Good perfume is very much like classical music - all the notes are harmoniously composed in a way that elicits deep and genuine emotional responses. There is no price tag on emotion; one is either excited, or dissuaded, and no degree of fanciness can change it. Therefore, the pedigree of a perfume is not measured in dollars and cents, but in how effectively it impels others through its artfulness of smell.
In exploring perfumes, I'm often surprised by how inexpensive the successes are. Guerlain's Vetiver, for example, is quite inexpensive at about $20 an ounce. Yet it stands as one of the most famous reference vetivers of all time. Cool Water is another landmark fragrance that can be had for the price of a cab ride. Even some upscale niche scents are reasonable - 2.5 ounces of Royal English Leather is still well under $200. All things considered (it's 2011 people), that's pretty good.
So it wasn't a surprise to me that Narcisse by Chloé is a cheapie. The fragrance is incredibly lush, complex, and inspirational, and it joined a wave of '90s florals in setting a new standard for everyday women's-wear. By 1992, dry chypres for women were dead, but the classically-inspired floral arrangements that replaced them were masterpieces of their own. Narcisse (alongside Tommy Girl and Pleasures) is one of them.
I fine Narcisse to be very feminine, enough to discourage me from wearing it. If I were to vacation in Dubai or Calcutta, I might reconsider. There are places where sweet florals that border on being orientals are commonplace on men, but Connecticut isn't one of them. Nevertheless, I consider Narcisse to be beauty in a bottle. First, let me say for the record that it's an incredibly strong scent. I don't recommend liberal application, unless you don't mind being arrested for disturbing the peace.
I mentioned in my review of Passion for Men that its limited budget is evident not in scent quality, but in strength; the same is true in regards to Narcisse, except unlike the Taylor scent, Chloé's is too heavily concentrated. Makes me wonder how much it costs to pay the guy who determines the concentration of fragrances. I'd like to be that guy.
Narcisse is sweet, warm, juicy, and full-bodied. It's one ripe perfume, and I mean that in the best way possible. The apricot and pineapple are inseparable in the opening, but they infuse the notes of marigold and plumeria with a velvety smoothness that holds up well as the perfume dries down. Eventually the gardenia/carnation/narcissus accord blooms brightly, producing a thick, heady floral aroma, tinged with spices.
Nothing smells overproduced here - just rich. The effect is something that both warms and brightens its wearer. Later, daffodil and rose assert themselves against a creamy base of vanilla, orange blossom, balsam, and sandalwood. With its overt white florals, Narcisse smells a trifle dated in style (I'm flooded with images of Hillary and Chelsea Clinton waving from the White House lawn), but also sexual, and affable enough for today. I'd stick with a lady who wore this.
Are there still ladies who wear this? There must be. It's still on the market, and it's still affordable. It's also, incredibly, one of the only laudable things to come out of 1992. Sorry, Angel fans. And Lutens fans. And Safari fans.
Okay, okay. Other great things came out in 1992.