Caron Parfum Sacré and Amouage Lyric Woman: Battle of the Diva Roses
I have been doing a lot of testing recently, with so many sample vials in the pipeline that I am wearing something different almost every day, and sometimes it's several samples at a time. This is good in one way, since my curiosity about perfume is virtually insatiable; on the other hand, sometimes I get so caught up in trying new scents that my old favorites don't get the attention they deserve. Naturally I am constantly adding new favorites to the list all the time, even though most of these never get to the stage of a full bottle purchase. I just don't have that kind of budget, or the space in which to store them. A fragrance that is new to me, whether it's vintage, something that has been on the market for awhile or a brand new introduction, has to be a real knockout to get on my short list of things I would actually consider buying, especially when it's a newer one that cannot be had for a discounted price. When I make one of my rare full price bottle purchases, it's because the perfume is truly outstanding and something I have fallen seriously in love with.
One perfume I never want to be without has been in my collection for twenty years now, the 1990 masterpiece by the house of Caron, Parfum Sacré. For me it is ageless, timeless, unique, sensuous and majestic. Even though it is finally warming up to real spring weather where I live, I have had an urge to wear it a lot as an antidote to random sampling, to remind me of what a truly great perfume can be; it's one of those perfumes that I get a true craving for and when that feeling hits, nothing else will do. It is also very powerful, and must be applied with restraint if I am planning to go out in public, but if I have a day (or night) at home, I spray it on liberally. For me it is one of those mind-altering, transporting scents that are rarely encountered, and yet the quest to find such a one is what drives me, and other fragrance lovers, to seek out yet more new things to try in search of that elusive experience.
Parfum Sacré's rosy beauty is wrapped in a Byzantine cloak of classic Oriental elements such as vanilla, musk, civet, myrrh and frankincense, embellished with a generous twist of black pepper. I think of it as being primarily a rose perfume, although it's not really a rose soliflore at all but an Oriental rose blend in which the rose takes center stage instead of being a seamless part of the whole. Yet its composition is seamless indeed, and it's not a realistic rose by any means. In spirit and somewhat in character it resembles the original version of Lancôme's Magie Noire, Paloma Picasso's Mon Parfum or Guerlain's peerless holographic rose Nahema, rich and opulent fragrances that are anything but dewy floral re-creations of rose blossoms. They are more like rose Rembrandts; chiaroscuro works of art whose dark complexity makes them objects of desire. I have been wearing my Parfum Sacré with more than my usual frequency since I just acquired another bottle of the original formula; yes, sadly it has been redone, and not in a good way. (If you want to buy this, look for the EDT in the solid gold box or the EDP in the gold-spangled black box, and the old broad-based bottle style with the large ivory-toned cap. You will probably have to go online and search these out.)
Now another contender in this exclusive “diva rose” category (I also call them “bombshell rose” perfumes) has caught my attention. I opened my sample of Amouage Lyric Woman (2008) that I received in a swap and it took my breath away. For some reason I had the idea in my head that Lyric was one of the “lesser” Amouage feminine scents (although they are all good, some are great) and not up to the standard of Gold, Ubar or Epic. I had no idea it was this good! Its basic structure is much like that of the Caron, but its spicy side is comprised of saffron, ginger and cardamom instead of black pepper, and the signature Amouage frankincense note is somewhat softer and less obvious. The rose is truly exquisite and it is that same type of lustrous Oriental rose essence that lies at the heart of Parfum Sacré. Its character is that of a red Damask rose, almost smoky in its intensity, as dense as though it were made of rose petal preserves meant to be consumed. Joining it are luscious jasmine and ylang-ylang, along with iris root and fresh, sweet angelica, a note that I really love and which gives real distinction to this perfume. Among the many base notes in this composition are sandalwood, Tonka bean, musk, vetiver and yes, real oakmoss! (The house of Amouage does not bow to IFRA pressure, which another reason to admire and support this house.) The longer I wear Lyric Woman the better it gets, and the more the incense note wraps itself around my nose, captivating me utterly. The rose keeps weaving in and out, never really going away but retreating behind the incense and woody notes only to come dancing out again in a swirl of pillowy sweetness. Every time I put my nose to my wrist I get something different; I know that the listed notes are only a few of the many high quality ingredients that must be in it to create this effect. It is fascinating, captivating, sexy as hell and definitely in the same class as Gold or my favorite Amouage, Ubar, of which I prefer the original to the reintroduction but both are fabulous.
The second time I tested Lyric Woman, I left it on overnight, and in the morning I was greeted by a truly delightful sensation. The rose was still there, not just the base notes, and it had turned into a sheer, misty abstract rose reminiscent of Rochas Tocade, but it was floating on a puffy cloud of incense instead of vanilla, perfectly combined with the rose. This “second perfume” was just as wonderful as it was on the first day.
Lyric Woman has impressive sillage and excellent longevity on me, which is to be expected of this Oriental floral style, and a little goes a long way. That's good, because this is expensive perfume, and the 50 ml size sells for over $200 USD; it can be found for a little bit less if you do some comparison shopping, but you will not find a real bargain, and understandably, since it is relatively new and composed of the finest materials available. For those who can afford it, it's really worth the money, more so than many other perfumes that cost as much or more. You could think of it as a bargain of sorts, because you will definitely wear it. It will not sit on the shelf and gather dust after a few wearings because it was disappointing. If I had a bottle of this I would do exactly the same thing with it as I do with Parfum Sacré. I would behave myself in public, wearing only a discreet dab, but in private I would use it lavishly, even excessively. After all, that's what real divas do.
Full disclosure: Parfum Sacré is from my personal collection. Lyric Woman was a private sample received as a gift.
Amouage perfumes can be purchased from the Amouage Web site or at finer perfume shops such as Luckyscent. Caron perfumes are sold at better perfume shops and department stores.
Image credit: “Flamenco Dancer” by British artist Gerry Langton, via gerrylangton.co.uk