Tuesday, April 23, 2024

The Living Body of Frederic Malle’s Carnal Flower

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Sexual objectification stands as a cornerstone of advertising, and nowhere is that more apparent than in the world of perfume. You are unlikely to make it through a fragrance ad without seeing at least one conventionally attractive body. You are just as unlikely to search for reviews of a fragrance without running into several evaluations of its sex appeal. Several perfume houses play into this trend so aggressively as to suggest parody, and such is the impression given by the name of Frederic Malle’s notoriously expensive Carnal Flower.

However, Frederic Malle’s fragrances prove time and time again to think beyond the impulses of other houses, and the exceedingly well-performing Carnal Flower is no different. The notes pyramid for the fragrance hints its clever approach to the crowded floral genre:

Carnal Flower Notes

Tuberose Absolute, Melon, Jasmine Absolute, Orange Blossom Absolute, White Musk

Tuberose has a reputation in perfumery as a powerful, sensual flower, and it’s hard to deny that aspect of Carnal Flower. The flower’s massive presence makes it hard to doubt Frederic Malle’s claim that the perfume has “the highest concentration of natural tuberose in the perfume industry.” However, as explained by master perfumer Dominique Ropion, the difficulty of making Carnal Flower lay more in cloaking the flower’s unpleasant aspects as opposed to accentuating any one of its qualities.

This tactic shines through Carnal Flower’s loud and beguiling opening. As a relative of the lily, it’s no surprise that tuberose has green aspects to its scent profile, but Carnal Flower ramps these up dramatically with an unlisted eucalyptus note (cited by Ropion himself). Eucalyptus carries a medicinal quality that’s anything but sexual. The overall affect of the opening is that of a rainforest glittering in morning dew, creating a damp, green landscape in which the central tuberose flowers radiate their fragrance.

 On my first several wears, I found myself astounded that anyone would consider this huge green floral scent to be sexy. The green nature of the perfume persists throughout the drydown even as the central flower is given more room to shine. What I didn’t catch was the surprisingly quick dissolution of the eucalyptus’ medicinal quality as it merges with the camphorous heart of the tuberose.

Regardless of the intention of the perfumer, the titular ‘carnal’ aspect of Carnal Flower appears to refer most accurately to not the body of any human, but the body of the flower itself. Ropion has created a floral perfume that uses melon and eucalyptus to highlight its environment and life, jasmine and orange blossom to give dimension to its blossom, and musk to grant each passing effect a foundation on which to land.

The resulting perfume does not simply regurgitate the essence of the flower, but rather casts the central tuberose amidst complementary images. The magic of Carnal Flower is that every note breathes in sync. Ropion’s fragrance sings on its own, but those who wear this fragrance on skin will find their heartbeat merging with Carnal Flower’s steady pulse.

A sample of Carnal Flower can be purchased here; Frederic Malle offers a range of bottle sizes on their own website.

The Fandomentals “Fragdomentals” team base our reviews off of fragrances that we have personally, independently sourced. Any reviews based off of house-provided materials will be explicitly stated. 

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