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June 01, 2005

Perfume House and Its History: Parfums Caron

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Established by Ernest Daltroff in 1904, Parfums Caron was originally located on Rue de la Paix in Paris. Daltroff purchased the perfumery from Anne-Marie Caron and kept the original name.  At the same time, he met Félicie Wanpouille, who became his partner and an important contributor to the rise of the house.  While Daltroff created fragrances, Wanpouille designed bottles and served as an artistic director. From the beginning, Parfums Caron was the house dedicated solely to fragrance, unlike houses like Chanel or Christian Dior that were first and foremost fashion houses. While the perfume houses produced more fragrances than fashion houses, by the 1920s women started to look at perfume the same way they regarded new fashion styles as Marylène Delbourg-Delphis noted in her book Les Sillages des Elégantes (1983). However, as the couture fragrances became more and more popular, they provided a stable point in the ever changing world fashion, therefore the pace of perfume production began to decline.

Daltroff was a true experimentalist when it came to fragrance creation in his departure from the traditional reproduction of floral scents.  He used synthetics and rare absolutes daringly, and would not shy away from combining rose and jasmine essences with phenyl acetic acid and terpineol.  Although Caron fragrances are rather diverse, despite being created by the same perfumer, many of them share a wonderfully dark undercurrent, which is based on a blend of geranium, licorice, leather, iodine, and vanillin. This accord gained the name of "Mousse de Saxe," revealing its mossy, dark and cool edge. When creating Nuit de Noël, Daltroff daringly incorporated this dark accord both in the heart and the base of the fragrance, which made the finished composition very unusual. ....

Ernest Daltroff’s creations (in this case, I shall use bold font to indicate fragrances still in production):

Royal Emilia (1904)
Bel Amour (1906)
Chantecler (1906)
Modernis (1906)
Ravissement (1906)
Affolant (1908)
Isadora (1910)
Parfum Precieux (1910)
Rose Précieuse (1910)
Elegancia (1911)
Jacinthe Précieuse (1911)
Narcisse Noir (1911)
Infini (1912)
Radiant (1913)
Violette Précieuse (1913)
London Paris (1917)
Mimosa (1917)
N'Aimez Que Moi (1917)
Tabac Blond (1919)
Narcisse Blanc (1922)
Nuit de Noël (1922)
Bellodgia (1927)
Pois de Senteur de Chez Moi (1927)
Acaciosa (1929)
En Avion (1929)
Bichon Fard (1920s)
Pocahontas (1920s)
Les Rocailles de Caron (1933)
Caron Pour Un Homme (1934)
Fleurs de Rocaille (1934)
Les Cent Fards (1935)
Madame Peau Fine (1935)
Adastra (1936)
French Cancan (1936)
La Fête des Roses (1936)
Alpona (1939)
Rose de Noël (1939)
Voeu de Noël (1939)
Royal Bain de Caron / Royal Bain de Champagne (1941)

Daltroff was instrumental in shaping the image of Caron, and his legacy is still strong, not only in terms of Caron fragrances, but his influence on the perfume world at large.  According to Perfume Legends by Michael Edwards, Guy Robert, a nose behind Madame Rochas and Caleche, used Nuit de Noël's base notes in his compositions. Chanel N° 19, Bois de Iles and Habanita were also profoundly influenced by Daltroff’s unique “mousse de saxe” accord.  In 1939, as Nazi Germany began to rise, Daltroff escaped to the United States. He died 3 years later, in 1941.

Michel Morsetti’s creations for Caron:
Farnesiana (1947)
Tabac Noir (1948)
Caron Pour Une Femme (original) (1949)
Or et Noir (1949)
Rose (1949)
With Pleasure (1949)
Muguet de Bonheur (1952)
Coup de Fouet (1954)
Poivre (1954)

Gerard Lefort for Caron:
Infini (1970)
Eau de Caron (1980)

Vincent Marcello for Caron:
Yatagan (1976)

Roger Pellégrino for Caron:
Nocturnes (1981)

Jean-Pierre Béthouard (Firmenich) for Caron:
Parfum Sacré (1990)

Dominique Ropion for Caron:
Aimez-Moi (1996)

Richard Fraysse for Caron:
L'Anarchiste (2000)
Lady Caron (2000)
Caron Pour Une Femme (new) (2001)
Miss Rocaille (2004)
Tubereuse (2004)

I am not sure about the authorship of these creations:
Number 3 / Le 3me Homme / The Third Man (1985)
Montaigne (1986)
Fleur de Rocaille (1993)
Caron Eau de Cologne (1994)
Eau Pure (1996)
Eau Fraîche (1997)
Eau de Caron Forte (1999)

The current nose for the house is Richard Fraysse. His fragrances are marked by innovation paired with classicism, continuing the traditions of the house. Originally, Caron perfumes came in the bottles, especially designed for each individual fragrance by Félicie Wanpouille, who was responsible for most of the creations. However, a few years ago Ales group, which now owns Caron decided to discontinue the individual bottles and instead provide the same classical shape for all fragrances. Although these bottles are lovely, the original bottles were very unique and memorable, and I hope that the house brings them back.

Caron boutiques are styled as veritable jewel boxes, with the sumptuous décor, featuring pastels and satin. The extrait de parfum of most classical fragrances are decanted from gorgeous Louis XV-style Baccarat crystal urns, which is why some Caron fragrances are called urn perfumes. Even if one does not find a true love among Caron dark and slightly nostalgic creations, whispering stories of times long gone, of cocottes and countesses, the visit to any boutique is a true fin-de-siècle experience. Another favorite part is the selection of beautiful atomizer bottles and candy colored dawn puffs. I managed to obtain a powder box and a fuchsia colored puff on a recent visit, and whenever I use them, I feel either like a seductress or a countess, depending on the state of mind at that particular moment.

References for perfume creator and year of release: Basenotes.

Other references: Delbourg-Delphis (1983), Morris (1984).

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