Thursday, November 16, 2006

Caron N'Aimez Que Moi

My first perfume love was called Nocturnes de Caron. I was a little girl when I'd "borrowed" my mother's shower gelee sample which she'd gotten at the department store when she replenished her Mitsouko parfum supply. I remember using that Nocturnes shower gelee feeling like I'd seen the light. I knew I had smelled something different, captivating, inexplicably good. I've been a perfume addict ever since.

Perhaps you've heard of the top-of-the-line French perfume house, perhaps not. You generally wouldn't bump into Caron perfumes at the mall, and even if you did, you'd probably find their more recent releases such as their sporty Eaux or their 1990s "modern" releases but you wouldn't find their best, most obscure "urn" scents anyplace but at one of their boutiques (and perhaps online but you're not guaranteed the fresh perfumes decanted out of the urns unless you bought directly from Caron). Caron has a boutique here in NYC, so if you're in town, you must go and experience what truly high quality, beautiful perfumes are all about. They may seem different from what you're used to but if you gave them time (as I have...5 years to learn to fully appreciate my new love, N'Aimez Que Moi), you'd see that perfume is supposed to be epic, not mere 3-and-a-half-minute radio-friendly edits. Caron NY recently moved from its original Madison Avenue location to the less ritzy Lexington Avenue, and from what I've heard, they now have a prestigious counter of their own in the back of a hair salon. Yes, they are still holding on, without selling out to a larger company and that says something to me: that Caron perfumes are greatly underappreciated and not as visible as they deserve to be.

Well, I want to change that, and so I've decided to resample just about every Caron perfume I could get my hands on and tell the world how exquisite they are. This week, I tested everything from Farnesiana (like sweet almond, so delicious) to Montaigne (sexy, spicy floral amber with a touch of fruit), and as much as I love so many of them, I decided that my new favorite is none other than the perfume I once thought was "the worst!": soapy, dreadfully dowdy, fussy, flowery and old-fashioned. I often dislike rich, powdery scents no matter how great their quality, and the combination of rose, violet and lilac just seemed as impossible to pull off as a prissy Laura Ashley dress swishing around my calves like a ball and chain. Have I mentioned there is mustiness to this scent? Oh, yes, and it's a strange scent, too, being one part soapy (like very, very good floral soap) and two parts chocolaty on dry down. What is it about N'Aimez Que Moi that feels right for me now, even as it makes me slightly uncomfortable?

I think being connoisseurs of anything means our passion helps us venture out and challenge our own tastes. After all, nothing will push our boundary for us unless we approach the things that feel unfamiliar to us with courage and an open mind. I'm glad I revisited N'Aimez Que Moi. It smells like everything I've loved in my life in one breath: an all-important lush, romantic floral heart, sophisticated chypre woods that wear gently on skin but convey strength, sweet vanilla that doesn't leave me cold in the end but stays sweet and wraps me in its comforting layers, and the "Caron smell", instant nostalgia under which lies the Caron signature base, the Mousse de Saxe, inky and mysterious like the depths of the sea. I have many perfume loves for my different moods and uses but N'Aimez Que Moi is a perfume lover's perfume, one I know I can spend my life with from season to season, although it seems a lifetime might not be enough to understand the simple love story it's told since 1916. N'Aimez Que Moi means "love me only"--here it is, my emo holy grail. For more information, please visit www.ParfumsCaron.com

(Image: Caron ad from 1925, http://www.beckerstreet.com/pebo_ads.htm)