Star rating: 5 stars–outstanding/potential classic, 4 stars–very good, 3 stars–adequate, 2 stars–disappointing, 1 star–poor.
Frédéric Malle Carnal Flower explores the sensuality of tuberose rendering white blossoms both as if bathed in the sunlight and touched by the evening shadows. In the Victorian language of flowers, tuberose signified dangerous pleasures, while in India young girls were warned against inhaling its aphrodisiac scent after dark, lest it lead them into trouble.
Its herbaceous verdant opening notes interspersed with tart shimmer of bergamot are structured as a crescendo leading to a heady burst of petals. The heart is comprised of creamy tuberose layered with lacy jasmine notes, their richness complementing the unique hot rubber and warm skin facet that hides underneath the white voluptuous petals of tuberose. …
Yet, before the composition has a chance to assume the Fracas-like buttery character, an orange blossom tones down the intensity. Carnal Flower unfolds like a roll of raw silk, warm and smooth, with the coconut lending a milky sweetness to the sumptuous flowers. The fruity notes are present merely as delicate sweet accents, without a tendency to dominate.
Carnal Flower’s creator, Dominique Ropion, has composed some of the most fascinating floral fragrances, such as Une Fleur de Cassie, Givenchy Ysatis, and Givenchy Amarige. Carnal Flower is likewise interesting in its ability to weave notes into a rich, yet soaring composition. While nevertheless opulent, as a proper tuberose should be, Carnal Flower does not end up as heavy and cloying, and its radiance is sustained even into the drydown.
As compared to my beloved trio of tuberoses, radiant Caron Tubéreuse, shocking Serge Lutens Tubéreuse Criminelle and hypnotic Robert Piguet Fracas, Carnal Flower presents a perfect balance between opulence and elegance. It is more complex than Caron, yet no less sanguine. Its beautiful form includes both the sensual embrace of Serge Lutens and the narcotic richness of Fracas, yet it seems to be less challenging to appreciate.
As for “Carnal Flower”… Juliet was certainly right when she said, “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose / By any other word would smell as sweet.” Still, it does not change the fact that in my mind the composition calls for a more poetic title.
Notes include bergamot, melon, camphor, tuberose, ylang-ylang, jasmine, orange blossom, coconut, white musk. Although currently available only at Barney’s New York, the fragrance will soon be released in Frédéric Malle boutiques in Paris and eventually directly from Editions de Parfums.