Following a path through the olfactory universe of hesperidia led me into a vast world, dotted with surprises, with citrus fruits. Finger lime, Buddha's hand fruit, Eureka lemon.... So many unusual varieties of citrus appealed to me, but it was the smoky and distinguished black lime that finally stood out as the key note. — Christine Nagel
When Hermès announced Eau de Citron Noir I was thrilled. It was (maybe) full of things I love: citrus galore, black tea, guaiac wood. My nose itched for a sniff but, wisely, I didn't just up and buy Eau de Citron Noir before smelling it. It has become my most recent and glaring example of the distance between desire and description — and reality.
Black lime (the dried fruit) as a perfume note intrigued me the most. These hard, charcoal-colored limes are used in Middle Eastern cuisine, and have a complex aroma: musty, fermented, charred, sweet and sour (think citrus-and-sugar-spiked rice vinegar); they smell like the inside of a well-used, wooden Indian spice box that's held a variety of spices for decades. In fact, smelling the dried limes might bring to mind (nose) a mild curry powder. (If you want to experience the aroma of black limes, buy some and start cooking!)
Eau de Citron Noir goes on sharp and alcohol-y and it takes some seconds before a lemon-lime-mandarin scent comes into focus. Eau de Citron Noir's citrus is on the warm side; this is no effervescing "cool" citrus perfume (the citrus is pretty "flat").
After about five minutes on skin, Eau de Citron Noir provides some herbal notes: sometimes these smell like tarragon to me, at other times there's a hint of sweetest-freshest, bright-green chive (that some may associate with 'sweat'). There's a faint smoke-menthol note that I can smell only if I put nose to skin (this is as close as Eau de Citron Noir gets to "black lime").
At the 20-minute mark on my skin, there's a sea change. A synthetic wood-musk scent comes to the fore and leads to the problematic, and longest lasting, part (for me) of Eau de Citron Noir: its stale-smelling base of exhausted citrus, old moss and cheap wood aromas. This aspect of the fragrance reminded me of tons of other men's "mall" fragrances, many in the sports category. Online perfume commenters have compared Eau de Citron Noir to Bleu de Chanel and Dior Sauvage. To me, Eau de Citron Noir is less complex (and less interesting) than Bleu de Chanel but not so "dire" as god-awful Sauvage. Eau de Citron Noir is an average cologne: sporty and dull. It smells more masculine than feminine to me, and it lasts a LONG time on skin.
(Here's hoping a perfumer takes the black lime theme to the extreme.)
Hermès Eau de Citron Noir is available in a limited edition 50 ml size ($95), and in 100 ($130) and 200 ml ($175) Eau de Toilette.