Perfume review: Carnal Flower by Frederic Malle

Tuberoses

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.

Frederic Malle Carnal Flower fragrance

Carnal Flower is $155 for 50 ml and $230 for 100 ml. For buying information, see the listing for Frederic Malle under Perfume Houses.


Shop for perfume

FragranceNetParfums Raffy

53 Comments

Leave a comment, or read more about commenting at Now Smell This.

  1. Anonymous says:

    Robin

    How would you say that this compares with Do Son?

  2. Anonymous says:

    Hi Robin,I am happy to be reading this as I happen to love Carnal Flower very much!I like Fracas but it just seems soooo intense.This one is more fresh,green and lighter to me.If you can see yourself getting one of these,you're $20.00 shy of getting that L'Artisan Fleur d'Oranger,lol!!

  3. Anonymous says:

    It is nothing at all like Do Son, which is light & breezy…this is a deeper, richer scent, and much less green once the top notes settle. Do Son I think of as a “fun” summer scent, Carnal Flower as a serious perfume, if that helps. That is not to knock Do Son though, which I would guess will be a big part of my summer rotation next year.

  4. Anonymous says:

    LOL indeed — that is so true! But the L'Artisan makes me mad because it is priced so much higher than the rest of the line, and for no good reason IMHO. So I'll never be able to buy it. The FM is also more expensive than the rest of the line, but I'm willing to buy the reason. Isn't that silly of me?

  5. Anonymous says:

    I suspect that you're right about them pricing substanially higher .I realize that it should cost more but not more than double!You've got to stick with your principles right!?I,for example would love to own the Hermes 24 Faubourg crystal bottle but even if I won the lottery I couldn't bring myself to spend $1500.00 for a 1 oz. bottle and a 1 oz. refill.It's just bloody wrong!

  6. Anonymous says:

    R, I agree wholeheartedly with your assessment.

    CF is a magnificent fragrance that is comfortable with its strong, yet regal presence. Whereas Fracas (which I love, too) screams DIVA!, Carnal Flower firmly states that she is queen. No screaming, just a modulated, self-assured tone.

    It lives up to the pre-release hype and is worth every penny I paid for it.

    Hugs!

  7. Anonymous says:

    Ah, that was a truly, truly gorgeous bottle. Stunning. Agree that it is too much though. I like to think that I wouldn't buy the L'Artisan either if I won the lottery, but I'm probably lying to myself, LOL! I'd probably buy the L'Artisan AND the Hermes bottle.

  8. Anonymous says:

    R, What a perfect comparison: “firmly states that she is queen”. Yes, that's it. You would think that would suit me more than something that screams DIVA, but I still love Fracas more. We'll see if I change my mind on further wearing, I so often do! Hugs to you :-)

  9. Anonymous says:

    R, I really don´t know what to think of Carnal Flower: On the one hand, it´s very interesting & – like you already wrote – may appeal even to those who normally don´t wear/don´t care for tuberose scents.

    I love & wear AG Tubérose & I like, but don´t wear MPG Tubérose as well as Fracas.

    On the other hand I´m pretty sure that Carnal Flower becomes another tuberose scent that I don´t detest, but cannot imagine to wear. Though it´s not too sweet, it´s simply too heavy for me.

    I think I´ll never become a true tuberose lover ;-)

  10. Anonymous says:

    R,

    Fracas and Tubereuse Crminelle are my favorite tuberoses too, how about that? :-) I am so sad that enither of the last year's new tuberose scents worked for me. Oh well, I am looking forward to another 300 new releases this year :-)

  11. Anonymous says:

    That was “neither”, arrgh, sorry!

    Also, adding another favorite tuberose to the list the sadly discontinued Mea Culpa by Les Parfums de Rosine.

  12. Anonymous says:

    S, I have never tried the AG. The MPG & L'Artisan tuberoses are both pretty but I prefer the biggies like Fracas — so no suprise that I don't find the FM too heavy! Did you try the Diptyque Do son?

  13. Anonymous says:

    Well, so we're not quite evil fragrance twins. Very surprised that you didn't like this one, actually…it just seems like something you would like.

    I'm sure we'll find something else in common in 2006 :-)

  14. Anonymous says:

    Mea Culpa was a pretty scent, but of course a tad too sweet & powdery for me (back to EFT, LOL)…

  15. Anonymous says:

    Lovely and very accurate review, R, as always. One reason to shell out the cash for CF, I think, is that it lasts forever, and you only need a tiny dab to fill the airspace around you! The Fleurs d'Oranger, from all accounts, is delicate and has poor lasting power – so there's all the justification you'd need to buy CF. I'm not a lover of tuberose, but I like CF enough to think I'll use up my sample. I especially like the green, sappy note at the beginning.

  16. Anonymous says:

    I agree with you about Carnal Flower. It is gorgeous, even to someone like me who cannot abide tuberose fragrances. It must be the quality of the ingredients–Fracas gives me the violent heeby-jeebies. Or however you spell them.

  17. Anonymous says:

    Just came back from a New year's vacation to find your lovely review. I do think that CF is beautiful–a stunning and sexy fragrance that, after awhile, mophs into (almost) a skin scent on me. I recently got a bottle as a present from DH (he had strong suggestions made to him in his sleep), and I have been loving it! I should say that I also love Tubereuse Criminelle and Caron's Tubereuse (a beautiful, creamy scent that no one has mentioned yet) and I like Fracas very much (only slightly less than the others). It's wonderful that tuberose can be interpreted in so many different ways (I also foresee a bottle of Do Son among my summer purchases). Happy belated New Year!

  18. Anonymous says:

    N, yes, I should have mentioned the lasting power above, it is excellent, and have to agree on the FdO, it is not long lasting at all.

    Thinking of doing a mixed trio of FM 10 ml bottles, actually, so probably won't go near the price of the FdO ;-)

  19. Anonymous says:

    It doesn't matter how you spell them. If you hate Fracas, you hate Fracas. Glad you found a tuberose to love, L, and HBTY!

  20. Anonymous says:

    J, hope it was a wonderful vacation! Have tried making suggestions in my husband's sleep and have gotten nowhere with it, so congrats on your success.

    The Caron is really a lovely scent. I find it a bit too sweet for me, so have never wanted to own it, but every so often I put on a drop from my sample — beautifully done, and I would bet it would be a big seller if it were more widely available.

  21. Anonymous says:

    Whether you define it as “sexual” or “earthly,” I think of Fracas as the real carnal flower. Mostly it's too much for me, though. I just take the bottle out and sniff it!

  22. Anonymous says:

    M, agree that Fracas is more overtly sexy…and many days, it is too much for me too. But when I wore it next to the FM, it won out. For now, at least. Might just not be used to the FM yet.

  23. Anonymous says:

    lovely descriptions – i smelled Carnal Flower on 3 different people and was astonished at how different the scent was on each person. so far i've resisted it, since most FMs with bergamot in them go south on me. i do love smelling it on others, though. quite the amazing fragrance, in a line of other amazing compositions :)

  24. Anonymous says:

    I have never tried any of the Frederic Malle fragrances as they are not readily available where I live. Carnal Flower sounds lovely.

    If I were going to shell out that much money though, I'd probably go for the L'Artisan Fleur d'Oranger instead (me being an orange blossom freak and all).

  25. Anonymous says:

    I love when you wrote that it was quiet for a tuberose. That was a perfect description. I had never smelled such a light tuberose that was subtle and fresh-like.

    I was impressed.

    Magnificent and FBW.

  26. Anonymous says:

    The bergamot is pretty light here, so I wouldn't avoid it for that reason…although it will save you a few pennies if you do :-)

  27. Anonymous says:

    That is a shame! It is such a great line. But it is a lot of money, and as beautiful as it is, it isn't my favorite Frederic Malle scent by any means.

  28. Anonymous says:

    A, It really is a triumph, and I am sort of amazed that FM has not yet produced anything that you could call a dud. Even SL, I think, has done a few duds….although now I'll have to go & think of what they are ;-)

  29. Anonymous says:

    I just got my sample of Do Son a few days ago & haven´t tested it on my skin, yet. I just smelled it on a tissue & thought it´s also a bit heavy (for me!) but not as heavy as the FM. I´ll tell you when I tested it on my skin!

  30. Anonymous says:

    Seriously doubt you will find it too heavy…it is a pretty ethereal sort of fragrance. Not saying you'll like it though!

  31. Anonymous says:

    I was underwhelmed by CF. Though the top and middle are absolutely stunning – fresh, green, so 'realistic' for a tuberose fragrance – the scent turned into a 'clean' watermelony puddle on me after about half an hour. It reminds me of Marc Jacobs, which is billed as gardenias floating in water but smells to me like a little bit of gardenia and a lot of watermelon jolly ranchers. Not that I don't like it, but why would FM release a scent so similar to one that is already widely available? I would have preferred CF's amazing green top notes morphing into a buttery creamy L'artisan-like tuberose. Yum!

  32. Anonymous says:

    Interesting how different our reactions are — I barely smelled the melon, and it didn't remind me of Marc Jacobs at all, or at least, what I remember of Marc Jacobs. I think they didn't go the buttery-creamy route because they wanted to get close to the smell of real tuberose, but ashamed to admit that I *still* haven't gotten myself to the florist to order some tuberose and find out what it smells like in real life. So going on what others have told me!

  33. Anonymous says:

    ps – i smelled this on someone else 2 days ago and almost died, it was so beautiful! i need to give it another try now…

  34. Anonymous says:

    Ha — it may snare you yet!

  35. Anonymous says:

    R, I'm interested in your comment that there are no duds in FM – I oddly kind of agree, even though many of them are not to my taste. I remember Luca Turin writing on his blog that there were seven out of the dozen he thought deserved to “still be around” after some time, and I was wondering if anyone knew which ones he meant. I love PdT and Une Rose, but I'm beginning to feel I missed the boat on not sampling VE more. I won't have much of a shot at CF because I'm too far from Barneys.

  36. Anonymous says:

    No clue which ones he meant, and our tastes are so different that I doubt we'd pick the same ones. My favorites are Therese, VE, En Passant, Hiver, & CF. But would wear almost any of them except Bigarade & Angeliques, and even those are beautifully done — they just don't suit me.

  37. Anonymous says:

    hi robin, you owe it to yourself to smell a real tuberose. i think you will be surprised. it is an intoxicating scent; in the way that honeysuckle andwhite ginger are. it is very sweet, but a good sweet. it is wonderful. i've seen tuberose in wild oats and whole foods. the first time i ever smelled tuberose was when lived in maui when the girls used to come into the restaurants selling leis. an incredible scent would fill up the restaurant from the minute they walked in the door. tuberose is not a sultry scent. it is not deep and dark like CF. (although i love carnal flower). in CF, tuberose definitely peeks through but only as part of the composition. the other notes are equally as strong. it is a beautiful expression of tuberose, like a hybrid, but nothing like tuberose solo. to smell a real tuberose makes for a better barometer when you test the various tuberose scents. they are considered a scent of desire because they are so delicious, as in heavanly and euphoric; not becaue it smells sexy like CF does. you being a tuberose lover are missing out by not having ever smelled the real thing. maybe you have smelled one by now, but if not, please do yourself a favor and try to find one. they are creamy and sweet and you'll just want to inhale it.

  38. Anonymous says:

    Hi, I have smelled them now — lovely aroma, but not sure I'd want a whole bouquet in the house, might be too much! Have to respectfully disagree with “a better barometer” though, at least for me — I'm not looking for perfumes to accurately reproduce nature, I'm just looking for interesting and beautiful perfumes.

  39. Anonymous says:

    point well taken!!!

  40. Anonymous says:

    Carnal Flower? I find Carnal Flower almost unbearable. Want to wash it off but won't do so. Will give CF my entire day.

    Lipstick Rose I love, yumm nice, very feminine, lipstick scent from the sixties I would say.

    I'm wearing both on my arm.

    Carnal Flower feels like a strong white flower is being pushed almost into my nose. Phew.

  41. Anonymous says:

    Carnal Flower begins to irritate my nose and my eyes.

    Maybe I am allergic to it?

    Time to wash it off then.

  42. Anonymous says:

    So sorry you hate it! But best not to love EVERY scent from FM, who can afford it?

  43. Anonymous says:

    I have covered my arm, I had to for Carnal Flower litterally makes me feel not well. It affected my lungs, my nose and eyes.

    I do have allergies but mostly with food products. This would be the second time for any perfume.

    Have been very lucky sofar.

    For sure it is best not to love too many of FMs scents.

    Carnal Flower together with Fleur de Cassie were adviced after I had filled in the questionaire of FM's website. After that they sent me a sample of both, which was really nice.

    Lipstick Rose and En Passant I really love and Le Parfum de Therese I deeply appreciate.

  44. Anonymous says:

    I agree. Carnal Flower and some of the other Frederic Malle fragrances made me sick as well. It gave me a bad headache; a bad, strange headache. It is like unto the experience I had smelling the Ormonde Jayne fragrance that has the hemlock in it.

    It is a shame, because I like the smell (sort of).

  45. Anonymous says:

    I LOVE the opening notes of carnal flower, but the drydown is powdery, at least on me. From the opening notes you'd never thnk that this would turn powdery. It gives me a head ache too. Too bad because I love the smell.

  46. Anonymous says:

    i love the opening of CF too, and agree the drydown is too powdery and clean, like a drugstore white musk. i recently discovered by killan's 'beyond love' and it is now the holy grail of tuberose scents for me. it combines the opening of CF, sharp and green, with the salty buttery narcotic warmth of more traditional tuberose fragrances (l'artisan, etc). it's perfection, a new classic…

  47. Anonymous says:

    so funny, i just read my above comment from 2006 and it says i was looking for just this scent…!

  48. Anonymous says:

    yeah, i read your previous comment the other day and thought it sounded like the perfect tuberose scent. i must try it. who sells it?

  49. Anonymous says:

    aedes de venustas and i think it's at luckyscent also. pricey but worth every penny, and refills are relatively inexpensive so if you like it as much as i do the cost is not bad at all.

  50. Zazie says:

    I got the sample few days ago, and I’m completely hooked.
    Apparently I get more melon and bubllegum-accord than I hoped, however I desperately love the wild, green, mildly sweet quality of this tuberose! To me, it is very “carnal” indeed, like a fauve.
    I need a full bottle, but I will force myself though the sample first. At least, I’m telling myself so!
    I could go on forever praising Carnal Flower. I’m sad that the matching beurre exquis is no longer available at the online shop: I hope it’s just out of stock and not discontinued.
    Now, since I love Fracas, Beyond Love, and Carnal Flower, I suppose it’s time I do serious efforts to try SL TC…
    BTW, giving the above, do you think I could like Kai? Is it very clean-white-musky?

    • Robin says:

      Kai is a much cleaner, and much more casual scent than any of your other favorites. Not carnal at all. You might like it for when you need something not quite so “big statement”, but doubt you’ll prize it above any of those. You must try the SL!

  51. Bell says:

    Hello all and attention all fans of Carnal Flower: Frederic Malle editions is going to stop producing it because they can no longer find absolut de tubéreuse with the level of quality that he demands! I’ve read it in one of the latest issues of the french magazine Madame Figaro (November 2011) and they’re not the type of magazine that invents this things so it must be true. So if you reeeally love this perfume start grabbing all you can still find. It’s sad to see a great perfume go, but at the same time it’s wonderfull that, in this age of marketing supremacy some people refuse to compromise and settle for anithing less than perfection.

    • Robin says:

      Oh, what a shame! I will be sorry to see it go.

Leave a reply