Monday 18 November 2019

1681 by Carthusia

One of the wonders of fragrance is that it allows perfume companies to weave elaborate stories that aim to entice and enthral their customers. Over time it often becomes difficult to separate the fact from the fiction but, if you like the fragrance that you’re smelling, does it really matter if the language is a little flowery? Exaggeration and embellishment are all part of the scented storytelling and it helps to weave a web of desire that draws us all in. Carthusia is a perfume company that is based on the island of Capri and, alongside a wonderfully colourful history, they also produce the impressive 1681.

Italy’s Bay of Naples seems a world away from the traditions of French fragrance creation but it has been home to a gloriously old-fashioned perfume company for, potentially, six hundred and thirty-nine years. Legend has it that back in 1380 the island of Capri had an unexpected visit from Queen Joan of Anjou. In a rush to be ready for her arrival the Monastery of St James gathered a bouquet of fragrant flowers as a fragranced welcome. Upon her departure it was found that the bouquet’s perfume had transferred to the water and, after being recreated, was christened Garofilium Silvestre Caprese.

The monastery is said to have continued to be involved in the creation of floral preparations, and more structured fragrances, but production eventually ceased. The story picks up again in 1948 when the formula books were dusted off and, with the permission of the Pope, were passed to a chemist in Torino. Some of the fragrances were recreated, some were reinterpreted, but the Carthusia legacy was reborn for a whole new audience. It’s still famously thought of as the fragrance of Capri, and some of those lighter scents are reminiscent of floral waters, but there is much more to this company.

The more recent history of Carthusia has seen a reimagining of the existing fragrances and the introduction of some excellent new ones in an effort to reignite the interest in a hugely overcrowded marketplace. It’s this clear understanding that the company has to evolve to survive that has meant that the Carthusia name is now appearing in boutiques around the world. When 1681 was launched in 2010 the company was fairly unknown outside of its native Italy and so the fragrance was missed by many people. However, in the years that have followed, this aromatic spicy scent has become synonymous with the brand.

1681 opens with a dusting of powdery iris and sharpened mandarin before the aromatic notes of coriander and thyme begin to show themselves. A subtle lavender and rosemary blend pulls in the metallic note of the neroli and a touch of black pepper then starts the journey from aromatic to spicy. As the fragrance develops you see the smooth woody tones of sandalwood mixing with elegant cedarwood but, along with a supporting amber accord, an incense note is added that marries perfectly with that violet-touched iris. The mix of monasterial spirituality and modern-day refinement makes this the perfect scent for those that like their fragrances to have a feeling of place.

1681 is available from the Carthusia website at and also from Roullier White priced at €60 for 50ml and €80 for 100ml.

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