Friday, 27 April 2012

Persolaise Review: Carita from Carita + Truth Or Dare from Madonna (2012)

Image: Jean-Paul Gaultier

Alberto Morillas is the Steven Soderbergh of perfumery: he makes fragrances which appeal to a broad spectrum of consumers, but he never seems to pander to the demands of the lowest common denominator. What’s more, he achieves this with an olfactory signature which always comes frighteningly close to collapsing into banality but somehow, despite the odds, pulls away from the edge and remains fresh and compelling. Those of you familiar with his work will, of course, realise that I’m referring to his penchant for white musks, those synthetic juggernauts which currently spell ‘cleanliness’, ‘childhood’ and ‘innocence’ to generations of people, thanks to their over-use in detergents and fabric softeners.

His style is best summed up by three of his most famous creations: CK One, Kenzo’s Flower and Mugler’s Cologne. All of them feature a riff on synthetic musks, all were (and continue to be) imitated, and all were massive hits. He’s aimed in a similar direction with the first fragrance for the beautician-oriented skincare brand, Carita, founded in 1945 by the sisters Maria and Rosy Carita.

In simple terms, this is a linear, floral, sweet and, of course, musky, piece of work, but it’s lifted out of the ordinary by an intriguing clinical edge which makes it impossible to dismiss the whole as, say, yet another iteration of Flower. So although the vanilla, rose and violet pull the scent towards the realms of the familiar, the presence of several lab-made ingredients introduces a distinctly other-worldly aspect, a sense of something that isn’t as recognisable as it might initially appear.

The Carita website claims this is a scent for “the woman who embraces her femininity”. The official press release is no less vacuous: it states that the perfume’s base notes place sensuality... wait for it... "directly on the skin”. The truth is that this new release deserves more than trite marketing cliches. It’s well-composed, enjoyable to wear and, most commendably, it displays Morilla’s understanding that a little bit of sci-fi goes a long way. Yes, a beauty salon should be plush, comfortable and relaxing. But it helps if it also conveys some suggestion of the future, either in the unearthly whiteness of its employees’ uniforms or the torture chamber-esque aesthetics of its anti-ageing equipment. It’s the tension between these two extremes that makes this new scent worth trying.

In brief... Madonna has released her first perfume. No, you haven't just been zapped back to the 90s. It is still 2012 and, yes, the woman who was once streets ahead of the curve has only now done something she should have considered doing a couple of decades ago, before every Z-list celeb jumped on the fragrant band wagon. The interesting thing is that Truth Or Dare isn't as terrible as we might have suspected. In fact, it isn't terrible at all. Created by Givaudan's Stephen Nilsen, it is an appealing, reasonably-priced, straightforward, extremely tenacious tuberose, with nods towards other white flowers and ambery vanilla. Niche fans will almost certainly not be interested in it, because they'll turn to the far superior Carnal Flower, Scandal and, of course, Fracas (which the Queen Of Pop herself wore for a while, if rumours are to be believed). But those who haven't yet ventured beyond the mainstream may well be intrigued by its confidence and room-filling presence.

When my teenage niece saw the logo on the bottle other day, she screwed up her face with disdain. "OMG," she said, "they've combined an 'M' with a cross. It must've taken them, like, a WHOLE DAY to work out they could do that. And I bet they felt really pleased with themselves afterwards." I must admit I share her disappointment: there's nothing wrong with Truth Or Dare, but it feels half-baked, and more than a little dated.


Come back next week for an exclusive Q&A with Alberto Morillas and click here for Katie Puckrick's interview with Stephen Nilsen, in which we find out what Madge thinks of IFRA. Finally, don't forget that you've got until Tuesday night (UK time) to enter the competition for a sample of vintage Diorissimo, vintage Dioressence and a brand new bottle of a khus attar from Ajmal.

[Review of Carita based on a sample of eau de parfum provided by Carita; review of Truth Or Dare based on a sample of eau de parfum provided by Madonna Perfumes / Coty; both samples provided in 2012.]



  1. Yt heartily, if more polite-ly!!, agrees w/ Madge on the IFRA :-) Common ground happens in strange places :-0

    1. Linda, I know what you mean... but maybe the whole industry's been too polite where IFRA is concerned!

  2. I absolutely loved the powdery musky violet from Carita EDP. It's tender, feminine, and just timeless.

    The Madonna fragrance is indeed very very disappointing (and I'm a major Madonna fan for 25 years). Why didn't she just buy Robert Piguet Parfums? Truth ot Dare smells very much like Fracas without its originality and soul.

    It's well done but artistically empty.

    1. CdP, I'm glad we agree on the Carita.

      As for the Madonna scent, when writing my review, I wondered if I should delve deeper into the Piguet connection, because Truth Or Dare smells a great deal like the scent Piguet did for Douglas Hannant. Have you tried it? I think there must be some new, ultra-tenacious tuberose molecule out there which features in both these compositions.

      By the way, I love your idea of Madonna buying Piguet. THAT would've been a different entry into the perfume world!


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