Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Caron With Pleasure: fragrance review & Caron history

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


  1. Hi E

    Thanks for another informative read. We don't hear much about the Carons. And I love that honey jar flacon. How unique is that?

    I would love to learn more about Tabac Noir. I think I may have heard about it in passing, but I don't know its composition or its history.

  2. M,

    you're most welcome, it gives me great joy to write about these rarities.
    Despite the ravaging by Turinia, Caron displayed increased sales so I am hopeful, although it's clear that the management is lacking (and don't start me on changes to compositions etc).
    Will try to accomodate your wish on TN! :-)

  3. I can ALWAYS depend upon you to share the precioussssss information !

    Such beautiful objects to behold.

    [Many bisous from your loving- but beleaguered sister]

  4. Fiordiligi14:51

    Oh, dearest E, how tantalising! What a glorious read. Caron is my favourite house after Guerlain (although I don't have quite such an unconditional love for all its fragrances). To me there is nothing quite like the magic of an unknown vintage scent!

    Thank you for such an enticing article. It is sad that Caron seems to get such a bad rap everywhere these days.

  5. I am sighing with pleasure and frustration here. With Pleasure sounds as if it embodies everything I love about the classic Carons. I have no hope of finding it, but you've inspired a delightful dream ;-)

  6. Anonymous16:09

    I'm always amazed at how you find these rare forgotten perfumes, it's really interesting to hear about them and I don't come across them anywhere else online, do you think I would like this one or is it hopelessly beyond me?

  7. Dearest I,

    you're welcome, hope it's not boring you out of your wits, all these obscure things. I just think they deserve a bit of airtime.
    And the old flacons are quite glamorous, who can argue with that?

    Hope you don't have too many things on your plate, although you know what they say: It's better to have lots to do than nothing!
    Trusting your day turns out beautiful :-)

  8. D, darling,

    they have taken a certain blow from critics and it's true that some of the oldies are now changed, but they're still better than many other releases, so...

    I believe on the whole although they don't quite fit me as easily as Guerlains, they present their own little artful mystery and it's one that's worth exploring in nuance still. :-)

    Glad the article provided pleasure. Hope you're having a great day!

  9. M,

    I wouldn't want to instill frustration, although I get a little "down" when I contemplate how many of these collectibles will never get a chance to be replenished, myself...
    It's a strange, yet interesting composition. Perhaps even more so because no literature on it existed till now.

  10. A,

    I have my connections with collectors, what can I say and I am quite determined when it's something I am looking for. :-)
    To be perfectly honest I don't think it would be your "thing" (I'm not even sure if it is mine either), but if it crosses your path by any chance, do give it a try. It poses its own little mystery and it's not that hard to pull off.

  11. Love your reviews and the visuals accompanying them. Keep them coming, they make me dream! Thanks so much for brightening my day!

  12. Malena19:17

    Dear E. :-)

    I really like most Carons, especially the urn fragrances (even so after their "re-formulation" they aren´t quite the same, but - as you already stressed - still better than alot of other scents).

    Reading about With Pleasure makes me sad that it´s disappeared long ago. Your review makes me think of a time when perfume was somewhat more sophisticated then nowadays. Of a time when no woman wanted to smell like fresh washed laundry or like baby powder ;-) It seems extremely sniff-worthy!

    The bottles look lovely as well, very precious.


  13. Rappleyea21:08

    Your trips through the halls of history are always such an interesting and enlightening read. Thank you!

    You know... I can see your book basically divided into four sections - the Perfumes, the Perfumers, the Places, the Past. I kind of like the alliteration.

    Just sayin'....

  14. Beautiful review! I never tried With Pleasure. It's rarely seen on ebay. la Fete des Roses, a rich damask rose, is another Caron I never tried and I'm curious about which I believe is easier to find than the aldehydic With Pleasure.

  15. Sue,

    aww, very sweet. Perfume does make us dream, doesn't it.

  16. C,

    thanks honey for your comment, you're absolutely right. They evoke another era and one that had a certain something special about perfume use: it was a ritual, not something you picked up to accessorize with. I like that concept, something that becomes you...
    The flacons look very precious and elegant. I wish I had them all in my collection! (one can dream, eh?)

    hope you're very well and summer is being great for you!

  17. D,

    you're giving me wonderful ideas, I might take you up on that alliteration! :-))

    Thanks for the support and glad my little research is enjoyable.

    I think you might like this one.

  18. Bijou,

    thanks for your kind words, much appreciated.
    I will take your nudge as a hint to go search for Fete des Roses, then! It's always interesting how several of the older Carons have disappeared only to peek from time to time thanks to collectors who have lovingly picked up the bread-crumps along the way.
    Let's hope that the Ales group tries to resurrect those old gems at some point, without ruining everything special they had about them ;-)

  19. Thank you for this! Caron is one of my top two favorite houses, along with Jean Patou (or at least that one's former glory)and I love virtually everything in the line. How I would love to try With Pleasure, along with other older ones on my Caron to-do life list, which may never be complete the way the vintage perfumes are being snapped up these days. (Tabac Noir is now haunting my dreams.)


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