Skin. Warm skin. Warm, sexy skin. Warm, sexy, kissable skin. At the end of the day, isn’t that what we’d all like a fragrance to smell like…? And of course, they all do, after a while: blood-warmed, after the dry-down, our own natural, signature body aroma emerges through its veil of perfume elements. But a fragrance that smells like warm, sexy, kissable skin from the very first poofff! of its black silken puffer? Take it from The Scent Critic: this debut scent from Carita comes closer than many (and I’d include Narciso Rodriguez Musk for Her, Chanel Exclusifs No. 18 and Nude by Bill Blass, on that list…)
There are two accepted ‘interpretations’ for skin scents, in fragranceland. Of course, there’s the category which seeks to conjure the actual smell of skin. (In general, skin that’s just come out of a hot bath and been talcum-ed dry, rather than dirty, post-roll-in-the-hay skin, however.) Others hum at such a subtle vibration, pulsing gently with every heartbeat, that they’re only really discernible by someone who’s positioned their nostrils very, very close to your body. This ticks both boxes: gentle, delicate, understated – but also, evoking that can’t-tell-it-from-real-skin warmth.
For once, it actually makes sense for a fragrance to seek to recreate ‘skin’. Carita has long been the destination salon for soignée Frenchwomen seeking complexion perfection – and is now also a global skincare brand. So: a skin fragrance…? Anything else would have been seriously off-message.
Now allegedly – allegedly, because I just don’t get this bit – there’s bergamot in the overture. And something called ‘paradisone’ – which is actually new to The Scent Critic, but turns out to have been previously used by Carita’s creator Alberto Morillas in his collaboration with Olivier Cresp on Valentina de Valentino. Digging around for info about this innovative molecule, I found an evocative quote from another perfumer, Arcadi Boix Camps from Auram Art & Perfume: that a perfume blotter of paradisone, wafted in in a room of seventy cubic metres, ‘diffuses the space with the angelic aromas of one million flowers…’
I’m just not sure about the million flowers, but the ‘angelic’ quality, yes: there’s a Ladurée macaron sugary side to Carita – like the sweet breath of someone who’s been illicitly snacking on marshmallows and dolly mixtures. But it is not, I repeat not, in the least ‘icky’.
More tangibly, perhaps, Morillas hasn’t stinted on the iris, the violet and the heliotrope, which swirl mistily at the fragrance’s heart. It’s that trio which delivers the so-soft, baby-power cloudiness that basically seems to hover over your skin, when wearing this. (And – always a good sign – I have been wearing it a lot.)
But that baby-skin phase is just a phase: the ‘innocence’ fades, to be replaced by something altogether raunchier, when the musky, ambery base notes pirouette in: a sort of corps de parfum of musky undertones. (If this perfume was a ballet, it would be the scene in Kenneth Macmillan’s Sleeping Beauty with the diamanté-encrusted tutus, in sugared almond shades: overwhelmingly feminine and beautiful, but hinting at underlying passions…)
The colour of the ‘juice’ is always important, of course, but the soft blush colour here really does give the message loud and clear about Carita’s second-skin quality (and their skincare heritage, with it). The bottle itself is dressed up with a black satin bow, and dispensed by a black ‘puffer’ atomizer: dressing-table chic, to be sure – but I will say that mine puffed its last after about three wearings. (Luckily, unlike most modern atomizers, this actually unscrews – so I can splash it on, instead. But my advice is: if ever this happens to you, don’t hesitate to take the bottle back. I’m putting this slight niggle down to the fact mine was an early production sample.)
The timing for this fragrance is spot-on, meanwhile. There’s a skin-scent revival right now. (I put it down to the desire to feel cocooned and intimate, in a world that feels uncertain and sometimes downright scary.) Estée Lauder have been right on the money with Sensuous Nude (you can read The Scent Critic’s posting on that fragrance here), Serge Lutens has Jeux de Peau, Tom Ford invites us to get up close and personal with Santal Blush (oh, if only, Tom…). And YSL have even relaunched Nu (that of course translates as Naked), which was like a fish out of water in a sea of fruity-florals, when it first debuted, but – thanks to fragrance fashion – is suddenly ‘just-so’, in 2012.
But when I want to envelop myself in the fragrance of warm, sexy, kissable skin – in the hope Mr. Scent Critic might find himself in my orbit, and get the idea himself – I won’t hesitate to reach for this.