A first visit to the Caron boutique in Manhattan can feel something like a treasure hunt. Although the shop’s address is 715 Lexington Avenue, you must enter at the side of the building, around the corner on 58th Street. The door is marked with a sign for PhytoUniverse, the botanical haircare salon that shares its quarters with Caron (they are owned by the same company, the Alès Group), but you might spy a few Caron bottles on display in the small entrance lobby. The receptionist will direct you into an elevator, which you ride to the third floor. There, Caron is ensconced in two elegantly appointed alcoves off the main waiting area of the Phyto salon.
Since it first opened its doors in Paris in 1904, Caron has specialized in floral fragrances of all persuasions, from the lush orange blossom of Narcisse Noir (memorably worn by femme fatale Gloria Swanson in Sunset Boulevard) to the light, fresh lilies of the valley of Muguet de Bonheur and the incensey, floral-oriental harmony of Parfum Sacré. Many of Caron’s classic fragrances are available in a variety of concentrations, and a few are occasionally sold in limited edition bottles or luxurious presentation sets. More recent releases include Eau de Réglisse and the reformulated Violette Précieuse, as well as a small but sophisticated group of men’s fragrances (Pour Un Homme, with its smooth notes of lavender and amber, feels like a perfectly cut gray suit). In addition to its perfumes, Caron offers exquisitely milled face powders (to be applied with softer-than-air swan’s-down powder puffs) and hand-painted Limoges porcelain boxes. Treasures, indeed.
Not to be missed: Caron’s twelve “fountain fragrances,” pure perfume extracts dispensed from Baccarat crystal urns. These are impeccably constructed blends of the finest ingredients, the fragrance equivalent of haute couture; each one has a distinct style, from the androgynous, leather-tinged amber of Tabac Blond to the opulent rose bouquet of Or et Noir.
715 Lexington Avenue at 58th Street, New York, NY 10022; 212-308-0270; phytouniverse and parfumscaron. Update: this store is now closed. Caron's current boutique is at One Grand Central Place, 60 E 42 St 54fl, 877-88-CARON.
Nearby: The retail hub of Lexingon Avenue and 59th Street centers around Bloomingdale’s (Lexington Ave. at 59th St.), where you can browse a large selection of mainstream fragrances and then get a casual bite to eat at the store’s 40 Carrots restaurant. There is also a nearby branch of Sephora (711 Lexington Ave. between 57th and 58th Sts.)
— report and images filed by Jessica.
See also: Perfume Shopping in New York City