I don’t wear fully floral perfumes very often, but when I do, I swing wildly between two extremes – the dependable, if sedate, beauty of established classics like L’Heure Bleue (Guerlain) or Farnesiana (Caron) and the odd but thought-provoking experiments that are indie-made perfumes, like Cornaline (Anatole LeBreton), Quasi Una Absurdia (Chris Rusak), Flos Mortis (Rogue Perfumery), Romanza (Masque Milano), or Mardi Gras (Olympic Orchids). When I wear perfumes from the first group, I miss the element of surprise (and often discomfort) that indie perfumes bring. When I wear perfumes from the latter, I miss the polish and reassuring solidity of construction represented by the classics.
Casablanca by St. Clair Scents blows me away because it bridges the divide. The buttery, vegetal tuberose and other white floral notes never get a chance to weigh the perfume down because they are lifted in the short term by a fizzy, spicy medicinal note that smells like a vaporization of Clovis toothpaste and Epsom bath salts, and over the longer term by a bright citrus accord that smells like someone peeling an orange through a dense thicket of white flowers, spraying its petals with volatile peel oils.
The effect is extraordinarily rich, voluptuous, and delicious, yet fizzy and upbeat in a way that I rarely find white flowers to be. To me, white flowers usually smell solemn and ‘posh’, their natural environment seemingly more that of an achingly hip vase in a luxury hotel than anything that grows in actual soil. But Casablanca takes white florals out of the hotel environment and into the boudoir. It is both artificial and natural. By this, I mean that while Casablanca smells very natural, with several expensive floral absolutes clustered together for effect, there is no way one would mistake its naturalness for an absence of design.
The minty-spicy Listerine effect upfront, for example, is a klaxon sounded to jerk the white flowers out of their creamy stupor, and the sexy civet-laced minerals running through the base have been deliberately placed there to give it a retro feel. And though I suppose there are parallels to similar effects achieved in other non-mainstream perfumes – the toothpasty mothball vibe in both Tubéreuse Criminelle (Serge Lutens) and Flos Mortis (Rogue Perfumery) for one, the dusty floral civet floor of both Mardi Gras (Olympic Orchids) and Lost in Heaven (Francesca Bianchi) for another – there is not much out there that replicates the total effect of Casablanca, which is to say its rich, warm density that holds all elements (rich white flowers, civet, Listerine, blood orange soda) in balance for so long and with such grace. It has this slightly smudgy, smeary texture that I love, like flowers seen through glasses steamed up and knocked askew by an illicit embrace.
I am late to the Casablanca party, but better late than never, right? My only regret is that St. Clair’s Scents perfumes do not seem to have a distributor outside of the United States, and so, a large part of the perfume-consuming market will probably miss out on getting to know it. And that’s a shame, because I think anyone who loves full-blooded, smutty but still slightly edgy white floral bombs would love Casablanca.
Source of Sample: My sample was sent to me by Diane St. Clair free of charge. I understand my privilege as a EU-based perfume journalist, believe me, and am very grateful for the chance to smell perfumes that would normally be out of reach to consumers living where I do.