Infini is probably the vintage perfume I have found the most at flea markets in Japan: I have had bottles and bottles of it. Some of which I have worn myself; many given away as presents, and far, far, too many that I have spilled.
I grew up being told I was the clumsiest boy in the world and it was/is true (I even, and I can’t quite believe I am writing this), managed to drop and empty out two thirds of the most perfect Je Reviens parfum the other day, the one that was used to write my delirious review of that unearthly creation…….
Tragically, Infini has had a similar fate….the bottle you see in the picture has a stopper that comes off ridiculous easily and oops..……..see, smell, that gorgeous golden liquid splash down and stain the tatami mats….I have done this so many times now that it no longer surprises me, yet to people who know how beautiful this perfume is in its vintage form, reading this must be like a pain in the spleen, lip-bitingly frustrating: such a terrible, terrible waste……………….
(I know, I know, but there is also something so horribly decadent and deliciously nonchalant about not caring..)
I tell a lie. Infini may not be the absolute most common perfume I have come across at the flea markets, but it is certainly one of those that I have bought the most and that have given me the most pleasure (the honour of most ubiquitous vintage perfumes on sale would probably go, in descending order, to N°5, L’Air Du Temps, Miss Dior, Madame Rochas and Diorissimo). All those perfumes are well-know masterpieces, however, which in their heyday were in such high levels of production as emblems of ‘French Perfume’ to bring back home to Japan from trips to Paris that you would expect some unwanted bottles to eventually resurface. Infini is no way near as globally well-known, so I can only surmise that there must have been a surge of interest in all things French and futuriste at the beginning of the 1970s (around the time of the space age metallica of Pierre Cardin, Paco Rabanne and Courrèges) which Caron managed to exploit in the lemming-like fashion-conscious Japanese market. Perhaps this was the big Tokyo hit of 1970 (the year I was born, incidentally, and another reason I love the scent) : the burgeoning, post-war, and by all accounts quite electrifying, Bubble Era of newly prosperous Japan. Rich, beautiful, knowing women in furs, trailing its delicious, dry, woody floral chic down the boulevards of Ginza…… a perfume marketed as an expertly blended liquid perfection to stretch, beckoningly, into the infinity of the air behind you…….
Caron’s futuristic project, to bring the house of its powdered, spiced, and sometimes fusted shadows, was apparently fifteen years in the making, as the perfumers in question attempted to find the most indefectible equilibrium of sharp green florals; woods; aldehydes, and musky, skin-lingering animalics, the result – unseamed, flawless – being in my view one of the finest scents ever made – elegant, refined, and mesmerically beautiful. A perfectly balanced, multilayered perfume.
I highlight that word because so many fragrances these days are more like simple accords : blocks of scent or smells ( I would even include a lot of my favourite perfumes such as those by Serge Lutens in this classification: scents I wear for their instancy and aromatic appeal, but which possibly lack a certain psychological complexity…..)
Infini was different. It was the last of a dying breed …the late progeny, direct descendant, and final refinement of the floral aldehydic innovations of Ernst Beaux’s N° 5, and more obviously, the aforementioned Madame Rochas. The Caron take on this well-loved theme and bears resemblances to these richly orchestrated jewels – perfumes to be treasured, loved and worn for a lifetime because they had souls – but to my mind it is even better: deeper, more androgynous.
Intense woods (sandal, and a beautifully rich, dry cedar); vetiver, patchouli, and subtle, erotic animal undertones in the perfume underlie a gentle, light-fused masterpiece of floral construction: jasmine, rose, tuberose, and, notably, a top note of yellow narcissus blooming hypnotically in the head notes at unusually high strength (backed with a sharp floral bouquet of muguet, iris, and night-blooming hyacinth), all layered, effortlessly, with fresher notes of coriander, neroli, peach, bergamot, and aldehydes; fusing into a captivating, yet very understated and subtle perfume that lingers for hours and becomes part of your being. It is an archetypal feminine urban feline in fur, yet beautifully warm and sexy on a man also ( I love it on myself in summer in a white shirt…)
Note: as a person who has known many bottles of Infini, I can tell you that in the vintage they vary hugely – a testament, I would say, to the number of natural oils in the blend. Sometimes there are no green notes: no narcissus or hyacinth or even vetiver; at others all is simply faded musty,’old perfume’ smell. The new version, still available from Caron boutiques (editor’s note: I thought so, but having just checked the Caron website it seems to have been deleted from the catalogue: how sad!) is recognisably Infini in its basic template but lacks the sex. Thus, angling for an e-bay purchase of this perfume is always a gamble: you never know how close the perfume will be to the original (oh to have smelled it! Even my best vintage purchases are up to forty years old, so undoubtedly lack the punch of the green notes and hyacinth that must have featured in the head notes of the original……)
Of the many different concentrations of the scent that were originally released, though, my own personal favourite by far is the parfum de toilette (see my almost empty bottle below….)
This is the bottle that made me fall in love with Infini and one that I am desperate to find again. At that point (about fourteen years ago) I didn’t even know of its existence, but of course knew the name Caron, so bought it, on a whim, when I found it at the flea market, for my collection, just to have. Just to see.
I couldn’t believe, as the notes settled into me, how much I was enjoying it, how beautiful it was. I felt like an angel in the sand dunes; released…..
38 responses to “CARON INFINI (1970)”
This seems to be the follow-up to your previous post on Tom Ford’s Jonquille de Nuit. Or did I read them out of order . . .
In any case, my interest is piqued! I should really root around old markets more. It’s tough in New York. Too many people looking for the same thing. There are really good treasures out there since there are more people to draw from, but there are also more eager hands to scoop them up. No excuses though! I am encouraged to go get me some vintage Caron 🙂
Glad to you have whetted your appetite! I do love this perfume, and think it is so elegant, mysterious and sexy.
Let me know how you get on!
I will! Thanks for the encouragement!
Having been a former resident of the big Apple (many years ago) it was much easier to find great perfumes at old markets and yard sales (people were practically giving them away). This was the time before internet,perfume blogging, e-bay,etc and the interest in perfume seemed to be less fanatical. Keep your eyes open though, you might just luck out! And by the way, although I am not a “foodie” per se, I am very much enjoying your blog 🙂 !!
Thank you! I certainly will. Although I have to say I never have very good luck at those things. I have friends who score authentic Fendi baguettes and Chanel jackets for $5. How do they do it?!?!
I think they lie to me, that’s how they do it 🙂
But I will start looking more carefully! And thanks for the kind words about the blog as well 🙂
Beautiful bottle…beautiful perfume… beautiful review…..
Growing up my mum had copious amounts of classic perfumes (Chanels,Lauders,Guerlains,Diors,etc,etc) scattered throughout our apartment and she willingly shared them all (so is it any wonder I turned out as I did? 🙂 ) Infini was one of them. Thank you for my trip down memory lane.
As a working mother I have neither the time nor resources to scour out the estate sales and yard sales for hidden gems. I do envy you for finding such treasures! Have you come across any Paco Rabannes? Calandre and Metal were my favorite and I would be curious of your take on either.
In your discussion of spillage and wastage of “liquid gold” a funny story comes to mind. Many years ago I worked with an eccentric woman who, aside from claiming to be psychic and descended from gypsies,was well versed in the healing properties of essential oils. She insisted that sandalwood was “my oil” and gifted me a full ounce of pure mysore
sandalwood. Back in those days I was an EDT spraying sillage monster and dabbing oil on my “third eye” was of no interest to me. So after two years of collecting dust on my desk I threw it out. Ironically she was right…..I now wear new caledonia sandalwood absolute as perfume on a regular basis. Sandalwood (along side patchouli) is one of my favorite notes. And eerily enough many of the predictions she made about my life did indeed come true!
The moral of the story is that the universe, God, your sixth sense (whatever you believe in) speaks to you in subtle ways if you are willing to listen. In my youth I was a bit more narrow minded and dismissed this Gypsy woman as a bit of a “nut”. Yet in middle age I have had an epiphany that, in order to faciliate a serendipitious life, one needs to be open to all the possibilities and suggestions presented to us (no matter how crazy they sound at the time 🙂 !!). Brings to mind a song by Coldplay:
God is in the houses, God is in my head,
all the cemetries of London,
I see God come through my garden but I don’t know what he said,
for my heart it wasn’t open…..not open…
Food for thought …..
Indeed, and I ADORE Calandre and Metal also…..Will definitely be writing about both of them at some point…
I am eagerly awaiting your reviews on Calandre and Metal…..
and thanks for letting me pontificate on subject matters other than perfume!
I still have two back-up bottles of Metal EDT and a tiny bit left in an opened bottle. For an EDT it is very long-lasting.
I’m so glad to see the review of Infini. 3 years ago i was in Paris and accidentally came across Caron boutique. I was testing a few fragrances but wasn’t sure about them. S the lovely lady gave me 3 samples, among them Infini. I rejected it initially and next day I chose Lady Caron which is also very beautiful and I love to wear it. When came back home i thought I would use Infini on a days when i don’t go out, stay home. So one Sunday 8 put it on and…. Omg, why do i like it?! I thought I didn’t like that kind of fragrance. But it clicked! That perfumed opened my heart to aldehydic florals which led me to Chanels, older stuff and that led me to Guerlains etc. I love Infini and love Caron.
That Lady Caron is so……RED somehow; I loved it actually, but couldn’t stop thinking of the Chris De Burgh song……NEVER SEEN YOU LOOKING SO LOVELY AS YOU DID TONIGHT…..(CHEEK TO CHEEK)
Goodness, you are making me feel SO OLD :)!!!!
“Lady in Red” got a lot of airplay on the radio in the States in the mid 80s. I was 20 at the time and quite often wore sexy red clothes and sprayed myself silly with Nikki de Saint Phalle (if you come across that one do try it, it’s a beaut!). My beau at the time said it was “our” song (cheeky,eh?). In retrospect I never fully appreciated that hopelessly romantic young man who showered me with gifts of perfume and religiously enveloped his own body in fragrance!
I LOATHED that song with an intensity and luminosity that you will hardly be able to imagine to be true (but I did). Only recently can I listen to it (with huge gobulets of irony but some definite affection peeping through….I found myself buying the Working Girl soundtrack (even though I have never seen the film, much as I should) because I was in the mood for some Big Hair, and when Chris came up I have to say I KIND OF LIKED IT.
but at the time, the whole thing of a ‘woman in a dress’ seemed so…..GROTESQUE. do you know what i mean?
I know EXACTLY what you mean. I hated the song as well and hated the fact that my man at the time always sang it whenever I wore a red outfit…so cheesy! Nonetheless, even the songs we despised can bring us to points of nostalgia when heard twenty five years later….and I thought I was the only one puts perfume and songs into one equation 🙂 …
I want to try this, it sounds wonderful. I think I may take a risk on some parfum de toilette..!
I’m so glad I found this entry! It helped me decide which version to purchase, which was great bc it was the least expensive… Same as pic above, 1/10 full at $9 incl s&h. I wanted to TRY it without committing to a full bottle of an unknown formula. So again… Thank you!
In my experience, the quality truly does vary from bottle to bottle, with different notes predominating each time. When you get an almost pristine version, though, it is heaven, I find. Are you enjoying it?
Reblogged this on The Black Narcissus and commented:
because I’m craving it
Forgive this very silly newbie question, but how does one tell if a perfume is vintage? The bottle? Colour? At the Ueno natsu matsuri the other day, one of the stalls had a whole array of bottles spread out on a blanket and I wondered if there were any treasures but didn’t know where to begin. Simply sniffing might be a start but didn’t think the stall holder would look kindly on that.
It’s a good question.
I mean, a lot of the time you can tell by the design of the bottle, if it looks ‘classic’, then if you have your smartphone handy do a quick internet search.
Or sometimes, if they are cheap enough like my first Infini was, just buy blind. Do you remember anything you saw?
Afraid I don’t remember what was spread on that mat. Possibly the usual suspects you list above. One thing, I was struck by the preponderance of plastic caps rather than stoppers. Well, I will be a bit braver next time and buy blind! The Saturday SalvationArmy bazaar had quite an assortment a few weeks ago.
No! You pipped me to it. I was planning a trip. Did you Hoover it all up?
No hoovering on my part at the Salvation Army bazaar ( at least, not of perfume) . But as to whether it will all still be there on your visit, who may say!
Infini is lovely. It smells like spring to me. I am insanely envious that you can glean these old vintage perfumes so easily there. But at least I get a vicarious thrill reading about them. 🙂
Have you ever had a bottle? I do love it.
No, I have a vintage sample from when I was trying various Carons. This one was one of the thumbs up.
I remember wearing this perfume years ago–not sure if it was the vintage version but it had to be close and in those days the word “vintage” was never mentioned with perfumes. Perfumes at that time were the same formula from inception–even if some of the bottles didn’t smell exactly the same–most would never notice. The market was not flooded with designer fragrances, Hollywood fragrances, etc.The scent was what it was expected to be–most of the present restrictions were non-existent. Oh how I wish I still had one of those Infini bottles around.
This is truly one of my all time favorite scents…ever. It is just such a perfect scent. One of the more interesting things about how it wears on me is that it has this delicious coconut/ rum type of undercurrent in the drydown. A friend of mine, who has been in the business of cosmetics/ fragrances for almost a half century, was amazed at the different notes my chemistry pulled from this scent. You will have to let me know if you have ever experienced any notes like that while wearing Infini; boozy drydown notes if you will
I also am a lover of the Parfum de Toilette concentration, it is the most wearable in my opinion. Caron, I must be honest, has always been one of my favorite fragrance houses ever. Sadly, what they produce now is just a sad memory of what once was, not to mention the newer releases being meh at best.
The coconut aspect makes sense to me, as even though it is not listed as a note, as I said myself, the first time I wore Infini, in that delectable parfum de toilette (is it not just divine?!!) I definitely thought of the beach.
Unlike most woody aldehydics a la Caleche, Calandre, Madame Rochas, Infini has an entirely different quality, somehow that is not confined to the boulevard or the sidewalk. It has an airy, and dreamy expansiveness to it when you wear it on the right day (on the wrong day for me it can veer into the too animal musky).
I decided to wear Infini yesterday, in parfum de toilette concentration 🙂 , thanks to your inspiration. I have never worn it during the summer months, yesterday the temp was around 23/24 and it smelt so delicious on. It had even more of that coconuty/boozy note, yet it was also fresh and lighter. Such an intriguing discovery, for a scent I have worn for well over 3 decades. I have been doing that more lately, wearing cool weather scents in the hotter weather and am awakening to new nuances and notes within old favorites.
It is funny to hear anyone speak of scents becoming too animalic, I have never had that happen. I often wish there was more funk in the trunk of most fragrances; guess that is why I adore vintage. I wonder what that says about my chemistry. So sophisticated on the outside, yet a Tazmanian devil on the inside peut-etre?
I think tonight I will give vintage Yourh Dew skin parfum a whirl and see how she plays.
But I envy people who don’t bring out the base/animal notes. Infini clean and peachy on a patina of top notes…..delicious. Sometimes it works in my favour, which is why No 19 smells so good on me (vetiver, leather, iris, essentially) and I like how Infini works on me, but I would still love to have some woman drift by me wearing it properly. It can be GORGEOUS in summer!
Wearing this right now. Fortunate to have an exceptionally perky – really rather vivid – old bottle. No one has managed to describe it as evocatively and accurately as you. (No surprise there!) Thank you for again giving a venerable scent the respect it deserves. It’s another one that I sniff and get an almost physical ache of sadness that these works of art will quite literally evaporate into the ether and no one will know them again. We are more or less the last generation. . .
Very sad about the Je Reviens. Interesting you mentioned it in the same article: I’ve always noticed a parallel in terms of aldehydes, narcissus and hyacinth/lilac, although the base notes and stylistic/emotional qualities are very different, at least to my nose.
Thank you again, N.
I am a clumsy fuck like no other: it is quite unbelievable really. But Infini and Je Reviens……to me they are like Jupiter and Neptune………………GAlaxies apart. What connects them, though, is the beauty, the quality, the artistry, the flowers, the artistry………………the SOUL. xx
Yes, you’ve pegged it exactly about those two. Amazing how the great perfumers can arrange a (relatively) limited selection of notes to create entirely different worlds in little bottles. I’m always awed.
A few years ago a friend made me a present of a miniature Infini extrait, an old one in the original shape bottle. It was love at first sniff for me. I’ve a few iterations now, extrait and PdT from the 70s, and PdTs from the 80s, my favourite being a huge 240ml bottle of PdT from 1974 that is still holding up. You captured the spirit of this masterpiece, the way it wraps you up in its complexity when you wear it. I find that so many of the great 60s and 70s compositions are very wearable as unisex scents. I’m another huge lover of No. 19 in vintage EDT and parfum, woefully mismarketed by Chanel and suffering in its present iterations.
Glad to meet another appassionado !