A sharp and edgy citrus chypre, Alpona, a 1939 Caron urn fragrance had no chance in today's IFRA-regulated world and was discontinued a few years ago. Until the first time I smelled Alpona my reference perfume in this category was O de Lancome, which I've always found screechy and unrefined until late into its dry-down when oakmoss takes over. But this is a Caron, so you know you will not find Lemon Pledge here.
The pedigree of Alpona is evident from the very first notes, where the characteristic Caron rose is woven into the citrus opening. It's elegant and very perfumy, for better and for worse; definitely not what young Sephora shoppers would recognize as a fresh citrus fragrance. And that's a very good thing. Wearing Alpona is instantly transforming- clothes are more elegant, there's no reality TV and you're never stuck in traffic on the Turnpike (actually, the NJ Turnpike doesn't exist in Caron's universe).
Looking at the list of notes (via the Perfumed Court): lemon, grapefruit, bergamot, rose, orange, jasmine, orchid, thyme, patchouli, myrrh, cedar, sandalwood, musk and oakmoss, this is full of what the bureaucrats consider skin allergen and perfume lovers see and smell as beauty. The combination of rose and oakmoss adds a lot of complexity to a blend that could have been nothing more than L'Eau d'Issey. Instead, Alpona dries down into a soft mossy musk, a bit furry and animalic (my husband insists he smells honey on my skin) and just a little leathery- think a kinder, gentler vintage Cabochard. IFRA really owes us for making Caron discontinue this gem.
Both images appeared originally at Harper's Bazaar. The first is the 1939 ad for Alpona prior to its debut in the French Pavillion at the NY World Fair (vintageadbrowser.com). The second is a fashion photograph by Louise Dahl-Wolfe featuring model Mary Jane Russel, 1952 (myvintagevogue.com).