The bewitched carnations : DIAMOND WATER & GOLCONDA by JAR (2001)

















That reclusive, nebulous jeweller of perfumery, Joel Arthur Rosenthal ( or ‘JAR’ to use his acronym ), has a very dark and cryptic boutique just off the Place Vendôme in Paris, swathed in black and borderline vaudeville, that radically changes the way in which perfume is presented.

A very theatrically-rendered thunder bolt painted across the ceiling of this perfumery announces you have entered a fragrant world of showmanship, as you sheepishly pull back the curtains and the perfume show begins….




But first to the scents themselves. Rosenthal seems to have quite a thing for cloves and carnations (as do I), and his powdery, opoponax/incense carnation creation, Diamond Water, is quite alluring. It is a rich and decadent floral, with rose; tuberose perhaps (they will reveal nothing), possibly cinnamon, and honey-drenched luminous white lilies over santal. Very intense – some would say foul – and lurid, even, but at least these JAR fragrances never bore (they are really quite intensely unfathomable), and for the jaded perfume lover this point is important.



But prior to all this, as I said before, to get to one of these hallowed creations, it is necessary for you to have the INITIATION EXPERIENCE, in which the assistant, steeped in a rather pained ‘mystery’, seemed to think he was auditioning for a re-make of Eyes Wide Shut (with neither the requisite Kubrickian charisma nor indeed the acting skills, to carry it off), I, myself,  on the verge of intense irritation with the absurd levels of gravitas allotted these sickly oils, as though I were about to inhale the sacred and liquified remains of the holy mother….



They lie waiting, nameless.

You are seated at the table, like an audience awaiting a trick by Houdini.


The  magician – po-faced, puffed up, elegantly besuited –  will lift the glass spheres under which the perfumes lie.

He will waft (ludicrously, ludicrously!) the scent under your nose, and will brook no questioning.



You ask what’s in the perfume: nothing. Just an enigmatic, or what he imagines is enigmatic, smile. You try and smile back, wondering where this all is going while trying to prevent your eyeballs from rolling back in their head; look about you at the other shoppers who have wandered in on this scene, their hands obediently placed quietly in their laps, eyes lowered…








JAR perfumes are apparently a plaything for the rich jeweller whose boutique is just down the road on the main square. This is just his hobby (can you imagine!!) and I am extraordinarily envious at a person being able to indulge such a passion with that kind of money, to attempt to elevate the entire experience of perfume-sampling with this rabbit-out-of-hat, white-gloved roleplay (just for the fun of it!)



Yet monsieur is apparently not a trained perfumer, and I personally think it shows.  The smells are all so drenched in themselves (and quite frankly, weird) they can be quite difficult to appreciate, even though it is very apparent that they are made with high quality, natural  materials (carnations, tortured in the dungeons down below in the streets of Paris by a sadistic perfumed sorcerer?  Juiced of their absolutes, depleted and tossed out onto the streets – wilting, translucent husks sighing their last breaths…….?)



This creation, which has very good reviews from some writers for what they see as its dazzling handling of carnations (see the Non-Blonde’s take on it – she finds it elegant and emotive), is certainly a welcome addition to the small family of carnation scents, and I can’t say that I would refuse a bottle exactly if someone gave me one, but if you do decide to go to the … (dare I call it a shop?)…… to the locus of these shenanigans – which I recommend you do just for the fun of it – but woe betide you if you attempt to touch anything there – and you  like the smell of these clovey blooms, be warned that you will have to hand over rather a lot of money.

At least two hundred pounds, if I remember correctly, which is quite a lot when you think about it, for  a bunch of white carnations.








If Diamond Water is a white carnation tribute, then ‘Golconda’ (either a ruined ancient city in India, apparently, or a painting by Magritte) is the red –  thousands of them, surrendered beautifully in a piquant floral oil slick. An ultra-intense perfume that employs actual carnation absolute – rare in perfume – over other floral absolutes and cloves (lots, lots of them), this is a carnation like no other.



No top notes, no progression, just an extravagant, spiced elixir….


Filed under Carnation, Flowers, Perfume Reviews

33 responses to “The bewitched carnations : DIAMOND WATER & GOLCONDA by JAR (2001)

  1. Ooh, your JAR monsieur sounds like he’s stepped straight out of an Angela Carter novel –- the slick mustachioed revealer of erotic stauettes, or the intense and obsessive puppet-maker! I could just see the perfume, hovering like a spectre, above the proceedings! As for Carnation, I’ve only smelled the absolute once, in this gorgeous aromatherapy mix I used to burn when I first lived in Leeds. It conjures pink floorboards, kitchen walls filled with postcards and elaborate Saturday night going-out preparations to the sweet strains of Pet Shop Boys’ Bilingual for me. The shop (still there) used to mix a range of astrology scents and this one was the Libra scent. It’s a very intense kinda shop – I’ve been in there some days and literally feel hypnotised when I walk out from the heady cauldron mix of concoctions. The aromatherapists are often quite moody and deep like they’re somewhere else. An assistant there once told me the ingredients for the Libra scent after they discontinued it, but Carnation was the only one I remembered. When I went in there a few weeks ago I asked the bloke if they sold Carnation essential oil. He shook his head, gave me an intense, prophetic look and said with something of an enigmatic sneer ‘It’s a very expensive hobby, you know’ which strangely enough sent me spinning out the door and straight into the arms of House of Fraser, where I spent a dazed twenty minutes daubing myself in Annick Goutals and Hermes Caleche before buying a bottle of L’Heure Bleu.

  2. Dubaiscents

    I love your description of the JAR experience. I really do not think I am cool enough to ever do it myself so, I will live vicariously through you. The Eyes Wide Shut reference was very funny if not a little scary. I love reading your posts, glad I found you via Olfactoria’s Travels.

    • ginzaintherain

      Thank you very much. I mean I perhaps go a little overboard in my descriptions but it really was like that: ridiculous!

  3. I feel like I have to experience this now. Like Avant-garde theater but free? I say free because where there is perfume, there is always temptation.

    • ginzaintherain

      It feel quite avant-garde, actually, although this actually happened about eight years ago when I was in Paris. I am all for any escape into irreality, and in theory it does sound quite exciting I realize, but in fact it was kind of stupid, and I felt like slapping him!

      • Sometimes you can only put up with so much pomposity!

        Recently I went to a restaurant where they made this big flourish of pouring polenta on a wooden board and then pouring bolognese on top. I would really, really, really have preferred runny polenta to have been left in the bowl! Ridiculous . . . but not as ridiculous as your experience at JAR 🙂

      • ginzaintherain

        I cannot bear fancy restaurants full stop. Let me pour my own wine any day!

      • Aww. I actually love fancy restaurants. I just love the whole ritual of getting dressed up and going out. A well-trained staff at a good fancy restaurant will never make you feel anything but comfortable. Unfortunately, there is a lot of badly trained staff out there . . .

        I think what annoyed me so much about the polenta was that it was not a fancy restaurant at all! It was a red sauce and meatball joint!

  4. ginzaintherain

    Sounds more up my street!

  5. I have smelled thousands of perfumes in my lifetime but never had the desire to sample a JAR creation. When JAR first debuted I had the feeling it was a creation of yet another wealthy prerson with a sense of entitlement and never made an effort to sample anything from that line. Thank you for your review which enabled me to realize that my initial perception about this line was correct.

    • Although you know I never had a proper chance to analyze and live with them properly….. the pretentiousness did annoy, and yet it was also intriguing in some ways.

      • I know what you mean–not necessarily about JAR as I have never sampled the line, but I have bought several perfumes blindly because of being intriqued and usually I really have liked them a lot.

  6. Breathtakingly evocative, hilariously sardonic, and utterly fascinating. I truly don’t even know what part to single out as most wryly, dryly witty, or which aspect about the perfume itself I’m more intrigued by. Regardless, this was the best thing I’ve read in a while. Bravo (as always)!

  7. Martha

    The shopping experience sounds bizarre, but mildly amusing. Though probably not very amusing if the shopper feels roped into the quirky theatrics.

  8. Absolutely hilarious. From your rich description I could see the scene clearly, although, I’m not so sure I could have kept my cool and a straight face, as you did through all of that pretense. You have me curious about the scents, however, with all of that freakin’ exclusivity, I doubt if I’ll ever have the chance to come across one, but then again, I suppose that’s the point.

  9. I’m fascinated by the role that the salesman ( for such he was, not a magician) was playing. Did he recognize the absurdity on any level? Self-irony being such an important component of sanity, did he have any? Or was he all caught up in the Importance of the experience? I have never indulged in the JAR experience, partly due to lack of opportunity but mostly due to feeling that I would surely pull someone’s lip out and smack it back against their teeth. I wouldn’t do in Japan, would I? I can only carry etiquette so far, and then it crumbles.

    • It was too much fun to produce those levels of aggression: that would have to be reserved for the Hermes Boutique in Marounochi, where I actually did have a fracas with a snobby little bitch would I could have quite happily taken out. I stormed out of the shop and her contemptible attitude totally destroyed what was to have been a lovely day out in Tokyo. This Paris experience was absurd, but it was too dreamy to make me REALLY angry.

      • brie

        I want to read a post from you on the “fracas with the snobby little bitch”!!!!

      • ooh I think that is brewing within me….there was quite a lot about it in my Hermes Vetiver Tonka review, but I fear that if the full extent of my furies were unleashed, no one would ever read the Narcissus again..

      • I have a stereotyped American view of Japan as a place of rigid manners and profound conformity, and yet you, Ginza, seem nothing like that and there you are having fracases in Hermes. So, in Japan, how common is it to encounter petty rudeness and how common is it to stand up for oneself when it is encountered?

      • No No No not rudeness, as in rudeness, but evil iciness that is far ruder than rudeness and ONLY merits at the very least a fracas in return, if not arson. But don’t get me started…..perhaps a whole article on the subject is in order!

      • Your wonderfully descriptive phrase “evil iciness” answers my question. Of course, a culture that suppresses anger of most forms would develop an elaborate theatricalized passive aggression to compensate.

      • Your final sentence, ‘elaborate theatricalized passive aggression’ nails it brilliantly I would say.

        But I react VERY badly (internally, in terms of illness) to passive aggression. It is much more deadly than just direct aggresssive behaviour for me. It once, in fact, gave me very bad pneumonia.

      • That passive aggression can be deadly stuff. Glad you recovered from your pneumonia.

      • Eleven years now. The time before that was eight years…so perhaps we are making progress; some lung strengthening is felt….

  10. Nice to see this reblogged again. I tend to forget about JAR fragrances; firstly, they are not easily accessible and secondly, when in Paris I usually forget about the boutique. On my next trip over to Paris I will have to experience the theatrics a bit. Do not know if hubby would be up to it, but he might enjoy a little of it for humour sake.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s