There are several ways to think about fragrance when you're caught in the middle of a summer heat wave. You can wear a light, all-over splash, like a traditional Eau de Cologne or Florida Water. You can, as Angie recently suggested, embrace the strong heat and humidity with an equally bold perfume. Or you can take a middle road by wearing an all-natural scent that evokes nature itself without feeling too heavy on the skin. Two summers ago, I reviewed Roxana Illuminated Perfume's Aurora and To Bee; over the past week, I've been sampling a more recent release called Chiaroscuro.
"Chiaroscuro" is a term for a bold contrast of light and darkness in visual art, especially when the contrast results in strong modeling of forms and a dramatic atmosphere. Caravaggio is known for his use of chiaroscuro, as is Georges de la Tour (whose paintings of Mary Magadene are particular favorites of mine). Roxana Illuminated Perfume has taken this word, which translates literally from Italian as "light-dark," as the name for a jasmine-based botanical perfume. As the description for this fragrance reads, "Chiaroscuro is a shape shifter, she is both the beauty and the beast from mythical heroic stories. She is the light of the luminous moon and the darkness of the night."
Chiaroscuro includes notes of jasmine (from real jasmine sambac), myrtle, patchouli, and jatamansi (spikenard); it's available as both a liquid and a solid perfume, with the liquid representing the "dark" side of the jasmine flower and the solid expressing the "light" side. I've tried both, and I like them for different reasons. The solid version is more "me": it's a soft floral with a silky jasmine heart surrounded by gentle notes of vanilla and ginger. It reminds me a little bit of Roxana's Page 47 fragrance, with an additional hint of spice. The only disappointing aspect of this scent, for me, was its brief staying power: it lasted only an hour on me. Of course, it can easily be re-applied, and its wax base absorbs into the skin without leaving any residue.
The liquid version of Chiaroscuro has a deep brown tint, and it smells dusky and rich, too. In its opening the jasmine sambac is wrapped in something camphoric (camphoraceous?), giving the impression of flowers stored in mothballs, and there's also a woody-resinous aspect. The fragrance does gradually lift and lighten, from something almost pungent to a smoother, more velvety scent. The indolic notes are replaced by smoother woods and earthy notes (there's the patchouli!), a subtle, spicy sweetness (the vanilla), and more of that lovely jasmine. In its liquid form, Chiaroscuro has good staying power for a natural perfume: I can still smell it on my skin after four hours.
I don't usually think of myself as a jasmine-lover, in the same way that I proclaim my affection for roses, carnations, and violets, but when I do smell a high-quality jasmine like the essence used in Chiaroscuro (or in one of my favorite facial products, Aroma M Camellia Face Oil), I remember how much I like it. If you do have a taste for jasmine, in any of its bright or dark guises, you'll want to try Chiaroscuro.
Roxana Illuminated Perfume Chiaroscuro is available in liquid and solid formats, including samples (prices range from $8-$205). For additional information, see the listing for Roxana Illuminated Perfume under Perfume Houses.