Crystal Noir Eau de Parfum by Versace Review

As someone who adores rich, cuddly, cozy sorts of scents, I often find myself rather deprived of perfume in summer.

It seems like there’s so much that smells good in the desolate heart of winter, but in summer all of a sudden it all becomes too much, too cloying, too rich. Sometimes I find myself fantasizing about moving somewhere that’s warm year-round and actually stop myself because I wouldn’t be able to enjoy my favorite perfume.

Versace’s Crystal Noir is a rare warm-woody-amber perfume that’s actually light and fresh enough for summer wear. It’s clean, creamy, almost fruity. It’s fresh in a just-got-out-of-the-shower kind of way. And, at its heart, it is a classic designer musky woody sort of perfume. Its heart is all sandalwood and amber and coconut and vanilla. It’s exactly the sort of scent that should not work in hot weather.

And yet, it does.

A piece of amber-colored dried and fossilized resin.

Somehow, this woody musky amber perfume has enough lightness, cleanness, and sparkle to it to be delectable even on summer nights.

Crystal Noir has an almost Victoria’s Secret sort of feel to it. It makes me think of 2007’s Very Sexy and that whole cohort of mid-2000s designer mall perfumes leaning into the deep red and rich plum color scheme, into vanilla and amber musk and advertisements featuring a lot of lip biting and gauzy fabrics. It’s got that peppery-top, fruity-heart, super-musky-woody-base thing going on that basically defined the “dark, sexy, mysterious” type perfumes of that era.

And yet, it doesn’t feel hokey or dated. Crystal Noir is still a pleasant experience. The Antoine Lie perfume has stood the test of time. In fact, this one is fresher and less cloying than many of its contemporaries, despite not leaning on many of the favorite fresh, fruity, and floral aromachemicals of the day.

(Fun fact! I keep accidentally referring to this perfume as Dark Crystal. You know, like the David Bowie movie with the puppets? I’ve done my best to fix every instance of this throughout this review, but my sinciere apologies if I missed any.)

The most impressive thing about Crystal Noir, to me, is how it manages to feel great and not smother in high heat and humidity. The key to this is the heavy dose of carefully constructed freshness. This isn’t a perfume that smells at all like soap or shampoo. It doesn’t have an obnoxious dose of air-freshener style aromachemicals in it masquerading as some sort of “ocean breeze” note.

And yet, like Chloé’s Nomade Eau de Parfum, something about Crystal Noir reminds me of a very fresh and clean woman who’s just gotten out of the shower. There’s that sensual musk sort of molecule alongside the amber of the base, but it’s topped with an artful fresh breath of gardenia.

This is sweetness imbued with freshness, and neither side is at all overwhelming.

A number of glass jars filled with various colored spices, which are also spilled and scattered around the jars.

Honestly, I have a kind of difficult time picking out any particular notes in Crystal Noir. It’s quite cohesive. Yes, there is supposedly pepper, cardamom, and ginger in this, but it’s never overwhelmingly spicy on my skin. I don’t get spices distinctly, just as an edge to that Victoria’s Secret sensual-fruity-creamy-spicy-musky type formula. It’s a hint of warmth deep in there becoming apparent after a few minutes that feels like hints of black pepper, green cardamom, and scratchy dry ginger root. A pleasant bite. Nothing like a black pepper bomb in a mens’ gel deodorant. Nothing to be afraid of.

The heart of Crystal Noir is supposedly floral: gardenia, orange blossom, and peony. But it doesn’t feel like a standard cut and color of floral perfume. It doesn’t really strike me as floral at all, just fresh, clean, and creamy.

Gardenia certainly matches this general sort of vibe — a rich, creamy sort of white floral note with a fresh, clean, almost green edge — but I don’t get anything like a super realistic gardenia note here. Nor do I get anything like orange blossom, nor even anything overwhelmingly peony. Sure, the peony is there for body, lending just a hint of pinkness and what may project on some as powderiness. And maybe there’s a gorgeous touch of indole somewhere from the orange blossom adding just a hint of mischief to the floral accord.

But nothing in this feels at all photorealistic floral to me. Crystal Noir is a bouquet of made-up perfumer’s flowers, all creamy and white and freshly plucked at midnight in the heat of summer.

A soft white gardenia flower with swirling petals.

Despite that lightness, Crystal Noir feels rich and almost spicy, deep at the same depth as the sandalwood and spices. It’s kind of like a cup of nonfat Greek yogurt. How can they pack this much sweetness and intense dessert flavor into something that’s this light? How can this amount of sandalwood, spice, and amber be packed into a perfume that’s fresh enough for July? I have no idea. Somehow, this low-cal treat is still good.

(If you’re into this sweet-but-light sort of vibe, I recently gave Hermès’ Un Jardin à Cythère a similar write-up. It feels to me like a tasty Skinnylicious sort of cocktail, light but decadent, a delicate lemony dessert that leaves me wanting more.)

And then there’s the legendary coconut note.

Honestly? I don’t get any. I feel slight trepidation any time I see coconut listed in any fragrance’s note pyramid. Too many perfumes, in my opinion, have been ruined by unnecessary and polarizing coconuttification that makes most of us think of suntan lotion. (Serge Lutens’ Datura Noir is my favorite example. Just… why?)

But the coconut here isn’t at all obvious to me. Sure, there’s a lovely general creaminess to the perfume, a white foamy richness, a freshness. And, of course, there’s the sweet, faintly vanilla-laced amber of the base notes.

But nothing in Crystal Noir screams “COCONUTS!!!!” Like many of the other notes, this is more of a perfumer’s general suggestion than it is a photorealistic replica of an actual thing.

A coconut that has been cracked open, showing bright white flesh inside.

The note pyramid of Crystal Noir is definitely being used to describe a loose collection of aromachemicals with scarcely a natural component between them. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. This doesn’t feel overwhelmingly artificial. It’s just obvious that these notes are suggestions, written to describe an amalgamation of sweet, warm, rich, and fresh aromachemicals.

And among them lies a creamy component that focus groups must have described as smelling like coconut.

So this is more like the coconut of Dior’s Hypnotic Poison or even Diptyque’s Philosykos: more of a general bridge between creamy rich base notes and fresh top notes than an actual, loud, screeching photorealistic coconut note.

A few hours in, the most interesting stage of fresh-out-of-the-shower-gardenia and creamy coconut is over. Crystal Noir peaks early, running out of interesting beats before lunch. What’s left is a standard but not unpleasant sweet amber perfume with a heavy dose of something vaguely like sandalwood, rich and woody and warm.

After a couple of hours, Crystal Noir reaches its fairly standard amber musk base with hints of scratched woody sandalwood texture, rich and warm, blending and melding with the spices. Somehow, at this point I can finally identify a molecule that feels vaguely like black pepper, along with some more cardamom-ginger texture mixed in with the vanillic amber and sandalwood of the base like a sprinkling of spices on a sweet and foamy latte.

A pile of santal sandalwood chips, also known as santalum album.

Five hours in, the faint marshmallow sweetness of the amber note takes center stage. The black pepper note finally fades. The perfume is clean, sweet, and deliciously pleasant as it fades.

Crystal Noir lasts basically forever. It gets sweeter with time, the sandalwood, amber, and musk at the base amplifying more and more. It dries up, gets less fresh and creamy, becomes a more conventional sort of woody-sweet-musky-powdery perfume. I tire of it and find myself wishing it would fade far sooner.

And yet, it sticks around. Some twenty hours, in my book. It’ll last all day and then some. You might have to shower to get rid of it.

I find myself growing weary of Crystal Noir. It’s unquestionably pleasant and unobjectionable. It’s just not my sort of perfume. But I’m impressed with how modern this perfume from 2004 feels, as well as how much rich sandalwood and amber sweetness it packs into a light and refreshing spritz of floral fresh air.

The Eau de Parfum and Eau de Toilette of Crystal Noir are largely similar in composition. They have the same clean, fresh-out-of-the-shower creamy gardenia heart with spices, vanillin, and sandalwood. The Eau de Parfum adds coconut. The lighter, more floral-fruity Eau de Toilette features floral tuberose, frangipani, and violet, and a juicy burst of black currant and fig. Due to the different concentrations of aromatic components, the Eau de Toilette feels lighter, brighter, and more fresh, while the Eau de Parfum is richer and creamier.

(For the record, the listed note pyramid for the Eau de Toilette on the red hummingbird hellsite is currently entirely wrong, and instead just looks like the EdP without the coconut. It also misspells perfumer Antoine Lie’s name. Great source of information al around. )

Three soft pink round peony flowers with forest green curling leaves.

But they’re both spins on the same idea. If you like one, you’ll likely enjoy the other. In fact, wearing the Eau de Toilette as a quieter daytime scent and the Eau de Parfum in the evening would be a seamless combination for a signature scent. One is splashier, sparklier, juicier, yet perfectly reserved for a daytime scent, while the other is richer, heavier, creamier, a great date night sort of perfume. It’s a versatile going-out scent that would work at a nice restaraunt with a cute boy or at a dive bar with the girls.

Which is not to say that the Eau de Parfum of Crystal Noir is too heavy for daytime wear. Not at all. Somehow, it’s still light enough to work as a daily signature scent year-round. You could probably even get away with it as an office fragrance. It’s clean and unimposing, and if you don’t overspray it shouldn’t bother other people.

Crystal Noir is not my type of perfume, but if you love it, embrace it. It’s a designer perfume classic that remains a light, sweet, and versatile delight to this day, almost two decades after it was release.

What do you think of Crystal Noir? Have you tried its sibling, Bright Crystal? Do these perfumes hold treasured early-2000s memories for you? Let me know in the comments!

Cubic plum-colored glass bottle of Versace's Dark Crystal Eau de Parfum with a large shiny black faceted round plastic cap.

Where to Find Crystal Noir Eau de Parfum by Versace

You can find samples and decants ofCrystal Noir EdP at Scent Decant.

Want more? You can find full bottles at Scent Decant, the Perfume Spot, Jomashop, and StrawberryNet.

These are affiliate links. If you click on them and buy something, the seller pays me a commission, at no extra cost to you. You can learn more about them here.

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