A daunting assignment it is to approach something like Farnésiana. So many elements of exception surround it, that expectations could not be higher, then, never to be outdone, in true Caron fashion, the reality of it lifts you off Terra Firma and drops you into a vat of unexpected abstraction where you have no references and you're simply in shock. You were expecting a gong show symphony and fireworks. It delivers distant harp strings, wisps of cool air and shy morning light.It's no surprise that Farnésiana was hidden and held for only certain clientele that walked through those gilded doors at Caron, no secret that few have ever smelled it, and no surprise that even in its most reformulated, modernist versions it could not survive. In true Caron style, Farnésiana startles you on application: It presents as a kind of muddle-headed epiphany that for some reason makes perfect sense: It is simultaneously nothing you would ever expect from Caron, and everything you would expect from Caron, without being loud. Michel Mosetti knew that a pair of shoes left by Ernest Daltroff were not easy ones to fill, and this was his first attempt at stepping up to his fate. In the world of 1947, the year it was launched, so many things were possible. It was the "Après Guerre" in Paris, Christian Dior had just shown his famous "New Look," and the very air seemed pregnant with promises. Michel Morsetti kept his by delivering Farnésiana, which achieves the eccentric grandiosity of all of Daltroff's work, but in ways precious few would have imagined. Here we have the detail of why it hit the bullseye. Nothing from Caron was ever common or expected, and nobody who wore Caron was ever anything but tired of Guerlain, Coty and Houbigant. When someone went over to Caron, that gesture betrayed a certain blasé grandiosity that comes only with living an exceptional life, a status that cannot ever be faked. To begin, nobody thus far had ever imagined a perfume made to evoke Acaciosa Farnesiana: There are so few examples of scents that have since dared to dabble in this persnickety hay fever-inducing note, and most all of them have delivered predictably mediocre results. As I have written in the past, Ernest Daltroff would most definitely have been seated at the "Good" Russian table in Thomas Mann's "The Magic Mountain. His mind was clearly rooted in rarefied soil few peers would share. Everything Daltroff ever did was consistently extraordinary. Gloria Swanson in "Sunset Boulevard" does not tell of wearing Daltroff's "The Black Narcissus" (Narcisse Noir, 1911) for nothing. She actually did wear it. Religiously. People like Gloria Swanson and other unimaginably sensational beings were naturally inclined to bypass all of the usual choices and adopt the exceptional ones that hardly anyone understood, and many people even hated. That's just the way the formula of individualistic exceptionalism is composed: It's not meant for the masses, in fact, oftentimes it's created to repel them. We see this problematic detail in almost all of Caron's scents: They are not "bait," something you wear to attract others, or please someone. They are a declaration of independence, and scarce few perfumers dare to attempt managing that. In our time, I can think of one Jean Kerléo who managed the very same prouesse with several of his compositions, but I digress. Farnesiana starts by unleashing the brightest, most delicate cloud of lightness, which is exactly what nobody expects. Perfect. It plays on by miraculously maintaining that lightness, which is also exactly what nobody would expect. A perfume that manages to be tenacious yet feather light throughout its hours-long evolution is not an easy invention. In 1947, people had nothing with which to compare Farnesiana, so it stood out for sheer verve, spectacular performance, and what was most difficult, persistent low volume. In a somewhat hazy atmosphere of pollen and early Spring chill, Farnesiana presents first as fluffy, billowy, allergy-inducing Mimosa, possibly one of the most troubling of fragrant flowers. It never stops evoking the vibrant chroma of yellow and the high pitched witchery of Pan's flute, but for good measure, and to never be boring or cause olfactory fatigue, it also never stops evolving; that long drawn out trip is indeed an investment. An E-ticket. We visit the Mediterranean coasts in early March, with their breezes of dusty, fragrant air. We run through wet fields of wood violets and lilies of the valley that are just beginning to open up. A powdery puff of Iris is never far off, we just don't know where, exactly. We taste black currant. Somewhere off in the distance we suspect someone might be burning resins, possibly in an Orthodox Church, but we're never sure: Alternately, we imagine a barn full of freshly mown hay. Nothing is obvious here, nothing is clear here, and nothing really makes sense in the literal realm of logic as we know it. Farnésiana was certainly not meant to be understood or applauded: It was very clearly meant to beguile and confuse...to be out of touch...out of reach. All of those secret things that only certain types of initiated people want, it delivers. If perfume houses functioned like literature, Michel Morsetti's first volume inspired by Ernest Daltroff for Caron would be akin to an unknown attempting to write an epic novel inspired by and marketed as written by Tolstoy himself: Implausible, yes. But here, it happens. A masterstroke. (May 09, 2021: Based on 6 versions of Farnésiana in two concentrations)
Farnesiana is like falling asleep in a warm room on a winter's day and being visited by a loving presence in a dream. It is cosy, creamy and comforting its complex layers falling like a halo of warm orange-amber light around the wearer. Despite the impression of a multitude of notes surging within it, it feels trusted and instantly familiar.
After a beautifully pliant and doughy-buttery opening marked by a gentle and ambery vanilla and sweet hay-like tones, the florals begin to breathe little by little wisps of mimosa and syringa, the sweet haze of violets, all treated with restraint and respect, and with the assurance of a complex Caron base (think refined resins and powders) to back them up. This is perfume that feels like a silken foam, full of air and light, and yet luxurious and caressing.
Farnesiana has a palpable warmth to it. These are spring flowers miraculously transported to what feels almost like a Christmas interior gently fragrant with potpourri and candied fruit, and they feel perfectly at home.
Sometimes I am tempted to give up other perfumes in winter and subsist solely on Caron extraits; they feel like old friends you want to hug and hold close, and yet they always give you your space.
Review is for current extrait formulation and there is a big catch Farnesiana disappointingly cycles through its stages to the muted base in just a couple of hours. Still, glorious for that short while.
I've been wearing the current extrait and it's REALLY good. It's built on a nutty, doughy smell that reminds me of Mitsouko, but with mimosa and heliotrope instead of Mitsouko's peach and chypre. It's got the smell of an acacia tree, rich with pollen, as well as an undercurrent of honey and vanilla that adds a lot of richness. There's also sandalwood and maraschino cherries soaked in rum, and a hint of rose-flavored Turkish Delight candy. In total, it's one of those really complex old-school perfumes, where it's kind of amazing that it all comes together and works so magically.
It lasts forever, and my only small complaint is that the lingering base, 10 or 12 hours after application, is a mix of vanilla and talcum powder that I like less than the rest of the perfume. But that's just nitpicking - I'd eagerly declare Farnesiana to be one of the increasingly rare examples of true Grand Perfumery (yes, upper case and all) in there with Mitsouko, L'Heure Bleue, and the like, yes very much even in its current version. If you have a taste for the legends, you should seriously sample this...
My review is for the vintage formulation. Well, testing this historical Caron's pearl on skin you can catch immediately what an artistic, temperamental and natural creation actually means. Yes, a really botanical (multifaceted) hyper classy and lush piece of aromatic artistry. I detect by soon an unbelievably majestic almondy-minty eliotrope flanked by a touch of decadent bergamot, by a "carnal" (I mean realistic, rooty, indolic, grassy, lymphatic, "fragrant" and musky) mimosa, white resinous patterns (opoponax?), soapy fruitiness and vanilla allover encompassed by a dust of woody-musky talk (with accents of violet powder) and powdery tonka. To be sincere I'm not able to "isolate" the black currant while I detect a sort of undistinguished balmy soapiness with fruity accents. There is also something prickly under my nose (black pepper?) seemingly associated with eliotrope (with more than vague Etro Heliotrope's nuances- in a less almondy way) and resinous dissonant "white/yellow" floral pollen. I detect too a sort of "chamomile-like" (the typical mimosa's feel) pollen presence (resinous and vaguely waxy) and this is the main trait of the aroma joined by a sheer eliotropic presence. The outcome is majestic, royal and exotic in a hyper luxurious way (yes a la Mitsouko or Chamade). Caron Farnesiana is pure olfactory poetry.
Caron Farnesiana EDP - this is pleasant, but is less gourmand than the parfum concentration. The opening is more powdery and floral, with a more noticeable retro thing. Then the powdery part goes, the mimosa shows it's almond nuances and is joined by a pleasant vanilla and opoponax base. It's lovely, but i still favor the marzipan wonderfullness which is the parfum.
The vintage early version of Farnesiana is a botanical majesty: a powerful, realistic, opulent, classy floral scent, with warm, earthy pollen flowers (mimosa, heliotrope, jasmine), at the same time carnal and raw, but soapy and aristocratic, with a base of irresistibile vanilla and tonka. Not much else: a tight, compact, rich bouquet, colourful and invigorating like a nap in a flowers' shop, inebriating and romantic, dark and deep, classic and almost conventional but with the greatest quality standards, and a wide and rich harmony of notes. As Turin correctly notes in his Guide, surely a powerful scent I've applied a tiny bit on my wrist, and it's like if I bathed in it. I do not know the subsequent formulations of Farnesiana, which I am given to understand are quite bad (not a surprise), but the vintage version is breathtaking, surely deserving its place in the Olympus of great neoclassic floral scents. Finally, a perfect drydown: long-lasting, cozy, soapy and discreet, velvety and still elegant and aromatic, just more plushy and light. Marvelous!