Characters in Bottles: The Carons

Ayn Rand as postage stamp

Ayn Rand as postage stamp

If you read last week’s post you know about the first part of my essay on the Caron perfume house.  I was making the point that Caron,or more precisely their founder/perfumer Ernest Daltroff, created highly distinctive perfumes.  Along with Francois Coty who also used psychological marketing, Daltroff seems to have composed perfumes for different personality types, some of them quite extreme.

Take for instance Nuit de Noel (1922), Caron itself calls this fragrance an oriental though the formula is on the line between chypres and orientals, and describes it as “woody, flowery (mainly jasmine) spices (sic) and moss.”  This was the controversial writer Ayn Rand’s favorite perfume and remains a grave, almost stately scent that suits anyone who loves luxury.  The absence of any cologne or bergamot top-notes makes the the scent rich, yet not at all animalic since the base is  25% sandalwood, the rest mousse de saxe. This may be the origin of the comments about Caron’s relative “propriety” since unlike most of its competitors, Nuit did not feature civet or musk.  The scent is dignified and lavish but not in the least sexual. Nuit de Noel is a perfume for judges, executives, even Prime Ministers ( Theresa May take note). There is nothing silly about the contents of the little black bottle. Continue reading

En Avion : What Airplanes Smell Like

An early advert for En Avion

An early advert for En Avion

Air travel used to be sort of glamorous. No really, before you fall over laughing, it truly was. Clean airplanes, cocktails, pretty stewardesses in un-stained uniforms. I barely remember this, my younger sister doesn’t remember anything of the sort, and no one conceived after 1975 can even imagine it.

All we can recall now is how awful our last flight was and how we swore that next time no matter what it cost, we were definitely going to bid on a seat in business class. Yeah, right.

In the 1930’s things were not only glamorous they were dangerous.  That was still the era of long distance solo flights by those impossibly thin entities Lindbergh and  Earhart.  A large number of people swear by Vol de Nuit as evocative of this adventurous airbourne history, but I just don’t think that smells anything like airplanes. Lovely perfume, nothing to do with airplanes even though it’s named after the St. Exupery novel.  En Avion though, the Caron perfume from 1932 actually does. Continue reading

What I Wear: Leather

Bandit

Bandit

I came to this conclusion recently when  taking inventory of my several bottles, all of which have got to be moved. Many were leather scents.  I mean a surprising proportion of them were leather, almost thirty percent of what I actually wear these days qualifies as some sort of leather scent.  I had not the faintest notion.  If you had asked me, my nice well mannered left brain self would have told you that I wear florals. Yes I do wear some florals, mostly aldehydic florals, and some modern chypres, but a lot of the time…well you know. Continue reading

Bad Luck Perfume ?

Black cat superstition in action

Black cat superstition in action

Irrationality is at the core of humanity, just like a pit in an avocado. Superstition is part and parcel of this and while I like to think of myself as not being superstitious nevertheless I am.

Case in point being the “unlucky perfume”, there are some I give a wide berth to because something bad occurred every time I wore them.  Ridiculous right?  But true.

I have never been able to wear Narcisse Noir and the reason isn’t even something that happened to me but that I happened to read Black Narcissus.  Unlucky just to read about a nun going off a parapet you know.  Besides there’s the whole superstitious aura surrounding nuns there.  Then a screening of Sunset Boulevard finished me off entirely.  Narcisse Noir scared me and when I actually smelled it, that perfume spooked me.  I just don’t wear NN  as a precaution. Continue reading

Wearing Vintage

Opium advert

Opium advert

A disclaimer here, I’ve always worn vintage clothes.  I did stop after the age of forty, but in my twenties I never wore anything more recent than the fifties-why?  Contemporary stuff was much less chic. So my take on old perfume tends to follow the same pattern, if it works why not wear it? Perfumes are not antiques, you can use them.  The question is where and how?  Some old perfumes have become cliches and everyone knows what you are wearing or thinks that they do- which can be worse Continue reading

Mothers, Daughters, and Perfume

Mary_Cassatt_Young_Mother_Sewing Everyone has one of these stories, either concerning what you remember your Mother wearing, or else what your Mimaw wore, but either way, their choices influence yours.  It’s inevitable.  Some mothers never wear perfume, and their daughters react against the austerity; others had mothers who over-spritzed, and a lifetime of no scent can be the result.

However the nicest tradition perhaps, is the generational carry over of a perfume: the mother who always wore Joy, and so the daughter does as well, for instance.  It’s lovely, but seldom seems to happen.  People often want to distance themselves from what their mothers wore, more than they want to reprise them. But there comes a time in everyone’s life when remembering does take on some importance. Continue reading

Perfume for a Wet Day in May

renoir-the-umbrellasThe day in question would be one of those puddle jumpers of late spring, you know, umbrella and Wellington boot weather.  This has been our lot for weeks on the eastern coast of the US, where the spring has been tardy and cold.

This unexpected weather has played hob with my usual perfume choices for this time of year.  Normally, I would have cracked my Carons, and it would have been a Bellodgia fest with a bit of En Avion and Narcisse Blanc to break up the rose/carnation cabal. That is what it might have been like.  However it’s been too raw for all those scents, and frequently too wet.  I kept Coty’s l’Aimant in rotation, as the sole floral, because that smells  dry and slightly peachy, a comforting perfume for cold, raw days. Continue reading

Some Like it Hot

Then there is the perfume in which the whole spicy carnation floweriness I have been writing about sinks in a morass of heavier, hotter materials like a bouquet in a lava flow.  The one time floral composition becomes an oriental and a heated one at that.  This is what happens in Caron’s Poivre from 1954.  The perfume belongs to that group of Caron compositions done after the death of the house’s founder Ernest Daltroff in 1940.  Daltroff’s companion and business partner Felicie Vanpouille was still in charge at Caron and she employed the perfumer Michel Morsetti as in- house talent( he had been Daltroff’s assistant.)

Continue reading