Lust in a cold climate…Tabac Blond by Caron The Perfumed Dandy’s Classic Collection

The winter comes in early and hard to these northern ports where France ends suddenly and the blank-faced Atlantic begins.

In storm surges sideways rain slams the little parade of quayside shops. At night all are battened down except for M. Caron’s, the red cedar stained exterior lit by one lamp. It casts its beam across the familiar sign ‘bar-tabac-bierres blondes’ and Pelforth’s pelican looking on.

Inside, cutting a swathe through the thick sweet cloud to reach a table, the scent is not of the acrid shavings smoked by sailors, stokers and stevedores but of the honeyed, clove-infused, golden hued stuff of the officers’ mess. Imbibed through pipes not papers.

Defying the sign you order a bierre brune: dark amber in a glass, brewed from English yeast brought over to the conjure comfort of home for soldiers on their return from the front.

Long stemmed carnations in clear glass carafes have been commandeered by amorous sea captains eager for female attention.

For their part, the women ranged against the creme Anglaise coloured walls, dresses polka dotted pinks, blues and violets smell sweetly of last summer’s improvised flower water, iris and a little citrus blossom, and of the musk of their profession, the oldest.

Longing to kick off leather to-the-knee boots and settle down to true domestic sollace, you must settle instead for its simulacrum: a stodgy pudding in the English style laced with heavily vanilla-ed custard from Caron’s kitchen and the conversation of a woman who is not and could never be your wife.

The nights at the ‘bar-tabac-bierre blondes’ are long, and though perhaps not what they should be or once were, in a world turned upside down, on a weather-beaten winter’s night, they are without doubt the best show in town.

Years later, a thumb worn photograph in hand, you will not recall the colours of ‘bar-tabac-bierres blondes’. You may not even remember the girl’s name, just the colour of her hair, the damp yielding of her flesh in the cheap room upstairs and that priceless, immortal smell.

*************

Tabac Blond is an unforgettable aroma of perhaps best forgotten situations.

It speaks of liberation and the release of sexual frustration in equal measures.

Of women free enough to smoke and free enough with their favours to sleep with men for money or pleasure or both.

It exists in a tension of repression and liberation never properly resolved.

Everything starts with a slap across the face by a leather gloved hand, then an upturned table, a smashed glass vase and carnations strewn over the floor.

A bar brawl avoided, only just, a vanilla and iris perfumed semi-siren seeks to calm the situation and seduce all sides with her placid heart.

It is a front, for behind lie deeper motives and the baser notes: wood, a patchouli that seems only to dampen and darken, a vetiver that adds a little smoke to the scene and a slow climb upstairs to discover a musk that is one part powder and two parts body.

Tabac Blond is a sin, as simple and satisfying as that.

Sex some say is a sin but sin itself is no respecter sex. Men and women are all of the flesh.

*************

The Perfumed Dandy wore Tabac Blond in a current and older version of the Eau de Parfum.

Differences between the two are overstated, though the earlier EdP may not have been old enough for true comparison.

Yours ever

The Perfumed Dandy.
The Perfumed Dandy

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19 Comments

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19 responses to “Lust in a cold climate…Tabac Blond by Caron The Perfumed Dandy’s Classic Collection

  1. Lilybelle

    That review was just like watching a movie. What a gift you have, Mr. Dandy! I don’t know Tabac Blond. I’ve never tried it — but now I feel like I have.

  2. Magnificent. The opening statement of a slap across the face is just visceral! It is like watching an old movie ….and the comments for some reason are SO intensely descriptive in this particular review. Priceless immortal scents remembered years after the fact. Fabulous and …so wistfully debauched! I love it!!!

  3. rosestrang

    Oh those poor irises – I want to rescue them! How perfect that you describe them in the context of improvised flower-water at odds with this hotbed of sin. Another excellent review Sir Dandy, very much in juxtaposition to Narcisse Noir – with its graceful exit from the stage and wholesome ending!

    I enjoyed the Jicky review too, did you know that Brigitte Bardot wore Jicky? Interesting – you’d expect her to wear something more obviously voluptuous – then again she probably didn’t need any reminders of that, so it sort of makes sense!

    • How right you are Rose – Tabac Blond is a huge contrast to Narcisse Noir and as such a clear dismissal of the idea that all Caron’s smell the same these days.
      Yes I did know that Brigitte wore Jicky, perhaps not such a surprise when one considers her more strident views in later life.
      My eyebrow raised slightly more when I learnt that Sean Connery was also a devotee…
      Yours ever
      The Perfumed Dandy

  4. ladyjicky

    Poor Tabac – she has had to change over the years – you know those darn “laws”….. thank goodness Marlene Dietrich is not with us anymore. I believe she was a fan of what we would call Tabac “vintage” these days.
    I do not know about you but I really think Caron is not as good as it used to be – my first “real French Perfume” was a bottle of Infini in the 70’s when it first came out – it was wonderful. It is still “nice” these days but … sadly not as it was. Oh well – that is life .
    I have just found your blog and I am really loving it!!!!

    • Dearest Lady Jicky
      Oh I have no doubt that as the review says the bar tabac is neither what it should be or what it was.
      Laws, regulations and other motivations have seen many great perfumes trimmed and tacked.
      Whether Caron is more affected in this way than other houses is a subject the Dandy must leave to those who have greater experience in these matters. However my view is that in certain instances ‘Narcisse Noir’ for example, where I have been able to sample for proper comparison, the differences are not always as great as I had imagined.
      Sadly, as the women in the bar tabc might remark, ‘we are where we are’.
      On a happier note, I am so delighted that you are enjoying your time at the Dandy’s and do so hope that we’ll be seeing more of you here in the future.
      Yours ever
      The Perfumed Dandy

  5. What an era this was created in. The Great War changed everything and brought in an age of Jazz and some of the most wonderful perfumes ever created. At least that is how I see it. Lovely and very evocative review. So well written that I could smell it…all of it!
    Bravo.

    • How exquisitely perceptive Mr Smith
      Tabac Blond was created in 1919 the year that The Great War officially ended with the signing of The Treaty of Versailes (many memorials in Britain carry the years 1914-1919 in recognition of this fact).
      Indeed it was not until the year ’19 that many troops returned from their postings overseas.
      The greatest folly of Versailles was of course to ensure their children would go to war too.
      Yours ever
      The Perfumed Dandy

  6. I discovered Tabac Blond in 1960. I was 21 and on a long weekend with a very naughty gentleman “d’un certain age”. We both wore it as we left mysterious messages on bars and kiosks that said “Do you know Tabac Blond?” It was delightful and very silly. Up until then he thought I should wear Fleurs de Rocaille pour la jeunne fille.

    • Dear Barbara
      What a splendid story… I see you now as a nouvelle vague heroine all nonchalance and cheekbones and Gaulloises at the side of the mouth, reeking of Caron’s masterpiece.
      Yours ever
      The Perfumed Dandy

  7. Reblogged this on The Perfumed Dandy. and commented:

    I tempted fate rather when I claimed winter in July the other day, for the weather changed almost instantly here. So whilst the winds blow and the rain falls, let;s be transported once more to the other end of the year…

  8. gosh.

    *looksintothemiddledistance*

    feeling rather Faint now.

    how gloriously you write.

    and how fragrantly you must perspire (or “glow” as Mitford heroines would say).

  9. Dearest Dandy, how I somehow managed to miss this review is beyond me, so forgive me that mistake! I adored your description – and there is indeed something quite …transgressive? ;) – about Tabac Blond that rather upends our expectations! I have the extrait, and although it is retro in feel, its effects are…well…timeless and I absolutely love it! Thank you for reminding me!

  10. cookie queen

    I sooooooooo need to try this. Thanks PD – through Tarleisio!! Gorgeous review.
    Love from the fragrant cookie lab
    CQ

    • Dear Coookie
      So pleased you like the review, do try… vintage extrait is best (of course) but I think that the current parfum, especially when decanted from an urn at a proper Caron store is very good indeed.
      Yours ever
      The Perfumed Dandy

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