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Pour some jasmine on me

As is often the case, when I think about something (at least something in the perfume line), I stumble across it. The universe brings me what I want – or, like Dorothy, I had it with me all the time.

Today I was able to go to the Caron master class hosted by Sniffapalooza in New York. Reader, I have no special love for Caron the perfume house; however, Sniffapalooza events never disappoint and I was ready to get out of the house and do something fun.

The young lady from Caron who came to present had serious stamina; she talked for two hours straight about the history of the Caron house. Many of the stories were interesting, some not, but in one line I googled while she was talking I could sum up for many of you what you might want to know about Caron: “Guerlain is for kept women, Caron is for duchesses.”

There is something very classically French about Caron’s perfumes, and since many perfumistas are Francophiles that means they are often perfumes that perfumistas adore. The presenter made two interesting other points: one, the perfumes that sell well in the States don’t sell well in France. So Bellodgia, for instance, a masterful Italian cologne/citrus scent, doesn’t sell well in France but does well here. Narcisse Noir, an “evening” perfume that I must say I wouldn’t wear on a bet (at least not based on what I sniffed on the card) does well in France.

I have some Tabac Blond and some Nuit de Noel, two classic Caron scents, but I’d never before smelled Fleurs de Rocaille, and I found in the pink half-circle bottle exactly what I was looking for.

Fleurs de Rocaille is a light spring bouquet. It’s not too precious, it’s not too sweet; it’s not aldehydic and it’s not citrusy either, but it does have a slight ozonic “clean” quality (the musk in the bottom) that just is that much more welcome to my nose, so weary of indoor musty winter smells. There is jasmine in the bouquet, a jasmine that is perhaps a little prissy, but exactly what I was looking for. A jasmine, I daresay, that one could wear anywhere.

This is not a particularly classically formulated perfume; though it claims to have some bergamot in it, for instance, I don’t really notice it. It is old-fashioned; you don’t smell violets and gardenia with jasmine and rose and lilac all that many places any more. I’d be hard put to call this “grandma’s” perfume, but then my grandmother smelled fabulous. I also can’t imagine anyone not able to wear this today. It’s so fresh and light, it’s making me think of springtime even as I’m wearing it, and the light musk drydown is absolutely perfect for a chilly February evening when I’m more than slightly wishing for sun and beach breezes instead of cold gales.

However, for the even more hardcore among you, I must report that I have also scored a bottle of Mary Greenwell’s Plum. This scent has been one of the most desired among perfumistas all winter, primarily because it’s only sold at a few stores in the UK and fairly hard to get your paws on.

Well, thank you nice lady who changes your perfumes often and sells the partially used ones on eBay, because I oooooowwwwwwnnnnnn some Plum now! (And at a very reasonable price.) This was a post-Christmas score and the package came more than a week ago but what with one thing and another I just got to try it on for the first time today.

Plum is being described everywhere as a “modern chypre” which people are taking to mean “with washed down patchouli instead of oakmoss”, the ingredient banned as too allergenic by IFRA. I assume oakmoss makes people’s heads explode, because it was an incredibly popular ingredient in ladies’ perfume for over a hundred years and as more and more perfumes have been reformulated to take out the oakmoss, women in fits of pique have registered their disapproval on the Internet alone to the tune of thousands, if not millions of words.

There absolutely isn’t any oakmoss in Plum, and I can barely notice the clean patchouli. It’s a bit there, but because of the massive cleanness, it smells more like musk to me than patchouli. And again here we’re talking laundry detergent musk, not deer butt musk. Both ingredients are so cleaned-up that they bear really no resemblance to their natural inspirations/counterparts, and to my nose, at least right now, they are more like each other than different.

Plum also has mostly fruit notes listed in it – the eponymous plum, peach, and blackcurrant, for instance, being listed in at least one review. Below that, however, there is the classic bouquet, and to my nose there is a lot of similarity to the Fleurs de Rocaille.

If the Fleurs might smell too old-fashioned to you, than the Plum certainly won’t. “Fruity patchouli” is the recipe of perfumes for the new millenium – hell, even the Kim Kardashian celebu-fume I got my hands on is a fruity patchouli (don’t ask). Plum therefore certainly smells modern – but also very beautiful. And as it dries down, it has a richness to it that the Fleurs doesn’t have, perhaps a slight remnant of one of those pieces of cut, ripe fruit that is giving a little body, a little base, to what otherwise might be slightly too ethereal white flowers.

I can smell the jasmine in Plum, too, along with the gardenia, rose, and mumblety mumble rest of the classy bouquet (past a certain point, does it really matter if there’s orange blossom in it? I guess if orange blossom drives you crazy.) It’s a very lovely bouquet, much like the Fleurs de Rocaille, and yet with a little more structure to it. I’m almost liking the Fleurs de Rocaille more because it does dry down so light and so clean. I can’t imagine ever having a place NOT to wear it (except bed with my grumpy anti-perfume husband) – this would be perfect for work or play and dries down so beautifully it even adds a touch of character to the cotton smell of my Hanes men’s t-shirt as I lie here preparing for bed. Fleurs would be a Frenchwoman, not a movie star, but a lovely lady, who still puts cut flowers on her table for a lunch guest – a lover or a dear friend. Plum is a good deal more modern and unavoidable but beautiful as well. Plum is to my nose the American woman with this season’s clothes and jewelry on. I suspect her fashion will wear well, season after season in fact, but I’m rather more charmed by the rather more old-fashioned approach.

Caron’s Fleurs de Rocaille can be obtained many places, including eBay, not expensively at all ($40-85 per 50 ml bottle of the EDT, which I believe is what I’m wearing). Plum by Mary Greenwell can’t be obtained at all unless you have a British friend willing to pick you up some at the House of Fraser (the 50 ml bottle is £60) and send it to you (they don’t ship internationally), or you manage to pick some up on, perhaps, eBay. Personally, I can’t wait for spring.

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