Malle Carnal Flower EDP Perfume Review

Malle Carnal Flower

She’d sit very close to me…and she smelled of tuberoses, which is not my favorite perfume, not by a long shot.”

                        – William Holden as Joe Gillis, “Sunset Boulevard” (1950)

Tuberoses were never easy for me. There were not my favorite perfumes, not by a long shot either. But, one day I woke up, seriously, after an unusual dream and I felt the need to find myself a tuberose perfume. I wish I could tell you that I went on a long journey, sniffing dozens of perfume vials during my after-hours, but I can’t. I went to Barney’s. I sprayed on Editions de Parfums by Frederic Malle Carnal Flower and I bought it. This was the tuberose I wanted. My journey abruptly ended as quickly as it started.

You see, I was drawn to Carnal Flower. I was drawn to its iciness and later to its warmth. It immediately reminded me of “Sunset Boulevard”, not really any of the characters, but of California set in a film noir.

Carnal Flower is a cold, icy tuberose that can be aggressively off-putting. It’s like a brittle tuberose, a tuberose dipped in liquid nitrogen. It’s camphoric. It somehow manages to be stark yet extravagant¹. The heart is like a pollen-y white floral, an exaggerated study into the beauty of white florals. What I personally love about Carnal Flower is the skin. It’s like warm skin in sunshine, a hint of lactones like coconut and salicylates that bring to mind French tanning oils. It’s orange blossoms and tiare on warm, parched skin. It’s a radiant tuberose. The dry-down is more of that warm skin, except with more musk and a rubbery tuberose. It’s still very much a tuberose fragrance but it’s lost some of that glimmer but still clutches onto its exorbitance.

When I wear Carnal Flower, I’m reminded of screen sirens and Old Hollywood opulence. And somehow all of this tuberose absolute and warmth also reminds me of the opposite, scarcity. Times change. And when I wear it, I realize that much of my issues with white florals weren’t with white florals but instead of this feeling like I wasn’t meant for them, like they were better than me. It was like my life wasn’t ample enough for them. And this are ridiculous thoughts. If I want to smell like a long gone Hollywood, someone else’s fictional Hollywood, then I will. And I do.

Gloria Swanson Sunset Blvd.

Notes listed include bergamot, melon, eucalyptus, ylang-ylang, jasmine, tuberose, salicylates, orange blossom, coconut and musk. Launched in 2005. PERFUMER – Dominique Ropion

Give Carnal Flower a try if you want a really good tuberose. Or if you like perfumes like Piguet Fracas, By Kilian Beyond Love, Byredo Flowerhead, Hiram Green Moon Bloom and/or Serge Lutens Tubereuse Criminelle.

On my skin, I find projection and longevity above average.

Carnal Flower comes in a few sizes with the 1.7 oz retailing for $250 at Malle.

Victoria’s Final EauPINIONMy tuberose; a really great tuberose; a film noir tuberose. Since buying Carnal Flower, I’ve also fallen in love with Hiram Green Moon Bloom. Those are my two favorite tuberose soliflores.

¹OK, maybe it is like Norma Desmond’s mansion…or Norma. I could have referenced notes to the movie, but it seems like such a cop out.

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*Bottle purchased by me. Product pic from the brand. Gloria Swanson in Sunset Blvd from


19 thoughts on “Malle Carnal Flower EDP Perfume Review

  1. Lovely Review, Victoria. Tuberose is my favorite flower but I don’t love too many tuberose soliflores. Just this one and Tubereuse Criminelle. I NEED to sniff Moon Bloom- does it have the icy aspect too?- that is usually my favorite part of the actual flower. I don’t generally enjoy tuberose soliflores because they smell like the absolute rather than the flower. Actually scratch that. I used to not enjoy the note for the aforementioned reason. But now I am able to..:)

    1. I’d say that Carnal Flower, Tubereuse Criminelle and Moon Bloom are like the holy trinity of tuberose soliflores. Those are my favorite. Moon Bloom is warmer; yet, has a greenness to it that makes it smell very natural, like the entire plant. It’s worth sampling if you can. I think Luckyscent and Indigo Perfumery both sell samples of it.

  2. What a coincidence. I just wore Carnal Flower yesterday, after probably about a year since the last time I did. I have a 5ml bottle from the Malle Sampler set and at this rate, it should last a lifetime. As opposed to your very descriptive thoughts on it, I haven’t truly formulated a strong opinion on this perfume except ‘I like it?’ I’m still studying it perhaps. I’m rooting for it! It’s so different from the themes and notes I generally like and a few years ago, I know I wouldn’t have put a single microscopic drop on my skin (because it would have burned away my olfactory receptors! I can now deal :D). So maybe by next year I’ll be able to have a more definitive opinion on this classic. Thank you for providing some lovely reference material 🙂

    1. I have a full-size bottle and it will last a lifetime, maybe even be used for embalming purposes, who knows, but it won’t be used up by me. I can say that.

      If I had tried this at a different time in my life, I wouldn’t have liked it. Another time, maybe just like it but not wear it. Fragrance journeys are weird like that. This is why I do keep samples around or re-sniff something in store again. I never know where I’m at in this “journey” and how I will feel about something *that day*. So keep that little bottle around and try again whenever you feel like it again 🙂

      Also, those Malle sets are awesome. They’re really all I need from the brand. I like smaller sizes like that.

  3. Hi Victoria! After many trip delays (based on my hubby’s work schedule) I have finally arrived in Washington! I’m just now emerging from the deep fog of fatigue that comes after traveling 14 hours with a baby to another time zone on very very little sleep, haha. I enjoyed this review – I like Carnal Flower though on me it’s far less dimensional than it is on you. So for me, it is not my favorite tuberose (still Do Son edp, though I appreciate Moon Bloom a lot as well). I apparently am a white floral fanatic though, haha, I seem to like them all. 🙂 Likewise, I LOVE LOVE LOVE Sunset Boulevard but hadn’t thought of it in quite a while. I appreciate you mentioning it! I’ll have to try to watch it again soon.

    1. Yeah, you made it! I hope you had time to rest up and get out and enjoy WA. Our weather has been really good for this time of the year and there isn’t supposed to be rain all week!

      Well, we all have our favorites. I want all the roses even though *technically* my bases are covered; I can’t help it. I still want most of the ones that I sample.

      We ended up rewatching this weekend. That review had me thinking about it a lot. It’s a great film, one of my favorites.

  4. What a wonderful review, and spot on! Once I smelled CF, all other tuberoses were left in the dust! Got a 100 ml. bottle right before New Year’s JUST IN CASE they decide to reformulate (which I personally don’t think they will.) CF was my entry-level niche purchase many years ago, and I still love it as much today.

    1. I have no need for any others. None at all. I really do love this one, one of my top 10 perfumes.

      I *really* hope no reformulation occurs but I have a feeling if it does, it will be with these more expensive ones (based on the ingredients) like Carnal Flower or PoaL. I have a large bottle (3.4 oz) and I’m trying to talk myself out of panic buying.

  5. I love love love Carnal Flower – and Tubereuse Criminelle (and Fracas). Have a sample of Carnal Flower which was given to me when I bought Portrait of a Lady. Saving my pennies, or dollars, for a bottle. On me, the coconut just creates this warmth – summer, hot sand at the beach – combined with the sumptuous flowers, it creates a narcotic effect.

    1. “Narcotic” really is the best word to describe CF, because it totally is.

      I still haven’t bought PoaL yet 🙁 I love it. It’s so special. I may cave in and get a travel spray soon.

      1. PoaL is just gorgeous (at least on me, I know some have issues with it’s “presence”). We were in Budapest last fall and it was early evening after rain showers when I tried it on. So for me it has these wonderful memories and evokes a very baroque type of feeling.

        One positive with both CF and PoaL is that you get your money’s worth for longevity and quality – they both just smell so darn good.

  6. I’ve got to get to Barney’s and try it! I want to be in an LA film noir too! What also intrigued me are the other lesser notes that go with the tuberose. I never used to like white florals but I want to expand my horizons, and I did try Flowerhead and liked it even though not enough to buy it.

    1. If you can try just one white floral perfume, try this one 🙂 It’s sort of the “go to” one for most people. It may not be love for you, but it’s worth sampling.

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