Innovation Amongst the Elder Berries

Ever since the famous study about moths and railway soot in the mid-nineteenth century England, it has been apparent that evolution proceeds not at a steady pace, but in bounds. Things don’t just go along at a predictable pace, they leap forward and then step backwards.

It’s the same way with perfume. Whenever something new and wonderful comes along, it does so when you were least expecting magic.

L’Accord 119 from Caron is one such event.  When the scent was released a couple of years ago it was reviewed and briefly talked about as interesting, the more so since it was a fruity floral, but then the subject of 119 was dropped.  Evidently among the perfume smelling and buying classes, it was not a hit. 

Why not?  The fruitiness was against it – people who care about perfume, know that fruity florals are synonymous with bad taste- and avoid them.  Let the teenagers wear those, and we adults will get on with the serious stuff.  The trouble was that the scent was plenty sophisticated. Indeed, 119 was not at all what you would recommend for a girl of fifteen.

What does 119 smell like?  For once, never mind the notes. Fruit notes are mostly synthetics anyway and it’s the impression you might as well get.  The fruit here is black currant or elder berry, what the French call cassis. You may know it from that rather nice cocktail that you can get in France known as the Kir, usually made with a white Bordeaux wine and creme de cassis.  (Guts and I like to do a variation on it with white wine and St. Germain.)

The beginning of 119 recalls elder berries more than elder flowers but that same kind of complicated fruity green-ness is there.  You smell greenery simultaneously along with green leaves, and fruit. The accord has also got a cool earthiness to it.

How to describe the scent?  119 smells like lying underneath a bush of elder berries in a cool shade. This must be what your cat smells when she is extenuating herself out to maximum cat length before she takes an afternoon nap in the earth under the shrubbery.  This is nature, or at any rate a cultivated nature, recorded from the ground up, rather than from human nose height downwards. If you think about that, it’s an impressive piece of perfumery, and I am certain that someone worked on 119 very hard.

When they use the descriptor accord, they are being accurate. This is linear, or at best, a sort of symphonic blare that fades over time to a quiet chamber orchestral version of that original earthy/fruity/leafy overture.  I can’t really think of a perfume that resembles it.  It’s a mature fruity floral.

So is it like, say, the old Balenciaga Quadrille?

Maybe, sort of, a bit… well, no, not really.

Is it like the recent Parfumerie Generale perfume called Papyrus de Ciane?

Again, not really.  That one is very dark green, almost loden green, and has the reconstructed Mousse de Saxe dry down that Pierre Guillaume went to so much trouble to revive, but it is not really like 119.

What is remarkable about it is that 119 falls into the tradition for innovation of the house of Caron.  They hadn’t produced a scent that really made you sit up and think for quite some time, although in the past Caron has famously introduced things that were controversial like Yatagan and Tabac Blond and even Parfum Sacre.

Then too, this is a perfume that should be a good combination with all kinds of skins including masculine ones.  119 is a fruity floral that even a guy could wear and love and do well with, particularly in Fall, since in tone it recalls fruity chypres.  But whatever it reminds you of, 119 is worth seeking out and trying.  This one surprised me, and not much does, really.

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9 Responses to Innovation Amongst the Elder Berries

  1. Cymbaline says:

    Thank you for bringing this one to my attention : ) I just added it to the list of samples I”m about to order from Luckyscent.

    • Blacknall Allen says:

      It’s a strange one, though as is evident from this post, I kind of like it, and it moreover plays well with fruity perfumes and citrus ones as well, so something that can integrate into a fragrance wardrobe, but when first smelled you do tend to say, “What in the world is this fruit thing?”

  2. Meg says:

    Oh baby baby, you sent that sample to the right house! Owing to my new clandestine, down-low, on-the-sly love affair w/ cassis, it will get a good workout from me. As will that recipe for kir St. Germain. I’ve seen versions of that gelee recipe I linked to last week that are made with prosecco, St. Germain, and fresh red- and black-currants. (I understand that in France, ‘hand-deseeding redcurrants with a sharpened goose quill’ is not only a job description, but a highly skilled in-demand one.)

    • Blacknall Allen says:

      As to de-seeding currants, my French bro in law would say, “but of course!”. If you are French nothing surprises you, and nothing you or your fellow Frenchmen have ever done is surprising, so yes naturally they conquer the world, have an Academy of Frenchness, and pit currants with goose quills, donchu?
      So glad you like 119. Admit to sending it because really wanted to know what you’d make of it. Waiting for the review…

  3. Cymbaline says:

    Back to report on my Accord 119 sampling sessions –

    I hadn’t yet found a Caron or a “fruity-floral” that I really loved and this one sounded so intriguing that I ordered 2 samples so I’d have enough to decant into an atomizer. The smell of dry, musky berries reminded me a little of L’Artisan’s Mure et Musc, but definitely more sophisticated. The longevity was great and even though it’s quite linear it’s complex enough to not be boring. I’m seriously considering purchasing a FB and am wondering how the edp and extrait differ. I assume my sample was the edp – is that the concentration you tried, also?

    I think I’ve finally found a favorite Caron AND fruity-floral. : D

    • Blacknall Allen says:

      That 119 is a sophisticated little thing isn’t it? Well, when you asked about EDP versus perfume I was momentarily stumped because I didn’t realize it came in EDP, so I called and asked Dianne Haska who is the Caron ambassador in the US( at the 715 Lexington PHytoUniverse spa and Caron shop) which strength it came in? She very kindly cleared up the question for me. 119 comes in both EDP and parfum (and as I sampled from Luckyscent I think I sampled the EDP, it’s a bit confusing as Luckyscent mentions both, but I think it’s EDP)According to MS. Haska although she isn’t sure about the new Carons (Delire de Rose and 119) Caron’s practice with EDPs in the past was to tweak the formula slightly so that you got a variation on the parfum, whereas the EDT was a weaker version of the parfum. She said, by the way that this was also the practice of Cartier and Chanel so if your NO19 EDP smells different from your extract now you know why, anyhow that’s the story and if you like she’ll send you a bottle in the mail, though if you’re in Europe you might find it easier to order from the Paris boutique, and Harrods carry the line as well. The ordering directly is nice because then they notify you of their sale, generally at the end of the year, when frankly, I buy my Carons.

  4. Cymbaline says:

    I admit to being a bit confused about the different versions available on the Luckyscent site and really appreciate your doing the research-legwork : )

  5. Pingback: Caron L'Accord Code 119 Parfum Extrait Review | EauMG

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