Carolina Herrera by Carolina Herrera : Perfume Review

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Elisa discovers another underrated gem and white floral beauty in Carolina Herrera’s 1988 perfume. But don’t say that you haven’t been warned about its big sillage and quintessential 80s character.

My mother has never worn perfume, so as a young girl I had to look elsewhere for scented role models. One was my grandmother, who introduced me to the wonders of White Linen. Another was my best friend’s mother, a beautiful, petite brunette who always entered the room in a cloud of womanly sillage. Her weapons of choice – I remember seeing the bottles on her vanity – were the original Escada and Carolina Herrera.

carolina herrera

They both seemed impossibly glamorous and “grown up” from that vantage point. But in my first year of full-on, post-rabbit-hole perfume mania, I remember realizing with a jolt that, as an adult woman myself now, I am free to drown myself in Carolina Herrera if I choose to. Not having smelled it in years if not decades, I picked up a small bottle of the EDP at a discount store (in the classic polka-dot box). I got it home, sprayed it on, and smiled in recognition: it hadn’t changed.

Carolina Herrera shows its age right away. Created in 1988, it’s very much in the over-the-top style of the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, a voluptuous white floral sweetened with a big hit of peach and the banana-jam note of ylang-ylang. The initial impression is incredibly perfumey – I detect aldehydes. Then you notice the interplay of textures between the tuberose (creamy yet cool and mentholated) and the jasmine (warm and a little furry). The ambery woody base showing through reminds me of Givenchy Amarige and all its descendants up to Amouage Ubar and Thierry Mugler Alien and Michael Kors Michael – but Carolina Herrera came first, so it may have been the first in this family line. It still stands out from more contemporary iterations thanks to a distinctive animalic angle – that old-school horsey jasmine and indispensable civet.

There’s no way to wear this perfume subtly – it’s big and it trails. Once, before I was familiar with how it wears, I made the mistake of spraying Carolina Herrera on before work. With peachy tuberose billowing over the walls of my cubicle, I was mortified all day. Now I consider it strictly an outdoor perfume. At a garden party or summer wedding, its indulgent femininity is as fun a costume as a flouncy dress.

Carolina Herrera contains top notes of apricot, bergamot, green notes, orange blossom, and rosewood; middle notes of honeysuckle, tuberose, hyacinth, jasmine, ylang-ylang, lily of the valley, and narcissus; and base notes of sandalwood, amber, musk, civet, oakmoss, vetiver, and cedar. It’s available at Macy’s for $72/1.7 oz (and easily found at discounters).

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39 Comments

  • Alita: Thanks Elisa for your nice review. I used to wear Carolina Herrera in my late twenties and I enjoyed it a lot. April 4, 2014 at 9:27am Reply

    • Elisa: Sorry for the delay in responding! I was traveling yesterday. Isn’t it nice to return to a perfume from your younger years? I think fondly of many 90s perfumes even if they cliches now. April 5, 2014 at 10:06am Reply

  • Savita: Great review Elisa… I have never smelt fragrance before but you make me want to asap! I love Jasmin, tuberose and that banana note so I can’t wait to try this. Thank you… April 4, 2014 at 9:36am Reply

    • Elisa: Thank you Savita! If you like all those notes I think you will have to like this! April 5, 2014 at 10:07am Reply

  • jaime: Wonderful descriptions! I can picture the perfume climbing up your cubicle and escaping into the rest of the office. 🙂 April 4, 2014 at 10:31am Reply

    • Elisa: Thank you! It was really embarrassing but a friend told me she hadn’t even noticed it. Not sure if I overreacted or she was just being nice… April 5, 2014 at 10:08am Reply

  • Alicia: Thank you for this review, Elisa. I wear Carolina Herrera quite often,not for work, but in my house, just for the pleasure of it, usually over my body lotion of Egyptian Jasmine.
    A question, I have just ordered two samples of Tauer Carrillon pour un ange and L’Eau d’Epices; have you tried them? April 4, 2014 at 10:46am Reply

    • Elisa: Yes, I’ve tried both! Eau d’epices is very citrusy, not as spicy as you might imagine. Carillon is an intensely green floral. They are lovely but also acquired tastes to some extent. Hope you like them! April 5, 2014 at 10:10am Reply

      • Alicia: Thank you very much, Elisa. I usually love Tauer fragrances; let’s hope I also like these two. Thank you again. April 6, 2014 at 8:42pm Reply

        • Elisa: I usually love them too! April 7, 2014 at 1:41pm Reply

      • Alicia: Elisa, I have now received and tried L’ Eau d’Epices, and I like it very much indeed. The Carillon has not sounded as yet. April 7, 2014 at 2:01pm Reply

  • Mary K: I remember this one and exactly what it smells like! Now I want to seek it out again, but you are right, it is best worn at an outdoor event. April 4, 2014 at 10:59am Reply

    • Elisa: I wonder if when I wear it, people are reminded of their mothers or friends’ mothers? It was popular then! But still good and the style is still popular, just more cleaned up these days. April 5, 2014 at 10:12am Reply

  • Deborah Pelton: Wow, what a terrific review! This sounds like all the things I do not like and yet the writing was so excellent that I read it over again just to experience the “sniffing” Foghorn tuberrose is just not for me but your review was superb. More like that please! April 4, 2014 at 11:03am Reply

    • Elisa: Thank you so much, Deborah! Your compliment made my morning. April 5, 2014 at 10:13am Reply

  • Patricia: Ha! Reminds me of the time I sampled Rive Gauche during my lunch break and then wondered who was wearing so much perfume in the elevator!

    Those old favorites really packed a punch :). April 4, 2014 at 11:09am Reply

    • Elisa: Sampling during lunch break can be a high risk activity!! April 5, 2014 at 10:14am Reply

  • Ashley Anstaett: I love Carolina Herrera. There is a man who comes to the library where I work all of the time and he smells absolutely wonderful. When I asked him what he was wearing he said it was Carolina Herrera for women. Really, I can smell him coming from quite a ways away. A bold choice that totally works for him and now I want some!

    One of my bosses gave me an old bottle of Paco Rabanne Calandre and, while I really enjoy its bold, aldehydic, almost metallic, presence, it is one of those things that I might not want to wear to work… April 4, 2014 at 11:39am Reply

    • Elisa: Oh I love that!!! I truly love when men wear feminine touches like florals and pink.

      Those old chypres tend to have a big celery note that my skin amplifies, but the other night I layered Tea Rose over Coriandre and it was fabulous! Close to L’Arte di Gucci. April 5, 2014 at 10:17am Reply

  • maja: A lovely review! 🙂 You described so well that feeling when you know (when it’s too late) that you’ve oversprayed. It does happen and there’s nothing you can do about it. Actually, whenever someone comments my perfume I get the feeling that it might be bothering someone. But hey there are worse things in life. 🙂

    I do not remember seeing this in my usual shops but maybe I wasn’t looking at all that well. I would like to sample it now. April 4, 2014 at 12:34pm Reply

    • Elisa: Hi Maja. I’ve noticed that you get more compliments when you overspray. If you want people to notice it, some will probably dislike it…but oh well! April 5, 2014 at 10:18am Reply

  • Solanace: Unlike the tame Jo Malone, this one sounds like something I’ll have to try. In spite of your mention of Amarige. April 4, 2014 at 2:39pm Reply

    • Elisa: Do try it! It doesn’t really smell like Amarige except for similarity in style. April 5, 2014 at 10:19am Reply

  • Amer: Sounds really great! I think I’ll go hunting for it. April 4, 2014 at 6:48pm Reply

    • Elisa: Hope you like it Amer! April 5, 2014 at 10:20am Reply

  • Cynthia: I got this one several years ago (never wore it in the 80’s). I actually like it’s “over the top” style. I agree you can’t wear it everywhere but it’s pretty grand. April 5, 2014 at 2:36am Reply

    • Elisa: Grand is the right word, Cynthia! It makes me feel kind of glamorous. April 5, 2014 at 10:21am Reply

  • Poodle: I like this one. I’ve worn it to work, but I have the type of skin that tames it down in the time it takes me to get to the office. April 5, 2014 at 7:27am Reply

    • Elisa: That’s lucky in this case Poodle! I think I could wear it to work if I spread one little spray around. My usual 4-5 sprays would not be ok! April 5, 2014 at 10:22am Reply

  • Sisty: Au contraire darlings — Carolina Herrera is a symphony of perfect balance, from initial spray to drydown. As long as you don’t overdo you will be enveloped in a sweet, sophisticated floral that won’t disappoint. I know that part of our search for the holy grail is a fragrance that delights through all phases — that’s my standard, anyway, to love all phases — and this is one of the few that makes the cut. For context, one of the others is Caron Alpona, so you can see that I’m picky in the extreme. April 5, 2014 at 8:38pm Reply

  • Sisty: Oh, and PS — it smells and acts nothing like Amarige. April 5, 2014 at 8:43pm Reply

  • Gentiana: I met this perfume in the late ’90 – early 2000’s and I didn’t resonate with it, at all.
    It really seemed too “perfumey” to me, together with Paloma Picasso, Magie Noire, Poison, Amarige etc.
    In between my taste developped in unexpected directions, so I must smell it again, to see how it feels now. April 7, 2014 at 7:31am Reply

    • Elisa: It is very perfumey but I’ve come to appreciate that! April 7, 2014 at 1:40pm Reply

    • Natalia: I know what you mean! I used it and paloma’s when I was 17, and now i even want to buy Pure Posion again. October 10, 2014 at 6:55pm Reply

  • Natalia: I use it to gym and i dont care! Its simply amazing. If men there can grunt loudly as if they’re coming, I can wear Carolina Herrera to lift weights. October 10, 2014 at 6:53pm Reply

    • Elisa: I love it — good for you! October 11, 2014 at 10:54am Reply

  • Mark D.: I bought this for my wife, its one of her all time favorite perfume. She has been using this brand for about 20 years. The smell very nice last for long. April 28, 2016 at 5:52am Reply

  • Norine Rodriguez: I have been wearing Carolina Herrera since 1980 or so and I the last time I ordered the original one with the black dots was two years ago from Nordstroms, I just ordered it again thinking I would receive the same one I ordered then; I did not. Please tell me where I can purchase the original Carolina Herrera yellow box with the black dots.

    Sincerely,
    Norine Rodriguez October 3, 2016 at 7:06pm Reply

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