40 Days and 40 Nights of Fragrance Notes: Carnation
By Jessica M
Sometimes I feel sorry for the carnation. It’s often considered a commonplace flower, even a cheap one, and it doesn’t get much respect. It was the flower that we never wanted to see in the corsages that boys gave us at school dances, and it’s a flower that we really don’t send to friends or relatives on special occasions.
That’s a shame, because the carnation wasn’t always treated so shabbily. The Greek name for its botanical genus is “dianthus,” often translated as “divine flower.” The species that we usually associate with the carnation is Dianthus caryophyllus, although this genus also includes “pinks” and “Sweet Williams.” Shakespeare wrote in The Winter’s Tale, “Of trembling winter, the fairest flowers o' the season are our carnations.” I agree with him, and not just during the winter; I love wearing carnation fragrances all year long.
Carnation is a very identifiable note in fragrance, but it’s also a note with different shades to its personality. Sometimes it’s soft and powdery; sometimes it’s just a bit creamy, with a honeyed edge; and it can also be quite peppery and even spicy, like cloves. (In fact, I’ve heard that perfumers often imitate this flower’s scent with a skillful blend of clove and ylang-ylang or vanilla notes, since carnation absolute is so costly.) Carnation combines beautifully with rose, and it sits nicely on a base of woody notes.
I’m still not sure why this “divine flower” has a reputation for being tawdry; I even love the way it looks, with its fringed petals and its range of reds, pinks, and white. If you’re looking for a floral fragrance note that’s spicy-sweet, not too dainty and not too heady, a carnation perfume might be worth your time.
Here are a few carnation-inspired fragrances to try...
Lorenzo Villoresi Garofano
Santa Maria Novella Garofano
Comme des Garçons Series 2 Red: Carnation
Dawn Spencer Hurwitz Oeillets Rouges
Ava-Luxe Oeillet (new; haven’t tried it yet!)
Carnations with other notes:
Fragonard Billet Doux
Carthusia Fiori di Capri
Nina Ricci L’Air du Temps
Possets Perfume Silver Carnations
Discontinued, but not forgotten:
L’Artisan Parfumeur Oeillet Sauvage
Disclosure: The perfumes mentioned in this post were purchased (or sampled in stores) by the reviewer.
Reviewer: Jessica M
Photo Credits: Decorative soap label, c. 1900, via Getty Images. Red Carnation Flowers by Takuya Uroki, via Corbis.
Graphic Credit: Melanie Parker