Notes: eucalyptus, tuberose, orange blossom, melon, coconut, jasmine, ylang-ylang, bergamot, and musk.
I ordered a decant of Carnal Flower this past January. I had come to terms with Portrait of a Lady, and I decided it was time to get acquainted with the other grand dame floral of Monsieur Malle’s collection. I don’t know what possessed me to try and wear a huge white floral during one of our coldest winters ever, but that’s what I did. Reader, it did not go well. I found Carnal Flower strange. Unappealing, even. The eucalyptus was sharp and unpleasant. The composition never seemed to settle into my skin in the cold weather. I couldn’t understand the popularity of this fragrance at all. I just didn’t get it.
In terms of tuberose scents, I’ve been wearing Diptyque’s Do Son EDT. It’s light, ethereal and very pretty. It gets along with my skin chemistry in both cold and warm weather. A little voice in the back of my mind told me to save the rest of my Carnal Flower decant for the summer. Lately, when I have the urge to wear Do Son, I instead spritz on some Carnal Flower and it’s working much, much better. The eucalyptus and bergamot are present, but are not so unpleasantly sharp. In the humidity, both notes bring a welcome green presence.
Carnal Flower is not a huge white floral on me at first spritz. The tuberose takes its time to develop. It comes into full bloom about an hour into wear time, which is when it really seems to settle and meld with my skin. It’s not as lovely or ethereal as Do Son. The tuberose of Carnal Flower has more of a texture to it, more substance. Dominique Ropion apparently added a huge dose of tuberose absolute to the composition, which doesn’t surprise me. The white floral here isn’t dirty to my nose. The sensual or carnal aspect here comes from the tuberose melding with the skin. It’s a wholly sensory experience. The tuberose texture smells and feels so substantial, it’s as though you could reach out and touch the flower petals.
I was a bit wary of the coconut in this composition. Coconut is a trendy ingredient and note these days. (Although it wasn’t when Carnal Flower was first launched in 2005.) It feels like coconut is in every new fragrance release and it’s just too sunscreen-y for me. However, I think it’s a nice supporting player here. It works well in the transition from full bloom heart notes to the dry down. The ylang-ylang also becomes noticeable, bringing a creamy yellow custard vibe, which blends well with the milky coconut.
I was also wary of the white musk base, which is a favorite of Ropion’s. It just doesn’t always play nicely with my skin, and I suspect it’s a big reason Carnal Flower didn’t work for me in cold weather. My skin chemistry and my nose are much more receptive to this dry down in warm, humid weather. I personally prefer a dry, cedar-like base, but I understand that that type of base wouldn’t suit this composition. The creamy, delicious tuberose heart note is my favorite part of this composition, but I recognize that the musk base works in harmony with the rest of Carnal Flower’s structure.
I have yet to add a bottle from Frédéric Malle’s oeuvre to my collection. I’m glad that he has added travel sprays. If I were to add a Malle, it would be either Superstitious or the lovely Eau de Magnolia, which I feel is underrated. I don’t feel the need to splurge for Carnal Flower. Perhaps I would if I lived in Miami or a climate where it would suit the mood year round, but it doesn’t make sense for me currently. The good thing is that I feel I understand Carnal Flower better now. I’m glad that I ordered a decant of this so that I could save it and give it some serious summer wear testing.
Has a similar thing ever happened to any of you? Do you tend to change your opinion as you test a fragrance, or does your first impression usually remain unchanged?
I ordered my decant from The Perfumed Court. Nothing in this post is gifted or sponsored.
The list of notes is via Fragrantica.
The image is one of Monet’s Nymphéas. This particular work belongs to LACMA Collections. Apparently, it’s not currently on public view, but the image has been made available to the public via LACMA’s website.