You may not think of carnation as being an aggressive kind of a flower. I don’t certainly, but the fact is that Caron, the Parisian perfume house founded in 1904, seems to have meditated on the many ways to make carnation grow sharp long claws and an attitude to go with them.
One way was to make the carnation incredibly chic and competent. Those – like me – who could not aspire to the heights of chic could at least get their chores done in style, and so carnation (or its chemical doppelganger eugenol) was made to keep company with a lot of sequentially charming florals, and voila! Bellodgia.
Another stratagem for toughening up carnation, seems to have been a transformation into a floral oriental. That is what happened with 1954’s Coup de Fouet, which translates literally as “Whip Crack” or, as the charming Caron SA in New York more loosely put it: Crack of the Whip. (My own even looser translation is When the Whip Comes Down. We all have our little preferences.)Coup is not quite the Eau de Dominatrix you might have been expecting; instead, this fragrance is…quirky, even lovable. Your acquaintance with Coup starts when you snap on the only leather it gets near: its leash, and go for a nice little walk. Just when you think that an afternoon spent strolling through the Bois de Boulogne near the beds full of pinks in bloom is delightful but perhaps a touch dull, Coup changes, and you notice a good deal of clove and possibly some rose, and then pepper in the little beast. This is pepper of a fractious sort, you distinctly have to curb Coup, as it is growing restive and barking at other passing perfumes.
This pepper I must warn you is not the nice tame pink pepper you have become fond of from the many fragrances that contain it. This is not a nice little pepper behind whose ears you can safely scratch. This is a cantankerous little pepper that is distinctly nippy. You have to watch your fingers around this pepper. I like this kind of pepper myself, though I suspect that many people will feel it is not worth the trouble of possible pinches and nips.
Then of course (this is a Caron, after all) Coup changes one more time, and becomes a sleepy presence. In fact by the time you are back home in front of the fire, because April in Paris is chilly, Coup jumps onto your lap and purrs. You realize that it has changed species and turned into a nice, gentle myrrh, and all it wants to do is lounge and stretch out the odd idle claw, all that is left of its previous fractiousness. Carnation, has always been a flower with a pleasing warm animality, a welcome change from chilly lilies.
I must say, that I’ve always liked this particular Caron carnation very much indeed, but it suffered a bad review in that Guide of Turin and Sanchez’s, and now has been discontinued, a very sad state of affairs. There is nothing quite like Coup de Fouet on the market, since carnation scents are anyway few and far between. People seem to consider them too ordinary to bother about. Truly a case of familiarity breeding contempt, because consider, with its many metamorphic properties, what an extraordinary creature the carnation really is.