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Crunchy and cool, sweet yet tart, vegetable-meets-fruit: Multi-faceted rhubarb is the latest ingredient inspiring trendsetting perfumers.
In the fashion and beauty trend-watching game, it’s often the case that you see something coming but it hasn’t reached critical mass enough to substantiate a claim. So you wait.
My editor friends and I all joke, “three makes a trend,” we say.
So now that Hermès and L’Occitane have joined a smattering of brands who have recently incorporated the sassy scent of rhubarb into their fragrance folds, I can state unequivocally that this most tart and terrific of spring vegetables has arrived in the perfume world.
Rhubarb, a vegetable, is like a savoury fruit
I love rhubarb. Crunchy and cool, sweet yet tart: This spring vegetable, which behaves like a fruit, is bold and unusual, and maybe not so easy to fall in love with. But I’m gunning for it. And it’s being played with by top perfumers, so I’m in good company.
Perfumery’s new fixation on rhubarb also suggests a movement or evolution away from overtly sweet fruity essences to more savoury vegetal ones. The crispness of rhubarb—its tang—also feels right for this moment in a scent marketplace that loves cologne-like freshness. There’s also something grown-in-the-backyard-garden authentic about the vegetable that makes it desirable given our locavore-leaning ways.
“I have always liked he duality of rhubarb,” says Christine Nagel, perfumer-designer of Hermès, and the nose behind the brand’s new Eau de Rhubarbe Eclarlate Hermessence spritz. “It is a two-fold duality, both visual and olfactory. Its green colour metamorphoses into red. From acidic and crisp, its scent becomes smooth and velvety.”
Indeed, the new scent is bright and green, but has warmth and richness too. It smells new and unusual, but unusual in a very good way. We think of rhubarb baked as a fruit crisp, with a bubbly brown sugar-and-oatmeal topping and a dollop of vanilla Haagen-Daz oozing its cream into the caramelized crevices. Wow.
It is these red and green, fresh and warm, brisk and musky dualities of rhubarb that makes it so intriguing—and delicious.
Rhubarb, has an inherent cologne-like character
L’Occitane En Provence plays up the fresh and brisk nature of this key ingredient with its recent launch, Grapefruit Rhubarb. The toilette is like a fresh bowl of rhubarb mixed with the zest of that citrus, along with a sprinkle of sugar. But a sugar with warmth and flavour, not just sweetness. Maybe maple or Demerara.
Rhubarb’s arrival also makes sense given that cologne has returned to vogue—from Clean Reserve’s new standout cologne collection to the new six-flask lineup of Infusions de Prada which manages to channel a mindset of Italian eau de cologne into perfumes. It’s all about fresh, aromatic and unisex. Plus rhubarb, like cologne as a whole, defies gender stereotyping. It just smells good: cool, crisp and modern.
That you include the vegetable in the list of produce you want to grow in your postage-stamp-sized urban backyard this summer, is also relevant. Ditto, that rhubarb is on the dessert and cocktail menus of today’s A-list restaurants and bars. A dash of rhubarb bitters in that re-imagined Manhattan cocktail, anyone?
Ah, there are so many reasons to taste this new perfume note. So go ahead, get spritzing.
Hermès Eau de Rhubarbe Ecarlate EDC, $149 (100 ml), www.hermes.com (shown above)
L’Occitane Grapefruit Rhubarbe EDT, $65 (75 ml), www.loccitane.com