When the current perfume fever originally spiked around 2002 or so, one of the first aspects of new perfumes that spiked in tandem, was their sugar content. Perfumes were like bon bons, and no doubt this was mostly due to the success of Angel, and the whole family of gourmands generally, but the effect was sometimes…sticky.
Like everyone else I read the Guide and remember Luca Turin blaming a good deal of the candy floss on ethyl maltol, which is evidently a fairly inexpensive synthetic, that powered his favorite Vanilia as well as Angel. Ethyl maltol was everywhere in those days.
I liked the Vanilia though didn’t think the stuff worth wearing because it was too sweet. Sweetness often precluded elegance in perfumes for me then. If a formula was a sweetie wasn’t it really a bit too evocative of Shirley Temple with a lollipop bigger than her signature mop top, and what was the Hub always telling me about never eating anything bigger than your head? Yes, well, that much sugar was going to end in tooth decay or diabetes, and who wants either of those?
Then a fellow perfume blogger (the lovely Meg of the lamented Parfumieren) sent me a decant of Christian Lacroix’s Tumulte and I had to re-examine my prejudice.
Tumulte is a perfume that more or less defies expectations because while extremely sweet, the fragrance is also highly unexpected and quite intelligent. I kept thinking it reminded me of something underneath its beautiful but achingly sugary rose and violet notes and finally after poking about, I realized that what Tumulte recalled was Nahema.
That old perfume which I’ve written about elsewhere was ahead of its time. When Nahema was first released the scent was too weirdly rose centric in unpredictable ways. You could smell the sillage forever, and Tumulte although made of less expensive materials, improves on the Guerlain for me, in being far more easy to live with. Nahema was a diva, and Tumulte is simply a very intelligent girlfriend who keeps up her end of the conversation in a remarkably lively way. But did I mention that Tumulte was SWEET?
Recently I came across a second extremely sweet fragrance that altered my position on sugar, and that was Krigler’s Dolce Tuberose which might as well be renamed Tuberose Dessert. It’s yet another one of the Kriglers that I have been slowly discovering every time I go back into Manhattan, and is a melding principally of heliotrope and tuberose. The combination, I remember writing to Mals, from Muse in Wooden Shoes, was like Halwa, the sesame seed candy you can buy in large blocks if you live near a good deli or Middle Eastern spice shop. You would think that the result was silly, like rubbing a handful of the crumbly candy all over your wrists, but not at all. The effect is sweet, but with something almost aged or fermented about it.
Can candy age and develop a depth of flavor in the manner of a good cheese? Probably not, but nevertheless, Dolce Tuberose reminds me of the caves in the region of Champagne that you can go and visit when you are in the vicinity of Paris, the dry chalky soil, and the scent of all that un-drunk champagne spins the partially fermented sugar on the air into a delightful sweetish woodiness similar to sesame seeds.
That’s the effect of Dolce Tuberose, which ends up, curiously, as a perfume for a sophisticate. Don’t ask me why, but it’s Shirley Temple’s perfume, long after she’d become Shirley Temple Black and disembarked from the Good Ship Lollipop.