Balmain creative director, Christophe Decarnin,* had a hand (and, presumably, his nose) in the creation of Parfums Balmain’s new (2010) men’s scent Carbone de Balmain:
Decarnin’s Balmain man is sexy and mysterious. He strolls nonchalantly through the city with glam rock elegance. Flashiness goes hand in hand with an ambiguous dark side that often pushes him to the limits of extravagance and provocation. He is demanding and aesthetic and considers art as a core value. He lives in the heart of new technologies, surrounding himself with works of art and objects of graphic design, carved from high-tech materials, as precious and as dark as carbon. Urbane and sophisticated, he is an epicurean who burns with a contagious passion for life. Carbone is a fragrance that develops like a work of art which quietly and secretly casts its spell.
Mysterious and nonchalant, yet…provocative and demanding, elegant, yet…flashy and extravagant, the Carbone de Balmain man is an epicure who values ART, but limits himself to the color black (imagine the overabundance of carbon-colored tech-y objects in his “dark side” apartment). Truly, the Carbone de Balmain man is a man of many contradictions, and he sounds like a perfectly annoying, self-absorbed “character” fit for yet another banal Bravo TV 'reality' series about “rich people.” (Take a look at the “tantrum” image from Carbone de Balmain advertising! WHO thought a squalling man-child was attractive?)
Though I roll my eyes at the Carbone man, I really like “his” perfume. Carbone de Balmain, developed by perfumer Nathalie Lorson, includes notes of Bourbon pepper, elemi resin, green ivy, black fig, frankincense, benzoin, musk, vetiver, “dry and woody” notes and “black vanilla pod.” Carbone de Balmain opens with warm, smooth black pepper, elemi, and frankincense (not smoky or “ashy,” but resinous). What comes next is a linear accord that presents, in dim sparkles and glints, all the other notes: especially a “dense” fig note, lovely incense-y benzoin/vanilla and vetiver. Carbone de Balmain’s aromas are calm (“meditative”), uncomplicated, and charming (the exact opposite of our Balmain PR character.) I would describe Carbone de Balmain as a demi-incense/“base notes” fragrance; the accent is on warm, mildly sweet, subdued aromas. The perfume dries down to a subtle, slightly woody benzoin note. If you love incense fragrances, or simply want a “starter” incense perfume, do try Carbone de Balmain (it’s suitable for men or women).
Carbone de Balmain has good lasting power and sillage; it’s not readily available in the U.S.except through Internet retailers. (First-in-Fragrance in Germany sells samples and 100 ml bottles.) Carbone de Balmain Eau de Toilette comes in 40 (€37) or 100 ml (€68).
Balmain’s perfume license holder will change in January 2012 (from the low-profile Empire of Scents to Inter-Parfums Inc.) If you absolutely love a Balmain perfume in its current state, it may be wise to stock up now to pre-empt discontinuation or reformulation.
Note: top image is Allotropes of Carbon [cropped] via Wikimedia Commons.
* Update: Decarnin was replaced by Olivier Rousteing in 2011.