Thursday 4 June 2020

PRIMA by Carthusia

There have been many attempts to create fragrances that embody a place or a building, but these are always a little hit and miss. It’s very difficult to sum up in scent a particular environment because everybody will have a slightly different recollection or impression. To do it successfully you need your audience to be able to draw on a more universal memory. One example of a company doing just that is Carthusia with their theatre inspired Prima fragrance. With theatres currently closed, the chance to relive the smell of the greasepaint and the roar of the crowd was one that I simply couldn’t resist.

The scent of a theatre is something that is engrained in the memory of anyone that has ever acted or even just been to one of these many pleasure palaces. There are aromas that are shared by both the performers and the audience, the dusty velvet drapes and the aged wooden stages, but some are reserved for backstage. There is nothing more evocative than the smell of the resin that ballet girls dip their shoes into or the waft of ancient machinery being coaxed into use. All of these combine to create the aroma of a theatre, and that is where Prima comes in.

The history of Carthusia stretches back to 1380 and the Monastery of St James in Capri, where the company are still based. The monks reportedly gathered a bouquet of fragrant flowers as a welcome for Queen Joan of Anjou and found that the scent transferred to the water. They recreated it, named it Garofilium Silvestre Caprese, and a business was born. The company was eventually revived in 1948 when the formula books were rediscovered and, with the permission of the Pope, handed over to a chemist based in Torino. Carthusia has gone on to become a worldwide niche brand with a catalogue of exceptional scents.

The idea of collaborating on a perfume that combined fragrance with theatre was one that Carthusia embraced in 2013. They took Italy’s Teatro di San Carlo as their inspiration and wanted to convey the experience of being inside the country’s premier venue. Now, as I mentioned before, when the subject is something that can easily be imagined by customers, even if they’ve never visited it, then you’re on to a success. We've all been inside a theatre at some time in our lives, and it's those shared memories that we draw on. So, it's time to dim the houselights and raise the curtain as we welcome Prima to the stage.

This wonderfully unisex fragrance opens with a beautiful combination of bergamot and mint that hints at the vastness of the Teatro di San Carlo. However, very quickly you start to get the dryness of the backstage cedarwood playing against a plush mahogany note that puts you in mind of highly polished arm rests and lacquered carvings. This duality continues with a decadent fur touched rose contrasting with ballet shoe resins, and there’s even a hint at a vintage lipstick note. The development sees an aged peppered accord of oud and patchouli add weight without dominating, and a final wash of white musk helps to reconnect you with the majesty of the theatre.

Prima is available from the Carthusia website at priced at €90 for 50ml parfum. [Sample provided by Isella Marzocchi]

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