Star rating: 5 stars–outstanding/potential classic, 4 stars–very good, 3 stars–adequate, 2 stars–disappointing, 1 star–poor.
Playing up the stereotypes of Paris, in 1936 Caron’s perfumer Ernest Daltroff created a fragrance specifically for the American market. The fragrance was christened French Cancan in a slightly naughty allusion to the infamous cabaret dancers of Moulin Rouge, the shadowy image of which appears in the 1937 ad accompanying this review. Only in the postwar period did French Cancan returned home to Paris.
Whenever one describes a fragrance as sensual, visions of rose petals strewn across vanilla, amber haze and opulent night-blooming flowers come to mind. However, Daltroff manages to create a sensual fragrance by exploring the unique juxtaposition and slow development. French Cancan peels off one layer after another, first exposing a froth of jasmine and violet, touched by an almost gourmand almondy sweetness. Next comes a dark earthy rose, which sheds its petals slowly to reveal an arrestingly innocent touch of orange blossom. Like layers of transparent fabric change colors when arranged together, jasmine manages to darken the radiant sweetness of orange blossom.
As the fragrance dries down, cold iris dust melds the elements of the composition together. The final drydown notes take about two and a half hours to reach, although the dark Caron undercurrent is already manifesting its presence in the heart of the composition. French Cancan leaves one with silky richness of amber, sandalwood and oakmoss trio, and by endowing a composition with a degree of coolness, the effect is alluring.
Notes: jasmine, lilac, violet, lily of the valley, rose, orange blossom, patchouli, iris, sandalwood, amber, oakmoss.
Note on reformulation May 2011: The original was a heady blend of various floral notes (jasmine, ylang-ylang, rose, lilac) on a warm musky base. The new version is a cheaper variation on the theme. The Eau de Parfum is even less interesting.