One of the things that became clear to me as I worked on the recent 100 Fragrances Every Perfumista Should Try article was just how many perfume brands are entirely off my radar. It has been some time since I could claim to own anything that might be called a "working memory", so I keep notes on every fragrance I test whether I mention the scent here or not. Under Paco Rabanne there is: nada.
I suppose I ought to start with a Paco Rabanne classic (surely I must have smelled Calandre at some point in my life?) but instead I'm starting with the latest release: Black XS For Her, the follow up to 2005's Black XS For Him. If you couldn't tell from the ad visual that Black XS For Her was intended for a young audience, the tag line "for trendy girls and rebel princesses" might clue you in.
Black XS For Her was developed by perfumers Emilie Coppermann and Mark Buxton; the notes include tamarind blossom, pink peppercorns, cranberry, hellebore rose, black violet, cacao flower, massoia wood, patchouli and vanilla. The tamarind and cranberry provide a nice tartness to the top notes, but Black XS For Her starts out sweet and full, and it pretty much stays that way. The heart smells like flowers liberally sweetened with vanilla cream (and a smidgen of chocolate); the dry down is dark ambery-musky woods, squeaky-clean patchouli and more of the vanilla, very smooth and creamy, but with a bit of a spicy bite.
The whole thing is too sweet for my tastes — I liked it considerably better layered over Black XS For Him, although the sillage of the two sprayed together is potent — and I'm thinking I might not have liked to try it in hot weather, but in December, it has a nice warmth and depth to it, and it has something else missing from so many "rebel princess" fragrances: personality. Something about Black XS (it might have been nothing more than the patchouli and the chains around model Bianca Balti's neck) reminded me of Diesel Fuel For Life, so I sprayed that on too. After a half an hour, Diesel Fuel For Life smells pleasant but faceless, like one too many focus groups had their say in the matter. Black XS For Her fairly sizzles in comparison.
Paco Rabanne Black XS For Her is available in 30, 50 and 80 ml Eau de Toilette and in Spray Deodorant, Shower Gel and Body Lotion. It has launched overseas (where it is Black XS Pour Elle), but does not officially reach the United States until next year.