Nombre Noir at The Perfumer's Studio

The Perfumer’s Studio is pleased to announce the inauguration of its ongoing exhibition program with a presentation of Nombre Noir, an exceptionally rare perfume from 1981.

Running through Dec. 22, the exhibition allows visitors to the gallery to experience what perfume critic Luca Turin dubbed one of the five greatest perfumes of all time in his book “The Secret of Scent.” Turin went on to call Nombre Noir “a radical surprise” and “an epiphany,” while Mark Behnke of Colognoisseur has said Nombre Noir is perfumery’s “equivalent to Citizen Kane.”

Perfume lovers the world over have sought this mythic unicorn of a fragrance for over three decades, with very few ever having smelled what is considered by many to be the holy grail of designer perfumery. Full bottles of Nombre Noir now sell at auction for upwards of $2,000.00, whenever they appear.

Developed under the creative direction of Serge Lutens for Japanese cosmetics giant Shiseido, the perfume apparently cost more to make than the company could charge for it. This was due, in large part, to the precious ingredients used in its creation — most notably, osmanthus — and a unique, stoppered black-glass bottle.

Already a losing proposition, when the bottles began to leak in transit, the company decided to discontinue the scent. 

Most accounts agree that the remaining bottles were recalled and then steamrollered, en masse. It has been said that Shiseido’s in-house perfumer at the time, Jean-Yves Leroy, committed suicide over the affair. Only Nombre Noir is linked to his name in existing perfumery databases. How much truth there is in either of these claims is still a matter of debate among connoisseurs.

Regardless of the legend, the fact remains that very few people at this remove in time have ever had a chance to experience Nombre Noir. And while perfume is by definition a fleeting proposition, a bottle of this rare fragrance on public display offers visitors a chance to decide for themselves whether or not Nombre Noir lives up to the hype.

Nombre Noir will be on view from Oct. 29 – Dec. 22, 2016 at The Perfumer’s Studio, 1343 N. Highland Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90028. The exhibition is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and admission is free.