Coco Noir (Chanel)

My pal BB loves her some Chanel Coco, boy. She straight-up LIVES for the stuff. So when I apprise her of the impending release of Coco Noir, she squeals as if she's just received backstage passes for the Second Coming. Could that mid-'80's Empress of the Orient really be reborn-- darker, richer, more opulent, more dangerous? Speed the day!

With the issuance of the official notes list, BB's joy is no longer unalloyed. Grapefruit? What? All expectations of extra-dark chocolate and mesmerizing incense suddenly dissipate... replaced by the wariness of the once-burnt-twice-shy.

Remember the debut of Coco Mademoiselle? I don't. Despite last year's Chanel Week, I've never really followed the ups and downs of that house's fortunes. But for BB, a shiny new Chanel launch triggers a tempest of excitement-- and in Coco Mlle's case, a subsequent fury of pure, white-hot hatred. "Oh, Coco Mademoiselle is just perfect," she says, "if you happen to be be an elderly prostitute." Naturally, I can't wait for her to take on Noir. I admit to priming the vitriol pump by feeding BB bits and pieces from newly-published blog reviews, most of which express a range of opinion from "feh" to "meh".

Yet hope remains while the company is true...

Nice try, Galadriel.

One fateful day at work, BB hands me a scent strip. "It's SO much worse than we imagined," she whispers, motioning to me to lower my nose to the paper. The scent radiating upward at me is one-third acid fruit, one-third patchouli, one-third shampoo. I feel confused. I feel dizzy. I feel slightly nauseated.

"Exactly,"BB hisses and stalks away.

All day long, that scent strip lies on my desk, giving off a spectrum of odors, none of which I can imagine putting on my skin. Not that I'd need to-- even on cardboard, Coco Noir is so cloying and powerful I can smell it from two yards away. (I'm surprised my officemates didn't ask me to dispose of it outside. I would not have argued.)

Strangest of all is the way Coco Noir speeds from peppy girlhood to querulous old age, barely stopping for breath. It starts off all fruity-froufrou, overflowing with youthful brio, but in no time at all it devolves into narrowed eyes, dry martinis, and a triple-strand choker of matronly pearls. In its journey from Lea Michele to Barbara Bush Sr., it somehow never manages to be appropriate for any age, let alone all ages-- and there is one particular age it avoids like the plague. If that expansive, self-assured elegance that the original Coco encapsulated represents a woman's confident middle years, Coco Noir flies right over it without ever touching ground. (Ditto Coco Mademoiselle, who is still traumatized from contemplating the approach of her -- gulp! -- thirtieth birthday.)

Two days later, the aroma saturating my scent strip remains oddly unfaded. BB reports that she stashed hers deep down in her purse, which is now ruined. If it won't air out, she may have to pitch it in a dumpster.

Oh, BB, I feel your pain. Now look-- you've made ME verklempt! I'm sorry, everyone. Talk amongst yourselves. I'll give you a topic: Coco Noir lacks both Coco and Noir. Discuss.

Scent Elements: Grapefruit, bergamot, rose absolute and essence, jasmine absolute, narcissus, geranium leaf, tonka bean, patchouli, sandalwood, Bourbon vanilla, white musk, frankincense