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

Robert Piguet – Baghari

Robert Piguet – Baghari

Woman in Fur

While we often have a mental picture of the 1950s as a time of feminine restraint, the fragrances of that era paint a different picture altogether. Perhaps due to the fact that woman essentially inhabited a different sphere than men, far away from stuffy office corridors with their recycled air, their perfumes seemed to have some lifeblood in them. Even the airy aldehydic florals had something hefty lurking within to give them a backbone.

When Francis Fabron’s vintage Baghari walks into a room, she commands attention. The opening aldehydes have a kick to them, as they heave rather than sparkle. The waxy, tallow-like opening has an orange-amber richness similar to Caron’s Nocturnes and Givenchy’s L’Interdit, interestingly another fragrance created by Fabron.

Baghari Robert Piguet

The opening is suggestive of the animalic undercurrent of the fragrance to follow, and while Baghari reveals a bosomy floral bouquet, it shares a complexity with Piguet’s Bandit by Germaine Cellier – the hint of something beneath the surface.

The fragrance, like others of its time, is remarkably well-constructed and gives an impression of roundness and depth, like an embrace from an old friend on a cold night, the scent of her fur tinged with perfume and smoke to create a scent that is more than the sum of its parts, the scent of a woman.

Baghari was reformulated by Aurélien Guichard and while the fragrance is suggestive of the original Baghari, it lacks its driving force and personality. Still, it makes a lovely daytime companion for stuffy office corridors.

Notes: Aldehydes, Bergamot, Citrus, Rose, Lilac, Ylang-Ylang, Lily of the Valley, Jasmine, Vetiver, Benzoin, Musk, Amber, Vanilla.



Often often coined the “Belle Epoque”, Paris in the early 1900s is unparalleled in terms of history and culture. After surviving two major wars, France was blessed with a period of affluence and optimism. With peace and prosperity in full swing, the arts and culture prospered immensely. It was as though people were anxious to make up for lost time after a long period of hardship.

It is no wonder then that this era saw the birth of many perfume houses, including the esteemed House of Caron in 1904. With perfumer Ernest Daltroff at the helm, accompanied by his muse and co-creator Félicie Wanpouille, Caron was responsible for creating many vintage favorites such as Narcisse Noir, Nuit de Noël, Tabac Blond and Bellodgia.

Caron was taken over in 1998 by Patrick Alès, chairman and owner of Alès Groupe (formerly known as Phyto-Lierac). Caron remains in existence today, under the nose of Monsieur Fraysse, in-house perfumer. Caron is unique among perfume houses today for not being tied to a fashion house.

Today I share with you some photos of the sumptuous interiors of the two Caron boutiques in Paris,  located at 34, Avenue Montaigne and 90, Rue du Faubourg Saint Honoré. The photographs are courtesy of Caron Paris © and Monsieur Bragmayer.

While stateside there is no avoiding major retail stores when one is in search of fine fragrance, the experience of walking into a specialty boutique is a luxury of uncomparable delight. The urn bottles are simply divine, the stuff of dreams…


Caron – Bellodgia

Caron – Bellodgia

caron bellodgia

There are certain fragrances which are like a revelation for us, sending our senses reeling as our minds attempt to catalogue all of the myriad impressions they inspire. Bellodgia, created in 1927 by the perfumer Ernest Daltroff, the nose behind such classics as Tabac Blond and Nuit de Noel, is truly revolutionary. While it is often referred to as a study of carnation in all of its spicy glory, and meant to invoke all the beauty of the lovely, sunny seaside town of Bellagio, Italy, Bellodgia’s beauty runs much deeper.

The carnation certainly takes center stage during the opening, and its vibrancy nearly blinds us to the other important figures arranging themselves onstage. The piquant spice of the carnation and lily of the valley is enhanced by a smoky facet with such intensity that it reminds me of the charcoal trail fireworks leave behind. The carnation begins to smolder with the spice of clove, which melts and softens into a creamy, powdery cloud.

In fact, this combination of carnation and clove works so well that it found its way into another incredibly successful fragrance which I shall post about soon. For those few of you fortunate enough to have smelled Guerlain’s Bouquet de Faunes, the clove in Bellodgia takes on a similar character, miles away from its interpretation in Diptyque’s L’Eau.

While with its exotic name, Bellodgia is meant to transport us to summery climes, for me Bellodgia is all about winter. It possesses a deep and embracing character which feels perfect with cashmere and thick, plush scarves and while I can imagine it being worn by elegant women with fur stoles and opera length gloves, it just as beautifully dresses up a pair of blue jeans.

Bellagio Italy

Unlike some of the other vintage Carons, the vintage extrait version of Bellodgia can be found online for a reasonable price. If you are a carnation or clove lover, the vintage is worth seeking out. Unfortunately, I cannot much recommend the modern reformulation which is dissimilar to the original, due in great part to restrictions on many of the original ingredients.

Notes: Carnation, Rose, Jasmine, Violet, Lily of the Valley, Clove, Sandalwood, Vanilla, Musk.   

Clinique – Aromatics Elixir

Clinique – Aromatics Elixir

aromatics elixir limited edition bottle

Aromatics Elixir 2011 Limited Edition Flacon

Perfumistas are nothing if not passionate. Researching fragrances and scouring stores and the internet for treasure requires dedication and persistence. As we all know, negative passions can be equally strong, if not more so, and many perfume boards are filled with rants against one or another fragrance.

With its bold lemony opening and bitter, slightly medicinal herbal quality, Aromatics Elixir is often the subject of vitriol. Its minimalist flacon and sunny packaging are somewhat misleading, as this elixir has deep and dark undercurrents. This 1971 creation by the masterful Bertrand Chant is clearly a product of its times with its emphasis on earthy oakmoss and patchouli, though its potent sillage seems to foreshadow the oversized perfumes of the 1980s.

And yet, smelled today, Aromatics Elixir feels new and compelling. Where fragrance after fragrance in today’s market copy Angel’s groundbreaking patchouli theme to play out variations of the sweet, fluffy gourmand, Aromatics Elixir seems austere and intelligent – a sort of bookish brunette. The fragrance delivers a bit of everything: citrus, florals, herbs and woods and yet is so masterfully blended as to create a seamless impression. If some creations shower their wearer in a veil of scent, Aromatics Elixir wraps them in a thick tapestry.

aromatics elixir

While the opening is bold and brash, as the fragrance starts to unfold, the more subtle interplay of rose and patchouli become apparent and this is where love strikes. The volume comes down to more muted tones, allowing the beauty of patchouli-tinged woods to shine through.  While many complain of the fragrance’s volume, Aromatics Elixir maintains a crisp, dry quality that prevents the patchouli from becoming overly earthy and heavy. Indeed, it is a wonder how Bertrand Chant was able to create a fragrance that is at once both supremely rich and yet light. 

The bottle shown above was a limited edition issued in 2011 to commemorate the fragrance’s 40th birthday. For those not brave enough to try the original, an update called Aromatics Elixir Perfumer’s Reserve was issued which focused on modernizing (and lightening) the original. For what constitutes a reasonably priced fragrance in today’s market, the quality of materials seems superb – perhaps a byproduct of the simple packaging and minimal marketing.

Notes: Rose, Chamomile, Oakmoss, Jasmine, Lily of the Valley, Ylang Ylang, Patchouli, Musk, Amber, Sandalwood.

Guerlain – Vol de Nuit

Guerlain – Vol de Nuit

vol de nuit guerlain 1

I am not a big believer in New Year’s resolutions. If one has positive changes to implement in one’s life, why wait until the dawn of a new year to start doing so? That said, I am a proponent of focusing on new year’s intentions – those visions and dreams which we want to manifest over the coming twelve months. Being a lover of travel, my mind naturally starts focusing on where the next twelve months can take me.

In addition to poring over photographs of dream destinations,  I love wearing fragrances which take me away to foreign locales, even if I am sitting nowhere more glamorous than my desk at work. One of the fragrances I find myself reaching for most during my intention setting is Guerlain’s Vol de Nuit, or Night Flight in English. This 1933 fragrance is Jacques Guerlain’s tribute to Antoine Saint Exupery’s novel by the same name and is yet another link in a long line of masterpieces.

While Saint Exupery’s tale is a memorial to the dangerous and sometimes tragic missions of early airmail pilots flying through the night to deliver their charges, Vol de Nuit celebrates the romance of air travel, in typical Guerlain fashion. From the elegant flacon with propeller-inspired relief to the distinctive zebra-print box, Vol de Nuit is the embodiment of elegance and adventure. Air travel is something that we largely take for granted in modern society, so it is incredible to imagine a time when this was a rare luxury reserved for the elite. The first commercial flights, which took place nearly a hundred years ago were much planned and greatly publicized. People fortunate enough to board a plane took the travel itself as a momentous occasion, and did not neglect to dress the part.

vol de nuit gerlain 2

Guerlain’s Vol de Nuit suggests this world of decadence and luxury, evident in the rich materials of the vintage formulation which are of superb caliber. The fragrance possesses a highly unique character, evoking a sense of otherworldliness and wonder which I associate with exploration. When compared with other vintage Guerlains, including its predecessors L’Heure Bleue and Mitsouko, Vol de Nuit has a subtle masculine (and dare I say rebellious) edge, not unlike the androgyny found in Caron’s Tabac Blonde.  

Indeed the fragrance is a delicious balance of bitter citrus and deep green notes which part the skies to reveal a warm, woody base set atop the famous Guerlinade. Shining throughout like the gleaming wings of a plane is one of the loveliest examples of galbanum I have ever encountered in a fragrance, on par with the beauty and bite of vintage Chanel 19.

While the fragrances are very dis-similar in scent, I cannot help but draw comparisons between Vol de Nuit and Guerlain’s own Bouquet de Faunes for the darkness of character. While many fragrances today are formulated to be light, casual and pretty, Vol de Nuit suggests a depth and mystery very akin to its name, and is among the more “intellectual” of the old Guerlains. If you are a lover of vintage Guerlains or of galbanum, I highly suggest seeking this out – as the current formulation (updated due to restrictions on materials) unfortunately do not do this justice.

 Notes: Bergamot, Petitgrain, Galbanum, Lemon, Jonquil, Vanilla, Oakmoss, Sandalwood, Iris, Musk.

vol de nuit guerlain 3

Coromandel – Chanel

Coromandel – Chanel

Chanel Coromandel 2

Walk into a Chanel boutique anywhere around the globe, and you are immediately transported into a world of the utmost luxury. The stores are beautifully appointed and the staff is knowledgable about Mme Chanel’s indelible mark upon fashion, and indeed upon society itself. From the various biographies I have read of her, it is said that Mme Chanel understood the importance of imbuing her visitors’ experience within her boutique with a sense of grandeur and magnificence – to render the visit a flight from the ordinary.

It is this sense of precise luxury that Messrs. Polge and Sheldrake sought to convey in the Les Exclusifs line. While most would agree that they were successful in nearly all instances, Coromandel, named after the chinoiserie lacquered screens which Mme Chanel so favored in her personal decorations, seems to squarely hit the mark.

Part of Coromandel’s success is in taking patchouli, a note which many struggle with given its strong correlations to 1960s counter-culture and elevating it to luxury status. While Coromandel is proof that patchouli can certainly be used to enhance an exotic and sensual fragrance, in the wrong hands it can be heavy, earthy and perhaps slightly musty.

coco chanel by horst reclining coromandelCoromandel is a rich woody oriental based on a central theme of patchouli, with a haze of ambery powder and vanillic warmth. Coromandel’s initial citrus burst is short-lived and tempered by frankincense, a scent with exotic implications of faraway lands. The fragrance unfolds to reveal a warm base of patchouli and woods with a hint of powdery softness from benzoin, a resin with light vanilla tones.

While Coromandel has the warmth of a plush woolen shawl, it maintains a dry and slightly effervescent feeling which keeps it from becoming cloying, even in warmer weather. And unlike the patchouli superstar Angel by Thierry Mugler, Coromandel has only a whisper of the gourmand.

Unlike many of its exclusive sisters, Coromandel has a tenacious longevity and imposing character. Indeed, it possesses a nearly palpable presence, making me envision Mme Chanel reclining in her rooms above the 31 rue Cambon, clicking her pearls between her fingers, seeking inspiration in her possessions.

*As a side note, when Coco Noir was released, I imagined it smelling a bit more like Coromandel and a bit less like Coco Mademoiselle. 

Notes: Jasmine, Patchouli, Woody notes, Amber, Benzoin, Frankincense

Yves Saint Laurent – Champagne / Yvresse

Yves Saint Laurent – Champagne / Yvresse


Nothing conveys a sense of luxury and celebration quite like champagne: the excitement of its bubbles, crisp effervescence and intoxicating aroma. Fragrance names are often selected to invoke a certain imagery or romanticism, and Yves Saint Laurent’s 1993 release was no exception. Depsite the legal battle which ensued over the fragrance’s name when the Comité Interprofessionnel du vin de Champagne sought to protect the cultural heritage of the beverage, there is nothing particularly controversial about the fragrance. It is simply luxurious, bright and perhaps a touch heady in the way of its namesake.

The opening bursts with a quick progression of notes which mimics rising champagne bubbles in a glass. Pungent nectarine, deep rose, a touch of anise and violet compete for top billing. For those who are wary of the cumin note, fear not. While the cumin adds a slight earthy quality to the fragrance which mimics the bite of champagne, it is not very distinct, and much less apparent than in the reformulated Rochas Femme.

champagne glasses

The fragrance’s heart reveals an accord that will seem familiar to Sophia Grojsman fans, as she presents another variation on her fruity rose trick. I prefer Champagne’s composition to that of her other opus Lancôme Trésor, as it feels more balanced when juxtaposed against a classical chypre base of oakmoss, patchouli, vetiver and vanilla.

Champagne’s spin on chypre is extremely accessible and quite lovely. Despite the musty, earthy smell which oakmoss can sometimes lend to a composition, Champagne manages to remain bright and light. While the fragrance certainly alludes to such classics as Mitsouko and Rochas Femme with the interplay between fruit and chypre, Champagne seems like the light-hearted, blonde younger sister of these two dark-haired beauties. Champagne in turn appears to have influenced modern perfumery, as one can glimpse hints of its structure in Chanel’s 31 Rue Cambon.

Champagne, later re-named Yvresse as a play on the French “ivresse” or “intoxication”, is an easy-to-wear, exuberant fragrance. No matter what the occasion or indeed the outfit, that always makes me feel elegant and in the mood to celebrate.

Fruity Chypre

Notes: Nectarine, Anise, Mint, Violet, Cumin, Rose, Lychee, Oakmoss, Patchouli, Vetiver, Vanilla.

Caron – Nuit de Noël

Caron – Nuit de Noël




The holidays are a time of celebration, but also of remembrance, when we take stock of the year which has just passed and remember those who have made our days so special. As I have mentioned here, the House of Caron (along with the venerable Guerlain) held a special place for many of us Stateside in the early 1900s, as the ultimate in French perfumery. Is it any wonder then that the lovely Nuit de Noël, French for Christmas Eve, would hold a place of high honor during the holidays?

Created in 1922 by Ernest Daltroff for his muse and amante Félicie Wanpouille, who as the story goes loved the intoxicating scent of marron glacés, a traditional delicacy served in Europe around the holidays. For those of you not familiar with this French confection, it consists of fresh winter chestnuts enrobed in a light sugar glaze. If you have never experienced the scent of marron glacés or freshly roasted chestnuts, you must try them. The smell and taste are simply heavenly.


Despite all this talk of confections and sugary chestnuts, Nuit de Noël is not a gourmand fragrance in the modern sense. The fragrance goes on dry and slightly crisp, not unlike a glass of holiday Champagne. Nuit de Noël opens with a subtle floral mix of rose and jasmine with a hint of ylang-ylang, which have a slightly sparkling effect. as the fragrance unfolds, it has a soft, velvety quality which provides the perfect backdrop for the spices to take center stage.

Nuit de Noël is among the more subtle Caron fragrances, which seem to be so blended as to create a mood or overall effect, rather than to convey a battery of notes in the traditional pyramid sense. The drydown is positively delicious, a warm yet subtle base of woods, moss and amber which remain in the background as the light spices continue their dance on center stage.

As is the case with many of our favorite fragrances, Nuit de Noël is slightly different in its modern form but still a lovely fragrance, though the Eau de Toilette is a bit scratchier in the opening than the parfum. The vintage parfum, which comes in a green tasseled box and a gorgeous black baccarat bottle, is worth seeking out. After all, it’s never to early to plan for next holiday’s gifts.

While it may seem like a cliché in today’s disposable consumer age to have a fragrance reserved for the holidays, many women at this time could not afford to wear fragrance on a daily basis, a simple luxury we take for granted today. And though I love wearing Nuit de Noël year-round, with its reference to marrons glacés and Christmas inspiration, it was clearly created with the holidays in mind. What better way to create lasting memories for the next generation than to make the holidays a special time, by creating and honoring your own rituals.

imgres copy

Notes: Ylang-ylang, Rose, Jasmine, Sandalwood, Oakmoss, Musk, Amber.