Tuberose Series 4: Carnal Flower

Carnal Flower gets a lot of positive attention from perfume fans, and deservedly so.

Perfume Review: Frederic Malle Carnal Flower.
Date released: 2005                         
Perfumer: Dominique Ropion
Sample provenance: sample from The Perfumed Court, 2009

Subcategory: Atypical green tuberose soliflore

Created with M. Malle’s aunt, the actress Candice Bergen, as inspiration, Carnal Flower is something of a contradiction in terms. Like Ms. Bergen, whose onscreen persona in the movie Carnal Knowledge is both warmly maternal and icily aloof, Carnal Flower is both cold and warm. Other than that reference, I find the name “Carnal Flower” rather inappropriate – this perfume does not smell in the least like a boudoir to me.

The scent begins with a chilly, almost mentholated note, along with camphor and a tiny spritz of something vaguely juicy. There’s enough of the floral quality of the tuberose peeking through here for the opening to smell very like the refrigerated, moist air of a florist case. The menthol-camphor hint picks up on the odd notes of what Tania Sanchez calls “Chinese muscle rub” in tuberose flowers, but here it’s lovely. Gradually the tuberose blossoms out, becoming warmer, but it remains almost translucent, with a fresh greenish light shining through it. There’s a lot of grassy-green jasmine here that keeps the tuberose from being too buttery and fleshy. I don’t smell much of anything else here, but the scent is anything but thin. This accord of sunny tuberose and green jasmine sticks around a long time, but eventually the jasmine fades so that the basenotes begin to come up under the tuberose. The base, though faint, smells like beach-warmed skin at the end of the day. It is neither too sweet nor too warm, and once the base comes up there’s very little left of the experience.

Notes for Carnal Flower:
Top: green notes, camphor, citrus
Heart: melon, tuberose, jasmine, orange blossom, ylang
Base: coconut, musk

I do not smell melon, or at least I don’t smell what I think of as perfumery melon, a la DelRae Emotionelle or Parfum de Therese, neither of which I like. If there really is melon here, it’s more like a crisp, barely-ripe honeydew, all sweet green. And the coconut is merely a hint in Carnal Flower; you will not be thinking of piña coladas.

Lasting power is less potent for this scent than for many other tuberose scents on me. I was getting three hours’ worth with hefty dabs, and it took pouring my sample vial into a small spray atomizer to change that experience. If sprayed according to my usual formula, I get four hours, which is a little light for an edp. On the other hand, longevity is often the downfall of all-natural perfumes, and there seems to be a large percentage of natural ingredients in CF. Also, it’s a very beautiful four hours.

Carnal Flower is an exercise in green and white, cold and hot: the green is the cool of herbs and leaves and grass and chilly air, and the white is the creamy sweetness of tuberose and jasmine and skin and summer light. The two sides don’t play tug-of-war, but rather curl around each other like yin and yang, two integrated halves of a whole.

Sometimes I associate a particular scent with a piece of music – for example, Apres l’Ondee is always Debussy’s “La Mer”, while Attrape-Coeur is “Nessun Dorma” – and such is the case with Carnal Flower. What I’m hearing while wearing it is Brahms’ beautiful “How Lovely Is Thy Dwelling Place,” from his German Requiem: a clean white light, a longing sweetness. I may find a more beautiful tuberose, but I may not. At the moment, this is the most lushly ethereal thing I’ve ever smelled.

The Bottom Line :
Quality    A Smells natural; seems coherent with good flow.
Grab-scale score    9   If not higher – I’m leaving myself a little wiggle room!
Short description    Ethereal green tuberose.
Cost       $$$
Earns compliments: Yes. Even Bookworm, who tends to dislike tuberose, calls this one “pretty.”
Scent presence      Slightly less than average (2 spritzes last 4 hours), moderate sillage. Will not get you lynched at the office.
Review Report:  Now Smell This, Bois de Jasmin, Perfume-Smellin’ Things (by Marina), Perfume-Smellin’ Things (by Donna), Aromascope.

Top image: Carnal Flower from fragrantica.  Middle image: Mexican tuberose by jelens at flickr.  Bottom image: Tuberose The Pearl by nipplerings72 at flickr.

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7 thoughts on “Tuberose Series 4: Carnal Flower”

  1. I wonder if it is the camphor note that gives me the impression of a "dead" or "flat" quality in CF. I still like the scent a lot, and agree that it is not in the least a boudoir scent!

  2. So I just had my first sniff of CF this week– after all the hype and all the buzz– I feel left somewhat in the dark.Several of your observations were dead spot on with own– including the dissonance between the name and the scent itself. Green, green, green all the time– the greenest tuberose I've ever encountered. And for the price? How can it die after 3 hours on skin? How can it be the faintest strip left of all my testing strips? Signed: Confused in SF

  3. Flitter, yes, isn't it weird that it doesn't smell "Carnal" at all? They could have called it Floating Flower or something… LCN – I really, really like it. I like all that green, floristy air. And it is rather annoying that something so pricey is so evanescent. On the other hand, I don't complain about Apres L'Ondee being fleeting because that's part of its charm. Hmm. (AL'O is not nearly as expensive as CF, I note.) Unless I fall under the sway of something else while testing, I think I shall have to spring for a decant… I did get better staying power after I sprayed it, as opposed to dabbing it on from the vial.

  4. Somewhere I have a sample of Carnal Flower…I don't remember if I liked or hated it….I don't remember it making much of an impression at all. But FM was one of the very first houses I explored after discovering the perfume world beyond designer fragrances at Hudson's (which is no more) I think they are Marshall Fields now? hmm well, no matter I avoid malls in general. There's been a lot of talk about Carnal Flower lately and I wonder, considering how much more my nostrils have experienced now, if I wouldn't perceive it differently….BTW mals, I'm really enjoying your Tuberose series!

  5. I’m dying to try it!!!! I am ashamed to say that I do not own a single floral, just because I have always found them so very boring. Carnal Flower sounds just perfect. So it was the melon that ruined Le Parfum de Therese for you?

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