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Tuesday, October 16, 2007

A Trio of Puzzlers: Caron Farnesiana, L’Artisan Parfumeur Jour de Fête & Editions de Parfum Frederic Malle Une Fleur de Cassie

Review by Donna

I decided to review Caron’s Farnesiana as a personal challenge, since out of all the Caron fragrances I have tried it is the one that puzzles me the most, and I find it less approachable than even the austere Poivre or the majestic Bellodgia. (When I was too young to wear it, Bellodgia terrified me. I had no idea what kind of woman I would have to become to pull it off. I am not sure I am there yet, even now.) This may sound strange to those who are familiar with this perfume as it is usually considered a comfort scent of sorts, and certainly not avant-garde in any way. It is heavily biased toward the acacia and mimosa in it composition, which gives it what would be considered the dreaded “Play-Doh” accord in a fragrance of lesser quality. The heavy, bittersweet almond is a constant companion, and it has no lightness, airiness or “fizz” to it from the other notes, which include bergamot and lily-of-the-valley. I do not detect those notes in the slightest; the pea flowers conquer all. (Acacia and mimosa are both legumes, members of the same plant family that gives us wisteria, locust trees and lima beans.) To my nose it gives a sense of being cooked, not fresh. I was trying to figure out just what it made me think of than then it came to me: Maypo.

Maypo was my favorite hot cereal when I was a child. It was maple-flavored oatmeal, but the maple was artificial, though that did not bother me. It smelled so good when it was cooking, and it was the perfect thing for a cold New England morning. We always had several kinds around the house, such as Ralston and comforting-but-boring Cream of Wheat, but I liked Maypo the best. It was kind of a treat, since my mother was very health-conscious and she wanted us to eat as many whole grain foods as possible; some of the foods we had to eat as young children were a lot more challenging than hot cereal.

As long as I am able to accept Farnesiana on its own terms and not expect it to be refreshing or sparkling, we get along just fine. I doubt that I will ever buy a full bottle, but it is indeed very comforting, and excellent for winter wear.

So what about a fragrance of the same general type that’s a little lighter, a little fresher? I wondered about that, and if such a thing existed, until I ran across L’Artisan’s Jour de Fête. It has a very similar feel to it, a little powdery and quite foody at the same time. It has the same acacia & almond quality as Farnesiana, but the almonds are sugared and very sweet. It reminds me of one of my other childhood treats – Jordan almonds in their candy shells in the pastel shades of Easter eggs, appearing in our house only on special occasions. (In fact, Jour de Fête means “day of the party” in French.) This fragrance seems to be meant for a very young person to wear. I picture little girls in fancy dresses running excitedly to open their holiday presents.

There is absolutely nothing austere or serious about this fragrance, and since it only comes in eau de toilette strength, it seems even more youthful. It is fun to put on, but I am not the target audience for this one and I wonder who is, as it seems too young for anyone who is old enough to buy their own perfume. I would recommend it for a young girl’s first fragrance, as it is of far better quality than the drugstore kind that are often the first attempt at wearing perfume by young teenagers. It is never heavy or cloying, and it is quite transparent. It makes me a little hungry after it has been on my skin for a while, and I keep looking around for the candy dish. But fear not, this is no dreaded Pink Sugar. It will not cause dental cavities at first sniff and overpower the senses. It is fun, well behaved and highly wearable. It is not for everyone, to be sure, but if you like gourmand fragrances that are not too heavy, this could be an option, especially if you like to recapture your youth now and then.

So that brings me to my next question: is there a perfume out there of this general type that is meant for grownups to wear without being too stuffy? Is it possible to find one that does not either make you smell like Grandma baking almond cookies or like the child eating those cookies? Why yes indeed, there is, and it’s Frederic Malle’s Une Fleur de Cassie.

I had tried a couple of the Malles and loved them, and I knew the quality was very high regardless of whether a particular one of the line was my type or not. I did not actually expect to like this one so much, though I knew that Dominique Ropion who also did the swoon-worthy Carnal Flower for the Malle line created it. Its freshness and transparency took me by surprise. It has notes of bergamot, clove and cedarwood along with the acacia and mimosa, as well as other floral notes including jasmine, and oddly for a perfume of this type, apricot, which I adore. The mimosa that dominates it is of an airy, ethereal nature not unlike that of the mimosa accord in my all-time favorite green floral, Jean Patou Vacances. For me to compare anything to that indicates my high regard for Une Fleur de Cassie. It is actually quite sexy as well due to the jasmine and spices, at least at first, before it dries down to the comforting warmth common to all the acacia/mimosa clan of fragrances.

But there is something else as well; a stirring of sorts, an urgent cool restlessness that I detect in it, like the rush of a brook in early spring, running quickly under the ice, unable to break through yet giving notice of warmer days to come under the watery sunlight. It is like that kind of day when it’s shivering cold when the sun goes behind a cloud, but when it reappears, the warmth brings out the aromas of the burgeoning life that bubbles just under the veneer of the receding winter. Some of the smells of early spring are earthy, even muddy and rank, but they call out to us anyway, and in the breeze that blows over the chilly dampness are carried the scents of a greening world. It is a blustery spring until the sun has a chance to do its work, and then it turns warm and soft and full of hope.

This is the first fragrance in this category that I have tried so far that I would be tempted to actually own. I understand that many people cannot wear it, and indeed cannot even stand to be around it. It really is one of those love it or hate it perfumes. I am fortunate that it agrees with me, but if I ever do have a bottle of it, I may need to wear it in solitude, on those dark winter days when it seems that spring will never arrive, just to remind myself that it always will.

Image credits: Maypo cereal from static.flickr.com
Jordan almonds from jellybelly.com
Mimosa tree from seetuscany.com

19 Comments:

Blogger carmencanada said...

Donna, you've nailed exactly the feeling I get from Une Fleur de Cassie: unlike the saturated, dense almondy concentrate of Farnesiana (which, BTW, seems fairly devoid of the Caronade base), UFdC has water running through it. I liken it to burst of early spring sun on rain puddles: mimosa/acacia is one of the first fragrant trees to blossom in the south of France. JC Ellena's Kelly Calèche, also strong on mimosa, has this "watery" quality to my nose.
There is another note common to Farnesiana and UFdC, which I liken to the smell of paper. Does anybody get that too?

2:33 AM EDT  
Anonymous Divalano said...

CF & UFdC both have notes that put me off, so haven't sniffed those. But, I have tried JdF. For a while the vanilla-almond thing was a delicious comfort scent for me, more vanilla than almond. Then one night I wore it to a party & it was so cloyingly sweetly innocent & Not Me that I put it away & haven't tried it since. I do like almond though, just haven't found the right one yet. Not Louve, not Annick Goutal Vanille Exquise ... still, one might be out there ...

Oh btw, just read that JdF is now discontinued (maybe why the Bergdorf lady insisted to me last year that it didn't exist? maybe she was prescient?)

9:05 AM EDT  
Anonymous greeneyes said...

Lovely review. I too am one of the lucky people who can wear Une Fleur de Cassie. It rivals my love for Iris Poudre, even. Farnesiana I wanted to love, but it was too powdery for my taste...I'm going to stick with Parfum Sacre!

10:22 AM EDT  
Anonymous lady jane grey said...

Gosh, Donna, those 3 are definitely among the 10 perfumes I'd take to a deserted island - even if they're not in the same basket for me. I'm afraid I'll be stoned to death here when I confess that I love almond scents. So both, Farnesiana and JDF are dear to my heart (the middle part of JDF is too sweet - though I love its top & base).
The Cassie is an entirely different thing for me : it's just so strange that I can't put it away - there is something very peculiar in it, and I can't explain why I like it ! It's a BIG STRANGE FLORAL for me.

1:15 PM EDT  
Blogger Ducks said...

Wow, Donna, these do draw me in. I want very much to try Une Fleur de Cassie now... I love mimosa and am very intrigued.

These sound so unusual! I haven't tried any of the three.

1:44 PM EDT  
Blogger elle said...

I keep on trying to make UFdC work on my skin. It doesn't. I shall keep trying, just because it sounds so much like something that *should* work on me. God knows, I've had plenty of changes of heart w/ scents over the years.

2:07 PM EDT  
Anonymous edwardian said...

Very enjoyable review, as usual, and i don't even like this kind of fragrances. Don't know about Caron or Malle, but JdF, as you write, I'd leave to little girls to play with. Their mothers, I fear, might be wearing Rahat or Arabie.

5:47 PM EDT  
Anonymous Flora said...

carmencanada, I was hoping I was not the only one who got that from UFdC! It definitely has a watery feel, but not the dreaded"aquatic" note. I love this stuff!

1:51 AM EDT  
Anonymous Flora said...

divalano, I love the almond scents too, but most of them are just far too sweet. I would love to see a "nuttier" version of almond in a perfume.

1:55 AM EDT  
Anonymous Flora said...

greeneyes, thank you - and lucky us! :-D

1:56 AM EDT  
Anonymous Flora said...

lady jane grey, I don't blame you - I would take Une Fleur de Cassie along to any island! It is indeed strange, but in a good way. I love Farnesiana too, but it's not all that good on me - I think I like it better just sniffed out of the bottle. You are not alone in your love of almond! :-)

2:00 AM EDT  
Anonymous Flora said...

ducks, if you love mimosa, UFdC is a must-try! I was amazed at its loveliness.

2:02 AM EDT  
Anonymous Flora said...

Keep trying, elle, you never know. If I can learn to love Guerlains anything can happen. (This coming from the loyal Caron girl.)

2:04 AM EDT  
Anonymous Flora said...

edwardian - LOL, I know what you mean. I like Arabie but it's too much for some occasions, better worn in solitary splendor, or outdoors. Rahat and its ilk are just so very sweet they are hard to penetrate. It's like too much sugar in food - I don't want it so sweet that it obscures the actual flavors. (When I tried Keiki Mecheri's Loukhoum I almost gagged on it, it was like choking on syrup. Can't imagine wearing it! I assume the SL Rahat Loukhoum is equally intense?)

2:12 AM EDT  
Anonymous Flora said...

P.S. carmencanada, yes, I do get that paper note - like brown wrapping paper, slightly damp. I don't know what it's from, but I am thinking the acacia, since I do not get it from all mimosa perfumes I have tried.

2:15 AM EDT  
Blogger carmencanada said...

Then it's my turn to be reassured that I'm not the only one getting paper -- and, yes, wet brown wrapping paper. Not a botany specialist, but acacia and mimosa are the same species, aren't they? But I don't get the "paper" note either from, say, Molinard's Mimosa. On the other hand, to me Kelly Calèche, with its mimosa/iris pairing, has a similar "watery" quality than UFdC.

8:56 AM EDT  
Blogger tmp00 said...

How funny- I totall remember Maybo, except that I loathed it!

Farnesiana I found nothing comfprting about at all. I was entranced by it, but not comforted. It struck me as something vaguely feral. Maybe that's where Lutens got the almonds=she wolf idea?

9:19 AM EDT  
Anonymous Flora said...

Tom, that may be it! I have not tried Louve yet but I hope to do so very soon. Maybe I will get my not-too-sweet almond after all?

1:14 PM EDT  
Anonymous mimi said...

I am chiming in late on this thread to voice my glee that I am one of those lucky people Une Fleur de Cassie 'works' on. I am fazed to find that it is by the same perfumer responsible for 'Alien' which is redolent of peculiarly pungent urinal cakes on my skin after about three seconds. UFDC is lovely from start to finish, but florals stay very true on me generally. It is a big floral with strong sillage but so very distinctive and beautifully composed. It's the third I've tried from FM (the others being Lipstick Rose and Le Parfum de Therese) and I've loved all of them. :-)

9:14 AM EDT  

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