Film Noir


The Noir Syndicate vs. the Secret Agents of CREED® – a fight to the death to make you smell absolutely fabulous.

Part of being a perfumista – perhaps the most enjoyable part – is the unexpected.  Those little unanticipated discoveries – like going off on a rescue mission for nursing-home-bound CREED, and ending up with the latest Tom Ford.  But sometimes things come full circle.  What you learn from your excursion brings you back to where you started, but in a whole new way.  If you look back over your own experience, and analyze your feelings, you learn something.  And in some cases, you may even sense the forward motion of fragrance as a whole.  It’s not a circle.  It’s a helix.  But it’s still beautiful.

Another part of being crazy about fragrance – perhaps the best part – is just being crazy.   So forgive me if I pull up a couple of chairs and talk to myself for a moment…..


“Modern Traditionalist – allow me to introduce Artsy Fashionista.  Artsy – Modern Traditionalist.”

“Pleased to make your acquaintance, Ms. Fashionista.”

“Likewise.  You can call me Artsy.”

“Pleased to meet you, Artsy.  And you can call me Trad.  Everybody does.”

“Thanks, Trad.  I’ve heard a lot about you.  Snarky Fragrance Observer tells me wonderful things about your nose.”

“Well, it only gets me into trouble, isn’t that right, Snarky?”

“I know nothing.  I just TRY to pay the bills around here.”

“So what are we doing today?”

“Snarky?  What have you told her so far?”

“This is Artsy’s first big case.  She knows this one is mostly your baby, being CREED and all, but Scentral Command thought she might be helpful if our subject got off in the designer woods, so to speak.  She knows we’re dealing with SACs.  That’s it.”

“OK, guys.  I have to admit, I’m confused already.  Why is Saks so important?  The subject shops at numerous venues….”

“Oh, Lord.  Here we go again.”

“Look, I’m sorry, but they don’t teach these things in school.”

“Where did you go to school, Artsy?”

“CdG University.  I majored in Asymmetric Beauty.”


“Yeah, but not terribly useful.  So, I’m picking it up as I go.”

“Well, if Agent Snarky will allow me to explain….”

“Explain away, Your Green Irish Tweediness.”

“The subject, who you see on the security camera tapes, is one Neil Sternberg, code-named cologniac.  Or as we like to call him around here, the redneck perfumisto.”

“Who’s that woman he’s talking to?”

“She’s his CREED contact.”

“Wait.  Do you mean he works for CREED, too?”

“Unknown.  He may be an S.A.C., but we doubt it.  He’s more of a CREED apologist.”

“Wait – S-A-C….  Secret Agent of Creed?  And SACs is plural?”

“Bingo!  I told you she was a sharpie, Trad.  This, despite the fancy sham-wow – I mean sheepskin.”

“Precisely.  We think, most likely, he’s just a CREED informant and sympathizer.  But we also know that there was a true S.A.C. at this function, who made contact with him, and somehow exerted significant influence.  There is even the belief that she prevented his defection from CREED.  How that determination was made is classified.  We’re just trying to make a best guess as to who it was.  Dealing with that is somebody else’s job. ”

“What’s happening on the tape?”

“Why don’t you have a seat, and let’s find out?  We know something significant happened here, but we’re still not sure what it was.”


“I don’t see anything out of the ordinary so far.  He’s just talking to that CREED ambassador, Roberto.  Looks like he knows everybody at the table.”

“Yes.  Even Windsor.”

“Gad, that Windsor is one pompous bastard.  Everybody knows he’s had a facelift.  It’s not like he’s fooling anybody.  I’ll take the old wrinkly version, thank you.”

“What did Roberto just say?”

“You can read the transcript here.  Basically telling Sternberg that CREED is modernizing.  But he’s not saying how.”

“Interesting.  Do you think he’s covering something up?”

“Could be.  CREED agents are very careful about what they say in public.  They rarely slip up.”

“Who’s the woman in the bikini?”


Virgin Island Water – looking to turn you into her next summer fling!

“Virgin Island Water.  She and Sternberg started an affair this summer.”

“I was going to say.  He can’t keep his hands off her.  And just after he was all lovey-dovey with that woman in black….”

“Love in Black.  Yes.  They have a rather odd relationship.  He stays away from her most of the time.  He’s even called her shrill and obnoxious, but yet he respects her for some reason.  We think they were introduced by an S.A.C.”

“Look at the three of them!  There’s some kind of chemistry.”

“Good eye, Artsy.  You’re right.  We’re going to have to keep our eye on that.  He has some kind of big commitment to Virgin Island Water.  Possibly an expensive property that he bought for her somewhere.  She may be introducing him to some new CREED contacts.”

“Commitment?  HA!  He may have given that beach bimbo a wad of money, but he’ll be chasing some new flavor-of-the-season next summer – trust me.”

“Is Snarky always this snarky?”

“Honestly – yes.  But he’s usually right, too.”

“Of course I’m right.  Carry on.”

“So that’s it?  What’s he doing now?  Why is his contact making a phone call?”

“That phone call came back from transcription.  He had her put him in touch with Santal Imperial and Epicea.”


Epicea – the old hero is heading back to France. Say your goodbyes quickly, gentlemen!

“Good grief.  You mean those old codgers are still alive?  Ridiculous!  Somebody take ’em out to pasture!  Quickly!”

“This was not unexpected.  He’s old friends with both of them, and they’re leaving the country soon.  Probably for good.  In fact, saying goodbye was his main reason for being there in the first place.  They were simply in too poor of health to attend.”

“I don’t know, Trad.  I’m just not seeing anything that looks like a smoking gun.”

“And that’s about where it ends.  After this point, he’s pretty much socializing with everybody except CREED.”

“Why don’t we keep watching?  Maybe it’s not somebody from CREED.  Or maybe you just missed it.”

“OK.  We can do that.  Grab your popcorn.  It’s a long show.”


“Wait.  Run that back.  Trad – take a look at that.  Who’s he talking to?  That really tall woman.”


Burberry Body. No, guys – the other one.

“Burberry Body.  His wife tried to get them together, actually.  He wasn’t interested.”

“Kinky.  Why would she do that?”

“Good question.”

“Oh, come on, Artsy.  Do crazy people NEED a reason to do crazy things?  REALLY.”

“Well, maybe she’s the one that’s actually interested in Burberry Body.”

“You may be right.  Bring up the data on the wife.”

“Got it.  Look.  Check her likes.  Burberry brand.  Modernist.  Lighter feminines.  And here you go.  ‘Recent fascination with bottles that lay on their sides.'”

“Impressive!  Perhaps this even explains Sternberg and Little Miss Footlong walking out the door at the same time.  Just.  Sayin’.”

“You’re absolutely right, Snarky.  I’ll bet if we check the parking lot cameras, they drove off together.”

“Oh my God.  The Stubbly Guy.  He left at the same time, too.  Trad – roll the tape.”

“Got it.  Good one, Snarky.”

“Stubbly guy?”

“We don’t know who he is.  Somebody new.  There’s no data in the system.”

“Where is he?”

“Not yet.  He comes on in about three minutes.”

“Oh, give me a break!  Those leather outfits are ridiculous.  Who ARE these people?”


Thierry Mugler’s Leather Crowd – Angel & Alien


Thierry Mugler’s Leather Crowd – Womanity and A*Men Pure Cuir

“You don’t know?”

“They’re freaks.  I’m sorry, Artsy.  I don’t associate.  Leather and me?  No.  I’m allergic.”

“Those are the new Thierry Mugler people.”

“Seriously?  Gad.  Sorry.  NOT interested.”

“I think they look pretty good myself.  What about you, Artsy?”

“I think Mugler is a genius.  I honestly believe that he changed the entire trajectory of perfumery.  Half my professors believed it, too.”

“Good grief – what ARE they teaching these days?”

“Don’t laugh, Snarky.  It’s very hard to see new traditions emerge from inside them.  Angel may have been the most significant perfume since Jicky.”

“Well, whatever.  I’m holding out for Mister Stubble here.”

“Who’s Sternberg checking out now?”

“Oh. My. God.  Look at that leer.  That is SO truckstop.”

“Coco Noir.  She’s with Chanel.”

“The French.  They’re EVERYWHERE.  The entire world is moving to high tech, and they’re still stuck on skirts.”

“Well, it’s pretty effective, if you ask me.  Tradecraft never ages.  See for yourself.”

“Like I said – flavor of the season.  No sooner does he buy Virgin Island Water a love nest in the refrigerator, than he’s off to the races with Saint Joan of Grapefruit.  Low hanging fruit.  No pun intended.”

“Well, I think it’s significant.  He may be here to visit the retiring CREEDs, but he clearly has a fascination with modernity.”

“Noted.  Good work, Artsy.  That’s one clue we didn’t have before.”

“OK.  Here we go.  Seatbelts.”


“Wow.  And you say Sternberg walks out with this guy?  Because I think I know who it is.”

“You know him?”

“Yes.  His name is Noir.”

“Don’t you mean Noir de Noir?”

“No.  This is a completely different guy.  He’s totally new in the Noir Syndicate.  We don’t even have olfactory prints.”

“But that means he’s connected to….”

“Yes.  Coco Noir.  And a bunch of people in the Tom Ford family.  Noir de Noir.  Black Violet.  Black Orchid.  Her little sister, Voile.  A guy named Extreme, who’s actually Black’s brother.”

“Isn’t the Ford family now under the umbrella of the Estée Lauder group?”

“Yes.  And the Noir Syndicate reaches across cartels.  They even have members in Guerlain.  A woman often referred to as LPRN.  Or possibly two or three women – it’s hard to say.  It’s all very shady.  Sometimes they’re just barely in the organization.”

“Brilliant.  I think we have something here.  But I’m still wondering what his interest would be.  Sternberg is here for CREED.  And I can accept that he has a new fascination with Coco Noir.  But why this guy?”

“Yes.  If you have something, Mademoiselle Rolodex, please spill.”



Antaeus – Noir before noir was the new noir

“Huh?  Please repeat that logic.  You lost me.  Somewhere between Antaeus, and….. oh, Antaeus.”

“You saw how he looked at Coco Noir.  That’s not just a casual check-out.  He’s in deep.  My guess is that he’s got a big Chanel fascination.  As big as his penchant for CREED.  Now – check out these mug shots.”

“Damn.  Will you look at that?”

“Exactly.  Antaeus on the left.  Noir on the right.  That same stubbly texture.  That same prickly yet smooth feeling.  That dark, Gothic,  testosterone-fest.  The animalic, slightly attractive and yet off-putting presence that both of them exude.  Even though they do it in totally different ways.  It’s a greasy, waxy, warm look in the case of Antaeus.  And a rather nose-upturning, black-cat-like demeanor in Noir.”

“And yet there’s something sweet about Noir.  Like the sweetness under dark chocolate when the bitterness has been just barely covered up.”

“Oh, yes.  Absolutely, Trad.  Just like the sweet side of the animalic beeswax in Antaeus.  Two themes in one to match the two facets in the other.”

“No matter what, the Stubbly One is definitely eye-candy.  So saith The Snarky One.”

“I think we can make a case that Sternberg is hooked on “noir” in all generality right now.  Deeply.”

“Fine.  I agree, Artsy.  But do you think that either one of our Noirs is the S.A.C.?  Because I’m just not seeing it.”

“No.  I agree.  It’s not Noir, and it’s not Coco Noir.  They’re influencing him, but they’re not influencing him about CREED.  Not directly.  They’re not the S.A.C.”

“Then who is?”

“Keep watching.  I’m sure they’ll turn up.”

“Who’s he looking at now?”


Donna Karan Woman – Is it OK to love a scent for the bottle alone?

“Donna Karan Woman?”

“Oy vey!”

“He’s fascinated by her body, that’s for sure.  Doesn’t look like her brain is doing much for him.”

“She’s actually pretty smart.  He’s going to regret not getting to know her now.  Oh, well.  Can’t say I didn’t warn him.”

“I think we’re getting close, guys.  I can feel it.”

“I hope you’re right, Artsy.”

“Well, he’d better hurry up and show the goods.  He’s about to pay for the drinks and skedaddle.”

“Who’s he talking to there?”

“Just the usual ‘playas’.  Mister Fabulous, Aventus.  That Bollywood macho-boy, Royal Oud.  Silver Mountain Water, probably back from yet another ski trip.  He always chit-chats with them.  Sorry.  No big story here.”

“What about her?”

“Acqua Fiorentina.  Looking fabulous, I might add.”

“No it’s not.  It can’t be.”

“Look at her.”

“Well, she’s been out of the country for over a year.  So if that’s her, then why is her passport still in France?”

“She’s right, Snarky.  That is NOT Acqua Fiorentina.”

“Zoom in closer.”

“There you go.”

“Now – back up and freeze.”


“Wait.  Something is wrong.  I’m sorry – she looks almost the same as Acqua Fiorentina.”

“Bingo!  System says her full name is Acqua Fiorentina Huile Parfumée.”


Acqua Fiorentina [The Encore] Huile Parfumée – Secret Agent of CREED?

“So – is she like a cousin?  Maybe a twin sister?”

“Sounds like a twin to me.”

“The system says she’s a sister – Acqua Fiorentina, The Encore.  But she’s here on a Perfumed Oil visa.”

“Look at Sternberg!”

“Good grief!  Hilarious!  He’s in a trance!”

“Enchanté, as they say!”

“What’s he saying?”

“The computer says…..”


“Be patient.  It takes a minute.  The sound is pretty bad.  It’s using visual, too.”

“One thousand one.  One thousand two.  One…”


“He thinks she’s Aventus?  Our boy needs to seriously cut back on the bath salts.”

“No.  He just says the word.  Now he says…..”

“Waiting.  Shall I snark about something else while we’re waiting?”

“He says ‘I didn’t know Aventus had a sister.‘”

“Hold on just a second, your Imperial Santalness.  Aventus doesn’t have a sister.  What is this guy smoking?”

“Maybe it’s just a figure of speech.”

“And why is he almost turning into a zombie?”

“Aventus is hugely popular.  His brand has skyrocketed.  There is no way that the sister of Aventus wouldn’t be a major celebrity, just like Aventus.  It’s like he’s meeting a famous person.  It’s freaking him out.”

“But what ties all this together?”


“Come again?”

“It’s what Roberto said.  CREED is moving to the modern.  But they can’t just do it haphazardly, with all the warts of every celebrity and designer fragrance.  They have to differentiate.  They have to pick a solid direction that sets them apart.  And Aventus pointed the way.  They weren’t going to just squander that success.  They learned from it.  They found a way to be modern and terribly popular without being cheap and cliché.”

“OK.  Zoom in on Miss Universe.  Let’s have a look.  What is it that makes her so great?”

“While you’re doing that, I’m reading her bio.  There’s an interesting difference from our old friend Acqua Fiorentina.  Something about the Queen of England and Diamond Jubilee apples.”

“Check out her cheeks.  Mesmerizing, aren’t they?  I shan’t snark about those.”

“Oh God.”

“What is it?”

“C’mon, girlfriend.  Don’t hold out on us.”

“Snarky – can you spot a facelift?”

“Let’s ask the question properly.  Can I NOT spot a facelift.  And the answer is no.  Oh, my.  I see where you’re going, princess.  Zoom in.  The Snark-o-scope needs maximum resolution.”

“There you go.”

“Oh yes.  I see it now.  It IS our old friend Acqua Fiorentina.  Just like I thought.  Sister my ass.  HA!  That’ll teach you for saying I was wrong.  But she’s had work.  MAJOR work.  Beautiful work, I might add.  She’s better than the original.  Unbelievable.  This isn’t just a touch of Fuji apple on those lovely cheeks.  This went down to the bone structure.  But on the surface, it’s subtle.  They tweaked the Aventus look just enough that it’s hard to spot.”

“So what does this mean?  Why would she disappear for a year, then come back with a facelift?”

“C’mon, Artsy.  You got us into this mess.”

“Maybe they WANT her to look like Aventus, but they don’t want to admit it.”

“That’s it.  She comes back to America as a rebranding of Acqua Fiorentina, but subconsciously, she looks like Aventus.”

“SO sneaky.  But in a good way.  Can’t have too many olfactory supermodels, can we?”

“Snarky, it’s even more devious than that.  Women can’t resist introducing Aventus to their husbands.  What do you think is going to happen here?”

“HA!  What’s good for the gander is good for the goose.  Touché.  Men will turn into lemmings introducing Acqua Girl to their wives and girlfriends.  Smart.”

“So SHE’S the S.A.C.?  Artsy?  What do you think?”

“It all fits together.  Completely under the radar.  Modernization without the slightest admission of it.  They even covered it up with the bit about Jubilee Apples.  This is a major influence operation.  Total psy-ops.”

“Well, I love it.  I may be a traditionalist, but excellent fragrance is excellent fragrance.  I love nothing more than a good CREED backstory.  Except possibly the backstory behind the backstory.  Snarky?   I’ll give you the final word.  Are you calling her our S.A.C.?”

“Are you kidding?  Good grief, people.  No complaints here.  They flankered Aventus for women, right under everybody’s noses.  It’s so brilliant, I need Tom Ford sunglasses.”


Tom Ford Sunglasses – always the right choice when blinded by fashion!

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