It’s one of the very first things that I do every December: change perfume. Christmas is one of the best times for perfume, there are so many smells on the air anyhow that perfume only raises the resonance of the season a little.
That however is the easy part, the hard part is deciding what you feel is worthy of wearing for a month or so. That’s not so simple. I suppose I could do the sensible thing and simply wait for Spring to change my perfume, but I like to have something that is Christmasy on my wrist, and so get into this difficulty right on schedule every December 1st.
This year I’m going to do a little exploring as regards Christmas fragrances and report back on my efforts once a week. This week I’m wearing a genuine rarity, Caron’s Voeux de Noel. Here’s a picture of the original bottle in milk glass. Lovely isn’t it? An excellent choice for those who collect bottles btw. As far as I can tell Voeux went out of production sometime in the 1980s. As it is still listed in my Jean Gaborit Perfumes of 1985, I assume it was the more than half past that era of excess when Caron ceased making it .
The perfume is sometimes also called Rose de Noel but seems to have nothing to do with actual Christmas roses. Voeux is floral and the only notes I can find are rose, lilac and carnation. There’s a distinct similarity to Nuit de Noel which if you have never smelled it is largely predicated on roses, incense and sandalwood and features the signature Caron dry down worked out by the essential oils supplier de Laire back in the day called Mousse de Saxe. This is a rich, dark oriental accord which features some licorice and wood is what gives several Caron perfumes that luxurious nap, thick as silk velvet against skin.
Here the textural effect is provided by massed flower petals, the most prominent part of Voeux. Lilacs to start with, and what lilacs they are. That is the beginning of Voeux de Noel. Unlike many other Caron perfumes, this does not begin awkwardly, but envelops you in flowers from the very beginning all the way to the end like some kind of flowery alternative to fur.
You begin with icy smelling lilacs. They warm up on skin and then slowly the perfume begins to thaw into an impressive array of roses. On me the reference to other more famous Caron perfumes is hard to miss, but is principally to the spicy incense roses of Parfum Sacre. They remind me faintly or rugosas which always have an undertone of clove to them. This makes a fine transition to the late stages of the perfume which are all about carnations. Big, expansive carnations from the garden rather than from the florist’s.
I suppose that when the decision was made to discontinue this perfume the management at Caron thought that they already had plenty of carnations and roses, and saw no point in a second Christmas perfume since they already had Nuit de Noel. I think this is rather like saying why should we keep “Once in Royal David’s City” in the Hymnal if we already have ” Oh Little Town of Bethlehem”. To my mind, variation is not the same as repetition.
The end is all spicy mousse de saxe and more carnations, and the duration on me is perhaps three hours. Voeux is largely natural and like so many natural perfumes, somewhat fleeting. If you find a bottle, wear it. This is one of the best of the old Carons, less tricky than Or et Noir or En Avion, less cerebral than Nuit de Noel, and less formidable than Narcisse Noir. This is as charming as chimes on a winter’s night.