Suzanne's Perfume Journal

February 5, 2009:

Ticket to Ride: Caron Tabac Blond

There is a fantasy that plays in my head in winter—it goes back 25 years and is adapted from a friend’s anecdotal account of a college course she was taking at the time. My friend was enrolled in an unusually small, art history class on architecture, and she wasn’t doing well in it. Still, it was her favorite class because it was “sooo relaxing,” she said. Her professor, liberated by the fact that there were only four students, decided to dispense with the classroom altogether so that they could study architecture as it existed in the streets of the city, rather than in the pages of a book. For a couple mornings each week, in the dead of winter, they piled into his 1970s-model Mercedes Benz and he chauffeured them around town to look at historic old homes and churches, office buildings and hotels. The professor would lecture in his deep and pleasing voice, and the students would ask questions and take notes—all of them except my friend, whose problem was that she kept drifting off and falling asleep. “I can’t help it!  It’s such a great car,” she told me. “The leather seats are so comfortable and wide, and the heater kicks on and makes it so toasty. And then there’s that sound it makes while it idles—you know, that old car sound?  Clickety-clickety-clickety-clickety.”

I remember laughing when she told me this, but years later, after a day spent riding around in a similar old luxury car (to and from a wedding I was in), I heard it—that clikety-clickety-clickety chirping sound—and I felt it—those buttery seats, the smooth ride, the arm and leg room!  And thereafter, I appropriated her story, spinning it into a fantasy that I find to be very flexible, because it’s delicious any way you spin it. For instance, you can easily sex it up by turning it into one of those hot-for-teacher fantasies, where the professor just happens to look like Hugh Laurie (or maybe like the Lit professor you had in college, the one who smoked a pipe in his office) and the other students have conveniently been dropped off and it’s just you and him in this big Mercedes, riding around in a town full of side alleys where nobody knows your name. Or you can leave the fantasy as is, unembellished, and it’s still pretty damn perfect. Because who doesn’t like looking at architecture, and having a knowledgeable man with a deep, resonant voice explaining it to you, while you sit comfortably in the back seat of a car and stare out the window as the rest of the world goes scurrying about its business?  Last week, when I was dealing with a leaky pipe under my kitchen sink, cable Internet problems and family issues, the non-sexed-up version was fantasy enough. The only enhancement it needed was cigarettes—not a whole pack of them, just one or two, as stray and stolen as kisses, which is the way I’d always enjoyed cigarettes. But since I no longer allow myself even the occasional smoke, I tweaked that part of the fantasy by dabbing on the last of my Caron Tabac Blond extrait. Considering how long it took for the two remaining drops to slide their way out of the upturned decant bottle and onto my wrists, the “stray and stolen” part of the pleasure equation was more than fulfilled.

Anyone who reads the perfume blogs is already well-schooled in the provenance of this iconic scent (and anyone who isn’t can quickly read about it here), so I won’t reiterate. And, of course, the big question circulating the blogs last year was, Has this fragrance been “watered down” during the course of its reformulations?  To which I can only say, I purchased two decants of the extrait de parfum back in 2007, and there were noticeable differences between them: the one purchased later in the year was distinctly less dense and full-bodied  than the first decant. Yes, it was a little disturbing; but that said, the Tabac Blonde extrait from either one of those decant bottles still smells as provocatively unique and unto-itself as any scent in my collection. The fragrance’s smoky, spicy, burnt-rubber-and- carnations opening reminds me of the first delicious drags of cigarette—the first one you’ve had in ages—and as it dries down, the tar-like quality dissolves into warm leather, with an amber-and-vanilla finish that does not diminish the smokiness of this scent, but makes for a smooth, fat-bottomed ride that seems to go on forever. Put it all together, and everything about Tabac Blond—from its invitation to enjoy a private, leisurely smoke to its leather panels to its cushiony amber seat—says, Get into my car, babe. Let’s drive.

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Notes for Caron Tabac Blond extrait de parfum include leather, carnation, linden, iris, vetiver, ylang-ylang, cedar, patchouli, vanilla, ambergris and musk. It can be purchased from the Caron Boutiques in Paris and New York City, as well as, where a 7.5 ml bottle is $170.

Image: Dashboard of 1928 Mercedes-Benz SSK is from

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