for her birthdays and such.

    Love that you paired your review with a photo of Elizabeth Montgomery. Wasn't she beautiful! I used to idolize her too.

  10. I don't remember this bottle particularly, but in my pre-perfumista days, when I only owned one bottle of perfume at a time, and only applied it on high days and holidays, Magie Noire was what I wore in the mid-80s or so. Would it have smelt as you describe, or would that have been a later formulation already?!

  11. I had a wee bit of the vintage at one time, a decant from a friend that wore this as signature.
    I now have a new bottle. I don't mind the reformulated but it isn't the same. I would actually really love it if I didn't have those distinct memories of the original in my mind.


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