Épices d’autrefois


When I was still in wine, I worked at a high end wine boutique in Manhattan. The shop itself was fairly austere in decor but held a trove of treats: volcanic reds from Mount Etna, peppery rosés from Coteaux du Loir, luscious whites from Savennières, and everything in between. It was a sensory adventure whenever we’d taste because I’d invariably discover a new flavor profile with delight.

The epicureal exploits spilled out on to the streets as well. Several colleagues had gone to culinary school and would take great pleasure in discussing where to find the best cheeses, olives, anything really. Best muffin? Once Upon A Tart‘s pumpkin praline was worth (and calorically required) the trek across Canal. Coffees were fiercely debated (Gorilla was my go-to, but that was all the way in Brooklyn.) And tea? This was an easy one: our neighbor, Taylor’s, made the most aromatically decadent chai tea I’ve ever encountered.

Here’s where I need to stop and explain that I’m not a Starbuck’s Chai Tea Latte fan. It’s sickeningly sweet and often just tastes like syrupy water with no spice at all. Mleck. But Taylor’s! Oh, Taylor’s! If you could get past the 5-spot it would set you back, their chai was absolute heaven: swirling clove, cardamom, star anise and pepper. I still swoon at the memory.

You can imagine, then, my surprise when I spritzed my newly-acquired Frederic Malle Noir Epices and was immediately transported to a bitingly cold Manhattan day, breathing in Taylor’s chai. A first blast of juniper settled into that same clove-cardamom-star anise medley. It’s much less sweet than I’d expected, but a tinge of sweet cocoa lies around the edges.

This could probably be a tricky scent for some people, but I love it. It brings out the gourmand without the typical vanilla/sugar cookie scents I hate. Mulled red wine, mince meat pies – Noir Epices smells like winter holidays in a very classical sense.

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