Carnation: 20 posts

Nina Ricci L’Air du Temps : Fragrance Review

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Original:

Rated 4.5 out of 5.0

Reformulation:

Rated 4.5 out of 5.0

Star rating: 5 stars–outstanding/potential classic, 4 stars–very good, 3 stars–adequate, 2 stars–disappointing, 1 star–poor.

“And only dreamed imagination Had drowned in the empty dark Its flitting visions’ pale reflections, The soul fancy’s easy mark?” Aleksandr Sergeievich Pushkin

Carnation blossoms thickly overlaid with wintergreen and dusky bitter notes. It captures a moment before autumns falls into the winter and winter into the spring, a sense of something new and unsettling in the air. Its combination of earthy vetiver and nostalgic iris makes me think of fin de siècle parks filled with marble statues. A rich veil of chrysanthemum-like bitterness—a smell of leaves rubbed between fingers as one passes through the overgrown brambles absentmindedly caressing remaining flowers—folds over the composition. Created in 1948 by Francis Fabron, Nina Ricci L’Air du Temps was one of my mother’s favorite fragrances.

Fast forward to the present. I lift the beautiful lid of intertwining doves off the bottle, spray the content on my arm and… Nothing happens, other than a whisper of something barely resembling the old beauty. It is faceless, utterly forgettable, filled with light and likable notes that together do not sing. If my grandmother’s bottle of L’Air du Temps is still preserved, I will wear it, otherwise I am not going near the reformulated version.

Poem: Aleksandr Sergeievich Pushkin (1799-1837), a greatest Russian poet of Romantic period. The excerpt is taken from “To the Fountain Of the Palace Of the Bakchisarai.”

Photo: Pushkin’s favorite statue in Tsarkoe Selo, a town near St. Petersburg, which was Russian tzars’ summer residence. Pushkin studied in the town’s Lyceum from 1811 to 1817.

Maître Parfumeur et Gantier Soie Rouge : Fragrance Review

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Star rating: 5 stars–outstanding/potential classic, 4 stars–very good, 3 stars–adequate, 2 stars–disappointing, 1 star–poor.

Created by Jean Laporte in 1988, Soie Rouge, “red silk,” is a powdery carnation with peppery bite supported by a base of moldy peaches oozing sweet juices. This would not have been that bad—or perhaps it would have been–but with the typical Maître Parfumeur et Gantier musk dominating, this is among my least favorite fragrances of the range. Notes: carnation, heliotrope, apricot, pineapple.

Caron Bellodgia : Perfume Review

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Look closely at the Lady with the Unicorn tapestries. Among flowers intertwining around the woman, unicorn and lion, and creating an enchanted atmosphere, tiny dianthus, clove pink, is the most prominent. Likewise, Caron Bellodgia is a fragrance of dreams. It bridges the light and the dark and creates a masterful olfactory chiaroscuro. Bellodgia is a memory of a traveler, capturing the vision of an Italian town on Lake Como, Belladgio. Created in 1927 by Ernest Daltroff, genius perfumer and the founder of Caron, the composition features carnation, jasmine, rose, lily of the valley, violet, sandalwood, vanilla and musk.

Lady with unicorn

The top notes are of the powdery carnation which gains a slight peppery bite as the fragrance settles. The jasmine, lily of the valley and rose undulate out of carnation accord one after another creating an interesting composition that changes over time, from one note to another and back, like piano bars being hit by an impatient finger. The dry down is an interplay of warm and musky against cool and mossy. The dark Caron undercurrent whispers of dusky cloisters of medieval churches and throws into relief the gentle sweetness flowers, still hot from the midday sun. Bellodgia may seem soft and simple at first, but over time it reveals its sensuality.

I forgot to add that my preferred concentration is the extrait de parfum; the Eau de Parfum is bland in comparison. As Octavian noted in the comments, it was introduced in 1996, after being reformulated and augmented with the green tea notes.

Note on reformulation May 2011: A carnation gold standard, Bellodgia has been made less spicy and dark over time, but it still preserves its petal rainstorm impression. While I miss the original’s smoldering spicy darkness, I still enjoy the bright rose-carnation accord in the current version. The parfum is richer and warmer, while the Eau de Toilette has a pleasant green note adorning the spicy floral heart.

Image: The Lady and the Unicorn, “Sight” silk tapestry on wood, end of the 15th century, Musée Moyenage, Paris. Discovered by Prosper Mérimée in 1841 in Boussac castle, the tapestries became famous due to the works by George Sand. The amount of detail on the tapestries, as well as hidden allegory, is breathtaking. I must have spent more than an hour at the tapestry gallery, amazed by the vibrant colors and the delicate expressions on the faces of the lady and the mysterious animals. Interestingly enough, the bottom end of the tapestries, which currently appears dark pink underwent restoration. However, synthetic colors could not match the vibrancy of the vegetal dye used by the Flemish weavers. Over time, the restored part faded, while the original remained vivid.

Caron Poivre and Coup de Fouet : Perfume Review

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Original:

Rated 4.5 out of 5.0

Reformulation:

Star rating: 5 stars–outstanding/potential classic, 4 stars–very good, 3 stars–adequate, 2 stars–disappointing, 1 star–poor.

“Crack of the Whip” is a name befitting this outstanding Caron creation. After the sharp burst of pepper, the chill of floral notes ornamented by spicy iridescence begins to unravel. Carnation blossoms out of the spicy tulle and grows more and more voluptuous and sweet, before suddenly bursting into a layers and layers of sweet and translucent petals. As quickly as carnation appears, the next wave brings an additional layer of spicy warmth. It fuses the elements of the composition together, adding sweetness where it was lacking and smoothing the spicy edges before they start to burn. After the carnation petals are swept away by the warm breath, the sweet smoky notes of incense start to swirl in delicate patterns. Opoponax (sweet myrrh) is what lends a subtly sweet, balsamic quality to the dry down, forcing flowers to lose their demure quality and peppers to freeze into an intricate spicy balance.

Those who are afraid of Caron’s darkness and now-unfashionable mossiness should explore Coup de Fouet, which is a wonderful example of why classical compositions can withstand the ever changeable fashion. It is refined without being aloof and timeless without being dated. A true Caron gem! However, please give the top notes a chance to perform their transformations before making a verdict.

Poivre is the extrait de parfum version of Coup De Fouet, and as expected, it is richer and more cerebral. It takes longer to make its acquaintance, with the sweet incense notes I liked being darker and more vibrant contrast with the rest of the composition. Both were created by Michel Morsetti in 1954.

Notes: red pepper, black pepper, giroflore, carnation, ylang ylang, opoponax, sandalwood, vetiver, oakmoss.

On Reformulation (March 2011):

Wearing the original Poivre is an exhilarating experience that can only be compared to biting into a black peppercorn crust atop steak au poivre. The spicy rose underscoring the fiery pepper and woods lent the composition a certain dark vision of glamor. The current version is more pink than crimson, and as such, its beauty has been lost. The cinnamon, clove and pepper notes are quite attenuated, with the final result verging on bland. Coup de Fouet is the Eau de Toilette version of Poivre and it is even thinner.

Russian Perfumery and Red Moscow

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Krasnaya Moskva (Red Moscow) is a heavy carnation based fragrance, with a lemony coriander  slicing through the powdery backdrop. The base features an interplay between cool and warm notes. I cannot even review Krasnaya Moskva on its merits alone, because the associations are too strong. The moment I smell it, I am 10 years old again, being lectured on the young pioneer’s creed by some female Communist Party functionary. Since Bolsheviks deemed perfumes as bourgeois extravagance, Krasnaya Moskva is the only Soviet Russian perfume I remember, along with something called Chypre. As a child, I recall buying a bottle for my grandfather, however my grandmother vetoed the present, referring to Chypre as something that alcoholics buy when vodka was out of stock. No wonder, it took me a long time to appreciate chypre fragrances.

Yet, prior to the Russian revolution, perfume production was flourishing, starting with A. Rallet&Co. factory, which was opened in Moscow in the summer of 1843. The perfume factory was eventually headed by Edouard Beaux, a father of Ernest Beaux, a legendary creator of Chanel No.5. No, I am not going to say that Chanel No. 5 is actually a perfume Lenin commissioned while in Finnish exile for his lover Inessa Armand. Ernest Beaux, however, was born in Moscow in 1881, subsequently inheriting his father’s business. After the Russian Revolution of 1917, Beaux escaped and settled in Paris, where most of his famous work has been done.   As for A. Rallet&Co. factory, Bolsheviks renamed it Soap and Perfumes Works No.7 in 1918 upon nationalization. The name was changed to Svoboda (Freedom) later.

However, A. Rallet&Co. was not the only important perfume factory in Russia. Henri Brocard was one of the famous European perfumers at the time, with one of his factories based in Moscow. Brocard came to Russia from France in 1861, and it is his factory that purportedly created Krasnaya Moskva fragrance, even though at the time was known as The Empress’s Favorite Bouquet, referring to Tzarina Aleksandra, unfortunate Nicolas II’s wife. In 1918, Brocard’s factory was nationalized and given a typically Soviet no-frills name, Soap and Perfumery Factory No.5. Molotov’s wife, Polina Zhemchuzhina was the factory director until Stalin’s suspicions led to her arrest for treason in 1948. Its current name, Novaya Zarya (New Dawn) was given to the factory in 1922.

Is Krasnaya Moskva really a legendary Brocard’s creation? I have found little information to verify this claim, other than to discover that even if it were made by Brocard’s factory, it must have been after his death. Digging in the past to discover one’s aristocratic origins has become a fashionable thing after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Indeed, if one is to believe everyone who claims to be associated with Romanovs, the royal family would have been the largest one in the history of monarchies, putting European royalty to shame. Therefore, I hold a skeptical view on Krasnaya Moskva’s aristocratic roots.

One thing is certain, however. I will never be able to lose the association between its heady carnation scent and the memories from my childhood. I can envision perfectly its two-toned red box, marked with the Soviet seal of quality. Krasnaya Moskva is still produced by Novaya Zarya, along with a few other fragrances. Recently, I had a chance to sample extrait de parfum, and it was sweeter and heavier on carnation paired with rose than I remember it to be. Listed notes: bergamot, coriander, ylang-ylang, rose, jasmine, iris, vanilla (carnation is definitely there in one form or another). Krasnaya Moskva is still available here, for a very socialist price of $10, for those who would either like to make a trip to the past or to discover Soviet exotics.

Reference: Veniamin Kozharinov, Empress’s Bouquet, or Red Moscow. The Moscow News.

Picture: Red Square, Moscow.

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