Under the Radar: Caron Nuit de Noel- The Ghost of Christmas Past

Just over my fifty-eight years of life I have watched the Holidays become more casual. Gone are the days of my youth when I wore a new suit for Christmas. Gone is going to Midnight Mass and seeing the congregation dressed up and sparkling in the church. It isn’t just the Holidays it is a general societal shift; one which I don’t truly disapprove of. Although I do sort of wish there was a day when we all agreed we would get dressed-up as one; like a grand Throwback Thursday. I think that is why I enjoy the older perfumes because they still feel like they want to be worn under formal clothing. This is especially true of the early Caron perfumes composed by perfumer Ernest Daltroff. One of them is meant to be that touch of elegance which is missing from modern-day Christmas; Nuit de Noel.

Nuit de Noel was the fourth perfume released under the Caron name by M. Daltroff. It was meant to be a Holiday perfume as the name suggests but every time I wear it I wonder what the Holidays were like in M. Daltroff’s world in 1922. Nuit de Noel is wall-to-wall elegance combined with the use of the Mousse de Saxe base M. Daltroff created. It is the sense of a party where the brightest young things in the world are celebrating the Season.

This Christmas Night opens with a starburst of jasmine; deeply floral and indolic. M. Daltroff blends rose as support. There are many times I consider this to be the star on top of the tree because what comes next is a sturdy trunk of sandalwood and amber. A creamy, slightly spicy, wood. This is where Mousse de Saxe arrives wrapping this fragrant tree in garland. This classic base is comprised of geranium, leather, licorice, and vanilla. It falls somewhere between chypre and leather itself; occupying a necessary middle ground especially in the early days. It is this base which makes Nuit de Noel the masterpiece that it is.

Nuit de Noel has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

In truth the entire Caron collection and M. Daltroff are emblematic of the concept of this Under the Radar column. If you love perfume you should make the effort to seek the brand out it remains one of the Grand Maisons in all of perfumery. When it comes to Nuit de Noel it does feel a bit like the Ghost of Christmas Past because this era of elegance at the Holidays doesn’t exist anymore. Even so, there is nothing wrong with having a drop under your ugly sweater or pajama top to remind you there was a different style a hundred years ago.

Disclosure: this review is based on a bottle I purchased.

Mark Behnke

Caron 101- Five to Get You Started

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When it comes to the great maisons de parfum if there is one overlooked member of this category it would be Caron. I am not sure why this is the case. They have a history around one of the greatest perfumers of the early days of modern perfumery Ernest Daltroff. The body of work is as impressive as the other great perfumers which shared the timeframe. Maybe it is the urns from which these perfumes are dispensed. When you choose one of the perfumes which make up the collection it is dispensed from a Baccarat crystal urn into the bottle you have chosen. It is one of the best ways to sell perfume in my mind because you can take as little or as much as you want. For those of you who have never considered Caron here are the five I would suggest you start with.

If there is a flagship perfume in the collection it would have to be 1919’s Tabac Blond. Tabac Blond is simply one of the greatest Oriental leather perfumes ever. M. Daltroff working in post-World War I time was looking for something to appeal to the French women who were just taking up smoking. His concept was a sophisticated leather accord matched with orris and ylang-ylang in the heart landing on a classic vanilla tinged Oriental base. The tobacco is an accord of the leather along with vetiver, and linden. I almost always just notice the leather and the tobacco occasionally surprises me. Tabac Blond is one of the most sophisticated leather perfumes you can experience.

Nuit de Noel was released in 1922 for the Holidays. It isn’t particularly evocative of the scents associated with the Holidays. Instead it is a simple construct of jasmine, sandalwood, amber and the base Mousse de Saxe. It is the Mousse de Saxe which makes Nuit de Noel unforgettable. In a time where the bases perfumers devised would make or break a construct Mousse de Saxe was one of the most versatile; somewhere between chypre and leather but not quite either. It has a shimmering quality in M. Daltroff’s hands. The jasmine adds a floral oomph and the sandalwood and amber provide warmth and creamy woodiness. Nuit de Noel is a great perfume no matter whether it is the Holidays or not.

caron pour un homme

One of my favorite recommendations for a man just starting out in expanding his fragrance wardrobe is Caron Pour Un Homme. Again M. Daltroff keeps it simple using lavender as the focal point and sweetening it slightly with vanilla before amber and musk make sure to give it a manly heft. If you love lavender, no matter what gender you are, Caron Pour Un Homme is one of the best.

When Caron was resuscitated by the Ales Group it commissioned a new masculine take on lavender from perfumer Akiko Kamei. The idea was to make a contemporary lavender as an alternative to Caron Pour Un Homme. Mme Kamei offers a spicy and floral enhanced fougere in Le Troisieme Homme. The lavender is paired with geranium and then coated in clove, tarragon, and coriander. These enhance the herbal nature of the lavender while the greranium adds its green tinted floralcy. Vetiver and oakmoss form the base accord. There was a long time where I thought if I only had to own two fragrances it would have been this and Caron Pour Un Homme.

Parfum Sacre is another of the modern Caron releases. Composed by perfumer Jean-Pierre Bethouart in 1991. It is one of the more comforting floral perfumes I own. It has the ability to be a fragrant version of a Snuggie in front of a roaring fire. M. Bethouart takes a trio of spices in coriander, cinnamon, and black pepper. He then used an expansive rose for them to push against. The base notes are sweet myrrh, vanilla, and ambrette. This is where you take the spicy rose and cuddle in tight while the fire burns.

As I mentioned above Caron is a forgotten brand and it shouldn’t be. If you haven’t considered them these five will show you why you they should be on your list to try.

Disclosure: this review is based on bottles of the perfumes I purchased.

Mark Behnke