Wearing Oeillet Bengale makes it clear why the collective noun for a group of carnations is usually 'spray'. Rodrigo Flores-Roux has put together this new release from Aedes De Venustas with such delicious precision, you can picture the individual flowers - some red, some white - rising out of a vase in a fan shape, threatening to dart out of their enclosure like slender arrows. In itself, this is a commendable achievement. As is well known, current restrictions on certain raw materials make it extremely difficult to reproduce a convincing carnation note in modern perfumery. That's why the likes of Poivre, Bellodgia and even Opium no longer have the charming snappiness which once won them so many admirers. But as an employee of Givaudan, Flores-Roux has access to one of the most advanced fragrance labs in the business, a position which has enabled him to identify and use a substance that gives the heart of Oeillet Bengale its edgy identity.
Interestingly, the folks at Aedes seem eager to distance the scent from carnation territory. Perhaps they're worried about the note's negative connotations (as it hasn't been prominent for years, it's now seen as old-fashioned) or maybe they wish to discourage too literal an interpretation of their creation. Whatever the reason, they don't cite carnation in the fragrance's official list of notes and, in their press material, they're keen to point out that the 'Bengale oeillet' - rosa indica caryophyllea - is actually a variety of rose. That's their prerogative. But it would be a shame if their marketing causes carnation fans to miss out on this release, because it is easily one of the most convincing depictions of the flower I've had the pleasure to smell for quite some time.
Like Andy Tauer's Gardenia, it rises above soliflore territory and offers much more than a mono-dimensional representation of a single plant. For one thing, it's liberal with its dosage of spices. There's a sizeable dash of pepper in the opening (which links with the carnation facet, of course) as well as plenty of clove, cinnamon and saffron in the heart. A husky, woody dryness appears too, which I read as fenugreek, although it could be the turmeric mentioned by the brand's blurb. These serve to pull the carnation away from the West and, crucially, away from the past. With every step that the scent takes towards Asia, it distances itself from the land of 'old lady fustiness' and affirms the relevance of carnation to modern-day perfumery. Jasmine, rose and ylang ylang are, of course, very welcome in oriental structures, but they're essentially languid creatures. Carnation is far more alert - ready to smile or grimace at a moment's notice - and it is this sharp-eyed temperament which Flores-Roux has made the centre-piece of his creation. It transforms Oeillet Bengale into an oriental for the insane busy-ness of the 21st century: it takes you away from the humdrum, but it doesn't let you remain idle for long.
I can't say I found it as fiery as Aedes would have me believe - it's too restrained to deserve that adjective - but I can certainly hear the purr of the drydown referred to by the publicity material... except that, to my ears, it's mineral rather than animal. Picture the Rajasthani desert in August, a couple of hours into the night. See the scattered rocks, exposed to the sky. They're not being baked by the sun any more, but they're still full of the heat they absorbed during the day. As they release their warmth back into the atmosphere, they almost cause the air around them to hum. And it is that barely perceptible force - the tightly-sprung intensity in those slender red and white arrows - which you can hear deep down in the soul of Oeillet Bengale.
[Review based on a sample of eau de parfum provided by Aedes De Venustas in 2014.]