I’m not sure why exactly I decided to revisit Caron En Avion after so many years, but it might have been inspired by my reading of Miklós Bánffy’s The Transylvanian Trilogy. An epic novel set in the Austro-Hungarian Empire just before the First World War, it paints the vanished world of the Hungarian aristocracy, the era that was quickly coming to a close. There is something equally poignant and nostalgic about En Avion, a perfume created by Caron’s owner Ernest Daltroff in 1932, just a year before Count Bánffy started writing his masterpiece.
En Avion, as the name suggests, was inspired by the first pilot women such as Helen Boucher and Amelia Earhart. It was a luminous but dark orange, dipped in the sweetness of jasmine and the incense-like warmth of opoponax. It was spicy but also cool and mossy. The kind of fragrance that could only have been the product of Daltroff’s eccentric pairings and the era’s penchant for perfumes thick as fur coats.
En Avion has not avoided the specter of reformulations, but the way it smells today has all of the splendid, rich and nostalgic appeal of vintage perfumes. With so many niche lines aping this kind of lush character–and coming out mostly with dull pastiches, here we have an authentic scent of another world. There is no mistaking it for something modern.
Today En Avion is richer in carnation than it used to be. This is a happy change for me, because I love this old-fashioned note, but if you knew En Avion as it used to be, then you may disagree. The carnations linger for hours on your skin, and while the perfume changes gradually from a spicy floral to a dark, worn-out leather jacket (with lots of moss and earth woods), the initial spark lightens things up.
The orange is there as well, but it’s now more muted. You find it under the dark petals and moss, dry and reminiscent of pomanders forgotten after a Christmas party. There is also a hint of sweet violet, like a smear of someone’s red lipstick on the cheek. These little details make En Avion fascinating to wear, although they are best preserved in the extrait de parfum than in the sour, aggressive Eau de Parfum. The two versions are so different that I have difficulty seeing them as stemming from the same idea. If you have never tried En Avion, don’t spoil your first impression and go for the extrait.
Yes, En Avion is old-fashioned, perhaps more so than other Caron classics. If you’re new to this house, I’d recommend to start with something else, like Parfum Sacré, Bellodgia, Or et Noir or Nuit de Noël. But if you have a taste for grand storytelling, then En Avion will be an interesting discovery. Much like The Transylvanian Trilogy.
Caron En Avion is available at Luckyscent, Haute Parfumerie Place Vendome, Caron boutiques, and Bergdorf Goodman. 7.5ml extrait de parfum/$100, 50ml Eau de Parfum/$130
Which perfumes smell of another era to you?