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Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Caron Parfum Sacré and Amouage Lyric Woman: Battle of the Diva Roses

By Donna

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

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ah, two of my favorite perfumes, and the Lyric is definitely worth the price, it's way beyond lovely, and completely wearable. Great reviews!

1:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Flora said...

Thanks Marla,I have loved the Caron for 20 years, and the Lyric is just as gorgeous!

1:26 AM EDT  
Blogger Katie Puckrik said...

Great rose pairing, Donna, and I share your enthusiasm for Lyric Woman! I have the same "problem" you do of the ever-gushing pipeline of samples that demand attention. So much so that I tried my sample of Lyric Woman last year, went "Yeah, great", and then moved onto the bazillion other samples to smell and eventually blog/vlog on.

You post sent me rushing penitently back to LW just this very moment to try it again, and my stars, it's so creamy/nutty/strange and gorgeous. The saffron and ylang ylang really twangs it out.

I'm going to copy you and wear it to bed tonight so I can get that incense cloud in the a.m.

By the way, I did not know your fun fact about Amouage using real oakmoss and saying nanny-nanny-boo-boo to IFRA! I now love Amouage even more.

2:41 AM EDT  
Blogger La Bonne Vivante said...

What a gorgeous post... I too love Parfum Sacre, and have been considering a bottle purchase, but don't know if I should looking for a bottle pre-reformulation. Any ideas about that? Amouage Lyric sounds stupendous, and right up my alley. In my heaven, I am surrounded by the smells of cardamom, incense, oakmoss, and roses, so this could get me there!!!!

8:22 AM EDT  
Blogger Mals86 said...

Donna, I think your review of Parfum Sacre was one of the reasons I picked it in one of my early sample orders. It is so lovely. It took a good three or four wearings to make its presence known (I had had a mild cold), but once I smelled it complete, I had to have it. I now own a big bottle of edp (the standard ugly Caron polka-dot thing, which came in a purple box from a discounter), and two smaller rectangular bottles of edp in the black and gold box, from ebay, that I'm sure are original issue. I don't smell any difference in them, but that may be because the discounter might have had old stock. I hope I never run out - Parfum Sacre is so womanly to me, in a very full sense. It is both sexy and comforting, in its combination of rose, incense, and wood, with lashings of pepper. Recently got hold of a small amount of extrait, and it's very rich. A little more pepper and wood, I think, and the rose is more subtle to my nose.

Lyric (of which I have a treasured decant, and wish I had more!) I love too. It seems more elegant and slightly more formal - I think perhaps because the incense quality is so good, or melds so well with the rose and spices, and that tiny bit of freshness in the middle just shines a light on the rest of it. It is possibly less muted than PS, brighter and less sueded in texture.

Both gorgeous, gorgeous fragrances.

10:26 AM EDT  
Blogger tmp00 said...

I'm going to have to seek out Perfume Sacré..

11:15 AM EDT  
Anonymous Flora said...

Katie, thank you! I hope that overnight morphing thing works for you, I loved it!

Yes, Amouage cares not for IFRA's reach; if only more perfume houses would thumb their talented noses at it. Of course, Amouage is not owned by a multinational chemical collective either (cough P&G cough)so they maintain their independence.

3:43 PM EDT  
Anonymous Flora said...

LBV, thanks so much for commenting. I would definitely suggest getting a pre-reformulation bottle of Parfum Sacre-they are out there, and I actually got my "new" one for much less than retail! (Just don't try to find the Extrait version unless you have recently won the lottery.)

Do try the Lyric, and if you have not tried any of the Montale rose scents yet, try Queen Rose or Roses Petales, both of which have saffron too. Amouage Epic Woman, the one that came out in 2009, is also saffron-heavy and VERY powerful.

3:47 PM EDT  
Anonymous Flora said...

C, lucky you to have scored some Extrait! One of these days I am going to try for some, when I have the means. I never want to run out of Sacre either, so I am going to stockpile the original formula. (It's a good enough perfume that its shelf life is impressive with proper care.)

I will be doling out the remainder of my Lyric sample very carefully!

3:52 PM EDT  
Anonymous Flora said...

Tom, it should be on everyone's "life list." :-)

3:53 PM EDT  
Blogger Katherine said...

Beautiful review Donna! Your review of both is really spot on- a very enjoyable read. I usually think of these as my cooler weather scents, but you've inspired me to spritz some on today. In fact, I think I'm going to do PS on one arm and Lyric Woman on the other and do a battle of the scents in honor of your post!

6:28 PM EDT  
Blogger Flora said...

Thank you Katherine! I was doing just that very thing when I was testing Lyric. They make an excellent "stereo" perfume experience.

12:33 AM EDT  
Anonymous Marian said...

Until it was supplanted by Lyric, Caron's Or et Noir was my favorite dark rose perfume. Since there are a number of Caron scents I really enjoy I don't know why I've never even tried Parfum Sacre. Your lovely review makes me realize I have to rectify that omission very soon. Now I just have to find another reason to go to midtown, so I can fool myself into believing that I didn't make the trip just for the sake of smelling a bottle of scent :-)

8:52 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I had a sample of PS from Nordstrom's a couple of years ago..I LOVED IT. It was the EDt I believe. Then I ordered a decant from TPC and it was a different concentration (still gorgeous). But I actually found the edt more alive. Now I may be gone... Lyric..sampled in a store...beautiful, complex, a bit mysterious. It seemed like a quality day time floral symphony.

10:54 AM EDT  
Blogger Unknown said...

what a joy to read this article! I also loved the flamenco dancer :-)
I was a Or et Noir, but Lyric is bewitching, and your description is great.

11:47 AM EDT  
Blogger Six' said...


Have you tried the new Intense version of Parfum Sacré? I heard it was excellent, close to the original version... what do you think?

11:54 AM EDT  
Blogger Vanessa said...

I was interested to read this, for whilst I love Parfum Sacre (and interestingly, used to wear original Magie Noire in the 80s, though I hadn't clocked the resemblance till now), I have never managed to "get" Lyric Woman. Following your review I feel a retrial is necessary. I think it was the spices and the incense that went a bit peculiar and "curried" on my skin.

4:48 PM EDT  
Blogger Flora said...

Marian, I'll never tell, I have done that myself. :-)

12:59 AM EDT  
Blogger Flora said...

Cheryl, I love the Parfum Sacre EDT as well, and has plenty of character and staying power. Do look on eBay for those older bottles, they are still out there!

1:01 AM EDT  
Blogger Flora said...

EEM, thank you very much! I like her too, I took a long time finding just the right one for this post. :-)

I really must try Or et Noir before I die!

1:03 AM EDT  
Blogger Flora said...

Six - I know they were relaunching PS with new packaging, but not that there was going to be a new concentration of it! That is great news, I must get down to my local shop very soon to try it out. Thanks for the hot tip!

1:05 AM EDT  
Blogger Flora said...

Flittersniffer, thanks for commenting! Wasn't the original Magie Noire just fabulous? I wore it too, and sadly it has been dumbed down now. Nothing nearly as good has been released by Lancome since except for their reissues of even older scents. If they knew what was good for them, they would restore it to its former glory as their flagship fragrance.

I do not find Lyric Woman nearly as spicy as Epic Woman, which I think is a great perfume but oh, does it ever have that "spice market" vibe!

1:15 AM EDT  
Blogger Mals86 said...


11:51 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I found a version of the Parfum Sacre in purple cylindrical bottles, and, even though they are new, they smell very much like the old formulation! Is this the new Intense version? I bought what I could find, now they seem to have disappeared. I get compliments every time I wear this version. It's swoon-worthy, very rich.

1:43 AM EDT  
Blogger Six' said...


They already carry the intense version at First in Fragrance here (not affiliated), but I don't know about US distributors yet, although I guess it must already be in stores by now!

I've got a sample coming, I'm hoping against hope it's close to the old extrait...

12:40 PM EDT  
Anonymous D&G Light Blue said...

I never leave my apartment without at least 3 sprays of perfume. My BF loves the sweet-smelling ones, so I've become a fan of those recently.

4:45 PM EDT  
Anonymous K2 Herbal Incense said...

My wife loves Parfum Sacre

12:01 PM EDT  
Anonymous AnnS said...

I was recently able to smell the newly released Parfum Sacre edp intense (and then proceeded to buy it!). It is glorious, less linear, and much richer and more floral than what I know as the current PS edt. The rose in the intense version is very prominent, and it is very very akin to the floral rosey structure of Lyric. I thought of that immediately, so I am very interested to read this review today. The new PS edp intense comes in this 1 oz maroon cylindrical bottle with a little charm on it. I highly recommend it for anyone who already loves PS or who can't afford Lyric ;-)

5:36 PM EDT  
Anonymous k2 herbal said...

After such a rave review, I must try Parfum Sacré. It seems unlikely that I will be disappointed. Thanks for sharing. :)

12:44 PM EDT  

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