Narcissus: Notes on Notes

Hello APJ, Welcome to our small scale collaboration project. Old Herbaceous (OH) of Serenity Now Scents and Sensibilities and I will be doing a monthly post on different perfume notes. We are not perfumers but aficionados of fragrance. So lots of our information will come with links for further reading or text references. We are learning as you are learning, or refreshing.

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Narcissus: Notes on Notes

This month I picked the note, Narcissus. Though I’d loved perfumes that contained Narcissus it wasn’t a big player, or looked for note. In nature I love daffodils and jonquils and their heady scent in late winter always made me smile and some of the more fragrant specimens would make me swoon. Having just been wandering the parklands of London last week the daffodils and jonquils were in riotous display. We had Daffodil `Erlicheer` in the garden growing up. I remember Mum putting one stem in a vase in the entryway at a time. That one flowering stem would perfume the whole house. The memory brings back so many happy reminiscences. Scent is such a gateway.

Narcissus: Notes on Notes

What is Narcissus? The perfume note is from the jonquil. A fragrant, flowering bulb that comes in many species and varieties. Interestingly Wikipedia notes that it is a native of Spain and Portugal but most histories note the Arabs as the first fragrant adopters.

How does Narcissus smell? Though I had in later years come to like the smell of narcissus in fragrance it wasn’t until CB I Hate Perfume brought out their 401 Narcissus Absolute that I finally fell under its spell. Ferociously feral, wild, untamed and glorious yellow floral madness. Suddenly the awesome beauty of the scent was unleashed with no holds barred. It’s green, sappy, breathy, poopy and clear. As cold as iced water and as bracing as jumping in. All the things you love about white florals x 10 to the points of attack. It takes hours for the crystalline terror to soften and warm through.

How is Narcissus used in perfumery?  The Perfume Society gives this potted history: The Arabs used it in perfumery, then the Romans, who created a perfume called Narcissinum with the oil from what’s become one of our favourite modern flowers.  In India, meanwhile, narcissus one of the oils applied to the body before prayer, along with jasmine, sandalwood and rose.  (Nobody’s quite sure where the first flowers were grown;  some believe it originated in Persia, and made its way to China via the Silk Route.)
Such a show stopping note it makes an excellent feature but Narcissus also plays well in ensemble.

In which perfumes will you find Narcissus? Though I have a few Narcissus fragrances the two I think are best in show around here are Caron Infini and Hermès Eau de Narcisse Bleu. I wish I could have found my CB 401 Narcissus decant to add to them today.


Narcissus Notes on Notes

Caron Infini

For many years the fact that Infini is a Narcissus fragrance passed me by. Maybe the huge hit of aldehydes and bouquet of flowers concealed the star attraction for me. Once I understood that it’s Narcissus playing starring role Infini became even more beloved. Buoyed up by white flowers and a dry, cool iris and underscored by amber rich with animalics Infini is a classic. Created in 1970. The bottles I’m wearing from tonight are definitely from the 20th century, the EdT feels like it’s from the 1970s but all the important info on the underneath label has been lost to time. Pretty sure the musk and civet are the real deal, it’s so bloody entrancing.

Hermès Eau de Narcisse Bleu

An aquatic narcissus. Arctic cold and with citrus overtones Eau de Narcisse Bleu takes me by surprise with its modern take on the note. Very stylistically cologne but with some of the raw power of narcissus, shorn and tamed of its more confronting bits. We are left with an idea of the Narcissus myth where a great beauty became entranced with his reflection in a pond. There he planted himself and became the flowering bulb, forever able to gaze at his gorgeousness every spring. There is the water, nearby woods and a waft of humanity.

Please go check out Serenity Now Scents and Sensibilities and see what OH has to add to the Notes on Notes about Narcissus.

What are your favourite fragrances with Narcissus listed as a note?
Portia xx

15 thoughts on “Narcissus: Notes on Notes

  1. Ahhhhh …. I’ve said this before …. Infini is one of my all time favourites! People literally followed me whenever I wore this, asking me what the beautiful perfume was. I so adored it. I still have a bottle but haven’t found it since our house move. It was my signature scent.

    Max Factor, many decades ago, produced Jonquil – it had a cheerful yellow plastic cap shaped like a daffodil, and the fragrance was equally happy, and just right for wearing to school.

    You were in London???! Hope you had a great time. x


  2. Very interesting article on the narcissus note. This is a bit of a rarer one; I only have one narcissus scent in my regular collection: Eau de Narcisse Bleu. I find it pretty strong-smelling, and don’t wear it much.

    I did have a very vintage bottle of Narcisse Noir. It was unopened, in the black box, with the bakelite cap and gold disc. I sold that on without opening it, because I just could not bring myself to crack the seal on something that I would never use up.

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  3. This piece sent me scuttling to Fragrantica to check out Narcissus perfumes in their database. Why? I thought I found narcissus a difficult note with some rare exceptions.
    How wrong I was! Narcissus is in nearly every vintage floral. Seems it’s one of the notes that “gives good skank” without actually smelling of well used kitty litter.

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  4. My front yard has multiple varieties of daffodil/ narcissus- all done for the season now. Such a wonderful way to greet spring. My favorite fragrance is Ostara. I have but a small decant but will use it up completely over time. Love wearing in spring.

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