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Salty perfumes are sexy and intimate, and a move away from sugary gourmands.
Every so often a perfumer will introduce a note in an elixir that catches you by surprise—it’s unexpected, unique and unbelievable smelling. In 1921, that perfumer was Ernest Beaux who, seemingly magically, swirled the then, never-been-used-before, sparkling- and clean-smelling aldehydes into Chanel’s No 5. In 1992, Olivier Cresp and Yves de Chirin had women rushing to cosmetics counters for their infusion of the now famous cotton candy-scented ethylmaltol in Thierry Mugler’s Angel.
Today, perfumers are adding a touch of salt. Its appeal is sexy and intimate, a minimalistic and innovative move away from the industry’s heady, sugary gourmands.
“Salt brings a new layer of raw sensuality into perfume,” explains Bruno Jovanovic, who with Jean-Marc Chaillan, created the latest Calvin Klein eau, Reveal. “The simplicity of salt is very appealing and a new way to express sexuality.”
SALTY, ETHEREAL ESSENCES
More of an olfactory impression than actual ingredients, salt-like essences are crafted in labs and poured into bottles to create different saline results. Mineral notes mimic the scent of sea air in Jo Malone’s Wood Sage & Sea Salt. Savoury notes inspired by the flowers growing in the marshy seascapes of France’s Côte Sauvage are mixed into Miller Harris Fleurs de Sel, and a unique blend of sunny, sandy and ocean breeze-like notes capture the raw salt signature ingredient in Calvin Klein’s Reveal.
“The solar accord fused with ambergris are the key components,” affirm Jovanovic and Chaillan, speaking together. “The ambergris has a marine, animalistic scent which brings about a skin-like, salty and warm effect.”
SAVOURY OVER SWEET
Depending on the notes it is mix-mastered into, salt has the exceptional ability to be diverse in scent, ranging from smelling gritty, clean and fresh, or sweaty and provocative. Its growing popularity in perfumery can even be attributed to the culinary world as chefs, like perfumers, experiment beyond ordinary table versions and incorporate artisanal varieties—from flaky Maldon to lemon, truffle or rosemary-infused, and Himalayan varieties—to create novel and distinctive flavours.
“The sweet, gourmand approach to sexy feels like a dessert,” says Jovanovic and Chaillan, who have, with this Calvin Klein Reveal fragrance, made a marked departure from the mass-market sweetness to one of a savoury nature. “Salt adds a unique, grown-up type of sexy that is also incredibly primal and instinctual. Plus, it’s more skin-oriented since the skin is already somewhat salty.”
Reveal hits this seductive, olfactory mark, reinforcing that the salt trend has moved beyond niche perfumery and is now on the rise in broader, department-store distribution. No wonder. After all, as Beaux stated in a 1953 interview with Time, “Pepper and salt don’t taste pleasantly when taken alone, but they enhance the taste of a dish.”