Soliflorals, fragrances based around a single flower, have a school-marmish reputation. Orange blossom and tuberose have been made trendy (Jo Malone Orange Blossom) and chic (Frédéric Malle Carnal Flower), but the idea of wearing a straightforward rose or lavender perfume still doesn’t excite many women. One might as well ask them to don an apron over a house dress and host a tupperware party. Carnation perfumes fare worst of all. Take a look at any consumer survey at fragrance marketing departments, and you’ll see all sorts of derogatory adjectives next to this classical note–“dated,” “fusty,” “old-fashioned,” or the ultimate insult, “boring.”
This is a shame, because it means that those of us who love carnations for their opulent spicy scent get a short shrift. I’ve collected a number of classical carnation perfume bases (mixtures of natural and synthetic notes that are used as building blocks in fragrance compositions) and have been on a permanent quest to find as many interesting carnation perfumes as I can. L’Artisan Parfumeur reissued Oeillet Sauvage just in time for my mission.
Oeillet Sauvage was launched in 2000, and true to its name, “wild carnation,” it had zest and spice. If you knew Oeillet Sauvage back then, you’d agree with me that the new version isn’t the same. It’s much less spicy. To review it negatively based on the difference would be unfair, since there is precious little perfumers can do about regulations restricting the use of basic materials. So, I decided to blank out the memory of my carnation redolent college student self and wear Oeillet Sauvage as if we’d never met before.
Oeillet Sauvage has a bland start that would confirm the fears of those who see carnation as too prim & proper. A note of black pepper is so curiously blanched and mild that it barely registers. There are loads of rose and jasmine, and they remain sheer, airy and bright as the perfume develops. Stay with me though, or rather, don’t dismiss the perfume just yet. The best part of Oeillet Sauvage is the drydown. It smells velvety and creamy, with a clear accent of clove, and the contrast between the musky flowers (a mixture of lily and carnation) and spice is addictive. It also smells, for the lack of a better word, natural, replicating the sensation and texture of petals.
In sum, most of you won’t need this perfume–attractive florals are a dime a dozen. The exceptions are the die-hard carnation lovers who refuse to believe in the inherent dowdiness of this note but still want a modern interpretation to wear alongside such classics like Caron Bellodgia and Estée Lauder Cinnabar. Unless you’re willing to spend even more on Aedes’s Oeillet Bengale, L’Artisan’s version might be the next best thing.
Or am I missing something better?
L’Artisan Parfumeur Oeillet Sauvage includes notes of carnation, rose, ylang-ylang, lilac, black pepper, pink pepper, cedarwood, and musk. 100ml (3.4oz) bottles of Eau de Toilette, 100€.