In the 1992 movie Scent of a Woman, Al Pacino, playing a blind, cranky aesthete, walks across a college campus in autumn. He and his companion cross paths with a woman and talk politics for a moment.
Al Pacino’s nostrils quiver. “Fleurs de Rocaille,” he says (in a terrible accent).
“Yes,” she replies.
“Flowers from a brook.”
As Pacino walks away, he says to his companion, “Don’t tell me. About five feet seven, auburn, with brown eyes….”
Nice party trick, Al. As an auburn-haired woman of about the same height, I wouldn’t automatically pair Caron Fleurs de Rocaille with tall-ish redheads. I see it complementing sweet-faced teens who adore the Little House on the Prairie series.1 Of the Bennet sisters in Pride and Prejudice, Jane would choose Fleurs de Rocaille. Auburn-haired political junkies in the early nineties, susceptible to gents like Pacino, might have gone for Must de Cartier.
Ernest Daltroff created Fleurs de Rocaille in 1933. (Note: Be sure not to confuse Fleurs de Rocaille with another Caron fragrance, Fleur de Rocaille — singular “Fleur” — a 1993 floral as strident as “Fleurs” is gentle.) Its notes include lily of the valley, clover, rose, violet, lilac, jasmine, iris, sandalwood, musk and civet. My review is based on a vintage Eau de Toilette at least 30 years old and a circa 2005 Eau de Toilette.
Of the fragrance’s notes, clover is the one that speaks most loudly to me. Fleurs de Rocaille has the tender feel of a pasture on a spring afternoon when the sun has dried the grass, and a breeze picks up sweet clover and budding trees and a faraway patch of cutting garden. And carnation. Its hint of spiciness keeps Fleurs de Rocaille from being too limp.
In short, Fleurs de Rocaille is sweet, safe, and gentle — and not a bit in fashion. A quick wash of aldehydes at first and a gentle landing of sandalwood, musk and moss that is more fluff than scent peg it as “old-timey.” Fleurs de Rocaille sweetens, just like a clover stem, as it wears. It’s quiet — especially the older version — and doesn’t last long on my skin.
The newer version of Fleurs de Rocaille is soapier and sharper than the soft vintage fragrance. I prefer the sleepier, more pastoral vintage take. If I'm ever invited to a May baptism in the English countryside, I know just what perfume I'll wear.
Caron Fleurs de Rocailles Eau de Toilette is $85 for 50 ml. For information on where to buy it, see Caron under Perfume Houses.
1. I know, in what fantasy land do I live where teens wear Caron and not the latest release from Victoria’s Secret?