Though it’s been featured in some of the most mythical perfumes in history from L’Origan to Opium, and was once an immensely popular note – there must have been at least one hundred soliflores since the late 19th century, with a peak in the 1920s --, the carnation has been languishing in perfume purgatory. Not only because the ever-steeper restrictions on eugenols have made it harder to conjure the spicy flower (classified in the same family as ylang-ylang, stocks and lilies), but also because it is paying the cost of its former popularity and now feels old-fashioned.
The flower itself isn’t terribly glamorous either. In France, it has been considered bad luck since the 19th century: back then, when a theatre director sent an actress a bunch of red carnations, stinting on the roses, she knew she was about to be fired. And anyone who’s received on of those cheap bouquets picked up in gas stations can confirm that we’d have much rather stuck the lowly carnation in the bin than in a vase…
Trust Serge Lutens to pick up the wilted waif, thrust her into stilettos, tease her into channelling her inner couture-clad bitch and stage his own private Carnation Revolution.
The art of perfumery is as much about words as it is about smells: it is the weaving of verbal and olfactory threads that tells the story. And the pattern woven by the jagged blood-red petals of the carnation into European languages and lore is particularly luxuriant. The French œillet, “little eye”, also means “eyelet”, “hole” or “grommet”. “Carnation” comes either from the Latin corona because the flower was used to crown brides in Ancient Greece, or from carnis, “flesh”, because of its pink colour – the French oeillet mignardise is called the pink for just that reason. In Spain the carnation is clavel, from the Latin clavus, “nail”. This links the carnation, Dianthus caryophyllus, to Eugenia caryophyllata, the clove tree. Through a series of phonetic deformations, Caryophyllon became giroflier (“clove tree”) and giroflée (“stock” or “wallflower”) in French, garofano (“carnation”) in Italian and, gillyflower, which designates all clove-scented blossoms, in English. Add to this that Dianthus comes from the Greeks words for “divine” (dios) and “flower” (anthos), and you’ve got a potent symbolic and olfactory network at play.
So that the carnation is all at once an eye, a hole, flesh, and a nail: the three latter can’t help but conjure the Passion of Christ. And the carnation was used as one of its symbols in Christian iconography. Carnation, incarnation; flesh clove to the Cross. Which may or may not have been part of the subtext to Vitriol d’œillet: but as it is launched at the same time as De Profundis, which is named after the Book of Psalms, it is at least part of its subconscious. Add to this that the flower was carried by aristocrats as they went to the guillotine during the Terror in 1793, and gave its name to a revolution, when the Portuguese overthrew the dictatorship of Salazar in 1974, and you’ll see there’s blood in the garden…
It is this ominous blossom that Serge Lutens asked Christopher Sheldrake to “dis-figure” by subjecting it to the same treatment he’d inflicted on the tuberose. In other words, to distort its features by exaggerating its most startling, unpleasant ones – in this case, the clove facet of carnation. But this baroque distortion is also a dis-figuration in the sense that it is a leap beyond figuration. Vitriol d’œillet is not a literal rendition of the flower, but a fragrant pinwheel of carnation, stock, ylang-ylang and rose, pinned together by the clavus of clove.
All of these flowers do, in fact, have eugenols in common, but as these materials are restricted, Vitriol d’oeillet calls on other spices to boost its burn: eugenol’s phenolic partner-in-crime, black pepper, which in turn summons pink and red pepper, which takes us back to the carnation through its colour: in France, red pepper is called piment de Cayenne – a reference, according to Lutens, to the infamous Cayenne penitentiary. So that language brings us back to the world of crime. Fittingly Vitriol d’œillet opens with a nose-searing squirt of pepper spray; a flower on fire, red in tooth and claw.
The burn of hot spices lasts well into the development but, surprisingly for such an aggressively named mixture, Vitriol d’œillet is not hugely diffusive (and so won’t do as a defensive weapon). In fact, as it dries down, it performs the same about-face as Tubéreuse Criminelle and turns into a musky powdery scent with shots of jasmine and rose and a sprinkle of nutmeg. At this stage, not unlike Bas de Soie whose chic retro vibe it shares, it conjures the smell of old-fashioned soap.
But Vitriol d’œillet itself isn’t quite old-fashioned: smelled alongside the discontinued Floris Malmaison or vintage Caron Poivre, it’s distinctly more streamlined and, for obvious regulatory reasons, less of a eugenol monster. Bellodgia wilts a little and goes back to her game of bridge, twiddling her pearls. I haven’t got Etro Dianthus or Santa Maria Novella Garofano on hand to compare. But my sample of the late lamented Œillet Sauvage by for L’Artisan Parfumeur, possibly the best contemporary carnation soliflore, feels somewhat tamer with its sweet vanilla and (possibly) heliotropine, in keeping with Anne Flipo’s natural-feeling, tender style. Which leaves Vitriol d’oeillet as the top contender for the title.
It won’t be out internationally until September but is already available at the Palais-Royal. For those not lucky enough to be on the Lutens mailing list, I am offering a draw for a 5 ml atomizer decant: just drop a comment saying why you love carnation or what it symbolizes for you, and I’ll pick the winner on July 6.
And by the way, this is how you pronounce the name. “Vee-tree-ohl”. That wasn’t so hard, was it? “Duh-yay”, with that final “ay” pronounced like the vowel sound in “help”. So there you go.
Illustration: Mural tribute to the Portuguese Carnation Revolution
Honestly, I can't wait to smell this. I know it won't be even close to what I imagine, but much better. :)RépondreSupprimer
For my first 10 years of life, I grew up in a socialist country, carnations are still a symbol of that regime for me. They were part of every occasion.
Maybe that's the reason why I don't see them around a lot these days...
From your post, they seem to connote danger but in my mind, I still see them as under-appreciated little, naive flowers.
Carnations have none of the doom and gloom connotations in the US that they have in Europe, and it's one of my favorites. Sadly, most carnations sold in the US have no odor, it's been bred right out of them, poor things.RépondreSupprimer
I find the discontinued Guerlain Voile d'Ete has a nice carnation note, along with baked clay. And Poivre is fantastic! I'd love to try this one.
That last comment was by Marla, who is not caffeinated enough to remember to sign her notes....RépondreSupprimer
Ines, I know that in the former Communist bloc carnations conjure very specific memories, and I'm sure that hasn't made them very popular there...RépondreSupprimer
Marla, true, Voile d'Eté (of which I even have a back-up and no wonder: it's one of Mathilde Laurent's) has a great carnation note. It was very common in the classic Guerlains too.RépondreSupprimer
I wore Poivre for ages in the 90s, even though my (now ex) husband whined it reminded him of the dentist's...
Mathilde Laurent, no wonder! Very sad it is discontinued, it's a real gem. And eugenol and the dentist's --not a good association, is it? US dentists use mint, although clove oil is still in many home medicine kits for use with toothache.RépondreSupprimer
My husband was of an older generation, so must have had his fill. It's still used in France, but I remember having trouble finding it last time I had a toothache... Not sure that's the type of violent connotation Mr. Lutens wanted to conjure though!RépondreSupprimer
I actually quite like carnations, even though they have no scent here (as Marla the un-named mentioned). I think they're happy little flowers! Except the pale pink ones... those get on my nerves for some reason.RépondreSupprimer
I worked at a florist for awhile. I enjoyed working this "common" flower into bouquets with unexpected friends! :)
Jen, last time I sniffed, some carnations here in France still had that lovely spicy-green-rosy smell they're meant to have. I remember buying gigantic bunches of hot pink ones from a street market about 20 years ago that were truly fierce. It's such a pity most flowers have wimped out on fragrance. I can barely find a decent rose and have stopped buying them as a result.RépondreSupprimer
Must have been lovely working in a flower shop!
This sounds like a stunning fragrance, and I'll be trying it as soon as it arrives near me (even if that's in Paris in December). Until then, please enter me in your draw. My mother's favorite flower was the carnation when I grew up, so the smell takes me back to simpler, sweet times.RépondreSupprimer
Aesthetic Alterations, I'll be happy to oblige -- love your blog name, by the way -- so you're in!RépondreSupprimer
I love my garden "pinks" (apparently named for their serrated edge's as much as for the color)and am looking forward to this scent....RépondreSupprimer
My biggest carnation association is as the flower for boutonnières for the prom (think "A White Sport Coat and a Pink Carnation"), or, perhaps, spies trying to be recognized in hotel lobbies. Maybe it's a generational thing.RépondreSupprimer
Nevertheless, this new Lutens sounds very interesting to me and I can't wait to try!
Our school band used to raise money through "carnation days" and my crazy friends would send each other carnations with various wild slogans and quotes from the most avant-garde writers we could find. Which seems close in spirit to this Lutens.RépondreSupprimer
Datura, thanks for reminding me of pinking shears: it's true, "to pink" also means "to prick" or "to decorate with a perforated pattern", which somehow ties in with the clove/nail association... Don't you love language? It has a subconscious all of its own...RépondreSupprimer
Furriner, yes indeed, I'm there with you between prom nights and "I shall be wearing a red carnation" said in the generic European accent of Hollywood spy movies...RépondreSupprimer
Tricia, I'm currently translating an American novel set in a middle school that has a carnation day also. I don't believe this was done in Quebec but it seems to be an American tradition, which you and your friends turned into a pretty creative event, what with the slogans...RépondreSupprimer
Carnation reminds me of high school, when we would receive carnations on Valentine's day from admirers and friends. I love the spicy scent, but I do admit I never buy them. I was surprised when DH came home with a bouquet the other day. I would love to try Vd'O!RépondreSupprimer
Elizabeth, I think a big bunch of carnations can make a wonderful bouquet. I wonder whether that custom of offering them for St Valentine's is common?RépondreSupprimer
Anyway, you're in.
like the elizabeth above me, carnations remind me of high school. carnation corsages were considered a great disappointment--everyone wanted to wear a wristlet of rose or lily or orchid (for the real high-rollers) to the dance. but my date to the homecoming dance sophomore year gave me a wrist corsage of white carnations that i still remember. it had some sparkly bits woven in that others might have considered garish, but that i adored. (the same might be said about the flowers themselves).RépondreSupprimer
thanks for broadening my horizons regarding carnations, and for hosting the giveaway! i love clove, and can't wait to smell vitriol d'oeillet.
I enjoyed reading about the many references/symbols that SL no doubt had in mind when creating this fragrance. Great to hear it has lots of pepper because I love that note in perfume. My favourite aromatherapy book "The Fragrant Mind" introduced me to the wonders of carnation and lists it's character traits as "Secretiveness, Stillness, Originality, Liberating" which I think is a pretty fascinating combination.RépondreSupprimer
Elizabeth the Second, try as I may, I can't remember which flower was on my high school graduation corsage though I vividly remember my dress falling off my chest while dancing: topless at the Ritz, I was...RépondreSupprimer
Tara, I'm not sure that SL had them all in mind, but he's such an avid reader I'm sure he was aware of most.RépondreSupprimer
I didn't know that carnation stood for those qualities: an intriguing combination...
Carnations are the last flowers you would want to be caught dead having in your house in Greece. They have been associated with bouzoukia as it is the flower that is being thrown at singers when the custom of breaking plates was abandoned back in the 80's and used only as a tourist's attraction. That's a pity because both the shape (the petals remind me of feathers) and the fragrance are very dear to me. I hope Sheldrake hasn't drowned carnation under tons of clove. It is a much too obvious association.RépondreSupprimer
Memory of Scent, I seem to remember there's a famous Greek Resistance leader known as "the Man with the Carnation"... So it's not all bouzoukis, is it?RépondreSupprimer
The scent is more pepper than clove (much less so than "classic" carnations).
And you're in!
I love carnation and always have! I can remember being enchanted by them when we visited a florist when I was a child. That blend of spicy and sweet is perfect to me. It's what drew me to the original 'Coco'. I cannot grow florist's carnations where I live now, but I plant lots and lots of smaller flowered scented dianthus.RépondreSupprimer
Laurie, true, those 80s orientals packed quite a carnation punch, didn't they? But old Coco ain't what she used to be, thank you IFRA!RépondreSupprimer
IFRA restrictions on eugenol have played a major part in the poor reformulations of Caron Poivre and Bellodgia, however even if it appears clove was used to compensate for eugenol weakness, I found Vitriol d'Oeillet softer and more wearable than Serge Noire, Lutens' other clove-based scent. I think Vitrol d'Oeillet has an interesting Black Dahlia era retro feel yet it's definitely a modern fragrance as opposed to classic carnation perfumes.RépondreSupprimer
I am so curious about Vitriol d'oeillet.RépondreSupprimer
I can't say that I have ever noticed the carnation having a particular scent, which must be for the reason you mention, that this flower is most often found in sad bouquets at the petrol station.
In Denmark, the word for carnation and clove is actually the same 'nellike'.
I remember Perdita's disapproval of carnations in "The Winter's Tale"; poor much-maligned flowers. Nevertheless I've always been fond of them, especially as the slips you can easily obtain from the carnations in your bouquet will often grow if you plant them promptly enough. Very obliging plants.RépondreSupprimer
cheerio, Anna in Edinburgh
Denyse, how unisex would you say the fragrance is? Are there any masculine tones to it? That being said, I enjoy wearing Bas de Soie myself, so I'm not the best judge. Along with narcissus, my other favorite soliflore note, I enjoy carnation because it is so maligned. I have an rather pathological impetus towards the underdog, as I think I have mentioned before here. Please enter me in the draw, I'd love to sample this.RépondreSupprimer
Billy, if I may add my two cents worth to this thread, VdO can be considered unisex but more on the feminine side, it's a floral that gets sweeter with a slight cosmetic powdery note in the fond. Serge Noire is more appropriate and interesting for men in my opinion.RépondreSupprimer
Love your review and looking forward to trying this sooner (I hope!) or later.RépondreSupprimer
Carnations were common when I was growing up and I liked them. I remember some lovely white ones in particular. To me, there was something edible about the scent and tender texture of the petals - I always wanted to bite into them! ~~nozknoz
Emma, clove oil is the thing that contains eugenol, so pepper and pimento were called in as a backup. You're right that it's easier to carry off than Serge Noire, and it does have that powdery-soapy retro vibe, like Bas de Soie, but warmer.RépondreSupprimer
Asali, I believe MemoryofScent said the same thing about Greek, that clove and carnation are the same word. I've read that carnations were used to spice wine just as cloves were in England in either the Middle Ages or the Renaissance... Wonder whether there's a carnation liqueur?RépondreSupprimer
Anyway, you're in.
Anna, I didn't remember that from Shakespeare... There *is* definitely quite a lot to say about carnations, isn't there?RépondreSupprimer
And you're in.
Billy, if you wear Bas de Soie I don't see why you couldn't carry this off. After all, I think Floris Malmaison was sold in the masculine line, wasn't it? It *is* rather powdery, as Emma says in her answer to you, but no more than Bas de Soie.RépondreSupprimer
And let's hear it for the underdogs!
Nozknoz, I know what you mean about that edible quality. I wonder if white carnations are more fragrant? I've often noticed that the white varieties often are, at least it's the case for stock and freesia.RépondreSupprimer
And you're in.
I've been discovering several carnation scents recently including L'Origan and Voile d'Ete, and I just got a little sample of L'Artisan's discontinued Œillet Sauvage. I've also been wearing CdG's Carnation for quite a while. To me there is something about the spiciness/clove that conjures hot weather. I can't wait to try this one.RépondreSupprimer
Janice, I love carnation in the summer too, at least in Terracotta Voile d'Eté. I haven't tried CdG's Carnation in ages, thanks for reminding me.RépondreSupprimer
I've always thought of carnations as happy flowers (and yes the cliché "I'll wear a red carnation"). Like a few others have said here, I think most carnations sold in Sweden are scentless, I'll have to go to some florists tomorrow to check it out! Swedish has the same word for both clove and carnation as Danish- nejlika (a very pretty word I think!).I'd love to particioate in the draw,RépondreSupprimer
Eva S Sweden
I would love to try this! Carnations remind me of 2nd grade science fair experiments- Most kids who couldn't think of anything original went for the classic "Can a white carnation change color if I put food dye in its water?" experiment.RépondreSupprimer
D, strangely, I frequently gave an old high school girlfriend carnations, because they were cheap, and come on - not THAT ugly, right? Over time, they became sentimental and unique because no one else ever thought to gift them, and they did come from a genuine heart.RépondreSupprimer
"Topless at the Ritz!" Thank you for sharing, and I do not mean that facetiously. Happily, you had already graduated. Is that why you ran away to Paris?RépondreSupprimer
Wait, I was supposed to say something about perfume... Oh - Yes, this sounds fantastic! I love carnations - clove is a smell I adore and a good pepper note is bracing and welcome in the Texas heat (you know me & the spice cabinet). They are a maligned flower - people think they're a poor excuse for roses, but they have more spunk than roses, if you ask me. And I like spunky. Ahem.
I love carnations and their old-fashioned scent. I think of Edith Wharton: the carnations Ellen Olenska receives from the Mr. van der Luyden, social arbiter of New York society, sent down from the greenhouses on his vast Hudson river estate. "I was astonished," he says. "instead of massing them in big bunches...she had scattered them about loosely, here and there." I can't wait for this new Lutens! ArianeRépondreSupprimer
Thanks for a tantalizing review of Vitriol d'Oeillet; it sounds beautiful.RépondreSupprimer
My association with carnations is weirdly sensual compared with most other posts. I associate carnations with a Renaissance fair linen powder that was made from powdered dried carnation petals, rose and clove. At the time, it was a purchase of pure luxury and extravagance.
Carnations smelled heady and were less expensive, and longer-lived than the roses I could afford. The local florist taught me to squeeze the green base of the bulb to find firm flowers that were more fresh, and would last and last on my student budget. Simple pleasures at the time, but part of my growing fascination with scent.
Thanks for hosting the drawing, and sharing your samples. Be well.
For the last few years I've been like Goldilocks looking for the perfect carnation fragrance. Malmaison was too dry, vintage Bellodgia was gorgeous but too fancy for every day, CdG Carnation was too harsh and one-dimensional, etc.--you get the picture. Now I'm hoping this will be the one.RépondreSupprimer
No one grows carnations here in Northern California that I've ever seen, though carnations are used in (yes, cheap) bouquets. But I do see the tiny, charming, and fragrant pinks. I thought about planting some in my own garden, but they are so small, I'd have to lie on the ground to smell them.
I'm another that is really interested in this launch. For me, carnations connote Valentine's Day "flower-grams" when I was a child. Usually some group of parents or students would sell them as a fundraiser, and the flowers would be delivered on Valentine's Day during the first hour of school. The prettiest girls always got the most. ;) I usually got one, from my mom or from a friend who knew I wouldn't get one otherwise. What was a little sad for me then is sweet now, thinking of these people carefully trying to keep me from being left out.RépondreSupprimer
Eva S, "nejlika" is a lovely word indeed... German also has the same word for both, "nelke". I'm wondering if it has the same etymology as "nagel" which means "nail"...RépondreSupprimer
Anyway, you're in!
Oksana, did the science experiment work? That's what Oscar Wilde did, they say: dipped his white carnations in green ink...RépondreSupprimer
Marcus, that's a sweet story, and what's not to love about a high school boy who goes through the trouble of offering flowers?RépondreSupprimer
Amy, I didn't run away to Paris after the topless-at-the-Montreal-Ritz episode. But Sheena did become a punk rocker that very summer.RépondreSupprimer
Ariane, absolutely! I'm going through an Edith Wharton phase now and re-read "The Age of Innocence" a couple of weeks ago. It did make me want to re-do Madame Olenska's loose carnation bouquet.RépondreSupprimer
HemlockSillage, that bed linen powder must have been lovely. There *is* something medieval/Renaissance about the smell of clove for some reason. During my research, I read that carnations were indeed used for flavour in wines.RépondreSupprimer
And I'll remember about the pinching.
Nina Z, I went through that Goldilocks phase too about five years ago, and never did find the carnation of my dreams (mainly because I got sidetracked, I think).RépondreSupprimer
Anotherperfumeblog, that's such a sweet memory... When I was in primary school we all exchanged cards but no flowers, and then I went to an all-girl school so that was the end of Valentines.RépondreSupprimer
Carnation is a flower dense of political significance.RépondreSupprimer
My grandfather has been sporting one in his jackets ever since I know him, paired with a firy red tie. In name of the political ideas behind the delicate petals, he won a forced holiday trip to germany during WWII. He survived, and devoted to the party symbolised by the soft smelling flower his life.
My grandfather at 89 is still a handsome, tall, charming man; elegant and groomed (and perfumed!), enjoying company and food and talking politics.
We've had garofani in our house forever, they look unassuming, but they smell wonderful...
Zazie, what can I say? Bless your nonno, and "bella ciao". I'm glad that though "questo é il fiore del partigiano", the last line of the song didn't come true for him...RépondreSupprimer
Really, carnation in wine? That's interesting. Of course at christmas we use cloves in mulled wine/ glögg, but I have never heard of neither carnation nor clove liquor.RépondreSupprimer
Asali, I think this goes back a few centuries... I only learned about it by reading up on carnations for the post.RépondreSupprimer
thank you, Denise for this beautiful review- I can't wait to be able to try this one as carnation was one of my favourites in my childhood-I remember loving its smell better than many other flowersRépondreSupprimer
Irina, you're in!RépondreSupprimer
I have always had a soft spot for carnations - they do seem to be a forgotten waif amongst the more refined floral bouquets. But they have such a lovely, spicy-sweet aroma and hardiness that I can't help but admire their ragged beauty.RépondreSupprimer
Thanks again for another thoughtful review and the draw.
Carnation is my birth month flower, and I've always loved its spicy-floral freshness (though sadly, as someone else has remarked, most of the ones you can buy at the florist these days are scentless).RépondreSupprimer
Malmaison was truly wonderful (sigh), and I'm delighted to see a high-level treatment of this lovely flower.
I loved Comme des Garcons Red Series - Carnation. It introduced me to the sweet but spicy scent of carnations and was one of the first scents I tried when I found the world of perfumery. I mentioned how much I enjoyed the scent to the man who is now my fiance - he began to surprise me at regular intervals with bouquets of fragrant red carnations. So for me, carnations have come to represent love and passion so much more than the average red rose. :)RépondreSupprimer
Thanks for the lovely review and giveaway!
Sean's Jo, after all these comments, I think the carnation gets a lot more love than we credit it with!RépondreSupprimer
Muse, I did quite like Malmaison as well but stupidly didn't buy it when it was still around, so all I've got is a decant... But I'm really enjoying my Vitriol.RépondreSupprimer
Sue, that is a *very* romantic story... Perfume, flowers and a fiancé!RépondreSupprimer
I love the whole dianthus family particularly what people in England refer to as clove pinks, my favourite is an old white variety called "Mrs Sinkins" with a knockout fragrance. It is definatly time for the carnation to be rehabilitated.Please count me in!RépondreSupprimer
Maureen, I think the pro-Dianthus movement is well under way.RépondreSupprimer
I love the spicy smell of carnations, and they make me think of my grandmother who grew some old-fashioned ones called pinks that had a wonderful, strong smell. Thank you for the drawing!RépondreSupprimer
I love carnations, but don't love all the carnation perfumes out there on the market.RépondreSupprimer
Whenever I think of carnations, I think of one of the best meals I've ever had. While living in Portugal I took a weekend trip to a small fishing village. It was a holiday weekend commemorating the Carnation Revolution. I spent hours eating great fish dishes, drinking, and celebrating at a small shanty on the beach. Every man present wore a big, lush, and striking red carnation in his lapel. The scene was spectacular. (Such a memorable afternoon. I hitchhiked back home to Lisbon because I used the last of my money just to spend another night in the village. I wanted to visit that restaurant one more time)
Kathy, I wish I'd had grandmother with a garden...RépondreSupprimer
Jam, I'll bet that's a memory you treasure. And clearly, it was worth hitchhiking for.RépondreSupprimer
I've loved the smell of the carnation since I was a child, and grow many different kinds in my garden with one stipulation: they have to be scented and not too clownish looking. They are sturdy perennials, cheerful and have so many uses - my favorite for wearing in my hair, since they last so long. I love that sharp strange clove smell, and foxy Serge can recreate the forest of Where the Wild Things Are for me and make it sexy (Filles en Aiguilles)then I can hardly wait to see what he does with the humble Carnation! --KatherineRépondreSupprimer
Intriguing review! I must say, I've been excited about this one since the first rumors emerged last year.RépondreSupprimer
I feel rather fortunate after looking at all these associations: death, blood, political repression, career failure, dental pain. How bad can it be? As for myself, the scent of carnation is the smell of pinks on a Okanagan summer day. Not one whiff of negative association in my mind.
On the other hand, I must say that more carnation fragrances fail than succeed to my fussy nose. Etro's, Villoresi's, and Ava Luxe's I found to be dull, powdery things; Comme des Garcons' just one step better but in the same vein. I was disappointed by Bellodgia: it, too, was in this vein, but I was less surprised, as my mother wore this as her signature in her youth and tells me ''something about it changed in the early '80s and it didn't smell like carnation anymore, so I stopped wearing it'' ( Caron reformulations have been long at work, I suspect ). Caron's Poivre from early 2000s was a smooth, spicy oriental; delicious but not really a soliflore. The newest formulation is an utterly different beast, an arid whip-crack of pepper and clove akin to Comme des Garcons Eau de Parfum, only with a rosy rather than honeyed drydown. DSH's Oeillet Rouge was a nice carnation candle in liquid form ( wax included, unfortunately ). Floris Malmaison's black tea and cloves was genius, albeit not carnation, and sadly, discontinued.
The two best I know are Ayala Moriel InCarnation and JAR's Golconda. InCarnation captures a certain depth most carnations are lacking and makes it disturbing with a touch of animal ( but, like so many naturals, is hardly heady or long-lasting ). JAR Golconda is to my nose what Diorissimo is to muguet: jasmine takes these soliflores out of their typically chaste territory and make them voluptuous. For what it's worth, my mother said it smelled like old Bellodgia with jasmine added ( which annoyed her no end: she hates jasmine! )
Please add me to the draw, if there's still space!
Katherine, I used to love wearing carnations in my hair in Seville before the jasmine season started... They did last through the long nights of the Spring Fair!RépondreSupprimer
Sugandaraja, thank you for this very thorough review of carnation perfumes on the market! I'll have to man up and go into that Parisian JAR boutique one day: so far I've found it quite forbidding. I haven't smelled the latest version of Poivre either because the last time I was in the Caron boutique on the avenue Montaigne, the lady wouldn't let me sample the urn extraits, then didn't seem interested in making a sale, so I just gave up...RépondreSupprimer
Anyway, entries for the draw last until tonight, so you're in!
I came so late to this party, so I don't know if the draw is still open, but if I have any associations with carnation as a flower, they would surely be green, as well as more than slightly Wilde...;)RépondreSupprimer
I've loved a few carnations in my day, and even though it isn't quite what it was, I still adore Bellodgia when I need my carnation fix. To me and to my nose, they embody the best and most memorable kind of flower - the kind that has...teeth of one kind or another! :)
Tarleisio, no, you're not too late... Wilde is of course another reference, which I didn't pick up because I'd have needed at least two posts to cover everything!RépondreSupprimer
Carnations will always remind me of my mother - she always grew pinks in the garden and introduced me to their smell - and loved all flowers and would be just as overjoyed by a bunch of carnations from a garage as a fancy bunch of roses - they were all beautiful to herRépondreSupprimer
Violetsrose, then you must have lovely memories of carnations...RépondreSupprimer
Thank you! It also occurs to me to add Washington Tremlett's Clove Absolute as a decent carnation soliflore, as as some have noted, it's far less spicy and more floral than actual cloves.RépondreSupprimer
And - lucky you! If I was near a JAR outlet I'd have visited ages ago; I'm limited to super-priced decants from places liked TPC and a few generous donations from friends. I've only tried three and they've all been very good, if a touch quiet.
Well, you know, it's that typical living 20 minutes away from the Louvre and never going. Mind you, before they had huge queues because of security I used to pop in often just to visit a room or see the one painting... In the case of JAR though, it's the whole ceremonial bit I've been told about that just raises my hackles...RépondreSupprimer
Throwing my hat into the ring a little late, I guess. I'm fascinated by the idea of a "villainous" carnation. I have a vintage bottle of Bellodgia EDT and certainly can only imagine it growing wild and dangerous.RépondreSupprimer
I also have some negative connotations with carnations as a flower. To me, they seem as vintage (and cool) as shag carpeting, or wood paneling. I am reminded that the carnation was the flower of choice for Mr. Steed. That does nothing to raise it, though, no matter how much I liked the Avengers....
Eric, no, not too late, you're in! And Mr Steed can make anything heaps cooler in my book, though less so than my childhood hero Mrs Peel.RépondreSupprimer
I have loved carnations since I was a little girl. My godmother was an excellent gardener and grew carnations, gladiola, and many varieties of roses. I think of her and helping her in the garden whenever I see carnations. It's too bad that they don't seem to have a scent anymore. Also they seem to last forever in vase.RépondreSupprimer
dleep, I'll bet those roses smelled like roses too!RépondreSupprimer
I really like carnations! I tried to grow them on the balcony last year, but it did not work out:(RépondreSupprimer
I'm perhaps too late but dropped by to say love to you, and I love carnation because it gives you the opportunity to weave the magic you did with that paragraph where you excavated its semantic and olfactory genealogy. Miss you.RépondreSupprimer
Lena, another member of the Carnation Revolution!RépondreSupprimer
Cait, sweetie, love you back! It's great when a flower yields such a rich semantic seam. I'm only sorry I'm not competent in Germanic languages, there's a lot going on there to... You could probably pull a the stem of the carnation and unravel most of European civilisation.RépondreSupprimer
My first "signature" fragrance was Opium. I like the smell of carnations as I do geranium, both for being really distinct without being in the canon of all things "flowery." Please enter me!RépondreSupprimer
Also, the Editions de Parfum Rubrum Lily candle smells all kinds of clove-y if you keep it in a small room. But weirdly enough a real rubrum lily also smells like clove up close, which I wouldn't have known had I not sought one out after getting the candle.
:/ I wrote a comment but I think it didn't publish. I don't want to repeat it in case it pops up later (something about carnations, geraniums, and Rubrum Lily), but please enter me, I do like the scent of carnation flowers. Also, shout out to the Steed commenter. Forgot about that carnation pop reference. Thanks,RépondreSupprimer
I am so looking forward to smellng this version. I have been collecting carnation perfumes over the last 6 months ever since i recalled a memory of one of the most beautiful scents I experienced in the early 80s. I was given some soaps for christmas from someone I did not think much of. It took a while to open them, but when I did, I fell in love... with the soap that is, I remember the scent was carnation but not the brand. Ever since then I have loved the carnation scent. I have on hand l'erbolario's Garofano, CdG red carnation (i find them very similar, delightful, light and pretty with cdg a little spicier) DS Hurwitz Oeillets Rouge which to me is green honeyed carnations, Maitre Perfumeur et Gantier Soie Rouge which reminds me of Spellbound except nice, Fragonard's Billet Doux which I find very interesting and extravagant and I am anxiously waiting on the mail for Santa Maria Novella's garofano cologne. I am keeping track of others as I discover them and appreciate all the reviews and suggestions I read about online. Cheers! GeorgieRépondreSupprimer
Hi, Denyse. The scent of carnations is one of the earliest flower scent memories that I have. I always liked the sweet peppery powdery smell of them, even after I learned of their reputation as a sort of "cheap" flower. I agree with the other US posters who say that their fierce smell has been bred out of them in this country.RépondreSupprimer
Nicole, your comment is in my inbox but hasn't shown up here so I'll C/P it:RépondreSupprimer
"My first "signature" fragrance was Opium. I like the smell of carnations as I do geranium, both for being really distinct without being in the canon of all things "flowery." Please enter me!
Also, the Editions de Parfum Rubrum Lily candle smells all kinds of clove-y if you keep it in a small room. But weirdly enough a real rubrum lily also smells like clove up close, which I wouldn't have known had I not sought one out after getting the candle."
You're right, some lilies are extremely clove-y -- love that Frédéric Malle candle, it's somewhere near the top of my to-buy list!
I am very much impressed by your knowledge of recent Greek history. You are right about the resistance leader with the carnation. But unfortunately we live in an era where associations with bouzoukia are a lot stronger than historic associations. Current Greek history is the proof of that.RépondreSupprimer
Georgie, could the soap brand have been Roger & Gallet? Their Oeillet Mignardise soap is lovely, but it's being phased out apparently. Worth investigating...RépondreSupprimer
Thanks for adding a couple more carnation scents to the list, I'd forgotten about Soie Rouge.
Jarvis, I wanted to check whether that was the case with the carnations in my local flower shop -- I stepped in determined to buy a huge bunch -- but there are none on sale. I might seek them out on that big market on L'Ile de la Cité...RépondreSupprimer
Memory of Scent, to be frank, I had a faint memory (I had two Greek boyfriends, both artists, in a distant past), googled "The Man with the Carnation", and started reading up... I find that the fact a man wearing a carnation could be either a dandy or a great Resistance leader totally fascinating.RépondreSupprimer
What a review, full of history and drama, I can´t wait to smell the perfume that goes with it! I want to watch Dreyer´s "Passion of Joan of Arc" at the same time! You´ve reminded me of how much I still love my little bottle Oeillet Sauvage, and how I´d love to meet her darker sister.RépondreSupprimer
La Patatita, I am a great admirer of Dreyer as well though I'm wondering whether Vitriol isn't maybe more of a Vampyr scent... I've always thought Nicolas de Gunzburg, alias Julian West, was an inspiration for Serge Lutens's own style (Google Gunzburg's portrait by Horst and you'll see what I mean...).RépondreSupprimer
I have finally sampled this one and I must say I liked it. No clove drowning the carnation, in fact this is a very fresh take on carnation at some point. It isn't the carnation of a Resistance leader but I believe that there is something very revolutionary in its development and composition and how the photo-realistic interpretation of carnation is achieved by the mid notes of the fragrance.RépondreSupprimer
Disclosure: I am a big fan of realistic, unsweetened florals
Memoryofscent, Dominique Ropion told me that many realistic flowers do not do well on skin: they often need a tweak to connect!RépondreSupprimer
I think I have realised myself that if a floral smells realistic on skin it is because the perfumer has used many tricks from his hat to make it so. Natural oils extracted from flowers usually are very different from the flower itself. I am still trying to find a "realistic" gardenia that is not heavy, cloying or piss-y.RépondreSupprimer
Now that I have my Vitriol d'Oeillet bottle, this is quite a different experience than using the small sample I had. Using the spray, the fragrance's got some throw, it's got some oomph and more lasting power than just dabbing a little bit on the skin. This creation does justice to its name, and perhaps even enhances its meaning in my mind. It's one of those androgyneous lutensian scent that is more a male/female hybrid than purely asexual/unisex. It has both the feminine floral and light powdery cosmetic notes and the masculine cold spice notes that smells like male skin. In this regard, the beauty of it is that it can be challeging for both sexes to wear. Some men might find it a little too feminine and a little too masculine for some women. I personally think for confident, assertive men and women, it's terrific!RépondreSupprimer
Emma, I agree it's a fragrance that seems to behave in different ways at different moments or according to the amount that's worn. For quite a while I thought it was pretty soft and not diffusive, then a few days later I felt the pepper asserting itself... And I agree it straddles the gender divide interestingly.RépondreSupprimer
Carnations will forever remind me of the fictional character Paul in Paul's Case, a short story by Willa Cather. The nervous young lad was searching for beauty and glamour through his imagination, which thrived to delusional heights in his dismal surroundings. He wore a carnation on his lapel, even to school and It was the carnation that often put authority figures at illease around Paul. Nevertheless, the carnation symbolized Paul's yearning for drama, glamour, the finer things in life, that was so strong it forced him into an early and criminal demise.... Would love to sampleRépondreSupprimer
I'm writing about vintage Caron Poivre now, Denyse, and your description of Serge Lutens' Vitriol d'oeillet had me frothing at the mouth. I immediately went and bought a sample!RépondreSupprimer
My introduction to carnation was with vintage Roger & Gallet's Blue Carnation. My reaction was violent, but in some ways, so is the perfume. Brutal and yet...it grew on me.
Smelling Poivre reminds me what artistry goes into perfumery. The brutality of clove is there (with black pepper etc.), but it's made lush and erotic with its interwoven florals.
Anyway, thank you for this beautiful post and for all of the info on the historical connotations of cloves. (It seems the commenters have added even more.)
I'm on a carnation/clove perfume hunt now! Thanks for adding fuel to the fire...
Perfumaniac, happy to have fuelled your inspiration! I used to wear Poivre years and years ago, and pulled out my bottle very recently. I still find it very beautiful, but very "old-school" -- not sure I'd wear it again, but then that's often the case with fragrances you've put aside for over a decade...RépondreSupprimer