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

Perfume Partnerships

Rogers and Astaire

Rogers and Astaire

Not the cute pairings of masculines with feminines worn by couples.  What I mean by perfume couples, are scents in your wardrobe which you know will form a stable partnership with at least one other perfume you own. Maybe that might strike some people as odd, but I have done this for years.

Bear with me.  Fond as I am of the fragrance wardrobe concept, I tend to change it seasonally or even monthly, and usually in this way, morning or daytime scent with evening or afternoon one. If you use two perfumes from the same house it’s often easier to pull off since they frequently share a base. Right now I’ve done this with Le Temps d’un Fete and Vanille Tonka from de Nicolai. They play off one another extremely well and can be worn for a month or so at a time. You feel like you have choice but also harmony and some familiarity. Try this with any maker, from DS and Durga to Estee Lauder, the only common point being a house signature.Since the idea is not layering per se here(although you can try that) but to wear both in the same day with one perfume giving out as the other takes over and the overlap smelling wonderful. Continue reading

Flapper Winds

Cicada Bottle for Cigalia of Roger et Gallet 1911

Cicada Bottle for Cigalia of Roger et Gallet 1911

Once upon a time I knew that Tabac Blond was the first tobacco scent ever introduced to perfumery.  This turns out to be a canard. In fact it was the third.  The first was a perfume called either Cigalia or else Les Cigales by the old firm of Roger et Gallet, with a remarkably beautiful bottle done by who else but Lalique.  Here it is.  Lovely no?

You do end up finding out all sorts of odd things as time goes on, but the story of the first tobacco perfumes does not end with Cigalia.  In fact there was also a Coty perfume.  You knew there had to be one?  It seems that whenever anyone had any kind of new material or base or idea in the perfume world of the early twentieth century there was Francois Coty already set to market his version of whatever it happened to be.  As far as I can discover Coty introduced his tobacco perfume in 1912 inside a Baccarat bottle topped with a crystal cut stopper.  According to Edmond Roundnitska L’Or was in the air a lot in 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

Love- But Not at First Sniff

James Macneil Whistler

James Macneil Whistler

Some of my very favorite and most enduring loves in the perfume world began with serious dislike.  You might almost call some of those encounters Beatrice and Benedict  run ins*, and even though smelling a perfume is a great deal less complex than a human friendship-or feud- there were times when I really felt as if I was the last person to know my own likes and dislikes.

The converse may also be true.  You may love  a perfume from the very first time you encounter it, but my experience is that such easy affairs seldom involve the heart, and wind up being boring in the end.  I want, not drama exactly, but twists and turns that indicate a little complexity in a formula.  I don’t want to guess every move a fragrance is going to make long before it makes one. Continue reading

The Transitional Perfume

ChrysanthemumEvery year fall rolls around and every year I lose step with everyone else in the perfume world. It seems as though the majority of people like to check their cool weather wardrobes and plan ahead happily for the ambers, orientals, gourmands, and woody scents they will shortly be dabbing and spritzing. There is a rush to find the Bois des Isles, the Ambre Sultans and for the bolder sexier sorts, their animalics and leathers. You get a sense of busy bustle as folks find their old friends again, and then there’s always a flood of new releases hoping to gain a little traction in the scent market before the holidays. In short, there is a lot to choose from, probably more than at any other time of the year. Continue reading

Had a Wife but Couldn’t Keep Her

Peter_Peter_PumpkinThe subject of the last line is, of course, Peter Pumpkin Eater.  Pumpkin is not on the short list of things that make me enthusiastic about anything, but according to the Smell and Taste Treatment and Research Foundation in Chicago, it’s the combination of pumpkin and   lavender that does it for men.

Really.

Pumpkin.

Lavender.

Uh huh.

You can forget your Shalimar, never mind the Mitsouko, detonate your Flowerbomb without him because it’s pumpkin and lavender that men love and respond to (the smell of cinnamon buns come in second by the way). Continue reading

Prince of Cats

Treat or claw,
Smell my paw,
Give me something
Good to gnaw!

(my daughter’s verse composed for Trick or Treating Cats)

You may have read that oakmoss, that dark extract that lends Chypres their  swarthy good looks is on its way out.  It seems that in 2013 oakmoss will be restricted to almost trace amounts in formulas, .0001% if I read the notice on the Basenotes thread correctly, and that is not good news for any number of classic perfumes. Continue reading

What Becomes a Legend? What Does a Legend Become?

I have been reading about Wallis Warfield Simpson, aka the Duchess of Windsor.  She has become the strangest mosaic of pariah and icon that I can think of.  The resulting likeness, assembled over decades, resembles a Chuck Close portrait with an unsettling chiaroscuro; enigmatic, despite being composed of photographs, documentary evidence after all.

Less plausible as a queen than Camilla Parker Bowles (does anyone think of the one time Mrs. Parker Bowles as Mrs. Windsor, by-the-by?) and the transferee of enormous sums from the Brit royal family to herself (in one three weeks period,  jewels totalling 110,000  pre-war British pounds ) and the occupier of a position on the International Best Dressed list.

By any estimate, one of the most successful gold diggers in history. Continue reading

Innovation Amongst the Elder Berries

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.  Continue reading