When I reviewed the new Dolce by Dolce & Gabbana, I asked readers to recommend a perfumista-worthy inoffensive, 'light & fresh' office-friendly floral. My vote went to Carven Le Parfum, the Carven brand's reintroduction as a perfume house under creative director Guillaume Henry. I called Carven Le Parfum "young and fresh and modern and charming" when I reviewed it, and hoped we'd see a 'noir' or 'intense' flanker before long. As these things go, what we've got instead is Le Parfum's "younger sister", the new Carven L'Eau de Toilette, done up in the color du jour, pale green. Oh well, it isn't over yet, right?
I wanted to bring a fresh floralcy, so we have an idea of something lighter without it being lighter.1
That's perfumer Francis Kurkdjian, who developed both versions, and yes, fresh floralcy is just what Carven L'Eau de Toilette is all about. It starts with citrus, bright and lemon-lime-ish and maybe just a little high-pitched, although I find it pleasantly so. A bit of what smells like lemon peel lingers, along with a tinge of green, straight into the dry down. They've replaced the ylang ylang, jasmine and osmanthus from Le Parfum with a bouquet of spring flowers — sweet pea, peony, freesia, hyacinth and wisteria — done in a transparent, watery, mostly well-blended style, although there are nice flashes of hyacinth here and there in the early stages.
If that sounds like a big contrast in the depth of the floral notes, well, not really: the florals were used very lightly (and cleanly) in Le Parfum too. Still, Le Parfum wrapped the white florals in a veil of creamy powder and middling-dark woods; L'Eau de Toilette has the palest of pale woody musk bases with just the slightest suggestion of a velvety finish — you would almost certainly not smell the two fragrances and think they were related.
Verdict: Carven L’Eau de Toilette is, like its older sister, young and fresh and modern and charming, but as you'd expect it's also a shade more inoffensive and clean, and to my nose, it is a bit lighter: one or two sprays of Le Parfum will make it through the day, L'Eau de Toilette may need a heavier application. It's nicely done and I liked it, but I would not say that I found it particularly memorable — personally, I'd rather have a bottle of Le Parfum. All the same I will not be surprised if it outsells Le Parfum, and if you're looking for a fresh floral for spring, it is certainly worth a try.
Carven L'Eau de Toilette is available in 30, 50 ($79) and 100 ($104) ml; in the US it is currently exclusive to Saks Fifth Avenue.
1. Via How to Smell Like a French Fashion Girl at Elle.