Float Like a Butterfly, Sting Like a Bee: Caron Boutique – New York City

When I was nine, dad took my brother and I out of school to attend a pre-heavyweight boxing championship sparring match featuring Muhammad Ali, one of the greatest, if not THE greatest, boxer in history. I don’t know if my mom knew we played hooky that day and since she does not read this blog, we’ll continue to keep it a secret. Although I don’t remember much about the sparring session itself, I knew that it was a privilege for me to have seen Muhammad Ali and whenever his name or the sport of boxing comes up, I think of dad and that day.

As unusual as it sounds, boxing and perfumery have some things in common: Undina wore Serge Lutens Boxeuses (female boxers in French) to fortify her before meetings and won Round One (and I bet, all rounds thereafter). Lucas over at Chemist in the Bottle wrote a review of Atelier Cologne Santal Carmin, and described the bright red boxing gloves in the ad visual as a metaphor of fighting for his dreams. Coincidentally, I happen to enjoy these two perfumes and have full bottles in my collection!

What does this have to do with Caron? For me, the classic quote by Muhammad Ali “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee. The hands can’t hit what the eyes can’t see.” describes the textures of Caron, from the softness and barely there lightness of the down puff to the sharp spiciness of Bellodgia.

My fascination with House of Caron started a little over a year ago. My visit to the Caron boutique in New York City was prompted by reviews of Caron perfumes by Steve, blogger extraordinaire of The Scented Hound. I have never explored the brand and its perfumes; I did not even know there was a Caron boutique, the only one outside of Paris, in my own backyard! And so it was with eager anticipation that I arranged to meet a perfumista friend at the Caron boutique (715 Lexington Avenue @ 58th St. New York, NY 10022; 212-308-0270). To my surprise, my friend was waiting outside the building and she told me that the boutique closed early because of a private event at the Phyto Universe Spa, where the boutique was co-located. Determined to get the Caron experience, I went back the next day and have been back several times since then.

Hidden Caron Boutique

The boutique is on the 3rd floor of 715 Lexington, entrance on 58th Street (see an updated address in the end of the post). You will not see a Caron sign anywhere. You know you are at the right place when you see Phyto Universe. Go through the street level double door entrance; let the receptionist know you are going to the Caron boutique and head straight to the elevator to the 3rd floor. The elevator doors open to a waiting area and – TA-DA – the boutique is on the right.

If you can imagine angels heralding visually with crystals instead of blowing trumpets, it was exactly the feeling I got upon entering the boutique. The chandelier is perfectly centered between spotless right-angled mirrors and brightens the boudoir-like space. Six lion-head claw foot legs support a display counter filled with all sorts of accessories – Caron Picot travel sprays (colored glass, gold covered, Swarovski Crystal-studded in a myriad of colors), Limoges Egg perfume bottle holders, and weightless goose-down powder puffs.

Caron Boutique

Along one wall are a series of curio cabinets filled with more of the travel sprays, unusual perfume bottles and a scale model of the Baccarat Crystal urn that you can own if you have about $4,000 to spare. There are two tables with tester bottles of the Caron perfumes. Of the fragrances that are not dispensed through the urns, my favorites are: Aimez-Moi, Parfum Sacre and Montaigne. Some of the perfumes come in unusual bottles, such as the one for Lady Caron that has a cutout of the head of the Statue of Liberty on the face of the bottle and a pointed cap to represent the crown. The Caron website has several more limited editions that are worth a look.

The iconic Baccarat crystal urns are presented on top of marble pedestals at various heights, and, together with their reflection on the mirrors, makes it look like there’s double the number of urns than in reality. Take a guess at how many urns are displayed!

Caron Boutique

To satisfy my curiosity as to how the urns dispense perfume into a flacon, I decided to purchase a Caron Picot travel spray in my favorite green color. I chose N’aimez-que Moi for this experience. If you look at the gold band on the lower third of the urn, you’ll see a spigot and a swan’s head/neck. With the opening of the flacon directly beneath the center of the swan’s head, a turn of the spigot opens the tap, filling the container. Seeing my travel spray filled with haute couture perfume gave me a thrill. If I have an unlimited budget, I would probably want one of each of the urn perfumes but I want to be there when they’re filled to experience the thrill over and over again.

Caron N'aimez-que Moi

The Caron boutique is a must-see when you’re in New York City. Caron perfumes are not widely distributed and you’ll be glad you visited. For an in-depth write-up on the House of Caron, see The House of Caron: Love, War and Perfume in Fragrantica written by Michelyn Camen.

***

To continue her enabling ways, hajusuuri offers a giveaway. There will be two winners; each will get one of two sets. Set 1: samples of Caron perfumes; Set 2: a sample of vintage Caron Bellodgia extrait, a sample of Serge Lutens Boxeuses AND a 4 mL decant of Atelier Cologne Santal Carmin. This giveaway is open to everyone worldwide. The giveaway is open until 11:59PM PST on May 2, 2015. The winners will be chosen via random.org separately for each set and announced in the next statistics post. Please note that neither Undina nor hajusuuri is responsible for replacing the samples and decants if they were to get lost or damaged.

To be entered answer the question below AND tell in what country you live.

If you do not want to participate in the draws, there’s no need mentioning the country where you live but please answer the question below for Undina’s statistics post.

We’re polling only your perception, there is no right or wrong answer so no need to run any research, do a real count or see what others have answered:

How many perfumes do you think Caron has currently in production (in all lines)?

Caron Boutique

 

Images: hajusuuri

UPDATE: (4/9/16) New address for the boutique:

One Grand Central Place
60 E 42 St  54fl
New York, New York 10165

212-308-0270
877-88-CARON

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“New York, New York, it’s a wonderful town!”

 

As I’ve mentioned before, I love New York. Every time I go there I feel with utter clarity how much I miss living in a big city.

This time the weather wasn’t the best possible: the temperature dropped significantly the next day after we arrived; then there was a showering rain; it was cloudy and cool for several days and it got a little warmer by the end of our stay there with sun teasing us on the day of the departure. But we were mostly prepared for the weather and it didn’t prevent us from enjoying all the planned activities, of which there were plenty but since it’s a, more or less, perfume blog I want to highlight fragrant parts of my vacation.

I’ll start with saying a big thank you to Robin, Birgit and Gaia who created New York perfume shopping guides: it really helps to know where to look for which brand. If you plan a trip read through those posts, make yourself a list of everything you want to visit (with addresses) and try (with names) – you’ll be glad you did.

Slow down...

To Barney’s I went only to test newly available exclusive line of Serge Lutens perfumes (everything else is available at Barneys SF). All SAs I met there were very friendly and not pushy at all. I walked away with samples of two perfumes I liked the most (out of those I haven’t tried before) – Rose de nuit and Fourreau noir. I would have bought a bottle (one of  several that I want to add to my collection eventually) but why on earth has somebody decided to charge almost twice for those bell jars in the US?!! How does the price 130 EUR including VAT translate into $300 PLUS tax?!! Stupid rich Americans who would eat up anything? I refuse to do that. I’d rather give business to Suzan who charges just 10% on top.

At Bloomingdale’s Chanel‘s SA who was very proud of their perfume testing system – an Olfactive Bar (a mirrored table top with porous ceramic rods immersed into vials with different perfumes), in reply to my question if they had a test rod for Bois des Iles in parfum concentration, told me that 1) it smells exactly the same as EdC concentration; 2) because it wouldn’t have been an Exclusifs if it hadn’t smelled the same; 3) it was created by Jacques Polge and … At this point I told him “Thank you” and left.

The Unseen Censer was a great company for a perfume sniffing at MiN NY. Unfortunately for our visit we chose the day when they held a launch of three perfumes for the new brand – Jul et Mad. I say “unfortunately” because my vSO was promised a comfortable couch where he would be able to relax after our almost six hours stroll through the lower Manhattan while we would do our best to sniff through as many new perfumes as perfumista-ly possible… Instead of it my faithful companion had to spend an hour standing next to the wall and reading his smartphone in a crowd of people having great time. I hope strong cocktails served by nice people from MiN helped a little but I felt bad and we left a little earlier than I’d wanted to (and before I realized how much I liked one of the three Jul et Mad’s perfumes Amour de Palazzo and thought of asking for a sample). Also I think I fell in love with one perfume… But it’s too early to talk about it, I need more time.

Bergdorf Goodman NY

I didn’t plan to go to Bergdorf Goodman but it just happened on our way so I decided to check out Ramon Monegal. They had only seven perfumes from the line. When I asked a SA who was eager to help me with the brand if they had the other 7 somewhere else she was surprised by the fact that I knew about the brand and told me that they didn’t have the complete line. But when I expressed my regret that they didn’t have two perfumes that I wanted to try (Impossible Iris and Cuirelle) she answered me, with a smidgen of indignation, that those seven were the best sellers in the world. Oh well, I shouldn’t be upset if my tastes aren’t aligned with the rest of the world, should I? I didn’t feel like testing any of the seven they had on skin.

On the positive note, SA at By Kilian counter was very nice and even made me samples of three new perfumes from In the Garden of Good and Evil collection. The bottles and the box are as beautiful as they are on pictures. Now I need to test perfumes. My first impression: it doesn’t make much sense to test these three on paper; at least on my skin they developed very different from what I smelled on blotters.

At Saks I finally got to try Bois des Iles in both concentrations. What can I say? They don’t smell the same. But I still don’t know which one I should buy first. I got some other interesting samples there but it’ll be another story.

The last stop on my perfume journey was Henri Bendel. You wouldn’t know it by looking at their website but they have a very impressive and unique perfume selection. I didn’t have much time (I’d tested my vSO’s angelic patience more than enough by then) so I concentrated mostly on Huitième Art – the line I kept reading about but had never tested before. It is a very nice line! I didn’t test any of the perfumes on skin but found at least three I want to – Manguier Metisse, Ciel d’Airain and Ambre Ceruleen.

I haven’t bought any perfumes on my trip (traveling with just carry-on luggage helps fighting sudden perfume urges) but I think there will be at least a couple that will join my collection in future and I’ll associate them with this wonderful trip.

Have I mentioned how understanding and accommodating my vSO was? I have? I just want to say it again because I appreciate it very much. BTW, it was him who on our plane trip to NY pointed out that cartoon above from the New Yorker magazine.

NY Lady Gaga perfume ad 

Images: first one from New Yorker; the rest – my own.

A Postcard from Undina: From New York with love

From NY with love

When I saw these billboards just off Times Square I felt some significance in the fact that these were for two my favorite TV shows at the moment, one of which takes place in California where I live and the second one – in New York where I spent the last week. I love-love-love New York! Once I unpack and spend some quality time with Rusty I’ll write up some of the perfume-related impressions from my wonderful vacation.

How have you been? Do you watch any TV shows? If yes, what are your favorite ones?

 

Undina

 

Image: my own