One Thousand Scents

Friday, June 13, 2008

Solid: Lush Potion

When I wrote about Coup de Fouet, I was baffled that Susan Irvine had called it "vicious", and, though I didn't mention it at the time, equally puzzled by her description of the scent as "unbelievably strong clove carnation", because the scent isn't really that strong at all. It has some force, because the carnation is not a shy, wispy flower, but it certainly isn't unbelievable.

The answer to this mystery came in Tania Sanchez' reviews of Coup de Fouet and Poivre (the extract, or perfume, version) in "Perfumes: The Guide":

Coup de Fouet: This, the eau de toilette version of Poivre, used to be lighter and more floral, but now that Poivre is itself lighter and more floral, Coup de Fouet feels redundant.

Poivre: Poivre was once a terrific spicy oriental, with a nose-tickling smell of cinnamon red hots plus carnation and a good, rich amber to anchor it. Now less picante, more rosy, it's middling and pointless.

So there's that, then. Poivre has been reformulated downwards (as Sanchez and her co-author Luca Turin think is the case with nearly all Caron scents) to fill the space once occupied by CdF, and I'd guess that CDF has also been downgraded, and neither is as potent as it used to be. (Since I never smelled either back in their glory days, I have nothing to refer back to, but CdF, whatever the folks at Caron might have done with it, is extraordinarily beautiful.)

However, last weekend on a trip to Halifax I bought a scent that really can be described as "unbelievably strong clove carnation": a solid fragrance called Potion.

For what it's worth, here's Sanchez' opinion of Potion:

The first thing that strikes you when you unscrew the container is a wallop of clove. The rest is a carnation, straightforward and unambitious.

Not quite, I'd say. There's a rosy touch to the scent, and I think a thread of patchouli running through it. (The ingredients list mentions eugenol, the molecule that gives cloves and carnations their spiciness; rose and carnation absolutes; and tangerine oil. However, none of these is likely to be a major component of the aroma, because the second ingredient, after the carrier wax, is "perfume", which could be anything and is certain to be mostly or entirely synthetic. The natural essential oils, I expect, are primarily window-dressing, in the same way that "fruit drinks" contain "5% real juice". I could be wrong, but at that price, I doubt it.)

Still and all, it is mostly carnation, and that suits me just fine. Sanchez and Turin don't seem to think much of soliflores--single-note fragrances, usually florals--and prefer great complexity in their scents, but a good fragrance is a good fragrance, and a carnation is as beautiful a thing to smell like as anything else I can think of. A carnation doesn't need to be ambitious: it just needs to be itself, and Potion does that very well. It's not pure carnation; it's got a certain attack-dog quality (that clovey eugenol) and an earthiness to cut through the potential prettiness. But it's very nice.

The texture isn't all I would have hoped for: it's much too solid. I wouldn't want a creamy, gloppy mess, but what's in the tin is scarcely any softer than a pillar candle, and melts onto your fingertip only grudgingly. A little more cocoa butter and jojoba oil and a little less Japan wax would have been nice. I'm half-tempted to melt it down and stir in a little oil to give it the yielding texture I really want, and at that price, $11.95, I guess I could afford to try the experiment.

There are a half-dozen Lush solid perfumes, but none of them grabbed me. Honey I Washed The Kids supposedly smells like honey toffee, and maybe it does on the skin, but out of the tin it seemed somehow vile. (Perhaps it was just the store itself, which is practically radioactive with strong aromas.) Karma seems as if it might be nice, a blend of patchouli and orange, but since I'd already bought something that day in Halifax, it didn't seem right to go crazy. I had intended to buy two scents on that trip, and I bought them both (I'll get to the other in a week or two), and that was enough (although is it ever enough?).

Since many Lush products have nothing in the way of preservatives, and in fact some of them are meant to be kept in the fridge, they generally have an expiration date on them, which is fine in the case of, say, hair conditioner (which can separate and spoil), but is rather ridiculous when you're talking about a solid perfume, which ought to last for a decade or two. The label on the bottom of my tin says

Made on 15 OCT 07
Use by 15 DEC 08

which seems to mean that the Lush people have somehow decided that this product will last exactly 14 months and not a day more, a ludicrous notion. If it suddenly detonates or liquefies in the tin on December 16th, I'll let you know, but until you hear from me, you can assume that it's holding on as it ought to.



  • I agree that soliflores can be quite nice - and since your review of Coup de Fouet awhile back, I've been wanting to try it. I think I'll give this Potion a try too.

    Really enjoying your Demeter blogs....


    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:20 PM  

  • As I hope I made clear, they're very different scents: Coup de Fouet is exceptionally beautiful, and Potion is strong and a little abrasive. Both fascinating, though.

    Glad you like the Demeter write-ups. It seemed like a good idea. I just hope I don't run out of things to say, what with the month less than half over and all.

    By Blogger pyramus, at 9:47 PM  

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