Thursday, 17 July 2008

Chartreuse, Capri & Carthusia...


God love those crazy monks of the Carthusian Order. Dedicated to a life of solitude and holiness, in 1605 they still managed to invent the alcoholic liqueur Chartreuse from 130 herbal extracts. (Things must have become pret-ty rowdy at the monasteries on occasion). I suppose we can collectively thank them for sobering memories of our teenage introduction to the greeny-yellow demon drink, which - more often than not - either resulted in somebody getting hurt, arrested or violently ill.
Fortunately, their contribution to the finer things in life does not end with this kermit-coloured elixir.

Centuries before the cloistral distilleries were producing alcoholic beverages, the monks of Certosa San Giacomo in Italy are credited with the creation of the first perfume of Capri in 1380. In celebration of a visit by the Queen Giovanna d'Anglio to the monastery, a huge bouquet of locally grown flowers was arranged in her honour. Days after her departure when the flowers were thrown away, the prior noticed that the water had acquired a unique perfume. The scent was then re-created, and became the basis for several perfume formulas which were later uncovered in 1948 and revived by a small chemist in Torino under permission from the Pope. The tradition is being continued now by the niche house, Carthusia. Creating scents for both men and women, I am particularly fond of their creation Carthusia Uomo. Irresponsibly and flippantly reviewed by Tanya Sanchez in The Guide, this is a scent that deserves a closer look.

Uomo opens with a distinct marine-like quality. For a crushing millisecond your nose wants you to believe that you've smelled this creation before, but this sensation is only fleeting. Moments later, it is as if it's single marine accord blossoms into flower and each separate accord can be identified and accounted for: citrus, rosewood, seaweed, violet. Imagine a "standard" masculine oceanic scent, and then try to recreate it in your mind using 10,000 flowers... in this way, Uomo has a spectacular complexity. It is proudly masculine in nature - and distinctly Italian - but the complex and varied individual accords are delicate and soft - almost like muted building blocks that all amount to a boldly refined and elegant whole. Perhaps the most enjoyable quality of this fragrance is its very pleasurable dry-down. When warmed by your skin, rich animalic/musky accords emerge that are not the least bit unpleasant. A fine balance has been struck between the sharp and crisp accords, and the velvety dark ones. 

One wears Carthusia Uomo like a time-worn monk's robe. It is both modest and costume-like; revealing much about oneself, whilst at the same time, fostering an air of secrecy.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Excellent review. I tried this cologne recently and at first the scent was amazing, like a fresh ocean holiday. But then it got very musky...I like the initial scent the best, before it evolves.