Review: Roger & Gallet Blue Carnation c. 1950s
After several months of research and sampling, I came to the conclusion that Blue Carnation by Roger & Gallet was the best there ever was. It came down to two finalists, the second be the much vaunted Floris Malmaison. Unfortunately, most carnation fragrances on the market today do the flower little justice: they represent it as fiery, peppery, and over the top clove-laden or as a syrupy and sweet floral; neither of which could be any farther from the truth.
There are some small independent perfumers who still use carnation absolute, but it is very expensive and the better the quality, the more expensive it gets. Most have a tendency to use it in symbolic quantities in the same manner as the mainstream. Even the cheap, readily available carnation substitute, iso-eugenol, is heavily regulated by IFRA and it is difficult to use enough to achieve the desired effect.
Now, onto the scent itself: Blue Carnation was released as a feminine fragrance in 1927 and discontinued around 1973 for a variety of reasons. I believe it was phased out because of the unjustifiably high price of the raw materials and general “unfashionableness” of the genre in the first decade of contemporary perfumery. Others claim Roger & Gallet intentionally took it off the market so that it could be worn exclusively by the Queen of England. I’ve never seen any verification of this claim in writing or from Roger & Gallet themselves. I think R & G was transitioning themselves from a glorious house of yore that perfumed the aristocracy of the XIXth Century to the budget brand (albeit one of the best) they are to today (thank heavens they’ve preserved, at least in part, the flagship Extra Vieille).
Blue Carnation is the carnation to end all carnation. This is the essence of the flower itself. Carnation plays the leading role in the opening and drydown. Nowhere else, save partially in Malmaison, have I ever smelled such a fragrance. The carnation absolute, of the highest quality, sits masterfully over a bed of cinnamon, tonka bean, clove, musk, oakmoss, and bit of vanilla. BC is mildly spicy unlike the spice bomb Caron Poivre or is it over the top floral. It is just right, decent, and above all else, luxurious, not luxurious as in a jet-set DUI-accumulating starlet of today, but luxurious in the sense of old moneyed aristocrats who are not in need of attention. The overall feel is velvety and plush with a dash spice inside the very carnation flower itself.
My bottle is the ribbed rectangular splash from the late 1950s or early 1960s. The juice is a grassy green, which I surmise is the proper color. I’ve smelled similar bottles with dark yellow juice and while still superb, the carnation is not would it should be. BC was available in EdT, EdC, and Parfum concentrations. This review is for the Eau de Toilette. At the time of this writing, the EdT is available for sample purchase on certain decanting websites we all know well.