Back then, even with warning the first experience of Black was disarming. Hot asphalt, engine oil on roughened hands, leached pools of purplish petrol on pavement, acrid smoke hanging around a turning engine on a winter morning. I remember finding it interesting, arresting even, but not remotely wearable – it was too confrontational, too aggressive – too masculine, mostly.
As is the way with anything, or anyone possessing a striking quality you can neither quite place nor put down, it replayed itself to me over and over. The first perfume I wanted to extend beyond a simple yes/no – I wanted to understand it; it teased me into time with it. For quite a long time, I didn’t see more than an academic appeal to it (expressive olfactory idea, technically brilliant.) And then late one summer’s night, I was sitting out the last gasps of a party. I’d gone inside at some point, snuck upstairs to find someone or something, and along the way I’d found a bottle of Black. I popped a bit on my hand for old times, and headed back outside to sit under the stars and let the warm night and the wine pack me off to oblivion.
Not long after that, I must have brushed my hand up against my face and then – it just hit me, all of a sudden. This thing.. God, this thing is amazing – exactly what I’d been looking for. In that moment it all clicked into place as if some missing component suddenly sparked up. Maybe I needed time to come around to the scent itself, or perhaps it was a little step in self-awareness and I’d abruptly recognised some part of myself within it (I think a big part of developing your sense of smell, and exploring your taste in fragrance goes hand in hand with self discovery, actually. It’s an elongated, luxuriant process in feeling out facets of your character, getting to know yourself and crucially, being honest too. It is after all, about learning how to be comfortable within your own skin.)
Beneath that veneer of puncture repair kit, Black is a neo-classical fragrance. Dynamic but understated, edgy but poised. It’s undeniably urban but in that tarry translucency it harbours a wink to the heritage leathers like Bandit and Tabac Blond. Full of space and crepuscular spectra, it softens from its initial nip through layers of instrumental texture – bitter-powdery, sooty and soft with a tannic edge that hangs transparent in the air around the wearer in a gently flexing, hooping arch. A fluid evolution from overlaid crackling, reedy (record-like) qualities to a velveteen expanse of shade rising up like the slowly surfacing ripples of a depth charge. It evokes rain and the London sky at night, the blinking ostinato of city lights from a train. It’s the muffled pulse of baselines throbbing out from nightclub walls into chilly halogen backstreets and ‘driving fast on empty roads with nothing in mind except falling in love and not getting arrested.’ (Hunter S. Thompson)
While it has a distinctive edginess, even an avant-garde quality, it’s not an angular scent (in a way, it should feel lonelier than it does.) Instead it ultimately yields into something intimate and clandestine, a slightly salty, warm trail on the skin reminiscent of cigarettes, city air and night walks. Of unfamiliar and dimly lit hotel rooms, that charged frisson of part-time lovers and the lovely urgency of stolen hours together. A reminder that ambiguity is wedded to allure: Black is something that doesn’t purport to romance, but succeeds in it nonetheless. I love it.