Golconda and the Scent of Rugosas

The Darya e Noor Diamond

The Darya e Noor Diamond

Once the name Golconda was associated with only one thing: pink diamonds.  At the end  of the 17th century during the great age of the Mughal Empire in India Golconda was mined out and the sparkling vein of rose petal diamonds dried up.

Golconda is also the first of the Joel Arthur  Rosenthal fragrances, and if you have never heard of him, that may be because you are not a jewelry collector of very high net worth. Also you missed the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s retrospective of JAR jewelry which I curse myself for missing, because the pieces are so  lovely that seeing them just makes your day.

If you are unfamiliar with the JAR fragrances, that is understandable as well because they are hard to find. Sold in only two venues in Paris and New York.  Bergdorf Goodman contains a tiny boutique for JAR with the fragrances set out on a table in little glass domes covering suede cloths saturated with each scent. The perfumes are presented to you one by one and after the introduction is made you try to make out what each one is saying.  I know what Golconda is exh-page_JARsaying, something about the watery winking light of pink pave diamonds.

Golconda first and foremost conveys this sense of opulence, not that diamonds have a smell but if pink ones did wouldn’t they smell as Golconda does of carnations and roses? Also, Golconda has only a brief opening note (although my sample is old and may have lost its nose, still I doubt that because of the surprisingly clarity of Golconda).  This is the anti-thesis of the scumbled stew of ingredients in mediocre perfumes and is the best carnation scent I have ever smelled. You put your nose directly into a fresh bouquet of florist carnations and roses.

The freshness which becomes apparent after a minute of medicinal oiliness  may be due to galbanum or a lily of the valley note but the effect is dewiness. Nothing beats this.  I compared Golconda with vintage Bellodgia and that Bellodgia (extract from the mid eighties) was just not in the race, nor are Terracotta Voile d’Ete or Floris’  powdery classic Malmaison or even Guerlain’s Fleur de Feu. (Golconda by the way outlasted the Bellodgia, too.)

The original Golconda Bottle from Basenotes.com

The original Golconda Bottle  which used to arrive packed in dried roses! from Basenotes.com

The difference, I suspect, is in the quality of the rose and carnation notes used.  You can buy carnation essential oil but as you’ve probably already guessed that’s costly. At my last check you could buy 1/8th of an oz. for $35.00 and I would not be surprised if carnation were not in Golconda, the smell of benzyl isoeugenol which is responsible for so many old carnation perfumes (yes, Bellodgia and L’Air du Temps, newer carnations are due to newer materials) is either very discreet here or non existent. As time goes on there may be some clove and some cinnamon in the scent together with rose and a tiny bit of vanilla. When I was at the JAR boutique at Bergdorf’s the gentleman who manned it told me that  Golconda had been released in two editions because an ingredient had become unavailable and I smelled both iterations of Golconda and preferred the first one, though both were beautiful carnation fragrances. This wearing is based on a sample from the nineties of vintage Golconda.

A JAR Butterfly from Pinterest.com

A JAR Butterfly from Pinterest.com

The light of these gemstone creations is filtered through the vision of Mr. Rosenthal and that means that the opulence is shattered so that the heaviness of stones  is broken up by light.  JAR’s startling originality makes the heaviness seem weightless, and the long lived jewels that can pass through so many hands seem brief, almost momentary like flowers or butterflies or dragon flies zipping rapidly out of your range of vision.

There is something similarly beguiling about Golconda due perhaps to its  precision and its focus. Possibly the point of a JAR piece or  perfume is this quality of minute observation which results in beauty, but at the end of the fragrance I’m left not with the usual slightly flattened carnation, but with a scent I know well, the spicy rose of rugosas which grow in large numbers here by the beach, common as dandelions but wonderful

Rugosa Fru Dagmar Hartopp

Rugosa Fru Dagmar Hartopp

to smell. A natural confluence of creaminess, vanilla, rose, and clove, so wonderful that  only blind luck could create it in the first place. This is one of the rugosas which I think smell somewhat like Golconda. Possibly I break ranks with other people in smelling just about as much rose here as carnation but for me this is the perfect rugosa fragrance, and speaking as a rose nut – I’m delighted. Do I wish I had a bottle?  Hell yes, children!



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16 thoughts on “Golconda and the Scent of Rugosas

  1. I have never smelled Golconda – or indeed any JAR fragrances. That’s firstly due to my lack of opportunity to smell them in the boutique, and secondly due to my desperate fear that I would fall headlong in love with one of them and be unable to afford to purchase. I’ve always thought it would probably BE Golconda, too, given my helpless love for fresh dewy bouquets of flowers.

    DSH used to make an approximation of Golconda, called Fleuriste, and it was very nice. However, it was an oil-format thing and I suspect that the oil kept it from sparkling as it should have done. I much preferred Oeillets Rouges.

  2. Thank you for reminding me that Oeillets Rouges exists- before I set a watch on Ebay and blow the budget like forever.

    I still don’t get why it is that carnations are out of fashion? This is soo pretty and soo feminine and soo well, ok, it’s the Grace Kelley of carnation frags. Only worry with this one is Marie Antoinette’s wafting 1%ishly while on her way out of Paris to escape the revolution. Normal people do NOT smell like this.

    Forgot to say that the other JAR fragrances are much more idiosyncratic. Jarling is their take on the L’Heure Bleue/Apres L’Ondee/L’Origan theme very refined slightly vanillic and Diamond Waters is the carnation aldehydic fragrance a sparkly perfume not that far off Chanel NO 22/ Guerlain Vega. Bolt of Lightning is earthy animalic and leathery. Kafka loved that and it’s her sort of thing, dark, dangerous your basic 50 Shades of Naughty.

  3. I love Golconda; it’s the most beautiful carnation scent I’ve ever come across (and I love carnations). I’m tremendously impressed by all of the JAR perfumes; other favorites include Diamond Water, Ferme tes Yeux, and Bolt of Lightning. But Golconda is the best of all.

    1. Someone on Basenotes? Not really sure which forum, said that Golconda was the most wearable of all the JARs and I’ll agree.

      I’ll break down and admit that I sort of collect carnation scents and this is the best one so far 🙂

      1. I consider Diamond Water (which I perceive as a carnation incense perfume) very wearable as well. I love Ferme tes Yeux (which kind of reminds me of Caron’s Acaciosa–what do you think?), but would not wear it out of my own house and find Bolt of Lightning fascinating but not really wearable as a perfume.

        1. I agree about Bolt of Lightning, really fascinating but more a perfume “piece” than something you can wear.

          Do not remember Ferme tes Yeux but if it reminds you of Acaciosa then FTY has to be principally jasmine and rather sultry…

          Diamond Water smells like a sparklier carnation than Golconda to me, with incense. It was almost effervescent or like those wines they call petillant. Kind of a nostril tickler for me, don’t know if it struck you that way?

          1. Yes, to the sparkly element of Diamond Water (but it’s the carnation/incense aspect that really captures me).

            I’m sure that FTY has jasmine (although they don’t, of course, tell you what’s in them) and “sultry” is a good word for both Acaciosa and FTY. FTY takes the sultriness further, though. I’d be interested to know if you perceive that resemblance, next time you have a chance to check out FTY.

          2. So Nipped downstairs to nab my Acaciosa out of the refrigerator, and yes very jasmine, very sultry, with a LOT of indoles there and that does jog my memory about Ferme Tes Yeux. The very next time i go to Bergdorf’s I will stop by JAR again and refresh my impressions of this one. Remember thinking of a flowery barnyard when I smelled it, and that was probably the indoles 🙂

  4. Wonderful review. I did try the JAR’s once in Paris, but don’t remember too much, and since the price tag really truly is out of my league, I suppose I’ve just banned them from my perfume mind only to surface whenever I read about them, which then always makes me want to jump on the first plane to try them again. And a carnation, sigh! It does sound like something I’d love. For carnations I think as others have mentioned, nowadays really one has to go to the indie perfumers. Apart from the ones mentioned, there’s also Fiore Di Bellodgia, and Annette Neuffer’s Divincarnation. Two very different and stunning carnations.

  5. Divincaration!? Ooh something new. I’ll have to check that one, I did try Royal Oeillet which was the Oriza le Grand but it smelled not carnation-y to me and that was a disappointment.

    Anything truly carnation is a gift. Also when will someone bottle the scent of garden pinks? They have a truly wonderful spicy smell as good as the carnations but a little more robust and peppery while still floral. Couldn’t someone try that? Ineke Ruhland did sort of with Sweet William, but that is a different plant.

    1. Did you try En Voyages Fiore Di Bellagio? ( sorry misspelling before) that is both floral and spicy. And as soon as autumn comes I’ll check out Divincarnation again.

  6. No I didn’t but I did notice that Sheila Waddington had come out with it. I fear Fiore got kind of buried underneath her new one. Anyway, fine suggestion and I will get around to it asap, any carnation is a try for me 😉

  7. I like Golconda but it’s nowhere near to “love” – and it rather makes me sad: every time I test something that is outrageously pricey I hope that it’ll be divine. So far nothing was. But I should agree that it’s a very beautiful carnation.

    1. I mentioned my very old bottle of Fleur de Feu and actually although that was an edt and the Golconda was extract, FdF came closest to it. Fleur is a Guerlain and so it probably figures. Lighter than the Golconda and somewhere between that and L’Air du Temps. Let me know if you’d like any.

      On falling in love with things, don’t we do that less over time? We’ve smelled so much, and we don’t infatuate so easily any more. Mind you, I DO enjoy some of the old Guerlains. I love the end of my Shalimar, and I have spent two days very happily with Mitsouko!! Whatever next?

  8. I had the JAR ‘soup tureen’ experience in Paris and remember Golconda as being a bit too spiky / spicy for me – carnation red in tooth and claw as it were. Very interested to read about the origins of the word – I had no idea about the jewelry connection. Oh, I just checked my own soundbite on it and it’s ‘Dentist! Evil clove!’ I am not very good with carnation as you can see, But I enjoyed your review on all sorts of other levels, including the sumptuous illustrations.

  9. Ooh, the dreaded dentist connection, that’s bad.

    I fear that those who have suffered through a dentist visit with oil of clove will never like Golconda. I just love spiciness myself, but that’s my peculiarity.
    At least the pink diamonds should appeal.

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