The Unctuous Note of Caramel

CaramelSome 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.

caramelic lightsLately, 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…




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6 Responses to The Unctuous Note of Caramel

  1. Mals86 says:

    Well, I’m definitely wearing florals now. Can’t imagine otherwise until it gets chilly again.

    However, I ADORE burnt sugar cake (mmmmmmmm), really like Prada Candy, and am now checking out how to smell October.

  2. Blacknall Allen says:

    Love anything caramel myself, and burnt sugar cake is one of those discoveries of adulthood, as opposed to the Huguenot Torte we ate every Thanksgiving.

    October is one I have to try again, but Afire is on my list to buy. Gorgeous vanilla toffee bubbles on skin. Which probably sounds awful but is wonderful.

  3. Vanessa says:

    Well, as you know, I am a big fan of caramel in scents, notably in Prada Candy and Plus Que Jamais. ;) Thanks a lot for keeping me topped up in the case of the latter! I am not familiar with the Neil Morris scent you mention, though another caramel scent that springs to mind is Ava Luxe’s Love’s True Bluish Light.

    • Love’s true Bluish Light! I had forgotten that one, but that’s a beautiful vanilla/caramel note. Wish we heard a bit more of Ava Luxe, their White Carnations used to be a favorite of mine.

      You would like Afire. I’m pretty sure. There is this berry note in the beginning of it that dies down to a soft fruity murmur, but Afire is beautifully caramel and beautifully vanilla. Gorgeous stuff. When my half bottle of Vanille Tonka finally empties, I’m definitely buying a bottle.

  4. Natalie says:

    I like my caramel in food more than in perfume, and this post has me thinking about making burnt sugar cake. I’ve never tried it, and it sounds delicious.

    • Blacknall Allen says:

      Sorry for my delay in getting back to you, house sale fever I suppose.
      Anyway yes, burnt sugar cake is wonderful and fun to try if you never have. The best recipes I’ve come across are from So Carolina or Louisiana. I’d try those for starters Lee Bailey has a ver good one I can send you.

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