Real carnations are hard to find, and the ones that do turn up in flower shops are desperately bereft of that burning spice they used to give off when I bought them from gypsies in Seville… Fragrances? Floris’ Œillet Malmaison (Floris) and Roger & Gallet’s Œillet Mignardise (except in soap form) have been chucked into the dustbin of history. L’Air du Temps has ditched most of it; Poivre and Bellodgia are ghosts of their former selves. But when you smell vintage Carons, or old Guerlains like L’Heure Bleue, Mitsouko, À Travers Champs or Cachet Jaune the way God (a.k.a. Jacques G.) intended them to be, you realize just how much carnations fired up the perfumers of the Golden Age.
Today, between IFRA-enforced Brazilian wax jobs on formulas and marketing-driven eradication of the note as “old-ladyish” (of course, since any note that’s not offered for a while will tend to go out of fashion), we’d just about given up on the beleaguered blossom.
Then, BOOM! Aedes de Venustas co-owner Karl Bradl reached out to Mexican spitfire Rodrigo Flores-Roux – the Givaudan perfumer, who’s got both red and flowers in his surname, was born to grow what the brand calls “a flower on fire”.
Oeillet Bengale demonstrates the way words and notes can cross-pollinate when a fragrance is developed like a poem. The initial concept sprung from a print by Pierre-Joseph Redouté, the artist who depicted the roses developed for Empress Joséphine in her garden at the Malmaison. The flower is actually a rose despite being called a carnation, and the idea of a rose stuck with an identity crisis appealed to Karl Bradl.
With their fiery scent and jagged petals, carnations smell explosive and look like fireworks. Neither the artistic director nor the perfumer thought of Bengal fire when they worked on the Oeillet Bengale – though their muse’s name did suggest the Bengal tiger that lurks in the ambery base notes. The pyrotechnical subconscious of the project emerged as an afterthought (or rather like the backdraft of the blaze). The fire was there all along, in frankincense that is the trademark of Aedes: it sets off the powder keg.
The old-school rose-and-ylang carnation accord is centered on Givaudan’s methyl-diantilis, which smells like iso-eugenol with guaiac, vanillin and slightly burnt facets (though unlike iso-eugenol, it is IFRA-compliant, in case you wondered how such a clove-y blend made it through the regs). This accord – with green lily and tiny strawberry effects – is stretched between the bright bergamot and black pepper top notes (the latter boosting the peppery facets of the former) and the more animalic white pepper extracts that dirty up the amber and balsams base.
Thought it revives the grand, glamorous tradition of carnation fragrances like Bellodgia, Oeillet Bengale shows its edgy, decadent streak by brushing its petals with black, almost singed notes. Fiery at the outset, it quiets down to a slow burn of sizzling resins that flares up in the wind – this isn’t so much a sillage monster as an airborne perfume.
With this third fragrance (or fourth if you count the partnership with L’Artisan Parfumeur), the brand shows it has consistency and a vibrant, baroque style which truly reflects its owners’ tastes – these are proper developments started from scratch, not the tweaked off-the-shelf formulas many niche brands make do with. Already a major player as a boutique, Aedes de Venustas is shaping up as one of the most interesting new(ish) niche brands, and one that is drawing top perfumers to its fold…
For reviews of the brand’s previous offerings, Aedes de Venustas signature and Iris Nazarena, click here and here.