Sunday, December 13, 2009

Caron Pois de Senteur, Acaciosa, Bellodgia



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Each time I visit the beautiful, luxurious, ultra-French Parfums Caron boutique here in New York City (currently located at 675 Madison Ave), I have the blessing of being able to try all of the exquisite perfumes (pure parfum aka extrait) in their famous golden Baccarat urns (les parfums fontaine). To have any one of these precious perfumes hand-decanted for you or someone you love is a near-spiritual experience; simply setting foot in the elegant, chandelier-lit space is a memory to treasure. Almost 9 years ago when I first discovered there was more to Caron than Nocturnes (my first love), I had to admit to being baffled by more than a few among their legendary collection. That's because most of them are the untrendy antithesis of the commercial fragrances of today, and somehow, it takes awhile for my nose to adjust to how different they seem. In the end, perfumes are all Perfume, and I sincerely enjoy them all, in the full spectrum of the art form. Caron perfumes are a special kind of enjoyment, since perfumes like these are increasingly rare and on the way to becoming obsolete with new, more economically feasible technological advances pushing the less modern aside.

Today, I'll admit I still have a hard time wrapping my brain around the more obscure fragrances such as Pois de Senteur and Acaciosa, even well-known classics like Bellodgia. These are full-bodied and densely powdery (not transparent scents as modern creations tend to be), old-fashioned scents in the best way possible - bespoke perfumes for the refined perfume lover. They come from a simpler time, when a good perfume depended upon fine ingredients, rife with natural, healing indoles that make us feel good, like resonating to the sound of an acoustic instrument as it's being played, actually feeling the vibrations and the infinite cycle of fifths as the notes reverberate. Such excellence is impossible to fake; quality or lack thereof can be cut and dry for those familiar with raw materials. Few houses can vouch for true quality and artistry as Caron unequivocably can. They've also paved the way for many other fragrance houses to follow in terms of unique perfume compositions - so much so, they were prototypical of many famous modern perfumes of the 20th century.


Pois de Senteur (1927) is a sweet pea fragrance that smells not so much like a sweet pea soliflore but like rich, honeyed powder; nevertheless, I wouldn't call it anything but a pure Floral based on the concentration and volume of notes in the midrange (or heart). It reminds me of Avon Sweet Honesty without the white musk. It can also be thought of as the top half of Farnesiana, perhaps in the same way Narcisse Noir and Narcisse Blanc are supposedly the same except for additional sandalwood in the Noir. Pois de Senteur seems to me just the spicy (almond-like) powdery florals sans heavy, smoldering ambery-sandalwood base. In reality, the two are just aspects of each other, like "night" and "day" are merely aspects of a single whole day, not at all separate things. This angelic cloud smells of crushed, semi-naughty rose petals, a hint of amber and soap (hyacinth, linden, lily of the valley and lilac notes make Pois de Senteur slightly Green on the olfactive spectrum). I find it indolic but not particularly animalic and more like a bouquet settling down to an aromatic potpourri.


Acaciosa (1929) surprises me with the uncanny resemblance to Jean Patou Joy (1930, sometimes listed as a 1929 launch). It's obvious these two perfumes were launched around the same time. Here absolutely is the basic structure of Joy, a perfect union between jasmine and rose, the heart of perfumery in the most traditional sense. In Acaciosa, the sweet, decadent floral profusion is made rounder and almost syrupy-golden with the addition of pineapple. Like Pois de Senteur, it's indolic (and more overtly animalic) but I'd still classify Acaciosa as Floral. It's a bit heavier than Pois de Senteur on the olfactory scale, but an Oriental fragrance to me is Farnesiana, Pois de Senteur's deeper, lower-pitched sister.

Finally, Bellodgia is a fragrance I've neglected to review until now because I felt I couldn't do it justice due to my waxing and waning love of carnation as a focal point in a composition. Never mind my personal taste; Bellodgia deserves recognition for not only being an elegant spicy (I always say carnation smells like cinnamon and clove) Floral (maybe semi-Oriental because of the spice) with a devoted following, but for having set a standard for the carnation perfume: one as soft and downy as a vintage powder puff, with no hard edges, even if carnation is in truth one prickly, firey flower, not nearly as delicate as its reputation. An herbaceous perennial plant native to the Mediterranean, carnation carries religious connotations, particularly connected to ancient Rome. It's also the national flower of Spain. Bellodgia (1927) paved the way for the creation of Nina Ricci L'Air du Temps, a bestselling powdery carnation perfume which followed 20 years later in 1948. I dedicate this article in honor of and appreciation for Caron, established by master perfumer Ernest Daltroff (1867-1941) in 1904. Caron perfumes are ideal for gift-giving. Visit www.parfumscaron.com