Caron’s Royal Bain de Caron (1941)

Royal Bain de Caron © Victor Wong
Royal Bain de Caron © Victor Wong

Why did they name it “Royal Bane”? What’s a “Royal Bane”? Like the character Tyrion Lannister in the book Game of Thrones? Then I realized it’s “Royal Bain”, which is French and it means Royal Bath. I read it from another fragrance group that if you pour it in your bathwater and you will come out smelling like a king.

I discovered Royal Bain in a local, kind of dowdy, perfume shop in a hot summer day. I loosened the splash bottle faux-gold cap and took a sniff – it smelled delicious (not like fruit juice, but more like rosewater) and I wanted to drink it. I was very thirsty and I admit there was a small struggle in my head, and the champagne-shaped bottle overflown with golden juice was looking at me like a terrified anthropomorphic M&M candy.

Royal Bain de Caron smells very mellow and light floral (I think it’s mostly lilac), and quite sweet (lots of resins and vanilla) but at the same time a little metallic. I think it also has some aldehyde in the formula that makes it invigorating. Unlike Caron’s more famous and much richer and darker “Fleurs de Rocaille” and “Narcisse Noir”, I imagine Royal Bain from 1941 was probably a daytime scent for the middle-class French white collar workers (a small splash on the face and off to work) or an occasional little luxury bath time/bedtime scent. To me, it’s rather unsophisticated, but not simple and single-noted, and it definitely has that vintage French perfume smell, and it is surprisingly unisex. The label with the “royal” design is very interesting, but the monotone printing on a simple white label inevitably makes me think it’s an effort to make it look expensive in the 50s, but in fact, it’s for designed for the general public like Old Spice.

Caron’s Parfum Fleurs de Rocaille (1934)

Caron Parfum Fleurs de Rocaille © Victor Wong
Caron Parfum Fleurs de Rocaille © Victor Wong

I know there are a lot of fans of Caron vintage perfumes for women, and they always lament the watered-down or disfigured modern reformulations. I have read enough negative comments to avoid, blindly, all reformulations for women from Caron (updated Caron’s perfumes for men don’t seem to have suffered much at all), and also partly due to the relatively reasonable prices of the vintage versions you can still find on eBay.

One particularly Caron fragrance that caught my attention was “Fleurs de Rocaille” (1934). Note the plural, “Fleurs”. People always say, don’t buy “Fleur de Rocaille”, buy “FleurS de Rocaille”, just like the movies “Alien” and “Aliens” are two different things. Well, “Fleurs de Rocaille” had me at the packaging. I absolutely adore the colourful, almost folksy bouquet illustration on the box and perfume stopper. I wish I can find a poster of that illustration and hang it on my wall.

Only one aspect of the scent of Fleurs de Rocaille is surprising to me, which is its “dirtiness”, otherwise, it smells perfectly of the similar vintage perfumes from that era, such as Arpege. According to Fragrantica, Fluers de Rocaille has a lot of flower notes, such as jasmine, rose, lilac, ylang, but I guess it’s the carnation/violet/musks combo that makes it super spicy and funky. May be aging has something to do with it too.

Imagine, you are sitting by the sea, the golden shimmering reflections of the waves illuminating your face. Slightly startled by a beautiful, fragrant bouquet of flowers brought to you quietly from behind, you involuntarily have a big smile on your face; you turn around to find out who the thoughtful one is, and it’s a smelly baboon showing his love to you.

[After wearing a few more times: The dirtiness is a bit exaggerated, but it’s still a rich, dark, ambery and heavy floral perfume.]

Caron’s Narcisse Noir (1911) & Nuit De Noel (1922)

Caron Nuit De Noel & Narcisse Noir
© Victor Wong

Luca Thurin gave 5-star rating to a few Caron perfumes for men but almost abysmal ratings to the ones for women. I think he actually liked the vintage versions, but the recent cheap reformulation made them horrible.

Interestingly, perfume review site Boise de Jasmin’s gave a few vintage Caron perfumes for women 4 or 5 stars reviews. I started looking for Caron perfumes for women and couldn’t find them anywhere in Toronto until today…that unsuspecting shop not only have Carons, but old Carons, so old that the bottles are quite ugly.

The scents of Narcisse Noire (1911) and Nuit De Noel (1922) really smell vintage with animalistic and oak moss base notes. The flower notes are almost irrelevant supporting actors. It’s definitely interesting to know what women smelled like 100 years ago.