Star rating: 5 stars–outstanding/potential classic, 4 stars–very good, 3 stars–adequate, 2 stars–disappointing, 1 star–poor.
“Crack of the Whip” is a name befitting this outstanding Caron creation. After the sharp burst of pepper, the chill of floral notes ornamented by spicy iridescence begins to unravel. Carnation blossoms out of the spicy tulle and grows more and more voluptuous and sweet, before suddenly bursting into a layers and layers of sweet and translucent petals. As quickly as carnation appears, the next wave brings an additional layer of spicy warmth. It fuses the elements of the composition together, adding sweetness where it was lacking and smoothing the spicy edges before they start to burn. After the carnation petals are swept away by the warm breath, the sweet smoky notes of incense start to swirl in delicate patterns. Opoponax (sweet myrrh) is what lends a subtly sweet, balsamic quality to the dry down, forcing flowers to lose their demure quality and peppers to freeze into an intricate spicy balance.
Those who are afraid of Caron’s darkness and now-unfashionable mossiness should explore Coup de Fouet, which is a wonderful example of why classical compositions can withstand the ever changeable fashion. It is refined without being aloof and timeless without being dated. A true Caron gem! However, please give the top notes a chance to perform their transformations before making a verdict.
Poivre is the extrait de parfum version of Coup De Fouet, and as expected, it is richer and more cerebral. It takes longer to make its acquaintance, with the sweet incense notes I liked being darker and more vibrant contrast with the rest of the composition. Both were created by Michel Morsetti in 1954.
Notes: red pepper, black pepper, giroflore, carnation, ylang ylang, opoponax, sandalwood, vetiver, oakmoss.
On Reformulation (March 2011):
Wearing the original Poivre is an exhilarating experience that can only be compared to biting into a black peppercorn crust atop steak au poivre. The spicy rose underscoring the fiery pepper and woods lent the composition a certain dark vision of glamor. The current version is more pink than crimson, and as such, its beauty has been lost. The cinnamon, clove and pepper notes are quite attenuated, with the final result verging on bland. Coup de Fouet is the Eau de Toilette version of Poivre and it is even thinner.