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The Rich Heritage of Parfums Caron
Beautifully bottled, exquisitely composed, and finely balanced. These are the hallmarks of the fragrances produced by Parfums Caron. They create perfumes for both men and women, and they are one of the last perfume houses to keep a ‘nose’ in-house – Richard Fraysse. This is one of the very few perfume houses that is still about perfume, rather than fashion or celebrity.
The Origins of Parfums Caron
Earnest Daltroff had no formal training in creating perfumes. He had no real experience in the business, whatsoever. What he did have was a nose beyond compare and a love for perfumes given to him by his mother. He created a perfume house in 1904 with little more than a few dreams and some elemental essences.
A great partnership was born when he hired Felicie Wanpouille, a former dressmaker. Wanpouille provided the artistic elements involved in perfume making, namely the bottles and the boxes that would carry the fragrances created by Daltroff. More than that, she became his muse, the motivation for his creativity. There were persistent rumors that Daltroff was deeply in love with Wanpouille, but if so, he never publicly declared such. Whatever the truth, their relationship was the source of some of the greatest and most-loved perfumes of the 20th century.
The first breakthrough fragrance from the pair was Narcisse Noir, created in 1911. It would eventually appear in the film “Sunset Boulevard”, used by none other than the great Gloria Swanson. The 1916 fragrance called N’Aimez Que Moi, which is “love no one but me” in English, is still believed to be the expression of the secret love between Daltroff and Wanpouille. It came out just in time for soldiers of the Great War to give to their sweethearts before they went off to war. Then came Tabac Blonde in 1919. This was a fragrance for the post-war modern woman, the kind who didn’t mind scandalizing the public by doing such things as smoking in public.
The first renowned fragrance of Parfums Caron, Narcisse Noir, is still sold today. It includes common notes like rose, musk, vetiver, jasmine, and sandalwood, but included a rare (for then) note, giving it a surprising sweetness. This fresh and fruity perfume is an Earnest Daltroff original, still composed the same way it was when he first created it in 1911.
Narcisse Blanc, white to the black of Noir, is a floral variation on the first fragrance, launched in 1923. As is the case with all the Caron fragrances of the era, this was also composed by Earnest Daltroff. It opens with neroli, orange blossom, petitgrain, and orange; the heart is tincture of rose and lime, and jasmine; it finishes with musk, sandalwood, vetiver, amber, and iris.
The somewhat controversial Tabac Blond was launched in 1919. This was a fragrance for those women who flouted convention by publicly smoking cigarettes. In Paris of that era, it was a sign of liberation for a woman to have a cigarette – it meant she was modern. In celebration of that, Tabac Blonde is made with notes normally ascribed to a men’s fragrance, like leather, vanilla, and tobacco. It was definitely an unusual, smoky perfume, especially for a woman of the early 20th century.
The Passing of the Torch
The start of World War II was the end of the Daltroff era in Parfums Caron. Daltroff, as a Jew, was force to flee to America to escape the threat of the Nazis. The company was left with Felicie Wanpouille, who knew more about how to keep Caron vibrant and alive than anyone else. Daltroff was never able to make it back to Europe and died in 1947.
Wanpouille did not let Caron fade. Instead, she hired other perfumers and continued to design bottles and boxes for the company, overseeing what her good friend had left behind until her own passing in 1967.
The company was purchased by Patrick Ales in 1998, a man who shared a passion for roses with the esteemed founder of Parfums Caron. Today, the perfume house is under the watch of Romain Ales, and still offers the same perfumes created by Earnest Daltroff so many years ago, many of them in packaging designed by Felicie Wanpouille. Caron still has its own in-house ‘nose’ to develop new perfumes, Richard Fraysse, something few modern perfume houses can claim today.