Louis Vuitton - Matiere Noire & Nouveau Monde Review
Louis Vuitton’s recent perfume collections were, you might say, a long time coming. Conceived in 2012, the first collection took four years to finalise. Released in 2016, it had been a full 70 years since the release of the last perfume to carry the Louis Vuitton name, though what that smelt like is anyone’s guess. The aptly named ‘Eau De Voyage’ was never sold in large quantities upon its initial release and it disappeared quickly thereafter. The 1980’s saw a short lived re-imaging for the scent until it’s rapid discontinuation and it has been permanently defunct since. Whatever the reason for the house to chose not to re-enter the market, Louis Vuitton has been swimming largely against the tide and until these new collections, was one of the only large fashion houses to not have a current line of perfumes. So, in 2012, when they hired Jacques Cavallier to correct the situation and create a new collection, it was kind of a big deal. “Project Grasse”, as Cavallier and Co. called it during development, had a lot to live up to. Many onlookers were quick to write off the collection amid suggestions that the house would play it safe, as many large houses like to do when they see perfume as a marketing obligation rather than true brand extension. Others, however, saw the hiring of Cavallier, the man who had launched ‘L’eau d’Issey’ to an unsuspecting market in 1991, as a sign that Louis Vuitton were just maybe in this to create a collection with a little more integrity.
For a collection with this pedigree behind it then, it is perhaps somewhat peculiar that the seven Louis Vuitton fragrances launched in 2016, to a muted crowd. Even now, three years on, one does not hear much pomp or fanfare concerning the collection and many might even be surprised to know that a second collection became available two years later. Launched in 2018, this second collection was a counter-balance to the seven feminine fragrances of the first collection, filling the houses perfume line out with five new masculine scents. In the year following, a further seven unisex releases have wound up in boutiques around the world, though some are exclusive to region. It is perhaps this exclusivity that has tempered the interest. With availability narrowed to Louis Vuitton boutiques, fragrances in this situation can and often do, fly a little more under the radar than those available in department stores.
Today, we’re going to have a closer sniff of two scents. The first, ‘Matiere Noire’ launched in the original ‘feminine’ collection of 2016 alongside ‘Apogee’, ‘Contre Moi’, ‘Dans La Peau’, ‘Mille Feux’, ‘Rose Des Vents’ &‘Turbulences’. The second, ‘Nouveau Monde’, released in 2018 as a masculine scent alongside ‘Au Hasard’, ‘L’immensite’, ‘Orage’ & ‘Sur Le Route’. Truth be told, they are both perfectly unisex to my nose. Upon first glance, both look almost identical, with all the Louis Vuitton scents arriving in the same classic, minimalist, apothecary-style bottles. Across the front of all the scents the name of the fragrance is printed in the characteristic Louis Vuitton block capitals, whilst the actual brand name rises up from the glass below in a very understated, but infinitely stylish manner. The only tell to set the collections apart is the LV logo which adorns the lid of each; the feminine collection a gold, whilst the masculine a cool gunmetal silver. All the scents are packaged in an understated, plain white cylindrical tube, similar to those of the Christian Dior Privee Collection.
The opening of Matiere Noire is much softer than one might imagine after looking at the note listing. The immediate accord that stands out to me, is the ever so gently powdery smelling rose and the jammy blackcurrant accord. It’s a sudden burst of Turkish rose drenched in fruit syrup. This very quickly drops back and balances itself with the other florals, as Narcissus pulls out in front and a quiet, gently smoked, suede-like oud tucks in behind the composition alongside a light benzoin that backs the whole thing up, supporting the light florals. The so-called “watery notes” are subtle, not the aquatic watercolours of a Jean Cluade Ellena effort, nor the saturating water of Zoologists Dragonfly, rather it’s an abstract aldehylic impression that remains barely perceptible. Within ten minutes, the Jasmine, Cyclamen and Narcissus begin to dominate the centre ground and bring an indolic dirtiness to the table. This is absolutely not a polite floral and whilst it maintains a sophisticated edge, it equally manages an enigmatic, seductive raunch below the surface. This is without doubt thanks to both this slight floral skank and the oud and patchouli that bring a darkness to the fragrance, ensuring it never quite catches flight.
As the wear settlers in, about the thirty minute mark, Matiere Noire sits right back and becomes a closer wear. The florals take the centre stage, mixing with the darker backdrop of suede, oud, patchouli and benzoin that bring a chocolate like cream to the fragrance. After this settling on the skin, it becomes a linear wear that sits close to the skin and feels both sophisticated and classy and a touch seductive. It would have been nice if the dirtier, indolic elements of the florals stuck around for the life of the scent, but unfortunately that facet also drops back, instead allowing the flowers to sparkle on top of the darker base.
Mateire Noire is part of the feminine collection, for me it is more unisex, though certainly leaning feminine as the white florals flourish, however for anyone used to wearing Oud and Rose combos, I can’t see them causing much controversy. Both projection and performance are above average and though the wear is quite close, it suits the scent profile very well, keeping it just a touch refined and mysterious.
Nouveau Mondes opening is a bold,, almost explosive oud, saffron and rose that takes few prisoners. The oud is forefront, wild and leathery, only tamed by the velvet-like feel of the light saffron that runs below. Rose comes up on the coat tails of this pair, buried way back and making fleeting, ghostly appearances that work to freshen and bring an uplifting lightness to an otherwise heavy and dense accord. It’s an instantly recognisable and familiar trio of notes, a refined, tamed, Western oud fragrance, done exceptionally well here by Cavallier. The Cacao begins to make itself known a few minutes in, once the initial burst of scent settles and calms on the skin. It’s dry and comes with just the most miniscule level of powder that lends the overall scent an air of class, whilst a gentle smokiness further deepens the oud and cements it as a sophisticated composition. The Louis Vuitton website lists a blackcurrant note, though I personally think that’s an act of olfactory gymnastics, created by the oud, rose and cacao combo.
The oud in Nouveau Monde, according to Louis Vuitton at least, is genuine, hailing from Assam, an origin that can often be associated with faecal, barnyard ouds, but here it is cleaner. Still, it is unquestionably animalic with a pungent, resinous leathery feel, but altogether it is presented sans-faeces. Hardcore, stanky oud lovers may find that disappointing, but for most there is still much to fascinate here, the oud accord is rich, deep and brings an element of roughness that might offend if it wasn’t for the saffron that smooths everything into a wearable, sophisticated and somewhat sensual whole.
For me, the scent comes into its own around the thirty minute mark. Here the oud sits back a little more, allows itself to be inspected and the leather separates a touch and becomes more polished. The rose, which was elusive in the start, becomes a shadow note, dancing in and out of the composition like a whisp, an enigmatic sweetness that understands its role and behaves appropriately. A further thirty minutes later sees the gentle smokiness of the oud marry with an incense that springs from the saffron and from here out it’s more or less linear, with no great changes until the late dry-down when it becomes a gentle saffron and leather scent that feels like a simple, soft incense.
Whilst marketed as a masculine scent, Nouveau Monde is, for me, reasonably unisex, though it certainly leans masculine with the leather, which is nowhere near as soft and suede-like as the accord found in Matiere Noire. Longevity and performance are both absolutely nuclear. Spray lightly, leave the bottle at home and only spray clothing if you intend to wear this as your scent of the next several weeks.
So was it worth the seventy year wait for the house to re-enter the fragrance market? Probably not. However it does beg the question that if Louis Vuitton could do fragrance like this all along, hiring the right perfumer and using appropriate ingredients, then why exactly did it take them so long this time?
The refined, dark and light juxtaposition of the white florals perched atop a backdrop of oud and patchouli in Matiere Noire is a fantastic blend of sophistication and seduction. It’s a great effort and one that creates a versatile scent for someone with a bold personality, or a fantastic evening scent for everyone else. The soft suede effect from the rose and oud is a pleasure that last throughout the life of the fragrance and combines perfectly with the florals and very, very subtle gouramand cream that sits behind the rest of the fragrance but supports the base with a quiet confidence.
Noveau Monde is a fantastic scent, the smoothness of the blend and the quality of the ingredients are apparent from the outset and whilst it may seem a touch boring to some who grow tired of the never ending stream of Western oud scents, it is a particularly pleasing take on the genre and brings with it a fantastic leather accord. Fans of Maison Francis Kurkdjians Oud Satin Mood, or even Penhaligon’s Cairo would do well to give it a sniff, as both sit fairly close, pulling in a similar direction.
Matiere Noire and Nouveau Monde are the only two Louis Vuitton scents that I have spent time with, but judging the house on these two, I can only assume that it will be worthwhile exercise to check out the rest of both collections, something I certainly intend to do as soon as opportunity arises.
All of the Louis Vuitton scents are available exclusively from Louis Vuitton boutiques either in the real world, or online from louisvuitton.com. Refillable bottles are sold in both 100ml and 200ml sizes and start from €210 or $250.