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