Friday, November 16, 2012

Caron Bellodgia: fragrance review & history

Much like Caron's Pour un Homme is a study in lavender, done in a simple equation style giving so much more in perceived value, so Bellodgia is Caron's study of carnations, but in all their rich depth. I am not surprised many perfume lovers like Bellodgia, even floral haters. Unlike its reputation for a soliflore (the fragrance that reproduces the scent of a single flower, carnation in this case) it's really complex and not simplistic. Loving carnations sincerely, I had to have this perfume in my collection. Carnations have a scent that is not really floral, but definitely spicy and richly intimate. Who in their right mind deemed them "humble" for offering is beyond me. That spiciness is the reason I like storks also; another not quite so chic flower with its intense skatole quota (Skatole is the predominant molecule in excrement, its name deriving from the Greek word for shit; oh well, nothing is as it appears.)

Bellodgia seems the definitive carnation scent exactly because of its spiciness and complexity of its quality essences (allegedly its top note alone comprises 100 essences, a claim I find rather hard to believe); yet it is really a somewhat orientalized spicy perfume, rich in peppery notes that give a jangling quality to begin with, then segue into carnation richness with nuances of vanilla and woods warmth, which lasts incredibly well. The current eau de toilette opens with a note of incense comparable to Caron's Nuit de Noel and Parfum Sacre. The clove tint is a living remnant of retro perfumery of the turn of the 20th century, when carnations were recreated with flower notes (ylang ylang and rose) and cloves. At the time the buoyancy of the combination that resulted in a soapy, inedible impression signified perfume, a sign of wealth and status.

 The heady, not so innocent kick of carnation is baroque-like in Bellodgia, like the sheen of brocade cloth, where every change of the light brings out hidden reflections in the fabric. Similarly, the longer this Caron perfume stays on, the more it gains in creaminess and powder facets, prone to be deemed "old lady smelling" by those consumers who dismiss by that derogative term anything that isn't reminiscent of cake batter or linen drawers. The classical turn can smell a bit dated, a fact that shouldn't deter the male of the species grabbing it in an effort to turn what can be predictable and ageing for one gender into an unexpected burst of good news for the other, if they dare. The vintage formulation of Bellodgia is perhaps guiltier in the rich powderiness and the floral impact (aka more ladylike), while the modern versions are sheeting everything in the envelope of warm skin-scent musks, but more so in eau de toilette than in eau de parfum, the latter more floral and denser overall and more lasting. It's easy to spot the difference: the latest bottles have a purple label (or are encased in the shagreen tubes that the whole line has progressed onto, this time in purple), the older ones sport a white one.
The extrait de parfum is smoother than both but the problems with sandalwood supply in later years have subtly changed its base note over the last decade.

 Created in 1927, Bellodgia was the result of the collaboration of Caron founder Ernest Daltroff and one-time dress maker Felicie Vanpouille, who lent her fashion expertise to the company's scents. Specifically it was inspired by Italy and its countryside of wild carnation fields, particularly the picturesque town of Bellagio, perched high above the incredibly beautiful Lake Como, it smells sunny yet deep. Full of classical drama? Indeed. It is perhaps its assertion and its projection that accounts with its popularity over past decades with American customers. Bellodgia is a masterful blend of floral essences, so it needs some time to be blocked and some repeated exposure for it to be really appreciated, much like a good Bordeaux. And for those who sorta like Bellodgia, but want a smooth spices carnation without the powdery floralcy? Try Caron's Tabac Blond. You'll thank me later...

  Notes for Caron Bellodgia: lily of the valley, rose, carnation, violet, jasmine, clove, musk, vanilla and sandalwood.

Worthy of a read: One woman's love affair with Bellodgia.

Related reading on Perfume Shrine: Caron news & fragrance reviews.
vintage ads via polyvore and  the non blonde


  1. annemariec23:40

    I've had an impression for a while that modern Bellodgia may not be worth bothering with and had resolved to enjoy Bellodgia just through the beautiful vintage ads. But it sounds like you recommend giving the re-formulation a try?

  2. tiffingirl10:31

    I have the modern EDP and am very happy with it. Mind you, I haven't tried the vintage.

  3. annemariec21:05

    Thanks, that's good to know!

  4. AM,

    I think Bellodgia is pretty good even in its current form. I miss some others though.

  5. Tiffin,

    great to see more people agree. The edp is so rich, it's very satisfying. The vintage is somewhat more smoothly-spicy and a bit "deeper" in the muskiness. But other than that....

    Thanks for commenting!

  6. AM,

    it's great to have readers offer their own viewpoint on these issues, as I might have overseen something or missed something (it happens...). That's what makes the community useful to the reader!

  7. Anonymous02:48

    Bellodgia, so great! Thanks for filling in the gaps but I have a question. Is the parfum bottle the same through the ages?
    Portia xx

  8. Thank you Portia, so great to see you! :-)

    I believe the parfum bottle hasn't changed (I see it on Ebay at the glass collectors' auctions quite a bit actually), though the others (peppercorn) definitely have. Hope this helps.


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