My neighborhood feels a little quieter on summer weekends, due to many residents' migrations to and from the seashore. That's not something I personally do, because there are certain things about summer beaches that really make me miserable: the crowds, the noise, the excessive sunlight. I love the beach, on my own terms: off-season, in fall or spring, under slightly cloudy skies.
Since I can't always have the beach the way I like it, or I can't actually get there when the conditions are most favorable, I'm partial to beach-themed perfumes that let me imagine an ideal seashore visit. Two new additions to my rotation of beachy perfumes are BDK Parfums Sel d'Argent and Carthusia A'mmare, marine fantasies with different olfactory moods.
The promotional copy for BDK's Sel d'Argent reads...
The silver sea glimmers under the fading light. Our last swim was barely an hour ago and I can still taste the salt on my skin. The waves are subsiding little by little, and the moon, discreet, is rising in the sky as the red sun sets.
This description fits Sel d'Argent well. As composed by perfumer Anne-Sophie Behaghel, this a late-afternoon interlude by the ocean, a marine scent that leans mineral and aromatic, rather than fruity — no Calone or coconut here. Sel d'Argent's official description mixes notes and ingredients: bergamot, grapefruit, salt accord, orange blossom, ylang ylang, galbanum, Ambroxan, Cashmeran, Timbersilk and white musk. Most prominent, to my nose, are a lingering bergamot, some black pepper, and a sheer ambergris base (courtesy of Ambroxan). Overall, this scent smells very "dry," like traces of salt and sand rather than an actual dip in the waves. It's linear and minimalist (but not skimpy), all-gender and easy to wear.
If Sel d'Argent is the scent equivalent of an Instagram photo of the beach, tastefully cropped and filtered just so, then Carthusia's A'mmare reminds me of a vintage postcard in saturated color that's been printed just slightly out-of-register. It's picturesque and fun and memorable. Carthusia describes A'mmare (whose name apparently means "to the sea" in certain dialects of Italian) as...
...an authentic, almost secret garden, which opens up among the alleys of Capri and intertwining under the veil of the waves, brings to shore coral branches and vegetable compositions, together with shells and unexpected explosions of a natural heritage highlighted by a sunny day.
A'mmare was created for Carthusia by perfumer Luca Maffei and its notes include salt, rosemary and bergamot; water and mint; cedar, guaiac, musk and patchouli. As you might guess from that list, A'mmare has herbal and aquatic aspects that evoke beachy breezes, along with fruity notes that make me think of limoncello and orange-scented suntan oil. What surprised me most in this fragrance was a soapy, almost creamy accord, something lactonic — topped off with mint. I'm not sure where this milkiness fits into the overall picture, but it's sweet and soothing. A'mmare is a fanciful, almost rococo perfume, yet somehow everything comes together in this composition. (And yes, the bottle really is that delightful in person.
Whereas Sel d'Argent remains fairly close to my skin and lasts all day on my arms and wrists, A'mmare is more diffusive and has average staying power. I've been wearing Sel d'Argent to the office and A'mmare on weekends or for an evening cocktail with friends. I'm writing this review during a heat wave, when intense sun and hordes of people are even less appealing to me than usual — but with the right fragrance, I can remain in my air-conditioned seclusion and still imagine an ideal seaside getaway (or two).
BDK Parfums Sel d'Argent is available as 100 ml Eau de Parfum ($190) at Luckyscent, Osswald and the BDK website. Carthusia A'mmare is available as 50 ($100) and 100 ($140) Eau de Parfum, plus matching body products, at C. O. Bigelow and Beautyhabit.