Life with Fleurs de Rocaille

Fleurs de Rocaille parfum

Fleurs de Rocaille parfum

The other day I acquired a classic: Fleurs de Rocailles.  This particular classic isn’t in vogue.  Right now I’d say that weighty orientals are all the rage , but this is a season in which Spring cannot come soon enough for me, so when I saw a bottle of Fleurs de Rocaille on Ebay I bought. Then the perfume arrived packed with extravagant care, and I discovered the old extract had never been opened. I was the very first wearer of this perfume which must have been forty years old or older. How appropriate.

F d R is the sort of perfume which gives most perfume lovers pause nowadays.  They think the fragrance will smell old fashioned and the bad reviews which the Caron line received several years ago in The Sanchez and Turin Guide still influence people negatively. However I  collect them.  At last count I owned 12, and all of them are rich and lasting perfumes.  But up until now I’d avoided Fleurs de Rocaille.  .”Masterly but staid affairs” Luca Turin wrote of both Fleurs and Nuit de Noel,”that bring to mind well to do ladies outside the church after Sunday service, all voilettes and pillbox hats.” Who wants to be masterly and staid, aside that is, from the late Henry James?  Then Turin went on to quote his landlady in Paris who had said that of the two greatest perfume houses in France, Guerlain was for cocottes while Caron was for duchesses. (She didn’t mention Cotys at all which makes me wonder who they were for? Shop Girls? Dental Hygienists?)

Fleurs de Rocaille adverts

Fleurs de Rocaille adverts

This peculiar little statement has come to make some sense to me. Old Guerlains are retro engineered hits from other houses. They’re inherently conservative. Cocottes after all have to toe the line and wear what is fashionable, otherwise they might lose their clientele.    Carons though, like the duchesses,  are often originals and can be just as odd as they choose to be.

In a word though, and despite my collection, Fleurs de Rocaille was un- expected.  It was green.  Commonly called a floral aldehyde the overwhelming impression, the overture if you like, is Spring time.  This seemed familiar to me and I pulled a perfume I also own, Jean Patou’s Vacances.  Both are Impressionist landscapes of Spring time.  But Vacances which is based on an accord of lilacs and mimosas is softer and more relaxed.  Fleurs de Rocaille has got carnation mixed in with the lilac and the result is more focused. Also from the beginning you realize that F d R is going to be a much more complex scent than the delicate Vacances.  Things are going to change.

1960's Fleurs de Rocailles ad

1960′s Fleurs de Rocailles ad

At first under the influence of the aldehydes the perfume becomes a bit soapy and sharp but gradually softens, and begins to relax underneath the initial accord of carnation and lilac like a tight bundle of flowers brought home from the market. First you get lilacs and then increasingly you smell carnation.

This Spring time bouquet also contains roses and jasmines and you become aware of them too while the perfume seems to expand under your nose as you smell those roses which are still accompanied by the jasmines and carnations. You’ve got quite a crowded corsage of florals by now  ( this trick of pervading your atmosphere is one of the nicest qualities of the old Carons). They seem to expand even more until you are now wearing what feels like an entire dress of flowers, and this impression lasts for hours on me.  This is no doubt the reason for Fleurs’ success for so many years, this illusion of wearing a fabric of flowers.

Then much later the perfume begins to dry down to oakmoss, sandalwood, and some musk, but the softness of this drying off is equivalent to a peau  de soie slip sliding off a shoulder and is just as smooth.  What began as the proper outfit for Sunday has stripped down to the negligee worn on Sunday night.

Lilacs in bloom the first impression of Fleurs de Rocaille

Lilacs in bloom the first impression of Fleurs de Rocaille

Fleurs is surprisingly versatile.  As a number of people have remarked on blogs and in perfume forums, floral aldehydes are amongst the very easiest and most versatile scents to wear everyday.  Fleurs can  go shopping with you, drop off the kids at practice, can go to work ( very sparingly applied) and can drink a glass of Chardonnay or Viognier with you at six thirty and not square off against the wine.  This is why this perfume has stayed in production this long. Fleurs is wide awake and may not be for cocottes because it is not remotely sexy, but it is immortally pretty.

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14 thoughts on “Life with Fleurs de Rocaille

  1. ARGH. I haven’t yet been won over by any Caron (excepting perhaps Parfum Sacre which I find immensely comforting), but this sounds very up my alley. Too bad it’s the vintage stuff and not the currently-produced.

  2. And this is for SURE not the edt. I tried that once and mosquito repellent was all I could think of. But this is very different much fuller and greener and the lilac is quite noticeable.

    Trouble with the Carons is that since Ernest Daltroff’s partner died in the early seventies, Caron’s been owned by Eli Lilly and then the Ales group and the consistency of the formulas has been hard to maintain. Then IFRA restricts stuff. Anyway this is as pretty as Leslie Caron in her ballet days.

  3. Thank you for this review. I own and love many Carons (Caron is probably my favorite house), but, like you, was sufficiently put-off by the Turin review that I’ve never even tried Fleurs (as I recall it was the word “prim”). Your description sounds lovely and I will have to check it out.

    • Thank goodness another Caron fan! I was beginning to think they were an endangered species, which would be a shame.

      Yes, please don’t be put off by that Guide review, Carons like Jazz and caviar are an acquired taste. This one is largely an accord of lilac and carnation- the sparkling carnation Caron used so often- but the soft dry down is comforting and warm.

  4. I don’t think I’ve ever tried a Caron (I’m still pretty new in the perfume world). I suppose I should give some a go. Would you definitely recommend trying to find vintage Carons?

    • Carons are a minority taste right now and I don’t know what kind of fragrance you like, so i hesitate to say sure rush out and buy an expensive decant of vintage Caron. Even some Guerlains can be easier to get used to. Try modern to start with, then move on if you like Caron.
      The most easy to love include Farnesiana ( a mimosa floral with an amber dry down very soft) and Or et Noir or its younger version Parfum Sacre both oriental rose fragrances with some spiciness and incense towards the end. I would recommend trying first something like Parfum Sacre, or if you prefer light scents Acaciosa which is a pineapple top and a lovely jasmine body, rather delicate, or Narcisse Blanc, an iris and orange blossom scent. Others like Tabac Blond or Narcisse Noir can be wallops and pretty hard to acclimate to.

      Also ( way to take an age with this answer I know) try them in extract and take your time. Carons have slow evaporation rates and the best of them usually take thirty minutes to show heart notes. Good luck and happy sniffing!

  5. I have a very chequered relationship with the house of Caron, but I enjoy using my sample of this every springtime – it has a wonderful sherbety quality – that will be the mimosas, no doubt. Bit early for it still, mind.

    • Oh I like the idea of sherbet, that is true, and there is just the lightest touch of fizz, which is like sherbet melting on your tongue and that is part of the charm of this Caron. Also and despite the cameo role in Scent of a Woman etc, and the less than stellar reviews, it is a cheerful fragrance to my mind. Not giggles in a bottle but a smile.

  6. When I first dipped my toes into finding out about fragrances on the net-it was the age of Caron love on MUA. Man-I wasted so much time on those boards! But it was so much fun. And I remember TS when she posted there- and she loved caroms as much as we do. Here is one thing I cannot fathom: how can The Guide state that a product has been reformulated, if the house which produces it say that nothing has changed? Not trying to start an argument here- I sincerely wonder how it can be done. For example-Isabelle Doyen of Annick Goutal says Eau d’Hadrien has not been reformulated. Shouldn’t her word be worth more than the authors of The Guide?
    So back to Caron-the lovely Diane Haska sent me some samples (Caron cannot ship to Canada). I loved everything she sent-except for tabac Blond. When i first tried it I wanted to wash it off-I couldn’t believe how bad it smelled to me.it smells so bad i kept smelling it. And smelling it. And then-it was love. Love. LOVE. I wonder if some Carons have been discontinued-I don’t see them on the official website anymore. So I have En Avion, and Poivre, and Coup de Fouet, and they make me feel like I am wearing proper complex womanly scents. I bought Narcisse Noir this summer-it does not have the darkness I had expected. Parfum Sacre is in my collection, too-lovely mace and lemon loveliness. But your F de R sounds just dreamy. I wonder if it will be a signature scent for you. And what is the significance of the chroming little paper bow at the stopper? It’s too feminine for words.

    • Well you are a fellow Caron fan and no mistake! I too own just about everything you have with the sad exceptions of Coup de Fouet (which Diane told me had been dropped) and Parfum Sacre. Narcisse Noir tends to spook me out a little bit and I prefer Narcisse Blanc, but there is no Caron perfume which strikes me as haphazard or thrown together. Everything they do is, as you say, complex, interesting and enveloping. You sink into Carons.

      I remember the MUA days as well, and I always wondered how Tania Sanchez took such a scunner to the Carons in the 07 Guide? Some have changed over time, but less than you might think, and they tend to macerate in the bottle like wine. I actually “lay some down” like wine in the cellar :-)

      Re discontinuations, I know Alpona is not in the line, also Coup de Fouet. But they’re all truly interesting and L’Accord 119 was something unusual too, even though that’s recent.

  7. Thanks for reading. This is one of the loveliest old perfumes to try if you enjoy dabbling in a little vintage perfume-and who doesn’t :-)?

  8. Lovely review, glad to have come across it. Another Caron fan here, as well as a lover of carnations (hard to imagine loving one without the other, isn’t it?); as it happens, I’m spending a lazy day at home, Bellodgia on my left wrist and Coup de Fouet on my right, just because. Tomorrow, Coup goes up against Poivre.

    That said, for several years now I’ve simultaneously craved and dreaded trying Fleurs. A friend’s mother wore it when I was a child in the mid sixties, something I still remember because to me she smelled so beautifully unlike anyone else’s mother, like what I always hoped to smell when I sniffed the bottles on my mom’s and my aunt’s dressers. So I’ve avoided it. It seems inevitable that more current versions would entirely miss the mark, but I also have worried that the real vintage scent might let me down, unable to live up to my blurred and idealized fifty year old memories. So thanks for a review that has pretty much convinced me to track down a vintage decant and give it a go.

  9. I certainly hope that vintage Fleurs de Rocaille lives up to your memories. It has to be hard to try and smell something that goes that far back in your personal history and that you loved, especially if it doesn’t remind you of your original experience.

    My little bottle must come from the seventies at least and i found it to be just as complex as any other Caron with some similarities to Bellodgia but less …I guess the word I’m looking for is chic. Bellodgia is a tad hard edged. Not Fleurs. I find it very soft in its later stages and I notice too that the very end is full of civet which smells sugary on me, like powdered sugar on a beignet!

    I wish I could find Coup de Fouet. Poivre is precious but Coup de Fouet seems never to have been in much production. Do hang onto your bottle, and good luck with Fleurs :-)

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