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.