Friday, December 07, 2012

Caron Or et Noir



I finally understand how Caron Parfum Sacré (1990) is the modernized version of Or et Noir (1949). Neither are the works of perfumer and Caron founder Ernest Daltroff but of Jean-Pierre Béthouart and Michel Morsetti, respectively. The perfumes are from different time periods, the predecessor a classic urn fragrance and the other a more accessible, (comparatively) widely distributed fragrance, yet these powdery, deep, spicy roses are not only distinctively Caron but plush, elegant roses so devoid of youthful (some say gimmicky) top note effervescence, they border on being somber. While nothing about them sparkles like precious gemstones, they smell of the rich, knowing tones of old gold, vibrant brassiness replaced by sabi, the aesthetic reward of age. It was inevitable that I would eventually come to appreciate great perfumes that I knew were great but found lackluster a decade ago. They say we lose our sense of smell over time, but perchance we only tune in to different frequencies at various points of our lives, finding different pitches and tones attractive and harmonious with our own being, physical, mental or spiritual.

In my perfume collection are bright, shiny things, vividly composed to lighten up our senses like a Xmas tree. I have favorite roses I could describe this way, yet Or et Noir is the scent I find most beautiful right now. The scent is not so spicy to me anymore, nor is the darkness of its velvety petals any less dewy than the vanillic rose buds of Caron Rose. The earthy woods smell balanced and stable, the rose so intense, pure, like a magnificent rose garden in full bloom in the dead of winter, dark and thorny giant blossoms like gothic stones from a distance. These roses smell resinous and robust but not especially ambery warm.

I often use the term "perfumey" to describe intricate scents, but I believe the additional violet notes in Parfum Sacre make it perfumier than Or et Noir, a bit astringent like Van Cleef & Arpels First, Balenciaga Le Dix or Amouage Dia, sharper with greener edges although a bit more rounded and sloped compared to the padded shoulders of the past. Or et Noir doesn't have a theme like "sacred perfume" into which the obvious motif ties the frankincense base, rife with religious connotation. Or et Noir is simply "gold and black," and if you didn't imagine how those colors and shades tied into alchemy and old magic itself, you might wonder what an incensey and somewhat prickly rose soliflore with patchouli and mossy green Chypre undertone has to do with its abstract name at all. Actually, I'm still wondering why the golden sunburst image in the Or et Noir ad resembles the monstrance (ostensorium) held by Catholic priests, but maybe it's best to leave Caron to their explanation of the meaning of their one very mysterious perfume.