There's a moment during the development of Caron's 1947 classic Farnesiana that I suddenly get it. The mimosa note, sunny and golden, comes out and it's beautiful. What happens next depends on what version and vintage of Farnesiana you have on your hands. I remember an older sample I had that was dark and held a certain mystery. My current decant of extrait de parfum is new and I'm not too crazy about it for reasons I'll mention below. However, I've drained the old sample a couple of years ago so this is just from a memory that might be somewhat gilded; yet I know that I loved it and didn't even remotely think this was a flat version of L'Heure Bleue.
I'm a Guerlain girl but have a healthy appreciation of Caron. The version of Farnesiana in front of me is very powdery, almondy with a touch of anise. The mimosa note is there briefly, but it's somehow frothy and airy and not as complex and rich as I remember. Then there's the heliotrope-almond-anise which should be bleue and melancholy, but somehow it's not. Instead, I get all powder all the time and not nearly as romantic as it needs to be. Farnesiana goes up in a fluffy and soft musk that's pleasant enough but isn't too interesting.
The comparison to L'Heure Bleue doesn't do this version of Caron's Farnesiana any favors. The classic Guerlain is sexy while Farnesiana is scrubbed clean and then powdered within an inch of its life. It reminds me of the old adage about gentlemen buying Caron perfumes for their wives and Guerlain for the mistresses. If these are the only options in front of them, then there might be something to this generalization. Now, don't get me wrong: Farnesiana is perfectly nice even in this version, and lovers of powdered almond pastry could do far worse. It just doesn't ring my bell quite as intensely as I hoped.
Notes: Cassie, Mimosa, Bergamot, Jasmine, Lilly of the Valley, Violet, Lilac, Cassie, Opoponax, Vanilla, Sandalwood, Musk, Heliotrope.
Caron Farnesiana in extrait de parfum ($100, 7.5ml) is now available from Luckyscent. There's also a new EDP version that I haven't tried.
Image: Caron Farnesiana 1947 ad via hprints.com.