Some perfumes splash themselves exuberantly onto the skin with raucous fanfare, others slide sensual fingers across pulse points like an amorous lover. Some rage and rip at the nerves, others soothe and sedate a frayed mind. And there are some that leave a body cold. Fragrance is a provocation; an insistent plea to feel and taste and remember those fleeting sensory experiences that otherwise one might deem unworthy of a second thought. It is a bright enhancement- or possibly an unwelcome shadow- that paints the cloak of skin upon which it glistens. All is coloured.
Occasionally one encounters a fragrance that needs no fanfare, no seductive powers, no shock tactics. Once released from the bottle it simply settles over the soul like a blanket of sweet calm, all cherry red and gold. I have found my cloud nine fragrance recently, the gorgeous Tardes from Barcelona-based perfume house Carner. The website has a beautiful description of the scent which begins thus:
“A tribute to the peace and harmony of a late summer afternoon; a fragrance that is pure, serene and enveloping.”
That is certainly is. I’ve been living quietly with this scent through some rather hectic and unsettling moments recently. I’ve worn it and watched the seasons change and turn towards the close of the year. This is my favourite time, when the nights draw in and the air is chilled and the russet leaves dance on invisible rip tides all the way to the ground. Tardes has been everything I needed it to be; a confidence boost, a security blanket, a calming hand upon my furrowed brow. I have also received the most compliments I have ever had whilst wearing it, which is always a happy thing.
I am unsure whether to class this fragrance as a true gourmand, although it has all the elements to suggest that it might be. With top notes of Egyptian Geranium, Bulgarian Rose, Rosewood and Almond, A heart of Virginian Cedar Wood, Celery and Plum and a base of Venezuelan Tonka Bean, Musk and Heliotrope, one can imagine a boozy patisserie confection good enough to sink hungry teeth into. However edible Tardes may appear on paper, the actuality of the fragrance on my skin is far more nuanced and multifaceted, drying down to a soft, hazy grassland in the afternoon sun.
It absolutely begins with the mouthfeel; sweet almond liqueur and delightfully ripe red juices, oozy and boozy with a jammy rose petal crown. There is a deeper, unctuous drizzle from the tonka and a heliotrope hit of almond/cherry pastries. This might be where Tardes falls down for some people as it has an almightily sweet opening. However, I urge you greatly to stick with it because after the initial sensation of drowning in syrup, something exquisite happens.
Yes, all the sweetness is still there, but the roses start to sing higher above the patisserie chorus, as does a sharper geranium. The effect is to pull the fragrance up and outward, making it feel somehow like a fluffy, cherry coloured cloud rather than a deeply sticky dessert. I adore cherries. There is something titivating about those luscious orbs, ripe to bursting under crisp, fresh skins. No cherry-centric fragrance ever really smells like the uncooked and unsweetened fruit, it is usually the case that a heliotrope/almond fragrance goes in the direction of cherry pie. In Tardes there is a definite hint of cherry, yet it refrains from becoming plastic cherry chapstick. Instead the tartness and an impression of glorious ruby red is all that lingers.
As the perfume warms it becomes increasingly dry. Rather like the scent is brought upon a warm breeze. There also appears an intriguing savoury note, combined with a growing woodiness that really controls the perfume’s sweeter tendencies. It is at this point that I start to fall deeply in love. The savoury, woody quality is so harmoniously sewn together with the sweet almond, plum and heliotrope. This must be the celery; such a flavoursome ingredient when used in cooking, the effect it has in Tardes is to intensify and emphasise the seemingly opposing parts of the fragrance and bring them together in perfect harmony. I think really it has to be experienced to be understood fully.
At the very end of the perfume’s life, I find it to be a rather atmospheric cloud of red and gold with darker shadows. The savoury celery and woods create the idea of dry grasses, warmed in the last rays of sunshine. The tonka, almond and heliotrope still make up the main body of the fragrance’s sweetness but it’s all soft, dreamy edges now, a memory of it’s boozy beginnings. I can’t resist an atmospheric perfume and although to begin with Tardes appears to be a one trick pony, the development of that fascinating contrast between red sweet juice, golden nuttiness and shadowed woods lends it such depth and intrigue.
I am always going to have a little bit of extra appreciation for a gourmand fragrance, I’m just wired that way. What blows me away about Tardes is the intensity of colour I perceive from it and the juxtaposition of sweet and savoury, crafted with skill to great effect. I find it an excellent statement perfume, it brightens me up as effortlessly as the perfect shade of red lipstick. I also feel sort of protected inside it’s fragrant cloud, the unexpected blows of life arrive to me slightly softened.
I would highly recommend this fragrance to gourmand and fruity fragrance lovers, but also to those who enjoy sweet florals. I think Tardes will probably behave very differently depending on skin chemistry too. I have ranked this ruby red beauty amongst my favourite gourmand perfumes which include Frapin 1270 and Mona Di Orio Vanille. I shall also be exploring far more heliotrope fragrances, that almond patisserie goodness is a little too hard to resist…