Perfume Pen Pals: Ava Luxe Cafe Noir


Not a single mention of Ava Luxe on your site –- have you tried anything from that line? I've heard good things about Cafe Noir and I'm eyeing the licorice one, Absinthe, because I always eye the licorice one.

Yes, I know it's another of those perfume shops with a hundred different fragrances and a charming little story for each one, and I've been burned in the past by the artless iron blocks that often emerge from them. (Funny how the charming little stories are never actually about artless iron blocks.)

Look at Green Tara. Sandalwood. Oud. Vetiver. Patchouli. Amber. Labdanum, Benzoin. Rose. Musk. Lavender. Frankincense. Lemongrass. Lemon. Bergamot. Geranium. Peppercorn. Is there any way a fragrance with all those notes can't be artless? It just seems so reckless. And yet I want to try it. I'm on the precipice of another artisan disaster.



I've never in all my born days made it over to Ava Luxe, but this Green Tara looks to be chock full o'Katie-twitterpating ingredients. And I like the aesthetic and artwork on the website, too.


Katie, It's too much! Listen, I enjoy sushi and pork chops and cashews, but not all at the same time! But I'm buying Green Tara because, well, because I have a problem. But let's not dampen our day with unpleasantness. I'll send you a sample when it arrives. Dan
a few days later...
Okay, KP, I've got the first of my new Ava Luxe perfumes, Cafe Noir. You'll remember even as I was placing my order, I was grumbling about these one-nose-in-a-room perfume houses and their tendency to compress lots of big loud smells into a very small space. In that regard, Ava Luxe doesn't quite qualify for the Neil Morris Hall of Fame, and thank goodness for that. Cafe Noir is straight-up coffee. Though not in a "waking up to the gentle aromatics of fresh-roasted beans wafting out of your kitchen" way, but more like, "Kevin, stop dumping coffee grounds all over your little sister's head!" And you're Kevin's little sister. Or rather I am, because I'm wearing it right now. While it's admirable that perfumers can be so exacting in matching real-life smells, it's the sort of thing that rarely qualifies as a satisfying perfume. Rich Little did a perfect impression of Ronald Reagan, but do you ever remember enjoying Rich Little? Me either. Because 99% of his act was getting the impression right. There are many comparisons online between Cafe Noir and Maurice Roucel's New Haarlem for Bond No. 9, but the two are only similar in that they each feature a prominent coffee note. But tell Maurice Roucel, the Andrew Lloyd Webber of perfumers, to match the scent of coffee and he'll say, "Yes, and then what?" Because Maurice Roucel thinks BIG, by golly, and like it or not, he's going to produce something that reaches the back row of the balcony. Cafe Noir is a minimalist New Haarlem, perfecting the coffee impression and then stopping right there. And yet, and yet, it's a great impression. I love coffee, I'm perfectly content with the way I smell right now, and if Kevin thinks he's tormenting me with these coffee grounds, the joke's on him. Still, if Maurice Roucel were here, he'd desperately want to add something and then something else and by the time he was finished, we'd both have tears streaming down our faces as we belted out a stirring version of "Don't Cry for Me, Argentina". Dan


  1. Bonkers wore an Ava Luxe over the weekend - but darned if I can remember which one - it was lovely and very her

  2. Bloody Frida -- what serendipity that Bonks was in your neck of the woods. She's practically doing a Fume Blogger World Tour. Vanessa is a delight!

  3. Ha! My best pal B., from Olfactoria's Travels, just sent me a small bottle of Ava Luxe Madeline, and I've been raving like a madwoman about it for the past two days.

    (It smells good)

  4. I once dropped a brand new bottle of Ava Luxe Opoponax Intense on my bathroom floor, where it promptly shattered on the stone tiles. The resulting smell -- or rather, olfactory smackdown -- reached the cheap seats, and lasted for days.

    I don't think I went near an Ava Luxe after that. It's not really the fault of Ava Luxe, but still . . .

  5. My wife did the same with Portrait of a lady. The incense permeated the air for days!!! She wants a new bottle, I just haven't bought one yet, still need time to recover from Incense overdose!!!

  6. Dan - question. How does this Ava Luxe compare to say Black Vetyver Cafe by Jo Malone? That's really the only coffee-reminiscent scent I've tried, and I love it to death. One of my all time favorite guy scents.

    And Gojira? There is no such thing as Incense overdose. One simply becomes incense, and that is all.

  7. And Katie? Nothing to say here. Just hi. What's up? How's life? What's your favorite color and why?

  8. Katie - she is a delight - I want to be her neighbor! And Green Tara - the GT is very significant to me-definitely want to try that one!

  9. Bloody Frida -- In the Fumisphere, we are all neighbors. And Vanessa has confirmed it was Ava Luxe 23 she was wafting so prettily.

    Stefush -- I love the color aqua. It makes me feel glow-y.

    Gojira -- How exasperating to have a brand new bottle of Portrait of a Lady bite the dust that way! And that stuff is a big ol' Puffy AmiYumi cloud of smell, for sure.

    nathan -- It doesn't matter how lovely the perfume is, if you're forced to smell it getting stale as it seeps into household surfaces over a long period of time, the magic pretty much goes. I ruined Divine (by Divine) for myself that way.

  10. dee -- Reading through all the Ava Luxe perfumes on the site, there are so many imaginative combos. I'm looking forward to trying the decants Dan's going to send me.

  11. Stefush, I've not tried Black Vetyver Cafe but have read only good things about it.

    If I were to nudge you in one direction, it would be toward Hilde Soliani Bell'Antonio, an uncomplicated tobacco-and-coffee fragrance that's perfectly balanced and graceful. It's my go-to scent when I want to read "comfortable yet classy", i.e. when I want to lie.

  12. Dan - following your lead, I need your advice if I want to read as the following:
    - dandified yet dunce-y
    - athletic yet apathetic
    - sexy yet clumsy
    - fierce yet mellow

    Katie World Sauna Pants-Off Semi-Finalist 1963:

    I will pair your glow-y aqua with a deep, sonorous orange. Orange is my favorite color.

  13. Stefush -- together, we'd be HoJo's.

  14. You say it like it's a bad thing, Katie. What do you have against fried clams? Hunh? HAH?

  15. Stefush -- plenty against fried clams, but nothing whatsoever against the DECANTER of martinis they advertised in Howard Johnson's Times Square location.

  16. Katie, call your aqua "celadon"...glamorous, much more you!

  17. Diana -- celadon is a glorious color, too, but it's on the pale green side of life, I live for green-blue vibration of aqua. But I'll grab that glamor wherever I can get it.

  18. Stefush, off the top of my head (which means I don't stand by these opinions)...

    -dandified yet dunce-y: this is difficult but how about half the Bond No. 9 line?

    -athletic yet apathetic: Comme des Garcons 71

    -sexy yet clumsy: Lolita Lempicka

    -fierce yet mellow: S-Perfume S-ex. Or Gravel, subtitled "A Man's Cologne", a lovely '50s holdover (the fierceness primarily comes from the name, and that there are rocks in the bottle; the mellow from the fragrance, which is a warm sandalwood).

  19. I had a spaz attack in December and bought 4 AL's. Not that my sample size was enough to draw conclusions from, but it would seem you have a 50/50 chance of getting something good. I really like Crepe de Chine and Pearl Musk (a close replacement for SSS Opal). I found I really DO NOT like Ingenue (not a chypre, but a tuberose, ala Amarige) and Carnet de Bal (wet wool, anyone?). Luckily, there's always someone willing to take something off my hands, so I'll probably buy another four bottles some time in hopes I get two I like.

  20. Dan -- Please continue to nudge any and all in the direction of Hilde Soliani Bell'Antonio. The world would be a nicer place . . . or at least it would smell like a nicer place.

    And I've always wondered about the Gravel thingy. I love the rocks in the bottle, but that seemed to be about the only appealing aspect to the whole package.

  21. Kitty -- let's hope the math keeps working in your favor.

    Dan -- those are perfect choices for Stefush's seemingly unanswerable perfume riddles! So perfect that I want to share them with someone in my vicinity. But then I realize that the references are hopelessly "perfume nerd insider."

    nathan -- Dan seems to be koo-koo for Coco Puffs about Gravel, floating minerals be damned.

  22. Thanks for referencing HoJo's. My mom had an orange and blue windbreaker-y thing in the late 80s that embarrassed me every time she wore it. Because I thought EVERYONE saw HoJo colors.

    Dan, you mentioned once that you hated describing inanimate things as being "sexy." I think coffee is the exception to that.

  23. Also, randomness--does anyone have a particular brand that consistently turns out stuff that they like? I'm new at this, but I'm just starting to recognize names of fragrances, designers etc. and I'm wanting to stock up on samples.

    Yay for Lucky Scent!

  24. Nora -- I'm finding a high satisfaction rate with By Kilian and those Cartier Les Heures. Too bad Lucky Scent don't have the Cartiers. b

  25. Oh, and Nora, there's a lot to love across the Frederic Malle, Van Cleef & Arpels, Amouage and Comme des Garcons lines. But as a choosy sniffer, I find myself dipping in and out of a lot of different lines rather than embracing whole lines. Especially since many niche "lines" might just be a couple of perfumes.

  26. Nora -- I can just imagine your squirming self-consciousness thinking that everyone thought your mom was some kind of HoJo's groupie.