The Lark Ascending: Carillon pour un Ange by Tauer Perfumes
One of my favorite modern dance creations is the wonderfully ethereal The Lark Ascending by Vaughan Williams as interpreted by the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. It is a dance of joy and longing with a wistful heart, one of the most perfect fusions of music and choreography I have ever witnessed. The evanescent grace of the music is only enhanced by the sensuality of the dancers’ emotionally charged movements. I have been fortunate enough to see it performed live several times and it always has the same effect on me; I think how wondrous it is that humans, as flawed as we are, have the ability to create such piercing beauty. I can’t help but think the same thing when smelling a truly superior perfume – how is it that one person’s creative mind can make art with just a handful of essential oils and some molecules, and not only that but come up with something new in a perfume sub-genre as tightly delineated as a lily-of-the-valley fragrance? Andy Tauer has done it with his superb Carillon pour un Ange, released in 2010, a perfume that virtually rewrites the book on this popular style and gives it new life.
Muguet perfumes are even more similar to each other than rose or iris soliflores, because the essence of the flower itself cannot be captured; it is a reconstruction made from other materials, and the specific aroma chemicals that translate as “muguet” to our noses are used in virtually all of these. Yes, there is much variation in quality among them, from the high of vintage Diorissimo to the most common bar of hotel soap, but it is always instantly recognizable. What makes Carillon pour un Ange special is the personal stamp that Andy Tauer always puts on his compositions, a feeling that he has made this beautiful thing just for you. My own love for his masterwork L’ Air du Desert Marocain remains as strong as ever, and I also admire the intensely sultry Le Maroc pour Elle and the smoldering campfire leather of Lonestar Memories. Now I have discovered that he can evoke my admiration with a fragrance that is the polar opposite in just about every way of the famously strong style for which he first became known. No resins, spices, or incense in this one, no signature “Tauerade” base to mark it with the perfumer’s characteristic signature. It is lilting and green and earthy and soft all at the same time, and it’s not like any other muguet perfume I have ever experienced.
In order to get a baseline standard for this style my comparison for this review was to another muguet fragrance I own and love, Le Galion’s Le Muguet parfum de toilette, a vintage scent of particularly fine clarity and quality, the very definition of a soliflore. Others I love are (of course) Diorissimo, Van Cleef & Arpels Muguet Blanc and the vintage formula of Caron’s peerless Muguet de Bonheur, my own personal favorite over the years. They all have their subtle differences but all share the high, clear tone of the tiny white bells that produce that astonishing aroma. Where Carillon pour un Ange departs from all of these is a certain earthiness that smells like the forest floor in spring and a fleshy quality like that of the moist, crushed petals of Madonna lilies, another flower known for its purity of scent. While it sings the soaring soprano notes like the other ones, it also maintains a grounded feeling like the deep vibration of a cello, and it really does smell like the growing flowers, their unmatched purity always accompanied by the undercurrent of fallen leaves, moss and living woodland soil, which happens to be one of my very favorite things. These blossoms have not been picked and put in a dainty vase indoors, oh no; they are still exhaling their crystalline breath close to the ground, surrounded by their earthen cradle.
Something else sets it apart from most other lily-of-the-valley fragrances; longevity. I can still smell it on my skin when I wake up the next day, a true rarity for such a tender floral. It does share one aspect in common with some other Tauer perfumes; the genius of a touch of leather in the base, giving it a feeling of intimacy to play against the florals. This makes Carillon pour un Ange the closest thing to a “skin scent” that any muguet perfume has ever been as far as I know – it’s usually the kind of fragrance that floats above the wearer, with the sillage as the main point; sometimes smelling this kind of perfume close to the skin can be harsh or metallic because of the synthetic ingredients used to create the holographic impression of the flower. Not so with Carillon; it is very much of this world and of nature and it’s never sharp or distant. It may not change the minds of those for whom muguet never works at all, but it is surely worth a try if the steely chemical edge they can have is what’s been keeping you away. For those who do love this note in fragrance, it’s an absolute necessity to try it. It expands the universe of lily-of-the-valley in perfume in a way I never expected, and now I can’t imagine it not existing.
Image credit: ‘Spring Green Branch’ by multimedia artist Karen Anne Glick, used by permission via karenanneglick.com.
Disclosure: My testing of this perfume was from a private sample.