A few years ago, I received a Carthusia sample set from the rep at Holt Renfrew. This was back in the day when they re-opened their Vancouver department store and launched “Holtscents” – a niche (or mini boutique) in the store front with interesting perfumeries from around the world. Unfortunately, by the time I picked my favourite among the samples – the line got discontinued (along many other good brands, such as Miller Harris and Ineke), which was disappointing and disheartening to see – just another proof for Vancouver’s very limited appreciation for scent. Thankfully, Frederic Malle is still there and they keep rotating other niche brands (currently the new kid on the block is Byredo, which I don’t care much for). Io Capri and the other scents from Carthusia can be found in person and online at Anthropoligie, The Perfume Shoppe and ScentBar, so it’s not all lost...
But ranting about retailers choices aside: Io Capri was not what I thought I would fall for. I’m usually biased towards the heavier, smokier, spicier, oriental or chypre members of a perfume line, with an occasional unusual floral that I find intriguing. With Carthusia, I found myself drawn to the two light and fresh ones: Io Capri and Mediterrano.
Like most winning scents in my history, it’s the combination of familiarity and intrigue that usually “grabs” me. And Io Capri is a prime example. There was more of the unfamiliar in it; and on the surface, it’s not what I would pick over smoldering incense or moss-laden composition. There is a fine balance between crisp eau-de-cologne like freshness and the complete opposite – a flowery, feminine perfume with a sultry and salty undercurrent.
Io Capri opens with a bitter, acrid sharpness of citrus mingled with herbs. But immediately you will notice a violetty, floral mélange that has an almost nostalgic bittersweetness to it, and as it grows on the skin it takes the shape of parma violet in full purple ripeness. Green garden notes of tomato leaf become apparent suddenly – totally unexpected; and a slightly soapy, overripe purple fig floats on a cup of iced green tea. After this succession of notes, Io Carpi settles into an abstract cup of violet and fig tea scent, paired with salted green almonds - and other than that, remains rather unchanged throughout its skin life.
Contrary to my initial observations of Io Capri, it is actually a rather complex scent. It does remain linear after that initial burst; but there is more to it than "just" tea. Aside from the whimsical surprise of green tomatos, it is really that intriguing combination of candy-like beta ionone and salty notes that got my attention. A look at Carthusia's own website reveals an interesting scent pyramid that would explain quite easily why it won my heart:
Top notes: Wild Mint, Sicilian Lemon, Chinese Eucalyptus, Aromatic Litsea, Star Anise, Brazilian orange
Heart notes: Fig, Wildflowers, Tea, Apple Blossom, Egyptian Jasmine, Ceylonese Citronella
Base notes: Seaweed, Tobacco flowers