Caron – Parfum Sacré

Caron – Parfum Sacré

caron Perfumes Parfum Sacre There are those loves which we know will endure forever. Such is the beauty of this peppery rose-inspired fragrance by Caron. But where Caron’s Rose is simple and Marni is sheer and evanescent, Parfum Sacré positively smolders, bringing new depths to the pepper-rose combination.

As the vintage advertisement for Caron perfumes at left attests “What is seduction if not a man, a woman and a Caron perfume?” While the fragrance’s name references the sacred, Parfum Sacré is nothing if not sensual.

Though Parfum Sacré opens with a burst of lively, citrusy pepper and spices, like many Caron fragrances, it is perfectly blended to create an more of an overall impression. Despite its spicy opening, Parfum Sacré is as warm and enveloping as a lover’s embrace. The presence of rose lends a velvety texture to the underlying woods and spices, elements which on their own can often be perceived as dry.

Though vanilla and floral notes make an appearance, it is only to support the romance between rose and spices. While the distinct Caron drydown is recognizable, it remains enrobed in the warm, dark rose, adding a hint a smoky drama.

While both the extrait and Eau de Parfum have impressive lasting power, they wear fairly close to the skin, making for an intimate yet luxurious fragrance experience. While the vintage versions have more complexity and depth (especially the extrait which is truly magical) the reformulated version available today is a reasonably close facsimile and worth seeking out for those seeking an elegant and unusual rose-tinged oriental.

Notes: Vanilla, Myrrh, Civet, Cedarwood, Lemon, Pepper, Mace, Cardamom, Orange Blossom, Rose, Jasmine, Rosewood

Guerlain – Nahéma

Guerlain – Nahéma


Still from Benjamin ou les Mémoires d’un Puceau”

“Mon grand-père Jacques m’a dit un jour:

‘Mon petit, n’oublie jamais que l’on crée toujours des parfums pour les femmes qu’on aime, qu’on admire et avec lesquelles on vit’

Et c’est comme cela que tout a commencé.”


“One day my grandfather Jacques said to me

‘My little one, never forget that one always creates perfumes for the women one loves, admires and those with whom one lives.’

And that is how it all began.”

So begins the book “Parfums d’Amour” by Jean-Paul Guerlain, in which he describes the journeys, both literal and figurative, he undertook to arrive at his fragrant creations and the women who inspired him. Although the story behind the inspiration for Nahéma does not appear in Parfums d’Amour, this introduction could not more perfectly describe the fragrance, which along with Jicky, is perhaps among the more well-known of Jean-Paul’s amorous anecdotes.

What would a perfume inspired by the paragon of beauty, Catherine Deneuve, smell of? For Jean-Paul Guerlain, whose 1979 fragrance Nahema was inspired by the award-winning, supremely talented and breathtakingly beautiful actress, the answer was simple. The archetypal symbol of romantic love: the rose. And what a rose he created.

Legend has it that Jean-Paul made 138 attempts at the creation before reaching perfection. Nahéma, which translates as “born of fire” or the “fiery one” is an incredibly ripe, lush rose.  With its plummy and peachy facets, which give the fragrance a fullness and ripeness well beyond a simple soliflore, he achieved a rose so compelling that it takes on a nearly three-dimensional aspect. While rose fragrances are often dismissed as being “old-fashioned”, Hyacinth adds a delicious tension to the fragrance, making this a rose that could never be mistaken for anything less than a sexpot.

catherine deneuve benjamin 1

While I do not find Nahema to be particularly “fiery”, there are oriental aspects which when combined with the ripe fruit notes and Ylang-Ylang suggest a degree of feminine intimacy, not unlike Rochas Femme. Much like a young Catherine Deneuve, Nahéma is inexplicably lush and sensual, like a woman in a crimson velvet gown full of voluptuous curves.

Notes: Peach, Bergamot, Citrus Notes, Aldehydes, Green Notes, Rose, Jasmine, Lilac, Hyacinth, Lily of the Valley, Ylang-Ylang, Peru Balsam, Vanilla, Vetiver, Sandalwood

Marni – Marni Eau de Parfum

Marni – Marni Eau de Parfum

marni eau de parfum

It’s been a long time since I fell in love. In fact, as most of you know, most of my loves are old flames who have been around for a while. So imagine my surprise when I fell in love with a young upstart – the first fragrance release from the Italian fashion label Marni.

The fragrance was composed by the supremely talented Daniela Andrier, who created another love of mine, Infusion d’Iris. While Marni’s character is miles away from Prada’s Iris, they share a similar transparent quality which allows for fragrant complexity to be rendered with a light touch.

Marni starts out with a gorgeous bergamot that smells of high quality without being overpowering. As the fragrance unfolds, it reveals itself as a peppery rose which melds into an elegant woodsy scent with smoky incense undertones. I love how Marni remains dry as silk and never veers into the sweet floral territory, a factor which makes it stand out in the crowd of a thousand fruity florals.

I will forgive Marni its singular flaw and that is its lack of lasting power. It quickly settles to a comfortable hover just above the skin like a warm embrace. It makes a wonderful daytime scent with its elegant treatment of woods and subtle smoky florals. Marni feels grown-up without being characterless. In a word, Marni is delicious. Marni is easily found at major retailers and would make an excellent last minute gift for a special Valentine.

Notes: Bergamot, Cinnamon, Clove, Nutmeg, Ginger, Cardamom, Pink Pepper, Rose, Incense, Vetiver, Cedar, Patchouli


Serge Lutens – Sa Majesté La Rose

Serge Lutens – Sa Majesté La Rose
Sa Majeste la RoseFragrances are, for the most part, an exercise in artifice: by combining a series of notes, perfumers are able to weave together a cohesive scent that evolves over time. At times, the notes work in harmony to create complementary accords or impressions, while other fragrances charm us with seemingly incongruous themes that somehow work together beautifully (think Missoni Eau de Parfum, with its alternating layers of fruit and chocolate).

While Serge Lutens is a master of olfactory tales, Sa Majesté La Rose is a distinct departure from his standard fare. Instead of an opulent romance of exotic, far away lands, the fragrance is a perfect illusion, a realistic study of the majestic rose for which it is named.

Sa Majesté La Rose opens with a pert, slightly spicy rose tinged with a hint of fruity liqueur. While it possess a fuller, richer body, at the opening it is not unlike Rose by Caron. As the fragrance progresses however it takes on a subtle complexity that reveals just how multi-faceted a rose can be. Sa Majesté softens into a warm, slightly smoky rose with hints of honeyed camomile. It is somewhat astonishing in its realism and yet it is never tiresome.

Red Rose Bouquet

In fact, Sa Majesté La Rose reminds me of walking into a room and witnessing a bouquet of roses unfolding over the course of the day. Starting out slightly tart in the morning when first placed into the vase and sharing the opulence of its scented gifts in the evening as the soft, velvety petals unfold.

While Sa Majesté possesses enough character to be worn on its own, it makes a delicious fragrance for layering, adding a rosy fullness to whatever it comes into contact with. It lends itself especially well to layering with other fragrances in the Serge Lutens line. One of my personal favorite combinations is with Muscs Khublai Khan, with Sa Majesté enhancing the subtle rose qualities of Muscs. While the combination may sound like an olfactory overdose, the meeting of these two powerhouses has the effect of tempering the more extreme aspects of each, much like a successful romance brings out the best in us.

Notes: Moroccan Rose Absolute, Gaiac Wood, Clove, White Honey, Musk

Caron – Rose

Caron – Rose

Rose Buds

Of the rose fragrances which I will cover as part of this series, Caron Rose, launched in 1949, is among the simplest. Meant to invoke the idea of a rose solifore, or a fragrance centered around a single floral note, Caron Rose is like a throwback to the early 1900s when fragrances based on a single flower were all that women wore.

But as we all know, even a single flower possesses a delicious complexity – sharp and green at the outset until its scent softens as the bud ripens and unfurls. Caron Rose travels along this scent trajectory like stop-time photography. Watching it unfold makes me think of all the facets that make a rose, rose-like and the challenges a perfumer faces when trying to duplicate nature. Which aspects to enhance and which to downplay? Just as no two flowers are alike, a close study of a rose by ten different perfumers would surely yield ten different results.

Caron Rose Urn Bottle

Michael Morsetti, the perfumer credited with Rose’s creation, set out to capture the scent of a young rose. The initial bite of lemon laced with spice mimics the firm green bud as it sprouts from the stem, while a touch of rose liquor hints at the bloom to come. Although the distinct rosy elixir impression has a slightly synthetic feel, it dissipates fairly quickly leaving a soft, subtle rose.

While I enjoy Morsetti’s fairly realistic rose impression, my favorite part of the fragrance is the drydown, when the petals fall away to reveal Caron’s signature base of soft, creamy powder, lending the rose a bit of depth and ballast.

Originally one of the Urn perfumes, Caron Rose is now sadly discontinued. While Caron’s Rose would not stand up to other more complex rose contenders, it is perfect for days when I want something beautiful but undemanding. It makes a lovely bedtime fragrance  as well – a little spritz in some hand lotion makes a comforting night-time treat – and it lends itself well to layering with other fragrances in order to add a more prominent rose note.

Notes: Neroli, Roses, Mint, Geranium, Vetiver, Roses, Iris, Vanilla, Sandalwood, Musk




February – Everything’s Coming Up Roses

pink roses

February, as we all know, signals the coming of St. Valentine’s – a day dedicated to romance which is celebrated in many parts of the world. In addition to chocolates and the exchange of love-notes, flowers are a popular romantic gift choice.

Roses, ancient symbols of love, beauty and friendship, are perhaps the flower most commonly associated with Valentine’s Day. With their myriad petals and lush, complex aroma, roses are not unlike a woman: her many faces deepen and unfurl, achieving uncomparable beauty through the fullness of time.

rose bloom

Rose is one of my favorite notes in perfumery – in part for its elegance, but largely for its adaptability. Rose can be green and youthful, like newly sprouted buds; spicy and sharp like a tightly bound rose, or lush and provocative as a rose in full bloom. Over the next weeks, I shall explore various rose fragrances which highlight the beauty of this note in different manifestations.


red rose cluster