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Sweet Smells of Success

Black Friday 2018

The day is indeed dark, cold and windy with rain coming down in California-sized buckets. My Black Friday became reality early this afternoon as I spritzed upon my naked neck and shoulders the beginning of the end of the last half-bottle of Nuit de Noël. I might not ever again have a chance to own this sublime fragrance.

A bit of perfume history shall suffice for this funereal moment.

In THE DAWN, the mother of Camille used the Caron perfume named Nuit de Noël. As I wrote this novel, in 2009, I decided to go along with the flow of my writing, in the sense of scent, and wear this Caron creation in the EdT formulation — starting on the day after Thanksgiving and ending on Christmas Eve. The routine thereafter became a sweet olfactory tradition for me.

Purchasing the small bottle online had not been a problem. Back in the deepest days of the Great Recession, buying anything online was not a problem. In fact, Americans were exhorted to buybuybuybuybuy online, offline, anywhere, not just at holiday time, but all-year-round.

Somehow, the nation was expected to get out of the recession the way it had gotten into it. Charge it!!!!

My spending habits are mostly frugal, but I do enjoy fine china, fine fabric, fine leather handbags, and fine perfume. I am told that my fineries are very fine. And as Coco Chanel once said, “A woman who doesn’t wear perfume, has no future.”

I didn’t really have that future until after the birth of my first child, a boy, when I purchased my first perfume, Ombre Rose by Jean Charles Brosseau. I still wear this scent, lovingly, in the eau de toilette that, to me, has a softer allure. I think of Ombre Rose as the scent that sent me to my future.

By the year 2000 I felt womanly enough to approach Chanel No. 5. I went to the upscale department store and gave it a whiff but felt indifferent about it. I then sniffed Coco and fell in love with it. I enthusiastically purchased the EdT which my skin seems to prefer to parfum in most fragrances.

During the ensuing decade, I did not give a thought to purchasing any of the Fruit-Loop-Flower-Bomb-juices sold as perfumes to the younger masses that demanded womanhood by 20 or so. When I discovered Nuit de Noël, however, the sensation was worthy of narrative prose notation in the draft of my novel.

It was a happy coincidence of a woman meeting an essence that was redolent of her past, her present, and her future. And now, it seems, there is no future for the House of Caron. Caron blew it. Big-time.

Financial mismanagement and the slavish chase after those Niche Markets took their toll on a French perfume house that is 114 years old. Caron is experiencing “financial restructuring”. In plain English, it’s on the chopping block, for sale, to who knows?

The hoarders of vintage perfumes are out in force. Exorbitantly overpriced counterfeit bottles of Nuit de Noël, probably filled with bug spray, now populate Evil Bay and other sites where scent-hounds sniff out those no-longer-available perfumes.

In my Winter 2014 post on “The Discipline of Art,” I featured a photo of my perfume tray. In the rear section, there is the bottle of Caron’s Nuit de Noël that I have very sparingly used since that winter. When I realized sometime during the spring of 2016 that the perfume was no longer available, I decided to completely forego the winter scent tradition that year, and in 2017.

This Christmas season, however, come what may, I intend to use up the balance of a classic, my classic. It may be that a company like Coty will buy Caron, and wreck it. François Coty is also featured in THE DAWN; his story alone could fill a book, and not of fiction!

Maybe a snow-angel investor will decide that the company that created Nuit de Noël, along with Pour Un Homme, is worthy of rescue and rehabilitation.

It’s been a long haul for Parisian businesses since the Fall of France. But, as we've seen:  Miracles can happen!

23 March 2021

Nuit de Noel Update or The Rothschilds Redemption

Les Parfums Caron, the House of Caron, was founded in Paris in 1904 by Ernest Daltroff. This business has been through the perfume wringer, ever since its founder, a Frenchman of Russian Jewish heritage, fled his own parfum house in 1939, during the Phoney War. Daltroff journeyed to New York City, arriving in early 1940 on board The Manhattan. He registered at Ellis Island, never to return to France. Ernest Daltroff died in New York in 1941 at the age of 73.

His assistant and muse, Félicité Wanpouille; and the perfumer he’d trained, Michel Morsetti, took charge of his company which remained in Paris. The Nazis plundered this private enterprise; Vichy taxed it almost out of existence.

Caron made it through the war and prospered during the post-war economies of Europe, the United States and other capitalist countries. In 1962, however, Félicité Wanpouille, the woman superbly at the helm of this scent-ship, retired. The House of Caron was sold to a French company that proceeded to part out the salons and cheapen the brand. Caron nonetheless remained in French hands, despite offers, lucrative ones, to sell the prestigious perfume house to Americans. A new and brilliant manager arrived on the Parisian scene and re-directed this company to its origins of quality and elegance. Unfortunately, a merger-acquisition in 1986 put an end to that renaissance of the House of Caron.

This venerable fragrance house was sold once again, and then yet again, in 1997, to Ales Groupe, a cosmetics and fragrance company based in Paris. (The rate at which some small companies are bought and sold, and bought and sold, among globalist corporations becomes only more dizzying with the passage of time and the onslaught of multi-national corporate behemoths.)

Some of the original Caron fragrances were modernized through formulation changes that, in my book, are often for the better. I vastly prefer a synthetic scent to real secretions from a civet. Other animalistic and floral ingredients were replaced by cheaper alternatives as the supplies of jasmine and other fragrance essences were too negatively affected by the always-changing factor known as weather (not climate). Weather is one constant that constantly jeopardizes any farmer or cultivator or even gardener.

The ever-increasing EU regulations have been blamed for any alteration in a popular perfume, but I think those modifications are due more to economics and to an attempt by perfume manufacturers to blend vintage odeurs with modern tastes. It’s also possible that the perfumer wants to add his or her two scents to the olfactory recipe.

Caron is a perfume house that stuck with its Old-World, and Old Hollywood, fragrances for a very long time, in the face of financial chaos and uncertainties. I only discovered the brand through research for THE DAWN. My love for the perfume, Nuit de Noel, undoubtedly is inspired by the history of my novel, but also by the bold and luxurious blends of aromas that evoke wondrous emotions. It’s been said that with Guerlain, the accords mesh; with Caron, they do not, permitting the skin of the wearer to create and grant order to the sensual magic.

When I learned during the summer of 2018 that the House of Caron was once again on the sales chopping block, I pretty much gave it up for dead and gone, at least in terms of the fragrances that had been. Coty, Inc., or, even worse, Proctor and Gamble, would scoop up the parfum company, raid it for its formulas, and promptly turn them to liquid Raid.

How cynically wrong I was!

Today, I learned that Ales Groupe sold the House of Caron at the end of 2018 to Cattelya Finance of Luxembourg. This investment and finance holding company is owned by Benjamin and Ariane de Rothschild. It appears that the Rothschilds have kept Parfums Caron in France. They have begun to revive and rejuvenate the business.

Vetiver Hand Sanitizer is not my first choice of a Caron scent. I already own a vintage bottle of Montaigne, purchased at slasher sale about five years ago. And I have found a very reasonably priced bottle of Caron Royal Bain de Champagne, a name that, in 1993, was changed to Royal Bain de Caron because of a lawsuit over the use of the name, Champagne. Can a fairly-priced bottle of Nuit de Noël be very far away . . .?

After fighting off Nazis and lawyers, Caron survived to offer redemption to the family Rothschild. Never mind the bad-mouthing of those bankers: they kept the House of Caron in Western Europe. There really is a Père Noël after all.