NPG x14113; Martita Hunt as Miss Havisham in 'Great Expectations' by Cecil Beaton






























The vintage Carons are sweet; dense with essence and a yearning, romantic spirit. They are also extremely old fashioned, in a manner that the classic Guerlains manage to somehow avoid with their more intuitively realized timelessness. Fragrances from Caron such as N’Aimez Que Moi, French Cancan, Nuit De Noël and Fleurs De Rocaille, belong to a powdery, gas-lit past that I love, but which tug on me almost unwillingly back to old Paris: to garters and dress-rituals; to lace-concealed candled boudoirs; and the melancholy shadows of the long-fading Belle Epoque.





I talk of the florals especially. The more futuristic, angled scents in the collection such as Alpona, with its strange, orange-green bitterness; En Avion: peppered,flecked: determined and unyielding; Tabac Blond, with its shimmering, gilded interiors, and Poivre, my favourite from this era, a furious, life-loving crooner with a carnation and clove-studded whip, are so rebellious and distinctive in their genuineness that time can never quite dim their brilliant oddness. The florals, such as Bellodgia and Pois De Senteurs De Chez Moi, though, are the bottles on Miss Havisham’s dresser; dream boating belles to the ball: the last respectable vestiges of Blanche Dubois’ hope.




Anachronisms they may be, but I do still rather love them. The sight of sweet peas, and the smell of them, are a delicately fragrant reminder of my childhood. They were always in my garden of an early summer ( I see blue skies: wisps of clouds; upwardly climbing trellises of pink blue and white: modestly coloured and scented flowers, trailing untamedly in the back patch wildness of the vegetable garden, where my parents grew runner beans by the basketful to go with our Sunday lunch. Only when you pressed these flowers close to your face, which I would do when my mum picked them to go in cut glass, were you fully treated to their loveliness, that most lovely of smells, so pallidly exotic, sweet, beguiling, thoughtful and naïve).



Les Pois De Senteur De Chez Moi, or ‘The Sweet Peas Of My Garden’, is thus, for me, a vulnerably romanticist perfume trembling with remembrance. And even in the deep and unctuous florality of the precious and rare extrait it does, from a pointillist distance, like dots joining up on the parasol Seine, produce a hazy gouache painting of the flowers.




Rose tincture, hyacinth, cyclamen, jasmine and muguet (but oiled and almondy) team up  with vanilla, lime, Virginia cedar and musk as well as the famously obfuscated house signature of mousse de saxe, and somehow, thus, in this blend, Ernst Daltroff managed, in his beautifully compressed instinctualism, to really capture, and even quite deeply eroticize, something at the heart of of the actual sweet pea’s scent   – if not quite entirely, somehow, ensnare the full plenitude of the very  finely membraned, and shy-looking, air of its innocent, June-breathed, flowers.


Filed under Flowers


  1. Holly

    I do still rather love them, too.
    I’ve been wondering if you ever bump into Jean Patou’s Chaldee during your thrilling escapades prowling around the shops. I think you’d love it. I’ve only tried the vintage, but it is also back (at least by name) as part of their Collection Heritage. There’s a nice review comparing the two on NST.

  2. Oh i’m going to try to find iT. I love The picture with the dark sweet peas and the black and white Miss Havisham, so much more compelling than the recent Great Expectations. Sweet peas were my mother’s favourites, NOT fresias another oldfashioned ladies darling. I always put them near her portrait in her birthday saison

  3. So descriptive and beautifully written…I could almost smell the sweet peas while reading.

  4. Like you, I too love the Carons old fashioned beauty, but Pois de Senteur has not touched me like some of the others (Alpona and Nuit de Noel are at the top of my list). You have just made me want to go back out and try this again with your lovely review.

    • Thank you. I was thinking of your recent N’Aimez review while writing this.

      In terms of Carons I can happily actually wear regularly, they would be Infini, Nocturnes, Eau Fraiche and Aimez Moi (and perhaps Pour Homme). The others I tend to think more of treasures when I can get my hands on them.

      Alpona is amazing: I would love to smell that on another person. So resinous and peely. Quite a weird little number, actually.

  5. Beautiful review Neil. I simply adore PdS, it has that rich, resinous quality that makes one feel all cozy and cloistered. So happy it has tickled your fancy.
    Another treasure that has that quality by Caron is Vœux de Noël. Even though that was released during the mid part of the last century, it still has the same feel as the much earlier Caron scents. It has lilac, rose, carnation and of course a healthy dose of mousse de Saxe. Definitely worth a hunt, you would be pleasantly surprised.

    • I am always mesmerized by the Carons. They have something special and tantalizing about them, and I think the word ‘cloistered’ is perfect here. There really is an intensely resinous quality about this that I can’t imagine from any other perfume house.

      The vial of parfum you sent is going to be one of those scents I keep by my bed as one of the ‘balms’ I mentioned the other day. It really is an absolute retreat from harsh reality.

      • So happy I could provide you a small pleasure to carry you off to a quiet place.

        Caron has always been one of my favorite houses, Bellodgia in particular, followed immediately by Alpona.
        There is an old french saying ” Caron pour la duchesse, Guerlain pour la maitresse.” It always struck me as quaint, but Caron scents do have that old world charm and refinement to them, whereas Guerlains never seems to age but do not always have a Proustian sillage to them.
        Do enjoy dear Neil.

  6. MrsDalloway

    Lovely post. You make me want to try all these vintage Carons (and grow some sweet peas!). I have bottles of Pour un Homme and Infini – the latter inspired by you! – but I don’t know the others at all.

    • I like to think they really are as I describe them. In the current times, they make a nice refuge. At night I often smell my Nuit de Noel ( warm and comforting like Christmas pud); Fleurs De Rocaille is almost too tender to bear. Did you read my review of that one?

      • MrsDalloway

        Oh no, I hadn’t- lovely! I did get a mini of the original Nina but sadly it had leaked so there wasn’t much left. Very pretty and poised though.

  7. Renee Stout

    I found a small, 2.5 ml vial of vintage Alpona parfum in an antiques store a few years back and I’ve been using it sparingly. Alpona is my favorite Caron, followed by nuit de Noel. Alpona is hard to get, but I stumbled upon Caron’s Eau de Caron. Not to be mistaken with (Eaux de Caron). Eau de Caron came out in the early 1980’s but has since been discontinued. I’m now down to about 3 drops of Alpona that I can’t bare to use. However, the aforementioned Eau de Caron, which I’ve only come across in EDT and cologne on ebay, smells like it could be an EDT version of Alpona. I have wanted to confirm this with others, but since both scents are relatively obscure, I havn’t run into anyone yet, who has both so that we can compare notes. I’m saying all of this to say that if someone out there is as smitten with Alpona as I am, but can’t get it, Eau de Caron smells just like it and can occasionally be found on ebay for a reasonable price. Neil, have you run across Eau de Caron and if so have you noticed it’s similarity to Alpona?

    • I had never even heard of it until this very moment but am fascinated. In the same way I didn’t know there was a Caron Muguet ( different to Muguet De Bonheur) until I was physically holding it in my hand. There is something so compelling and magical about Caron somehow. Almost a doomed quality I find tragic and beautiful.

  8. Incomparable writing, among your best, and for all its honest emotion, very precise. That is skill. What a pleasure.

    I grow sweet peas in my tiny plot and always choose the most fragrant ones of all the seed packets on display. A small clutch of them in a vase fills my tiny cabin with scent, possibly my favourite floral scent. The first sniff of them in June always chokes me up. By July there are masses climbing up their bamboo trellis and you can already smell them when you’re five feet away from the bed. Together with the salt sea air, intoxication.

    I have only smelled the lighter concentrations of this Caron and it’s exactly what you say about the parfum, but diffuse. I’m crazy about it. So very Ernst. This is so good: “. . . somehow, thus, in this blend, Ernst Daltroff managed, in his beautifully compressed instinctualism, to really capture, and even quite deeply eroticize, something at the heart of of the actual sweet pea’s scent – if not quite entirely, somehow, ensnare the full plenitude of the very finely membraned, and shy-looking, air of its innocent, June-breathed, flowers.”

    I love Ernst’s work and love all of the Carons. Tabac Blond is one of my holy grails, and so is Narcisse Noir . . . really, virtually all of them. The mousse de saxe, especially clearly sensed in Nuit de Noël. One of my first perfumes as a teenager was Bellodgia. I would love to get my paws on the parfum of Pois de Senteur but sadly little chance of that. Your writing gave me the next best thing.

  9. So happy you reposted this, you know it is one of my all time favorite scents. I reread my earlier comments, from when you first posted this, and I would rewrite them verbatim. So I will just say again, one of my favorite reviews of one of my favorite scents.

  10. Such evocative writing! A brilliant post. Thank you. R

  11. Linda

    I love this perfume, perhaps it’s old fashioned but in a good way. If you dress fashinonably, have the right lifestyle for it, it’s amazing. It’s my favorite Caron with Tabac Blond.

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