Monday, 7 April 2014

Review: Caron - My Ylang, Summer Bottled

It seems appropriate that as the UK has been bound up in rather melodramatic smog (complete with drizzle) recently that I turned to a delightfully sunny fragrance for escape, Caron’s 2013 release – My Ylang.
Caron’s output is much smaller than that of it’s historic rival – Guerlain. Meaning that a new release is a rare thing of excitement, my sample should have come with one of those greeting cards that plays a tune, in this case, a trumpeted fanfare to announce it’s arrival.
My Ylang fits neatly into the genre of ‘solar floral’, a term which could be interpreted in a number of ways. Elena at Perfume Shrine suggests that molecules called salicylates (which occur naturally in the Ylang Ylang plant) are a vital component of the solar effect:
To the perfume student these molecules present fascinating facets on the path of creation because salicylates encompass complimentary aspects and aid diffusion, making fragrances open up and "expand" in a sunny, exhilarating way. Gardenia, tiaré, and frangipani accords are usually built on salicylates and their summery vibe warms our heart even in winter.” Perfume Shrine
The ultimate sunshine girl, Bardot.

Typically, salicylates have been long used in sunscreen lotion which is probably why we associate perfumes containing these molecules with the joy of the holiday season. Guerlain’s Lys Soleia and Terracotta fragrances, Estee Lauder’s Bronze Goddess and Lancaster’s Sunwater all emit a veritable ‘Thomas Cook’ aroma that remind us of time away from work spent in the throes of heat and decadent leisure. It’s no wonder we love them.
 Ylang Ylang

However, another association occurs for me as there is a definite whiff of Nivea Crème radiating from My Ylang. Nivea was for many years my mum’s choice of skincare meaning that the ‘Nivea note’ signifies love, warmth and protection to me.
This how it wears:
My Ylang opens with a gargantuan burst of citrus and ylang. If you’re curious about what ylang actually smells like, you can take a whiff anywhere that sells essential oils as it is often used in aromatherapy for it’s anti-depressant and sensual properties. Oddly, I really dislike it on it’s own but when mixed with other aromas it becomes a thing of beauty. Mandarin Orange is the only official listed citrus but there is a ‘bells of St. Clements’ effect similar to that found in Jour D’Hermes, but significantly less spiky. A little blackcurrant creeps into the fruit bowl in a very pleasing manner. In recent years this note has been used in abundance, often paired in a sickly gloop of flat sweetness. YSL’s Manifesto and Armani’s Si were responsible for creating ‘blackcurrant haters’ as they introduced to the world their berry puddings, effectively giving us all olfactory diabetes. When blackcurrant is used in collaboration with barely sweetened background (as in My Ylang), it offers us a dazzling edge of greenery and piquancy that ‘lifts’ the composition in a similar fashion to the use of aldehydes. Paired with a trace hint of lily of the valley, you could can sense an atmosphere of nature thriving.
My Ylang is complex, unsurprisingly for Caron who are masters of ‘the journey’ i.e. creating perfumes with a great transformation from start to finish. The different facets of the scent feel almost as if they are moving, dancing about, weaving in and out of our perception. Underpinning the dance lies a grounding base of authentic vanilla that is detectable throughout the journey. It isn’t particularly sweet, simply warm and comforting. Unlike many other solar florals, there are no tropical fruit or coconut elements, which keep it a long way from becoming a genre stereotype.

I’d recommend My Ylang for those who are seeking a cheering lift, an essence of summer and a fragrance that offers a multifaceted ride. It does however retail at a high price. For a less expensive (but not as delightfully complex) alternative, a similar vibe can be found in Guerlain’s Aqua Allegoria Lys Soleia. Failing that you could root out last summer’s flip flops, download The Isley Brother’s Summer Breeze, sip away at a Pina Colada and hope the weather looks up.

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  1. Since Caron isn't present anywhere around where I live I'm not sure when I get to test this new release (I will eventually) but I just wanted to mention that your mentioning Nivea cream made it a little more appealing to me: just recently, while using Nivea hand cream, I thought that I wouldn't mind adding a little of that scent to some perfumes (actually, I thought of that while applying the cream on top of a couple of perfumes I tested earlier that day on my wrists).

  2. Hi Undina,
    Nivea has come up in a few Fragrantica forums over the years, have you noticed? Apparently there is a Keiko Mecheri that smells similar but I have not a clue which one it is.
    I wish Caron would open up their distribution a bit. It seems odd that such a great French institution is restricted (in the UK) to the South only. Is it just major cities in the US? I guess it's Lucky Scents sample time!

  3. Hi Sarah,

    Card carrying born again 'blackcurrant hater' here - as you are my witness, for you were with me when I 'turned'! I am also a ylangaholic, and own Lys Soleia, so feel this one has my name on it. I did sniff the nozzle during a recent visit to Les Senteurs, and should have gone the whole hog and sprayed it on skin. Certainly the nozzle smelt nice, and for now that's all I have to contribute to the discussion! Next time I'll not pass it up. I must say the Givenchy venture into 'soliflore'-type ylang ylang scents was poor by comparison.

    1. Vanessa, I really wish I had some left to send to you, it was a teeny sample. Do try and get a sniff if you can. On the subject of your blackcurrant hater status, Sarah McCartney had some coffee and blackcurrant flavour cordial at the perfumery. It was extraordinary, it could lure you back to the delights of the forbidden fruit.