Certain fragrances grab you by the throat and demand to be asked "What are you talking about anyway?" Whether they do it via shock value or by undecipherable codes posing an enigma it is a matter of semiotics.
One such scent is With Pleasure, belying its very name, not because it is repulsive, but because it is on the edge of consciousness nagging you to tilt your head once more and mubble again "what is it about it, then?"
The Unknown Perfumer at Caron: Michel Morsetti
Caron's With Pleasure was issued in 1949, composed by perfumer Michel Morsetti, two years after the self-taught founder, Ernest Daltroff, had passed away. The bottle was customarily designed by Félicie Bergaud (née Félicie Vanpouille and the collaborator of Daltroff, with whom they shared an open, and controversial at the time, relationship out of wedlock). Contemporary to both Or et Noir (Gold and Black) and Rose it remained in their long shadow, a secret to be unveiled by those in the know. The same year also saw the introduction of the original version of Caron's Pour Une Femme, later discontinued and then re-issued in 2001 in an altered formula. It seems that the end of the war and the decade drawing to a close saw an orgiastic productivity at Caron! Yet although the former fragrances continue their unhindered path (with slight tweaks along the way), With Pleasure has been discontinued and become rare, a true collectible.
Michel Morsetti has been responsible for all these fragrances, along with others in the Caron stable of thouroughbreds in the late 1940s and 1950s, notably the cassie-rich almost gourmand Farnesiana (1947), the relatively unknown marvel Tabac Noir (1948) ~a counterpoint to the famous Tabac Blond of the roaring 20s~, the lily-of-the-valley ballet Muguet de bonheur (1952), and the fiery, peppercorn fury of Poivre and its lighter concentration Coup de Fouet (1954). Royal Bain de Champagne is also attributed to Morsetti, despite it being issued in 1941, at a time when Daltroff was still alive. Incidentally many of the classic Carons and a history of the house of Caron are covered in Parfum: Prestige et Haute Couture by Jean-Yves Gaborit (editions Fribourg, 1985).
The vereable French house started from meagre beginnings in 1901-1902 when Russian-Jewish brothers Ernest and Raoul Daltroff bought the small parfumeria "Emilia", located on rue Rossini in Paris, evident in their first fragrance baptized Royal Emilia in 1904. Aided by an obscure acquaintance named Kahann with deep pockets, Ernest Daltroff moved the address to 10 rue de la Paix and renamed it "Caron", with which name it became synonymous with French style and "fit for a duchess" chic, according to an infamous quote.
If there is a signature Caron-ade running through the fabric of the older vintage Carons, it is evident in With Pleasure, without doubt: a dark rose with musty, slightly earthy tonalities is peeking its face underneath a green-herbal façade. The rosiness is an upside-down image of the darker and rosier Or et Noir, with an almost anisic touch. The greeness of With pleasure is not chypré, nevertheless, but rather tilted into an aldehydic direction with a non tangy citrusy accent, folded into the rosiness along with snuffed-out candles notes. The more strident, angular chypres of the 50s were competing with more traditionally feminine aldehydics and their proper lady image; so very fitting, after the return of women to the home, the kitchen and the boudoir following the loaded responsibilities they had shouldered during the hard WWII days which helped emancipate them further.
There is nothing upbeat or girly about the scent, on the contrary there is a quiet mood, but one can sense that this is no mere capriciousness but a frank introspection, a look into a different angle of an at-heart secretive personality who lives her life day by day. I am not sure whether I like it or not, but it keeps asking me neverthless.
The English name alludes to an international venture, capitalizing on the rave reception that Narcisse Noir, Caron's leading fragrance of 1911, had received on the other side of the Atlantic thanks to its potency.
The bottle in Bacarrat crystal is old-fashioned, tactile and round and can be imagined on the vanity of a lady with ebony brushes bearing boar bristles for hair that is brushed a hundred times every night by an attentive chambermaid: A crystal flacon shaped like a honey jar with a T-shaped stopper resembling a glamorous pastry-roll on top (technically this design is called tonnelet) and the name "With Pleasure" emblazoned on the front. The Bacarrat signature in acid on the bottom seals its aunthenticity.
Related reading on Perfume Shrine: Fragrance History, Caron scents , Aldehydes
Photographs by Luca Cornel of Brenda Lee via fishup.ru, Ad pic via ebay, With Pleasure flacons via coutaubegarie.auction.fr