Caron En Avion : Perfume Review

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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.

caron

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?

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69 Comments

  • Michaela: Not much to comment as I know almost nothing of Caron. Except Pour un Homme masterpiece. But I love this post, the description, the picture and the unexpected association with the lost times of Hungarian aristocracy.
    Another era…? I don’t know… I quickly think of old good Aromatics Elixir, Mitsouko, Youth Dew, Magie Noire, Halston Z-14, Grey Flannel, Elizabeth Arden’s Red Door… They all smell of another era to me. October 30, 2014 at 7:36am Reply

    • Martha: Magie Noire was my grand-aunt’s signature. She was an elegant lady. October 30, 2014 at 11:07am Reply

    • Victoria: I was reading so much about the history of the region, and one of the books recommended The Transylvanian Trilogy. It turned out to be such a great discovery. I’m still halfway through it (it’s a 3 volume book), and I’m enjoying it.

      For me, Caron’s for some reason have this end of the era quality. And since Daltroff was Jewish, the events of the 20th century affected his life and work greatly. October 30, 2014 at 1:12pm Reply

  • Cornelia Blimber: I never heard of Miklós Bánnfy, it is on my list now, thank you! There is a Dutch translation of Part I.
    Perfumes of another era? I have some Scandal (Lanvin) left. and drops of Weil’s Zibeline and Antilope. But they don’t exist anymore.

    The vintage L’Heure Bleue has an old fashion feeling for me, in an exquisite way.
    En Passant has a kind of innocence lost in this time.So careless happy and bright. October 30, 2014 at 8:24am Reply

    • Victoria: Please let me know what you think when you start reading The Transylvanian Trilogy. There is also another book I’d recommend that talks about the lost world, Von Rezzori’s The Snows of Yesteryear. He was born in what used to be the Austro-Hungarian Empire and lived in Bukovina, a town which is now a Ukrainian city of Chernowtzy. His book is a series of portraits of members of his family, and through them you get a glimpse of the world that vanished completely. Sad but fascinating. October 30, 2014 at 1:16pm Reply

      • Cornelia Blimber: Thank you! I googled and found Gregor von Rezzori, The Snow of yesteryear. I will read the german edition, Blumen im Schnee; my German is much better than my English.

        Speaking on Hungarian authors, writing on a lost era: Sándor Márai ”Föld, Föld..!” is impressive. He describes the beginning of a new time and the end of an old one after 1944. October 30, 2014 at 6:36pm Reply

        • Victoria: It was written in German, so it would probably be even better.

          I haven’t read Marai, but this book sounds interesting and like something I would enjoy. Thank you! October 31, 2014 at 11:32am Reply

  • Lynley: I haven’t tried En Avion as I’d heard it had been mutilated in reformulation, but will try the extrait if I come across it.
    I have the parfum versions of Nuit de Noel and Narcisse Noir, and especially love Narcisse Noir’s old school glamour- it’s my Miss Havisham perfume. The Deco bottles are gorgeous too.
    I don’t generally do too well with oakmoss so tend to avoid old-fashioned fragrances, but I’ll happily wear Bandit. October 30, 2014 at 9:33am Reply

    • Victoria: Some Carons have been reformulated worse than others, but I think that they also have been making changes all along. I smelled Tabac Blond at the boutique not long ago, and I was surprised that I liked it much more now. It was the extrait de parfum, so maybe they tweaked it again.

      Bandit has a modern feel to me, and while it definitely smells of another time, it’s not dated at all. October 30, 2014 at 1:20pm Reply

  • Aurora: I proudly own En Avion extrait – a sample from the Caron boutique; it’s a wonderful idea to give it some well deserved love as it flies very much under the radar (which is apt with this name). Your review of it is beautiful.

    I find that the Caron House perfumes drydown smell especially of another era (probably even more so pre-reformulation) much more so than most Guerlains.

    Love, Chloe even though it’s modern has a retro feel in a good way, as does Flower by Kenzo, in general I find powdery scents of another era. Also perfumes heavy in aldehydes like Arpege and Chanel No 5. October 30, 2014 at 9:34am Reply

    • Victoria: I agree, Aurora. Caron, more so than Guerlain, has that retro quality. You smell these perfumes, and you can almost envision the Art Deco motifs. This is both the allure and challenge of the house, and as you can see with their unexciting new launches (Piu Bellogdia?), they are having difficulties updating the style. Perhaps, it simply doesn’t need to be updated but preserved and elaborated. October 30, 2014 at 1:23pm Reply

  • Eric: Great review! One Caron I haven’t tried yet. Do you think a man could wear it? October 30, 2014 at 10:35am Reply

    • Victoria: I think that most Carons make good scents for men. They aren’t too sweet and they have this really beautiful combination of moss, sandalwood, patchouli, leather. Of course, trying on skin would be the ultimate test, but I knew a guy who wore Narcisse Noir, and it smelled amazing on him. October 30, 2014 at 1:24pm Reply

  • Martha: I wear Hermes Rouge when I want to time travel in perfume. I know it wasn’t created then, but it smells to me like something Old Hollywood divas would wear. October 30, 2014 at 11:06am Reply

    • Victoria: It’s such an opulent, lush perfume! October 30, 2014 at 1:24pm Reply

  • Irene: I used to wear En Avion but not for many years now. I’m scared to try it if it got changed too much. Too many of my favorites got defaced that I don’t wear most of them anymore. October 30, 2014 at 11:15am Reply

    • Victoria: That’s the hard part about loving these older classics. They are always changed. But you may find the changes not so bad, or may find that the perfume smells so different (and good, of course) that it can be worn not as your old favorite but as something new. October 30, 2014 at 1:25pm Reply

  • Gentiana: I have now more reasons to revisit En Avion… As I live in Transsylvania… and I have a deep respect for the Banffy family. I didn’t read the book, but I know much about the history depicted there and, yes, it is something to fill one’s heart with nostalgy.
    I tried En Avion as Eau de Parfum and I had contradictory feelings: the opening is sour and harsh and aggressive, but after calming down it is really pleasant and unmistakebly vintage. Worth waiting for it… And remembers me to my grandmothers perfume bottles and powder boxes and to the brown family photos where serious gentlemen with big moustaches and women with elaborated curls and ornated dresses stare to the camera… October 30, 2014 at 11:41am Reply

    • Victoria: That’s exactly the image I get when I wear this perfume! 🙂 You described it so precisely.

      The EDP is very sharp on me, and it has a sour note that I don’t find in the extrait. In the end, I decided that paying $30 more for the extrait (which will last for ages) was worthwhile. But it’s a good point–if someone can only test the EDP, they should give it a long, long while to drydown and not judge on the initial phase. October 30, 2014 at 1:28pm Reply

  • columbina: caron narcisse noir and paloma picasso make me think of another time. they’re my perfect escape. October 30, 2014 at 12:18pm Reply

    • Victoria: A scented escape! The best kind. 🙂 October 30, 2014 at 1:29pm Reply

  • Phyllis Iervello: I never have tried En Avion but I can remember wearing Magie Noir…loved that one at the time. October 30, 2014 at 12:29pm Reply

    • Victoria: I still smell Magie Noire around here, and while it has been reformulated, it still has something of original bold character. It’s such a fine perfume. October 30, 2014 at 1:29pm Reply

  • Annette Reynolds: It’s funny, Victoria, but I’ve just recently tested “En Avion (extrait)” and fallen in love with it. Unfortunately, the fragrance seemed to last only a very short time on my skin, and so I added it to my “Love This” list, but didn’t think about buying a full bottle.

    Now, I’m rethinking that. I’ve gotten out what’s left of my sample, tried it on, and can’t stop sniffing my hand (which makes typing this an endless endeavor). Maybe it’s worth spraying it on several times a day to smell this good!…

    So, am very glad to have read your review even though I’m probably going to spend even more money on yet another perfume. 😉

    So many scents, so little time… October 30, 2014 at 12:29pm Reply

    • Victoria: I hear you! If a perfume doesn’t last, there is no point of splurging on a full bottle. How much did you apply? October 30, 2014 at 1:33pm Reply

      • Annette Reynolds: Only about 1/4 of my little sample vial (from LuckyScent). Do you think that’s simply not enough? I do really love the scent! (I had the same problem with Caron’s French Cancan – fell in love with it, but it didn’t last on me. But, again, I only used a tiny amount from the sample vial.)
        I’m wondering, now, that if I spray it on (the way I usually do with all my other full bottles) it would be a much better-lasting perfume for me.
        The price for Caron fragrances is quite reasonable (in my opinion). October 30, 2014 at 1:53pm Reply

        • Victoria: I have mine in a spray vial, and I usually spray once. So, it’s possible that you’re underapplying. Can you smell it if you press your nose to your wrist? It does have some musk too, and it is possible you’re anosmic to the musk they use. October 30, 2014 at 2:55pm Reply

          • Annette Reynolds: It’s about an hour later now and I can barely smell it on my hand, while I can still smell the French Cancan and the Farnesiana (all of which I tested at the same time this morning).

            I love the carnation in En Avion, along with the opoponax. Since I already own Les Nereides’ Opoponax (which is very different from the En Avion) I was hoping En Avion would eventually work for me, as something spicier.

            Thanks for your help, Victoria! October 30, 2014 at 3:09pm Reply

            • Victoria: There is so much going in En Avion that if you want a hit of opoponax, it may not be enough. It seems that it just doesn’t stick to you. But if you like En Avion, you might give Nuit de Noel and Tabac Blond (the current version) a go. Have you tried them? October 30, 2014 at 3:17pm Reply

  • solanace: This sounds great, and I love the reference to the first women pilots! I really enjoyed wearing Magie Noire back then, so this up on my list right now. And thank’s for the reading tip, too! October 30, 2014 at 12:40pm Reply

    • Victoria: And those old Caron ads are so great! I had a fun time selecting a picture to accompany the post. I understand that it’s Amelia Earhart in the ad. By the way, when I googled her name to make sure I spelled it correctly, I saw a news story posted a couple of days ago that a fragment of her vanished plane has been identified. October 30, 2014 at 1:36pm Reply

      • limegreen: What a beautiful and interesting article, thank you, Victoria! When I first saw the photo I thought you were reviewing the perfume because of the recent news about the Earhart plane discovery. What timing. There’s something so mysteriously romantic about the era for some of us who were just given the partial story, and the mystique associated with Earhart. October 30, 2014 at 4:01pm Reply

        • Victoria: An incredible coincidence, isn’t it! I didn’t know these news until I googled the spelling. Well, couldn’t be more appropriate to write about this perfume, then. October 31, 2014 at 11:24am Reply

      • solanace: It’s her! How cute, I thought it was a model. Now I want to try En Avion even more… And yes, great timing! October 30, 2014 at 5:33pm Reply

        • Victoria: I thought so too, but then I discovered that it was really her. October 31, 2014 at 11:31am Reply

  • Mary K: I have some Patou Ma Liberte, which smells like it came from an earlier time. It is full and long lasting and was purchased on E-bay a few years ago. I’m carefully rationing it. October 30, 2014 at 12:55pm Reply

    • Victoria: Jean Patou’s classics also have that “another time” feel to me. I haven’t smelled Ma Liberte for a while, but I was sniffing my bottle of Vacances and thinking that it’s another perfume that could fit The Transylvanian Trilogy. October 30, 2014 at 1:37pm Reply

  • Esme: I read the entire Transylvanian Trilogy of Miklos Banffy two months ago. I consider it to be a magnificent literary work that puts the reader right in the heart of the world of Hungarian aristocrats just before the First World War — their hunting parties, the fancy balls, the intrigues and love affairs. Banffy is a genius. October 30, 2014 at 1:15pm Reply

    • Victoria: He is! And it’s not an old-fashioned novel at all. So many themes he raises are pretty much universal. October 30, 2014 at 1:45pm Reply

      • Hannah: Does part of it take place on a train? I read a novel by a Hungarian author that opens on a train but I didn’t get very far. I’ve been trying to remember what it’s called but I sold the book and I don’t remember enough to Google.

        Obsession makes me think of another era. October 30, 2014 at 3:12pm Reply

        • Victoria: Hmmm, no, I don’t think it’s the same book. October 30, 2014 at 3:15pm Reply

          • Cornelia Blimber: hi Hannah, I guess you mean ”Utas és Holdvilág” by Antal Szerb. October 30, 2014 at 6:26pm Reply

  • Jordi: For me the scent that gives me a classic old times memories is Chanel 5. That burst of aldehydes is unmistakable and I find at the same time that it is not that usual anymore. I find today’s perfumes leaning to sweet or fresh accords and they have a tendency to become essences while those classic perfumes were stronger in character. The exception would probably be Serge Lutens maybe his combinations are not classic per se but the idea of a full and strong perfume identifiable and easily noticeable makes me think of classics. October 30, 2014 at 3:09pm Reply

    • Victoria: I can’t agree more with you on No 5 and on Lutens’s perfumes. I like it these fragrances test your patience by forcing you to slow down and enjoy every moment of their development. Today’s perfumes seem more about instant gratification, which is fine too, but I sometimes miss the long, complex storytelling. October 30, 2014 at 3:37pm Reply

  • Marilyn Stanonis: Victoria, thank you so much for mentioning The Transylvanian Trilogy! I can’t wait to get my hands on it/them! I have a fascination for that part of the world, and read all I can about it. After I looked up the books and read all about them I returned to your perfume review. I used to love Caron perfumes, and will again now, but I hadn’t known about En Avion. Since I am a former pilot, maybe I should try some! Thank you so much for the tips. October 30, 2014 at 3:20pm Reply

    • Victoria: Marilyn, I’m so happy you looked into it! This novel deserves to be better known, because it’s such a masterpiece. If you’re interested in the history of the region, I also recommend Between the Woods and the Water: on Foot to Constantinople from the Hook of Holland – The Middle Danube to the Iron Gates by Patrick Leigh Fermor. He was traveling in the 1930s, and his story is fascinating. The book was recommended by a reviewer of The Transylvanian Trilogy, and I’m glad I started reading it. October 30, 2014 at 3:40pm Reply

  • Karen: Just went to Budapest so will definitely check out the trilogy and perhaps a sample of the perfume! Saw Tosca at the opera house, hope that there is a scene referencing that stunning building in the books, felt like being in the middle of a beautiful jewel. (Also bought a bottle of Portrait of a Lady at a wonderful perfume shop, Madison. Love having a perfume associated with a place visited, especially one as beautiful as Budapest) October 30, 2014 at 3:59pm Reply

    • Victoria: Budapest is such a beautiful city, and I bet you had a wonderful time there. Portrait of a Lady is a perfect choice! October 31, 2014 at 11:23am Reply

      • Karen: Budapest is incredibly beautiful! It was raining lightly when I tried Portrait of a Lady, and the dark rose fragrance just seemed to capture the beauty and slightly faded grandeur of the street. I was also thinking after ordering the books mentioned in your review and comments that the book sellers are going to wonder why the sudden rush on all these books! November 1, 2014 at 6:59am Reply

        • Victoria: I hope that you will enjoy the books! While we are on the topic, here are a few more recommendations in the same genre:
          Joseph Roth The Radetzky March
          Joseph Roth The Emperor’s Tomb
          Dezso Kosztolanyi’s Skylark and also by the same author, Kornel Esti November 1, 2014 at 9:13am Reply

          • Karen: Thank you for more suggestions! I am looking forward to reading the trilogy and two others that I ordered. Will add these to my “to read” list! Most of the books I’ve read lately with a geographical focus have been Freya Stark’s books on her travels in Turkey, so these will give me some new insights to a region I know little about! November 1, 2014 at 12:53pm Reply

            • Victoria: I also enjoyed Stark’s writing, and I read her “Winter in Arabia” not long ago. Some cultural elements she describes reminded me of my travels in Oman. November 2, 2014 at 6:16am Reply

              • Karen: How lucky you were to travel in Oman! So much of the places that would be fascinating to visit are not really doable right now. So many significant archeological sites for me will have to be visited in books. November 2, 2014 at 12:31pm Reply

                • Victoria: Yes, I still hope to visit Syria someday.

                  Oman, however, is easy enough to travel in, and it was a great experience. November 3, 2014 at 1:57am Reply

  • Marilyn Stanonis: Victoria, yes, I loved Fermor’s books but haven’t read them for years. A perfect complement to the Transylvanian Trilogy. Thank you for reminding me!

    We seem to have lots of book lovers among your many fans. I love it! And I love Bois de Jasmine. My favorite of all the favorites is the piece about your grandparents’ farm. (Wouldn’t you know!). The second favorite is about your trip to Grasse. I’ve always wanted to go. October 30, 2014 at 5:01pm Reply

    • Victoria: We definitely have plenty of book lovers here! 🙂 And thank you, I’m very happy that you liked those two articles. October 31, 2014 at 11:27am Reply

  • carole: Hello, Victoria-
    Years ago, when you just started your blog your writing made me want to know about the Caron fragrances. There were many kind people arranging splits, and so I bought huge huge huge amount of En Avion, Poivre, and Or et Noir. I only wish I bought Tabac Blonde and NN too.

    The En Avion have is so perfect-it’s almost oily (extrait). there is loads of orange blossom, violet, opopanox-everything you describe is there, and it’s thick and dense and wonderful. A dab last all day on me.

    My mom loved these too, and I have wonderful memories of sharing this fragrance with her in the year before her death. Good memories, for sure! October 30, 2014 at 5:18pm Reply

    • Victoria: This must such a poignant memory for you, Carole. It’s true, this blog started mostly because of Caron’s reviews. I have written so many of them, and I remember posting them one after another in the beginning. It’s good to return to a perfume I loved (and to see that the reformulated version is still very good). October 31, 2014 at 11:30am Reply

  • Tourmaline: Hi Victoria,

    My goodness, “an authentic scent of another world”, carnation, “worn-out leather jacket” and “sweet violet, like a smear of someone’s red lipstick on the cheek” – these are some of my favourite perfume notes and qualities. I think I’ll have to try the extrait.

    As for perfumes that smell to me of another era, I probably have several of those, including Bellodgia, White Shoulders, Phul-Nana (1972 vintage), L’Heure Bleue, Bal à Versailles, Youth Dew, Shalimar and Laetitia. October 30, 2014 at 6:36pm Reply

    • Victoria: Grossmith’s Phul-Nana? Have you tried the more recent reissue? I’d be curious how it compares to you. October 31, 2014 at 11:33am Reply

      • Tourmaline: Hi Victoria,

        Yes, the Grossmith one. I first received a tiny 5 ml bottle of it from a classmate as a Christmas present back in about 1972, when I was aged 10 or 11, and it was the richest, most exotic fragrance that I owned at the time.

        Then, two years ago, having not smelled it for at least 35 years, I found a bottle on eBay and bought it. The bottle was the same as the one that I’d been given as a child, except that it was a larger, 15 ml version. It has a red cap and a label with a painting of a beautiful Indian woman in a pink and red dress and bare feet, dancing wildly as an Indian man in a white turban sits watching.

        As I don’t use Phul-Nana very often, I’m unlikely to buy another bottle for some time, but I would be interested to sample the 2009 reissue. No doubt it won’t be quite the same, but I hope that it is as close as possible, because the version that I know is so beautiful. I wonder how much my version differs from the original one from 1891! October 31, 2014 at 8:22pm Reply

        • Victoria: Thank you for explaining! The packaging for this perfume is something else (the vintage ones)! They claim that the reissue was faithful, but I have never compared side by side. November 1, 2014 at 9:07am Reply

  • Lilly: Hello Victoria, I am really moved by the softness of Caron’s retro fragrances. Today I wore “n’Aimez que Moi”, in extrait. I know you don’t care for it much but it is so old fashioned, so much out of step with today’s world that it tugs at my heartstrings. I also adore Farnesiana, and Tabac Blond. As for En Avion, I got my sample of the edt out after reading your review. The opening is harsh, as you say, but it is beginning to mellow. I will certainly try the extrait. All these perfumes speak to me of another era, as do Arpège, Vega and the opening of Une Fleur de Cassie, with that great burst of aldehydes. October 30, 2014 at 7:07pm Reply

    • Victoria: It’s the same part I love very much in these perfumes, and I also enjoy that they don’t reach there too quickly, but they take you on a journey.
      Interesting that you mention Une Fleur de Cassie. I was wearing it the other day, and I also thought that it had a kind of “retro glamour” feel. October 31, 2014 at 11:36am Reply

    • Gentiana: I forgot to mention, Nuit de Noel and N’Aimez QUw Moi are in my personal top 10… I own N’A Q M in extrait and is so nostalgic! And N d N is the most warm and velvety olfactory experience!
      And they really transport you to another world…. yes! Retro Glamour ! November 5, 2014 at 10:49am Reply

  • Marilyn stanonis: Ah, yes, The Snows of Yesteryear! I hope I can find my copy! I love memoirs, and I believe it is a memoir. This afternoon from you and my fellow readers I have received some good reading ideas for books I didn’t know. Thank you, all of you! October 30, 2014 at 10:03pm Reply

    • Victoria: Very happy to help with book recommendations! I’m probably even more obsessed with books than with perfumes. 🙂 October 31, 2014 at 11:37am Reply

  • Erin T: My goodness, what a coincidence! I just started reading “They Were Counted” the day you posted this! October 31, 2014 at 10:23am Reply

    • Victoria: Oh, wow! What a coincidence! Hope that you’re enjoying it. October 31, 2014 at 11:57am Reply

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