As an intro to my list of Top Ten Summer Fragrances way back in 2014, I grumbled that I've never liked the question, "What are your plans for the summer?" I can safely say that no one has asked me that question this year...since so many plans have been canceled and most of us are just quietly staying safe at home.
I seem to be wearing beach-inspired perfumes (one of my favorite sub-genres!) even more than usual this summer, just because I can't go to the seashore. I recently tried two more scents that evoke the beach in very different ways, and although neither of them will replace my favorites, they both gave me the sense of a brief olfactory vacation.
SOL Cheirosa '62 comes to us from the bodycare company Sol de Janeiro: "Inspired by the golden sun in Rio, this fragrance captures the very heart of summer and the feeling of paradise right down to your toes. . . . SOL Cheirosa ’62 celebrates the iconic year of 1962 when the world first met the Girl from Ipanema and fell in love with Brazil." If you're already a Sol de Janeiro fan, and you love their Bum Bum Cream, you'll be happy to know that this perfume has the same scent, with notes of salted caramel, pistachio, jasmine and vanilla.
This is a contemporary gourmand fragrance and it's definitely a sweet one. Its description is on point: SOL Cheirosa '62 starts off with a roasted-nut accord, then drifts onwards to caramel, a few white flower petals, and a creamy-musky vanilla note. It makes me want to head to my local bakery to purchase some churros filled with dulce de leche (or, as it would correctly be called in Brazil, doce de leite). It has average staying power and sillage for an Eau de Parfum, and it's as smooth as the iconic recording of "The Girl from Ipanema" by Stan Getz and Brazilian guitarist João Gilberto, and as gauzy and idealized as some influencer's holiday photos on Instagram.
However, if you'd like a completely different kind of olfactory beach trip, there's always Francesca Bianchi Sex and the Sea, inspired by "the wild intimacy of an erotic encounter at the seaside" and incorporating notes of mimosa, pineapple, coconut, immortelle, rose, iris, sandalwood, myrrh, labdanum, benzoin, ambergris, civet and vanilla. Sol de Janeiro was just what I expected from its description and my knowledge of the brand; Sex and the Sea definitely was not what I expected.
How so? Well, that list of notes suggests something that starts off fruity and ends up warm and resiny. Instead, Sex and the Sea begins by reminding me of a piña colada with a big sprig of mint (is that actually a thing? probably not). Then it makes an abrupt turn into something grittier: a mix of suntan oil, sweaty skin with a coppery smell like old pennies — and dirty sand. The dry down verges on animalic and a touch leathery, with traces of rotting sweetness from that coconut cocktail at the beginning.
Sex and the Sea is very persistent on my own (non-sexy) skin, and it lives up to Francesca Bianchi's warning of potentially "troubling" notes. Although I wouldn't wear it regularly, I have to respect Bianchi for creating such personal and defiantly non-commercial perfumes. Angel's Dust, while still non-mainstream, is a lot more "me," but if you're up for a skanky-smelling take on summer in a bottle, you could check out Sex and the Sea.
And here we are: it's nearly August. In my weirdly shrunken and skewed existence of the past four-and-a-half months (and counting), during which I've barely left my own neighborhood, I've valued the pleasures, routines, and relationships of my perfume-life even more than usual. Thanks, as always, for reading this and for sharing in all my mini-vacations through scent.
Sol de Janeiro SOL Cheirosa '62 is available as 50 ml ($78) and 8 ml ($26) Eau de Parfum at Sephora. Francesca Bianchi Sex and the Sea is available as 30 ml Extrait de Parfum. It can be found in the US at Indigo Perfumery for $135; Indigo also offers samples for purchase.