I recall my mother growing sweetpeas when I was a child; I do not, however, have any recollection of what they smelled like, which is odd because back then I made a point of sniffing any and every flower with which I came in contact. I would have to say that it probably doesn't matter much whether Pois de Senteur de Chez Moi smells like sweetpeas or not. The overall affect is not one of a particular flower but rather that of an abstract floral aesthetic representation of an ideal.
While some less inquiring minds would dismiss this fragrance as an "old lady" scent, I think that "nostalgic" is more to the point. Yes, the fragrance is "old" in the sense of its long history and thus best described as a classic Modernist perfume, albeit not a typical one. It has little or nothing to do with the age of the wearer; rather, it has much to do with the wearer's outlook on life. When I call it "nostalgic," I am describing a sense of longing for a time past, turned to shades of sepia in the memory, in this dusty floral.
This was my impression, at least, on first applying PdS. I didn't notice the typical aldehydic "blast" so typical of many (perhaps most) Carons, just a pleasant and powdery (if not particularly sexy) floral. After twenty to thirty minutes, however, it transmuted into something less admirable. If I were to bring my wrist to close to my nose, I experienced a rather rancid smell that is more prominent in Caron's Infini, so prominent that I can't wear that fragrance. Some have called it the "plastic flower" note. I have yet to figure out what note is behind this. Still, if I kept my wrists away from my face, I could discern a pleasant, almost interesting floral nothing like the nastiness on my wrists.
A significant transformation took place once I had to make a late-night run to the grocery store. After stepping out into the hot and humid air of a Long Island summer, I was increasingly aware of a certain spiciness developing and manifesting itself when I exerted myself physically. This was the most pleasurable phase of all. I'd be hard pressed to call this a floral oriental, still some slightly oriental qualities made themselves known--probably the sandalwood and cedar. Within a few hours, though, it wound itself down into a pleasant, unobtrusive floral that was still with me when I woke up the following morning.
Considering that my sample was a parfum, I must say that Pois de Senteur is one of the less exciting or intense examples of Caron's urn fragrances. The sillage is moderate, yet the endurance is quite good. Despite some ambiguity in my experience with it, it's a beautifully crafted fragrance in the old high style, and I cannot give it any less than a thumbs up.
Top notes: Hyacinth, tincture of rose and cyclamen
Middle notes: Jasmine and lily-of-the-valley
Base notes: Musk, sandalwood, virginia cedar, vanille and lime.
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Years ago I was working out a swap with someone and I randomly asked for a sample of Les Pois e Senteur de Chez Moi, knowing nothing about it. At the time I wasn't really able to appreciate or grasp its artistry so I filed it away with other Caron vintage samples "to be explored later". A few months later, chatting with my father I learned that my grandmother's one and only perfume was Caron Pois de Senteur. I brought him the sample and my father got teary eyed, the strong olfactory connection triggering memories of his mother. From that point I began my search for a true vintage bottle even though it is still available from Caron boutiques as an urn parfum. Apparently it's a very good seller.
During the months I spent searching for a bottle I caught the vintage perfume bug and have explored the classics of the 20s and 30s, gaining appreciation and context for Pois de Senteur itself. Analyzing PdS, it is a gorgeous ambery floriental - very lush and very full. On opening a sweet but mild amber is immediately noticeable. Amber is soon joined by a delicate melange of floral notes. I've never sought out a note list but I detect rose, jasmine, and I believe lilac - all of which lay under a soft blanket of powdery iris. I may be off with these notes, but what I can definitely attest to is that the floral accord is wonderfully balanced and well blended such that no particular note stands out. There's also a resinous, sticky feel to PdS and I wouldn't be surprised if there's some opoponax in there along with the amber. The floral and amber notes are present throughout the life of the fragrance. From late topnotes through the midnotes the florals stand out a bit more and amber becomes more prominent in the base. Having sought out bottles for some time and having purchase bottles that turned out to have perfume that had turned, I can attest to the fact that different bottles age quite differently. In my searches I've come across 'perfect' examples of this perfume. In its perfect form, PdS gives off tremendous sillage with just a couple drops on the wrist, and longevity easily reaches near 24 hours, with floral/amber aroma hints wafting off the skin for even longer. (note - a common problem with Pois seems to be that it 'thickens' over time, damaging the topnotes and leaving a very amber-heavy base.)
To analyze this perfume in its proper historical context one can immediately recognize how it competed with the original Coty Emeraude and Guerlain Shalimar, the former being closer in aroma to Pois because of its amber/vanilla sweetness. This is a gorgeous, classic floriental in the grand classical French style. If you're not familiar with vintage perfumery and you sample PdS it's probably not going to come off as the show-stopper I'm describing. For those into vintage perfumery I strongly suggest seeking out a true vintage sample.
As I write this, in front of me sits a sealed, mint condition 1920s Baccarat flacon of Pois de Senteur (complete with original box) - the spoils of years of hunting. Both the beauty of the perfume and the connection to my grandmother place it among the most prized bottles in my collection. (Thumbs up)
I admit, this was not love at first sniff. Deep gold brown liquid is this. Opened up gassy ,like petroleum and powder. Rose ,jasmine and earth, deep,heavy and lasting. Quite vintage in smell. I believe this has now been discontinued. It's an acquired taste for sure.
For those seeking an authentic sweet pea fragrance, you can safely give this a miss. Like many old-fashioned florals, this is more of a perfumey, abstract floral than something that smells like an actual flower of some kind. The florals are more vibrant initially, just the faintest hint of pineapple edge on rose jasmine, more so rose, and very, very powdery; the latter quality increasing with each hour. It's a very heavy fragrance, almost waxy in some ways. I this sense, the only fragrance I can directly compare it to is Amouage's Gold for women.
It's deep and nuanced, to be sure, but I can't help but feel it's one of less distinctive Caron parfums, and the potential dark intrigue innate to most of the urn parfums is safely tucked away under a dowdy blanket of floral talc.
This is a scent that is all about Sweet pea, which Daltroff tried to recreate with various other white flowers. Whether or not he succeeded i'm not sure, as i've never smelled Sweetpea, but I do know this smells very similar to Mona di Orio's Oiro (also a sweetpea fragrance).
Both perfumes are 'dusty' and grainy, as if you were smelling the heart of the flower through a box left in the attic for a few decades. By no means is this a bad thing, it's just unique thing if you are used to the in-your-face, no-mystery-here traditional florals. I.e, sweetpea is a more of a dry,earthy scent.
At the three hour mark this morphs into something very intoxicating. It rounds out into a fragrant, diffusive halo that has a slight sharpness to it. That would be the lime, btw, which is a brilliant addition here, as it keeps the dry down from getting too heavy.
Parting thoughts: i think this is more for the connoisseur; someone who's been walking off the beaten fragrant path for awhile and has acquired a taste for the more 'interesting' scents. This is just not a Britney Spears kind of floral. It is an Edith Piaf kind of floral. It is also a floral I will be adding to my collection.