Carnal Flower is the latest fragrance release from Frederic Malle Editions de Parfums. Perfumer Dominique Ropion reportedly spent more than 2 years perfecting the formula, and it is said to have the highest concentration of tuberose of any perfume on the market. Other notes include bergamot, melon, eucalyptus, ylang-ylang, jasmine, white musk cocktail, coconut, and orange blossom absolute.
Carnal Flower opens on heavy green notes, evoking the fragrance of crushed stems and leaves over mild citrus. As the tuberose begins to peek though, the green notes fade into camphor, but it is very soft; it warms and dulls the heady floral notes without calling attention to itself. Likewise, the notes that sounded so worrisome to me in the advance notices — the coconut, the melon, the Juicy Fruit gum that Frederic Malle mentioned as an inspiration — all are mere whispers, hardly worth the mention. It is only lightly fruity, and no more than lightly sweet, and far from the tropical hothouse floral (or frozen fruit drink served at a resort nightclub) that you might imagine something with tuberose, coconut and melon might be (and that fragrance has already been done plenty of times, thank you).
It is the tuberose itself here that shines, and even those who think they don’t like tuberose should give Carnal Flower serious consideration. Many people find tuberose a difficult note to wear. My two favorite tuberose fragrances, Piguet Fracas and Serge Lutens Tubéreuse Criminelle, both have strong personalities, and both have their share of detractors. I think of Fracas as bright, sparkling and mischievous; Tubéreuse Criminelle is at the opposite end of the spectrum — silky, cold and somewhat mysterious. On the wrong day, either fragrance can feel like it is wearing you instead of the other way around.
Carnal Flower makes less of a statement. Although it is not a light perfume by any means, it is rather quiet for a tuberose. It is not quite bright, not quite warm, but somewhere in between. It smells lush (and yes, rather sexy), but it doesn't scream about it the way that some white florals can. It might be just the kind of fragrance to convert a tuberose-hater.
It is stunningly beautiful, and another impressive release from a line that has yet to release a boring fragrance. It has not, so far, inspired in me the same kind of fanatical devotion that I feel towards Fracas or Tubéreuse Criminelle, but I imagine I will end up with a bottle eventually.
Carnal Flower is $155 for 50 ml and $230 for 100 ml. For buying information, see the listing for Frederic Malle under Perfume Houses.