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Thursday, December 21, 2006

Perfume Review: Caron Or et Noir and Farnesiana

Review by Tom

Or et Noir

Or et Noir starts with a winey rosy flourish that (although it was beautiful) made me think I could never stand to wear it: not unless I morphed into a still-gorgeous woman in a black satin sheath about to swan my way down the grand staircase, not ready for my close-up but to tell them to fish that worthless Holden bastard the hell out of my pool and bring me another gigolo.

For me rose scents are ones that I judge the most harshly, even more than the dreaded aquatic. There are too many god-awful rose scents out there that one almost forgets that it's divine when done well.

This is done well. After the somewhat raucous opening, the scent settles down into some seriously beautiful roses: soft petals, green shoots, a hint of peppery leaves and the barest trace of sunshine and soil. Truly beautiful.


Farnesiana starts off much more conventionally wearable for me, with it's initial scent of mimosa and vanilla, conspiring to smell something like Amaretto- just a hint, as if the glass of ice came back for a refill. It starts to slowly evolve into heart-wrenching lily-of-the-valley and lilac that's so evocative of summer at home to me that it just needed wet grass to be New England summer 1977. Then the oddly amaretto-like accord comes back in, along with something dusty, like the note in some of the Japanese Commes des Garcons. What year was this made? 1947? It's woody, almondy, musky, vanilla, slightly maternal but slightly disturbing. It is.. wonderful. The drydown is what I wanted Luctor et Emergo to be on me but it went all play-doh.

What I am starting to see here is a trend, and one that is showing me where a lot of the modern niche houses have built upon: sometimes assaultive openings? Check. Florals supplanted by odd notes? Yep. Unusual spiced used to interestingly disconcerting effect? You betcha! Even (gasp!, or gasp for the 40's) androgyny? Sure, of the 4 I reviewed so far, I would definitely wear two (Tabac Blond and Farnesiana) and wouldn't exactly weep bitter tears if the other two showed up in my Christmas stocking. Since however, they are only available in the Paris Salon, I sadly doubt that would happen. But I look forward to seeing what Alpona and N'Aimez Que Moi have in store for me.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Farnesiana is one of my favorite Caron perfumes and it is in my perfume wardrobe. Thank you for the lovely review..

10:53 PM EST  
Blogger tmp00 said...

Farnesiana was a revelation: comforting, disconcerting, classic yet shockingly modern. I want it to be part of my wardrobe.

Thanks for the kind words!

11:30 PM EST  
Blogger chayaruchama said...

Aren't they delightful?

Glad that we share that delight.
The autodidact in me is barely restrained :

"Good design is eternal.
If it's good, it will always be...
If it's crap now, crap will it be forevermore".

7:07 AM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

"...and the barest trace of sunshine and soil" that!

7:55 AM EST  
Blogger elle said...

*Love* the Carons and many vintage scents. Your comparison of them to modern niche lines was wonderful. I think a lot (not all) vintage scents take a certain amount of character, attitude and a fully functioning spine to wear. So many mass releases seem to me like they were created for spineless creatures who would be happy to dissolve into one insipid, amorphous fruity/floral mass. Boring to the extreme and like them or not, the Carons are *never* boring.
Farnesiana is one of my fav comfort scents. And that was a brilliant review of Or et Noir...which makes me even more depressed that I can't wear it. :-( G*r**ium. Yep. My nose picks up on it in Or et Noir and it deep sixes it for me. Sob!

7:59 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Beautiful review as always. I love your sense of humor, and you always skillfully weave it into the story. Bravo. I adore Caron, but I have to say I have never tried least not yet. I couldn't agree more with you about rose fragrances. When done right (Malle's Une Rose) they are breathtaking. When done wrong (insert huge list here) they last for days, much like the way a bad hangover does.

8:24 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A half a drop of Or et Noir is devastatingly beautiful. Any more than that, and I feel suffocated. Farnesiana is, for me, second only to Parfum Sacre of the Carons. It's an achingly beautiful comfort scent. Thank you for reminding me of these beauties. I may wear one today.

8:47 AM EST  
Blogger marchlion said...

Tom -- what Elle said. Great comparison to modern niche fragrances. About the Carons themselves I will ... say nothing.

I like the dude Carons, though. And that silly Reglisse, which doesn't even count.

8:50 AM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

Reglisse is one of anise scent that works for I find it VERY serious and important. :-)

8:53 AM EST  
Blogger tmp00 said...

Chaya- that's so true! I am seriously loving these, and (although I don't know why I should be) surprised by them. Sort of like coming home from school all flushed with having won a prize in band only to find out that Grandma used to pal around with and sing for Dizzy Gillespie.

Every generation thinks it invented the wheel..

11:32 AM EST  
Blogger tmp00 said...


It's that Lutens touch, half a century before he did it. Just a lighter hand.

11:35 AM EST  
Blogger tmp00 said...


Sorry about the G*r**ium. Luckily for me I get the Rose G*r**ium (and then only a little- that dusty smell) and not the Citronella one. The one that supposedly repels mosquitos and decidedly repels me.

I love that: "a fully functioning spine". I also wonder if there were so many craptastic fragrances out then that have just been forgotten?

11:41 AM EST  
Blogger tmp00 said...


I got these 8 samples off of eBay for not a lot. They are really worth a sniff, and of course if I ever get to Paris..

Anyone know if these are sniffable in the New York store?

11:43 AM EST  
Blogger tmp00 said...


Farnesiana literally has for me banished the memory of the evil Luctor et Emergo. F skates around the play doh smell in the drydown, but stays this side of it, just being almondy, milky comforting and slightly odd. LetM on me just became ghastly.

Too bad ScentBar doesn't have these. I suppose it would be pointless to ask?

11:49 AM EST  
Blogger tmp00 said...


I can see where Or et Noir could be a bit much if overapplied. But I think that's true of many of my favorites: for instance, much as I would love to slather on the CB Musk, for the sake of the general population I just dab.

11:51 AM EST  
Blogger tmp00 said...

March, Columbina:

Reglisse is in the package. I was doing the older ones first, but I will be sniffing that one as well. Can't wait!

11:53 AM EST  
Blogger tmp00 said...


Interesting, and hardly pointless, I have friends in NYC who have been after me to visit...

2:38 PM EST  
Blogger lilybp said...

Not only does the New York store have them, so does Bergdorf's and Bendel's (I wrote this info before, but blogger seems to have eaten it).

3:23 PM EST  
Blogger tmp00 said...

Ooooohm that's dangerous! My Neimans card works at Bergdorfs, and it's not carrying a balance!

3:53 PM EST  
Blogger marchlion said...

Marina -- hah! Fragrance Twin! I loathe anise in scents. It's the only one that works for me too. But I'm pretty sure it's 100% absent the Grim Reaper base...

8:15 PM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

I agree, the Grim Reaper the Caron base ain't there.

8:19 PM EST  

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