Elizabeth & James Nirvana Black EDP Perfume Review

Elizabeth and James Nirvana Black

Mainstream Monday – Sniffing a Popular Perfume

Elizabeth & James is a fashion brand ran by the Olsen Twins who over the years oddly enough, went from sitcom babies to grown-up style icons. So, even though Mary-Kate and Ashley are celebs, this is a perfume related to their clothing brand so it’s a designer perfume (even the fashion brand Elizabeth & James goes out of their way to NOT mention the twins). When I test designer perfumes, I don’t only go by “oh, I like/don’t like this” but I also evaluate if it works with the brand’s aesthetic: is it an extension of the brand? And in this case, Nirvana Black completely works with the Elizabeth & James brand. It’s simple, versatile and a mix of masculine/feminine.

Nirvana Black opens with violet flowers and a tart plum. And then becomes a doughy vanilla with a sharp sandalwood. It’s a linear scent. Most of the wear on me is a soft sandalwood and vanilla.

I think of Nirvana Black as a budget-friendly Malle par Dries van Noten. It’s one of those creamy sandalwoods. Like Malle par Dries van Noten, I tried to love Nirvana Black. But, I don’t think creamy sandalwoods “speak to me”. I don’t think they are bad but I’m personally not drawn to them. I mean, I can’t even think about anything to say about this fragrance other than “creamy sandalwood” (which isn’t a bad thing). Nirvana Black has tons of fans and I completely see why. It’s an approachable, affordable fragrance that really does smell “niche” to me since so many niche brands have a sandalwood-centric perfume in their collection. I’m really happy to see places like Sephora carrying this one because it’s much better than many of their other designer offerings.

Grace Jones

Notes listed include violet, sandalwood and vanilla. Launched 2013. PERFUMER – Pierre Negrin

Give Nirvana Black a try if you like sandalwood perfumes. Or if you like perfumes like Malle par Dries van Noten, Keiko Mecheri Bois de Santal, Diptyque Tam Dao EDT and/or Tom Ford Sahara Noir. I think of Nirvana Black as unisex. It’s just plum, sandalwood and violet. It’s like the oversized wristwatch of perfumes, think of it like borrowing “masculine” fashions.

Projection and longevity are average.

I also want you to know that I love disco era style lighter. It makes me think of Grace Jones and that’s never a bad thing.

Nirvana Black comes in two sizes (1 oz and 1.7 oz) with prices ranging from $55-$75 at Sephora. A rollerball is also available.

Victoria’s Final EauPINIONSandalwood and vanilla. Really good for a modern designer offering; however, doesn’t speak to me personally. I do recommend trying it the next time you’re in Sephora.

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*Product purchased by me. Product pic from Sephora. Grace Jones from Post contains an affiliate link. Thanks!

13 thoughts on “Elizabeth & James Nirvana Black EDP Perfume Review

  1. Nirvana Black is a good enough concept, but for my taste and on my skin, seems to be a little lacking in polish. It comes off a little too doom-and-gloom on me, and I found it a bit too sharp, but I like the mixing of masculine and feminine, and I like that brand even bothered to make something dark. Extra bonus points for that.

    Nirvana White is less conceptually interesting–and I don’t even like florals much–but I liked wearing that one a little more than Black. I can’t remember if I tried layering them, but I might take a shot at that tonight and see how they balance each other out.

    1. I totally get what you mean by lacking polish. To me, it seems to lack a certain something, like it’s “half a perfume”…which now I just put together maybe that is intentional (duh, layer with White).

      I tried White in store and really had no feelings for it one way or another. It was pretty but not something I felt I had to wear. I’d be curious to see how it layers.

      Overall, I see why people like it. And it goes with the brand. Like you, I found it too sharp for my skin (that sandalwood) but I bet it works for some people.

    1. Yeah, I’m rather neutral on this one. It’s OK. I can see why people like it. I’m going to wear something else 🙂

  2. I really enjoyed my sample of this, but never thought, “must have a bottle.” I agree, it works with the brand and it’s better than loads of other Sephora offerings. But the white was a snooze for me. Much more conventional, I thought.

    1. I think for the price, it’s good. There’s an oil now and I want to try it.

      I didn’t try White on skin, it didn’t really appeal to me. But, I can see why people would like it as well. Packaging is really pretty with these. That’s a plus, I guess.

  3. Sephora is carrying a perfume oil version of this, which I got to try this weekend, and I liked it much better than the EDP — those sharp edges came in softer.

    1. I really want to try the perfume oil because I suspected it would be “softer”. Plus, it’s a sandalwood oil, that can go with anything!

  4. I got the rollerball as I was checking out at Sephora (they are genius for putting those right by the register). I agree very much with your overall assessment. It’s a nice enough vanilla sandalwood and sorta reminded me of Boyfriend in style. Something that’s meant to be more of a background drydown sort of scent.
    I haven’t found a sandalwood that compares to the memory I have of a real Indian scented sandalwood that I had when I was very young (before the ban). But surprisingly, Nirvana Black doesn’t ice pick me in the eye with sharpness (as some overly woody scents tend to do) so I wear it from time to time. I enjoy the sandalwood in my decant of Dries Van Noten MUCH more, but oddly, only on cold days.

    1. It is a “quiet” scent which isn’t necessarily a bad thing in my book. I like those.

      I haven’t found anything pre-ban-like either. I still remember it as the most beautiful thing ever.

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