Everything to declare… Poivre by Caron The Perfumed Dandy’s Scented Letter

If anyone had taken a moment to truly observe that hat they mistook for a jester’s, they might have entered an entirely other world.

For the old woman who wore sharply tailored pin striped suits in city banker navy blue and was never without a red carnation for her buttonhole was anything other than the bum they assumed her to be.

She knew her make up was too white, her lips and rouge too red, her auburn hair dyed too bright.

She didn’t care, far from it, that is what she intended them to be.

A statement of intent.

To live apart and differently from other people, to be who and exactly what she wanted to be.

If they asked her, and no one ever did, she would tell them everything.

Of the life she had led among the elite, the fashionable, the artists, the artistes, the stars and singers, politicians and public figures.

Royalty, even.

How she had been the face of a generation that everyone had forgotten.

How she had gone from front page news to ‘saveloy and chips’ wrappers and tool drawer linings in just a few short years.

Too many nights on the tiles, too many boyfriends, too many rumours of girlfriends.

Once being named as a co-respondent in a divorce in the decade before it was nearly respectable.

Now she goes about her business, revelling in anonymity and the money she was given to keep quiet.

A little mountain of money to keep her in clove cigarettes, spiced coffee in the Turkish style and fine tailoring still smelling of the cooking of the immaculate Indian born women who run things up for her these days.

Cash that has grown into a small fortune.

Wealth enough, in fact, to allow her to talk now, if only there was anyone around to listen.

But she is reconciled to allowing the rest of her time on Earth to evaporate away silently in understated sweetly scented luxury, until all of her is gone into the air.

A man, pink socks and plus fours, silk chemise and fair isle tank top stops her as she makes her way along Mount Street,

“Isn’t that a Schiaparelli?”

“It is” she smiles “And you may buy me coffee.”

Vintage Poivre by Caron is an eccentric grand dame of a scent.

An immaculate once fashionable living memorial to an age of elegance, self-assurance and discreet debauchery.

The fiery start, which is what everyone remembers, is as much carnation as bell or black pepper. A floral flame to set the nostrils alight delightfully.

We are escorted through this ring of fire by cloves, who shall be our unceasing companion throughout, and taken to a floral core where roses, ylang ylang and feint tuberose come and go.

Here the perfume settles finally and begins a long wistful decay into a whisper, though the word on its lips very much remains ‘clove’.

Beyond this lies the familiar oppoponax, animalic silk powder and slight green of the distinctive Caron base, made more like makeup by a carrot tone that might be unlisted iris.

Poivre is a passionately hot affair of the heart that cannot possibly last.

It is a weekend away at the British seaside for a man and wife who are most definitely not married to each other.

It is elicit and exciting, knowing and nubile and splendidly not as young as it once was and not as well behaved as it should be.

In short it’s a naughty, dirty, fiery but ever so fanciable fragrance.

Unfortunately, this ‘little bit of what you fancy that does you good’ is in short supply, having been sadly discontinued in recent times.

Luckily, The Dandy does know where one can try, and more importantly buy, the most recent, and really pretty pleasant version. Of which more to come later in the week.

In the meantime… a bientot.

Yours ever

The Perfumed Dandy.

The Perfumed Dandy

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20 Comments

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20 responses to “Everything to declare… Poivre by Caron The Perfumed Dandy’s Scented Letter

  1. I love it when you talk Caron to me.

    Love this, love the scandal of Poivre!

  2. Nena

    I’m starting to want to get into vintage Caron, now.

  3. Lilybelle

    Nice one, Mr. Dandy. 🙂 I’m not a lover of clove, as it tends to grow into a monster on my skin, but Poivre is on my Caron list to try anyway. I love that eccentric lady. I feel like I know her.

    • Dearest Lily
      Clove, cardamom, cumin.
      They can all be a little tricky can’t they?
      And although I am a lover of all three I can tell when they are troublesome for others. I have female friends who can’t wear frankincense of any kind and my dear mater can’t go near lavender.
      All part of life’s rich tapestry I suppose, though Poivre would be a nice one to smell on paper and, it may be heresy to say this, would make a very chic home fragrance too (oops, I said it!).
      Yours ever
      The Perfumed Dandy

      • LIlybelle

        I LOVE spicy fragrances as home fragrances. They are cozy and warming, or intriguingly mysterious. Some I can wear on skin, but not often.

      • Dearest Lily
        Snap… ever since I was told that home fragrances are safe on skin I’ve tried a few, some work other disastrously don’t… it is, however, a nothing little world of scent to discover!
        Yours ever
        The Perfumed Dandy

  4. That sounds lovely! Terrific story too. Merci beaucoup, M. Dandy!

  5. The problem is that the vintage extrait of this was so unbelievably stunning; so deep and impenetrable, murky, mysterious, while still thwacking a great punch in the top with the pepper, clove and carnations. I think this is the scent your woman was wearing.

    The modern extract given to me by a Japanese admirer had none of this arcane enigma; just a pleasant pepper and clove perfume that I ended up adulterating myself with essential oils in some desperate attempt to improve it and bring it back to Ernst’s original recipe. But I am no perfumer and so it ended up being used to scent my closets.

    I would kill for a big, studded, bottle of the pure vintage perfume.

    • Dearest Ginza
      Vintage is a slightly problematic thing when it comes to perfume I feel.
      It is paradoxically a relatively new idea and lacks the precision and traditions oenology. Scents before a certain age are difficult to age exactly and little thought was usually given to their storage. So the results by the nature of things be very diverse.
      I smelt an older Poivre and it was exactly as you describe, rich, maelstrom-like and brooding. But how much of this I wonder has developed over time? Some very learned correspondents who’ve known the house for years are positive that the perfumes, like fine wines, do age and grow over time.
      Though I don’t find the modern version quite as ‘flat’ (would that be a fair summary?) as you do, I get your meaning and I’ve often contemplated adulterating a fragrance to ‘improve it’ though never been quite brave enough.
      Perhaps, if some people are to be believed, what the last version of Poivre needs is not ‘a little bit of this and a little bit of that’ but just time.
      On the nose, I may well be wrong (I often am) but I thought Poivre was by Michel Morsetti.
      Certainly its release in the mid-1950s, a good while after Daltroff’s death in 1941, would suggest it’s not the work of the great master.
      Thank you, as always, for making me think this morning and yes, I’d fight you to the death for a beautiful old bottle of the stuff.
      Yours ever
      The Perfumed Dandy

  6. The Scented Letter… and all those beautiful chapters…One More Curtain Call, Everything to Declare, The Marriage Meadow, Lust in a Cold Climate — nobody ever said I was subtle 😉 xox, V

  7. Caron Poivre was one of my favorite perfumes (the version I fell in love with must have been a pre-2006 version). I thought it had been reformulated (which was heart breaking enough) – I didn’t know it was discontinued!!! ..*panics*
    Is this the vintage version you are reviewing/talking about?

    • Dear Lavanya
      Welcome to The Dandy’s… do make yourself at home!
      I tried two versions of Poivre, one from immediately before discontinuation and an older one, I would estimate from around the 1980s (this is subject to the person who lent it me’s memory).
      It had changed towards the end, but was still recognisable as the great peppery scent it had once been.
      Fear not, for tomorrow there will be some important information regarding where Poivre may still be come by!
      Yours ever and thanks again for dropping by
      The Perfumed Dandy

      • Thanks!
        It still seems to be available at lucky scent (*sigh of relief*). I have a sample of the reformulated version. And you are right- it does smell like the earlier version but not as fiery and rich as I remember it smelling.

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