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Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Lark Ascending: Carillon pour un Ange by Tauer Perfumes

By Donna

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

Disclosure: My testing of this perfume was from a private sample.

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Blogger Tama said...

This perfume was a revelation for me - I am not a big LotV fan, as a rule, with the exception of Diorissimo, and so I was a little nervous to try this one. What a great scent! The leather is pure genius and twists the whole composition away from being too bright. I was given a bottle of my own recently by a dear perfumista pal who didn't care for it - it was like being handed a bag of gold.

2:36 AM EDT  
Anonymous RusticDove said...

What a beautifully written review Donna! But darn it all for making me remember this is one of the Tauer's I've not tried yet and it has the lemmings all riled up. ;-)

3:07 AM EDT  
Blogger civava said...

Well that is one of my favorite perfumes. I like lilly of the valley but not like linear sent. That one is just the right composition just like jing jang. On one hand beautiful flower and on the other darker side with leather, moss and woods. It's almost perfect.

5:10 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Leather? Moss? Woods? Andy Tauer? Is there no end to my enslavement?! Repeat "will not run off the cliff" Ahhhhhhhhh . . . . Rearranging bottles now to make room for incoming!

6:24 AM EDT  
Anonymous perfumes said...

I haven’t been excited about anything scent-wise in a year. My best to you as always!

7:09 AM EDT  
Blogger queen_cupcake said...

Oh, I love these comments!

This is such a beautifully written review. And this:"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." Swoon!


I loved the connection to The Lark Ascending (a gorgeous piece of music) and the dance by the Alvin Ailey company. Here is a link, for anyone who would like to see & hear some of it:

I'm not sure why I don't have much lily of the valley perfume in my life. I do look forward to smelling the actual flowers when they bloom in my shade garden every May. So fleeting... As a fan of Andy Tauer's work (especially Le Maroc and l'Air du Desert...) I suppose it is inevitable that I will try this one.

7:30 AM EDT  
Blogger marsha said...

queen_cupcake: thank you for the link! And thank you Donna for the mention about the ballet! I've often wondered if someone had set this gorgeous piece of music to dance! I'm just discovering Tauer's perfumes, but I'm not sure if I'll love the LOTV one since I'm not a floral person - I'm an incense person! But this is still a beautiful review!

9:24 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm not familiar with The Lark Ascending, though I do enjoy Ralph Vaughan Williams' choral pieces very much. Might have to investigate...

I think it is fascinating that Carillon pour un Ange is such a delicate smell made bold and persistent. Before wearing it, I had thought of the name as consistent with a fairy-bells sort of idea - delicate, ethereal, small - but the scent is really much more like a large-scale carillon, with its echoey resonance, the way it hangs about on the air.

I do love the earthy quality of it, especially. And powerful? I have three small vials, and they're enough to do me for several months. It is gorgeous stuff.

10:53 AM EDT  
Anonymous Flora said...

Tama, that was one lucky score for you!

4:17 PM EDT  
Anonymous Flora said...

Thank you, RusticDove - And I still have more of Andy's perfumes to try myself!

4:18 PM EDT  
Anonymous Flora said...

civava, I have to agree with you - it is almost perfect. I love the juxtaposition of the "high and low" notes in this, they work so well together.

4:19 PM EDT  
Anonymous Flora said...

Anonymous - resistance is futile, believe me! :-)

4:20 PM EDT  
Anonymous Flora said...

perfumes ,thanks for stopping by! This is surely one to be excited about.

4:21 PM EDT  
Anonymous Flora said...

queen_cupcake, thank you so much!
Andy's perfumes definitely inspire me. :-)

4:23 PM EDT  
Anonymous Flora said...

marsha, thank you - and even if your are not an LOTV person, this one is a must-try - it's unlike any other in the genre. Come for the muguet, stay for the moss and leather!

4:26 PM EDT  
Anonymous Flora said...

muse, that dance is a masterpiece, the way it combines purity and sensuality.

Carillon really is a big perfume - that's what surprised me the most I think. One does not think of this style of fragrance as being expansive, yet it really is a room-filling wonder!

4:29 PM EDT  
Anonymous koki2 said...

Thanks for your review, very well written. Unfortunately I think I'm the only person out here who doesn't get this perfume. I'm a huge fan of LotV but all I get from this one is pulpy green stems at the bottom of the vase after a week under water. Bleh. Fortunately it wore off after about 30 minutes. Is it the same perfume? Sometimes I have to wonder!

9:03 AM EDT  
Anonymous Flora said...

koki2, I am sorry to hear that you had a bad experience with this! I have heard that there are some people out there for whom it is a deal-breaker - I guess it's one of those polarizing love-it-or-hate-it perfumes.

4:07 PM EDT  

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