Par Amour (Clarins)

Who likes their fresh summertime berries with a touch of pepper? The very notion may cause an instinctive recoil (You want me to put what on WHAT?!) until you try it-- and then you're hooked. Somehow, a dusting of freshly-ground black, white, or green Piper nigrum or pink Schinus molle beautifully complements the acid-sweet quality of ripe strawberries, blackberries, and raspberries. Sure, it's counterintuitive, maybe even a bit reckless so far as taste pairings go. But we initiates know what we know-- and what we know is mmm-mmmm good.

So how does pink pepper get along with blackcurrant? Like gangbusters. The combination is best exemplified by Odin New York's Petrana, a celestially lovely fragrance whose parts are as perfectly calibrated as the innards of a Swiss clock maker's masterwork. Yet there's a remoteness to Petrana, an unshakeable sense of detachment that I ascribe to its iris and vetiver. Whether solo or in tandem, these two notes act to "lower the temperature" of a fragrance's emotional message. As a result, Petrana seems to me like the classic "friendly alien" who comes in peace from a terra firma far from our own. However well-meaning it may be, it will never be mistaken for human-- it's just not made that way.

Not so Clarins' Par Amour. Simply by swapping out "cold" iris and vetiver for "warm" rose and sandalwood, it renounces the Uncanny Valley and pledges full allegiance to Planet Earth. Something about it brings out the scent of warm skin like nobody's business; it makes you feel aware of your essential nakedness even when you're weighted down by layers of winter clothes. It's delicious from start to far-off finish and packs a nice little kick of thermal energy for cold, rainy late-February days. My sample being small, I'm already plotting an experiment whereby I layer Poivre Piquant on top of Badgely Mischka to see if I can keep the feast going.

So why, then, don't I award it Petrana's five stars? Well, for a very simple reason: Par Amour is to Petrana what a Porsche Spyder is to an actual UFO. The former might be an uncommon sight on the street, but the latter is even more rare-- and where it came from, they don't need roads.

Scent Elements: Pink pepper, blackcurrant, rose, vanilla, sandalwood, benzoin