Some people don’t care for the scent of sugar, and some people really prefer the smell of vanilla to any other, but for me, best of all is the combination of vanilla and caramel. I mean real caramel, the kind you cook up in your own kitchen.
If you are from the South of the US you probably know about a regional specialty known as “Burnt Sugar” Cake, though the sugar isn’t burnt at all. It gets a bit sweet by the standards of today, some recipes calling for nothing less than nine cups of sugar between the icing and the cake, but the butter and the cream added to the frosting give the cake an unctuous quality, smooth and thick on the tongue.
This is the kind of caramel I look for in fragrances. The almost taste-able kind, though not the sticky sort, that’s a distinction I insist on in fragrance. No one wants to smell exactly like desert. You just want to allude to it in passing.
The best sortof caramel is still discernible in Prada Candy, which my daughter wears, but I find this too heavy for June, too heavy for any month before October, and am glad to have discovered something lighter for this time of year.
I’d still say, that if you can find a bottle Guerlain’s Plus Que Jamais is one of the best whiffs of caramel you can find. This sounds odd I know in a perfume that is supposed to be a green chypre or else a floral/oriental, but the caramel note shows up soon after the green opening and blooms very well on skin.
Lately, I’d also include Neil Morris’ Afire which has a distinct caramel note after the frankincense of its beginning. The caramel here is almost spun, like those domes of sugar filaments they used to spin to cover crème brulee in restaurants during the nineties. This is the same effect, an airy spun sugar effect, almost an effervescence of sugar, like tiny pop rocks, that gradually burst into vanilla on skin, until only the faint traces of sugar, frankincense and red berries remain beside the vanilla. More delicate than either the Guerlain or the Prada, and something you can even wear now. Mr. Morris has a way with vanilla and also with caramel, he sold a perfume that was mostly a melange of tuberose and caramel, called Midnight Shadows, but these days you can smell his caramel in October, a scent that incorporates pumpkin, apple, caramel and woody notes in such a way that it recalls New England almost perfectly during the height of the color season.
That’s an odd thing to think of now to be sure when most of us are wearing florals, but sometimes you just want caramel or Connecticut in October…