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Tuesday, March 04, 2008

White Floral Queen, Part One – Frederic Malle Carnal Flower

By Donna

I have decided to do a little series on white florals – or rather White Florals, the big ones, the sexy ones, as distinguished from the more demure scents that technically contain white flowers but do not pack the punch of the Big White Florals. I am talking about gardenia, tuberose, and jasmine perfumes of course; over the top, sensual, and voted most likely to misbehave. I adore these perfumes, and although it is sometimes hard to fit them into my everyday life – they do not go over very well at the office – I must have them around me to enjoy at home, and to wear when the occasion calls for a perfume that will never be mistaken for “unisex.”

I call myself the White Floral Queen not only because I love them – they love me too. Something about my skin chemistry bonds strongly with this style of fragrance like a Vulcan mind meld, and the longer I wear one of these the better it gets. When I wear them I can pretend that I am some kind of gorgeous, irresistible femme fatale, which has nothing to do with my public persona. I know that there are people out there who don’t like and/or can’t wear these big perfumes – I can only offer my condolences. There is just something about these heady scents that makes me happy, and I would merrily over-apply them daily if I had the kind of life that allowed for such indulgences. Alas, off to work I must go each day to the land of cubicles and professional attire, with nary a bias-cut satin gown, slinky opera glove or crystal champagne flute in sight. Little do my colleagues know that my inner Ava Gardner is never too far below the surface.

My first subject is a new love, although one I had heard about at great length before I tried it. Quite some time ago I won a small sample in a prize draw, along with another Malle release, the ethereally haunting En Passant. I fell hard for with both of them immediately. I doled out the sample sparingly, not knowing when I would ever have more, as it is quite expensive. Recently a very generous perfume friend gave me larger decant in a swap, which I have been wearing regularly. Being able to wear it and live with it has made me appreciate this scent even more than I did the first time. I can easily see a full bottle of this beauty in my future.

This is a most deceptive perfume – it starts out cold and green and stemmy, and it smells exactly like the refrigerated case at the florist when you open it to get one of those pre-made bouquets out, right down to the eucalyptus, a touch of the perfumer’s genius. I was expecting this effect from having read numerous reviews of it, but no written description prepared me for what happened after about fifteen minutes. When this perfume begins to open up, it is the most astonishingly lovely tuberose imaginable. Lush and bright and sweet, it smells like the breath of the living flowers, and not chilled either; the florist’s cold storage is gone and replaced by a warm, damp jungle where this tuberose grows in wild abandon, mingling with other tropical flowers such as jasmine and ylang-ylang. Once it has fully developed on the skin, it retains this lush, full character for hours on end. On me, it just blooms with more radiance each passing hour, revealing the orange blossom accord and the subtle note of coconut. My skin – and my nose - just can’t get enough of it. This is one of those perfumes that must interact with the skin to be understood – if all you do is sniff it from the bottle, you will never know how the chilly greenness transforms itself into an elixir worthy of a Goddess.

Carnal Flower has been compared to the great classic tuberose Fracas by Robert Piguet – dare I say I like it even better? It is less of a hothouse flower, if you will; I love Fracas too, but that one is more of a sophisticated diva, and does not have the fresh, lovely immediacy of Carnal Flower.

The notes are as follows according to Top notes: Bergamot, Melon, Eucalyptus. Middle (Heart) notes: Ylang-ylang, Salicylates, Jasmine. Base notes: Tuberose absolute, Orange blossom absolute, Coconut, Musks.

This fragrance is an Eau De Parfum introduced in 2005 and created by Dominique Ropion for Frederic Malle Editions de Parfum. It is available in the U.S.A exclusively at the Barneys New York stores and by mail order, in various high-end stores in Europe and the Middle East, and in Paris at the Frederic Malle Paris boutiques. A 100 ml bottle is $275, and now it also comes in a body crème for $190. I understand that the crème has an extremely high concentration of perfume and is of the finest quality, so when I do actually become Queen of something, somewhere, I will be ordering it by the case.

Image credits: Carnal Flower bottle from Ava Gardner photo from, a site devoted entirely to the appreciation of these alluring feminine accessories.


Blogger Alyssa said...

All Hail the Queen!

I have a bias cut gown (and a tiara) within me, too... Though even more often I am reclining on my inner velvet chaise lounge. I've never been very good at the regal bearing thing.

I admire the heck out of Carnal Flower and keep trying to meld with it, so far with only mixed success. I am waiting for the heat and humidity of summer. I have a feeling that will do it.

Looking forward to the rest of the White Flora reviews -- you and Marina should do some doubles, since we never got to see her planned tuberose series away back when. (I've been waiting all this time, M. :-) )

-- sweetlife/alyssa

10:57 PM EST  
Blogger tmp00 said...

I can't wear it but I love to smell it on the women who can..

12:41 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Its definitely better than the loud-mouthed hairy screaming diva that is Fracas. Carnal Flower has substance yet is restrained in its clout. A rich and substantial tuberose note which is tamed by expert integration of eucalyptus, bergamot and coconut. Some may prefer Tuberose crimnalle, Tuberose Indiana, or Fracas, but to me Carnal Flower is the most perfectly concocted tuberose fragrance. And its about the only one which can be classified as a unisex white flower fragrance!

12:51 AM EST  
Blogger Bradamante said...

I discovered I really, really do not like tuberose scents. To me they all smell the same: Fracas, Carnal Flower, Tuberose Gardenia - all I get is this nauseating high pitched sweetness. Which doesn't mean I didn't love your review! It's very nice to get a view from the other side of things.

I live in Europe and order quite regulary from the F.Malle boutique in Paris. Therefore they sent me a free sample of Carnal Flower when I requested it. It came with a handwritten warning: 'please be carefull with this scent, as it is bound to cause havoc' (well - this is my interpretation of the message, it is some time ago now).
Now, ain't that lovely? And imagine my surprise when I found out that I couldn't be bothered with anything tuberose...

(jasmine is another story, though)

3:00 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


I agree with your every word. Carnal Flower is beyond beautiful, and I wear it through every season, but in summer is when its fabulosity is most fully expressed.

I still love Fracas, will always love Fracas. I like the fact that these two offer very different portraits of tuberose, both of them magnifique!

Will look forward with great anticipation to the rest of your White Florals reviews.

8:23 AM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

I have been waiting for the write themselves :-) I just have to get my stuff together, I have a perfect poem and all...

8:24 AM EST  
Blogger Erin said...

Just wondering - is the creme different from the Beurre Exquise (body butter)?

9:00 AM EST  
Blogger mimi said...

Wow! I've been lurking on this great site for a while now but reading your peaen to white florals has tempted me to comment and thank you for sharing your enthusiasm and wonderful writing.

As for Carnal Flower: I HAVE TO HAVE THIS!! Tuberose has to be my holiest of holy grail notes (I adore, and am a little scared of, Fracas) and I love gardenia but have a rocky relationship with jasmine, but you make this fragrance sound so so wonderful that I'm lamenting never having sniffed it.

Thanks for such a lovely article :-)

9:34 AM EST  
Blogger priscilla said...

Wonderful review Donna! I too am a White Floral lover, and they love me as well. And they are so, so difficult not to over apply! I also like Carnal Flower better than Fracas, for what it's worth. So far the only white floral I've found I cannot wear is Songes. I find it beautiful, but it only wants to beat me over the head with a mallet.

10:01 AM EST  
Blogger Unknown said...

I also have been a lurker on this sight but I had to comment on your article! I ADORE Carnal Flower and Fracas, and just recently broke down and bought the travel size bottles of CF on a recent trip to Vegas (there's a new Barneys at the Palazzo). I can't stop sniffing my wrists! I spray without shame. I also have to say if anyone goes to that Barneys...the SA's there are AMAZING. Extremely friendly and loaded me up with samples galore (including the beurre exquise - divine). It was well worth the expense!

10:45 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

HI Donna,
Great post! I, too, love White Florals and luckily my skin gets along swimmingly with them as well.
I've got to try this Carnal Flower stuff. I've read so much about it and I'm just about to break down about buy it. Yes, unsniffed. Because I know I would love it. I bought FBs of Fracas and A La Nuit unsniffed and instantly adored them. I doubt I could go wrong with Carnal Flower!
Thanks for the beautifully written post.

3:25 PM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Alyssa, I agree, summer is the best time to wear this one. And who says you need regal bearing to be a diva? It has not stopped me... ;-)

Tom, it's just as good as a vicarious pleasure too!

Faizanjax, I like the composition of this so much - the bergamot, coconut and eucalyptus are pure genius!

Berengaria, thank you for your comment. I adore jasmine too!

Suzanne, thank you, I can't get enough of ANY good tuberose scents!

Marina, there is a poem about tuberoses? Why wasn't I told? :-)

Erin, it's the same stuff, I just Anglicized it. Maybe if I just call it "body creme" the price will drop. :-)

Mimi, thank you so much! If you really love tuberose most of all, try Caron Tubereuse before you buy this one - harder to get hold of since it's one of their Boutique scents, but it comes in Parfum strength and it's beyond wonderful. I would be hard pressed to decide between them.

Greeneyes, thank you, I also agree about Songes - I finally learned to appreciate it but it is SO strong.

Thank you Liz, good to know there are more Barneys stores opening - maybe one in my city someday soon, I hope!

Molly, thank you for your kind words. I think I also knew I would like it before I tried it - just a question of degree!

4:26 PM EST  
Blogger gato_maula said...

Thank you for the nice review. I love Carnal flower, but don't have too many occasions to wear it to. Do you know that Barneys in NYC carries refill sets (three 10 ml bottles) of all Malle's perfumes? The Carnal Flower costs ~$120, all the other $70-100. The sets may not appear at the Barneys web-page but all of them are available in the store.

5:58 PM EST  
Blogger kamala said...

beautiful review! CF is a lovely, classic scent to me, and i like it quite a bit, though i never wear it. apparently, i'm one of those "loud-mouthed screaming diva" types who prefers more complex florals like Fracas and Songes - i am not, however, hairy. :-)

i'm curious to know which floral bouquet-type perfumes you like? along the lines of, say, Joy? just wondering ...

6:03 PM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gato_maula, I did not know that! I wish there WAS a Barneys near me! And yes, it is hard to find occasions to wear it - I guess we will have to make up our own...

6:10 PM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kamala - LOL, thank you, me neither!

I adore really good floral bouquet perfumes: Joy, 1000, Lady Caron, Amouage Gold, Rance' Josephine, Indiscret, Lelong pour Femme, Intoxication d'Amour, Fleurs de Rocailles, and many others. I love a good smooth, seamless classic perfume blend as much as anything.

6:16 PM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You make it sound so beautiful. Haven't sniffed CF yet, but like Fracas, Songes and La Haie Fleurie de Hameau, all of which seem to love me back as well.
May we crown you Queen, so you can order by the caseload and share the spoils with us?

7:33 PM EST  
Blogger kamala said...

i think Fleurs de Rocaille and the 2 Patou fragrances you mention are exquisite - the Patous especially, i love them! - and i'm jotting down those others you mention to check out in the future. (the ever-expanding "to try" list :-) )

and speaking of Big Florals, i'm wearing Amoreuse right now. it's sexy!

btw, love your "inner ava gardner." she's so gorgeous!

9:20 PM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sabina, thank you, I also love La Haie Fleurie du Hameau - it is so tender and exquisite.

If am to be Queen, what realm shall I reign over? I need a "queendom!" :-D

1:25 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kamala, I love all the Patous - such a pity that so many of my very favorites are discontinued.

I have not tried Amoreuse yet, but I have heard many good things about it - it's on my list to try, for sure.

1:29 AM EST  
Blogger Vireo Perfumes said...

I am so glad you went personal with the white florals.
I am amazed that something so delicate can create mystery.
With my personality I think that I would be drenched in orientals but I wear white florals best.

If you want poetry on roses look no further than Rilke.

Even more astonishing is that he died from an infection from when he pricked himself from a rose.
He chose his own epitaph and it read:

Rose, oh pure contradiction, desire
of being No-one's sleep, under so
many lids.

2:44 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Knidonovan, thank you, it is indeed amazing, isn't it, what effect these can have on us?

I did not know that about Rilke. I have done that to myself many times but to die from it - how terrible!

1:16 PM EST  
Anonymous singapore florist said...

love the photo too. really want to smell the perfume.

2:04 AM EST  

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