Calvin Klein Reveal ~ perfume review

Calvin Klein Reveal fragrance advert

Calvin Klein has a released a new pillar in its fragrance collection this fall: Reveal, a "solar oriental" for women. It was developed for Calvin Klein by perfumers Jean-Marc Chaillan and Bruno Jovanovic (both of whom have created other fragrances for the brand) and its composition includes notes of "raw salt signature," pink pepper, black pepper, white pepper, orris, ambergris, solar accord, sandalwood, cashmeran and musk.

I honestly didn't expect to enjoy Reveal when I found it at a department store fragrance counter. I had no specific response to the ad campaign and video starring model Doutzen Kroes and actor Charlie Hunnam, other than a hunch that real-life voyeurism isn't as much fun as these two try to make it seem. I find Reveal's bottle — a swollen, pillow-like square that separates into a clunky metallic triangular cap and a ridiculously heavy glass bottle — even more awkward to handle than Euphoria's curvy lotus-inspired shape. I'm bored by the suggestion that Reveal "embodies the thrilling game of seduction between a man and a woman, the erotic possibility of a game between equals." 

Once I'd smelled Reveal and tested it on my skin, however, I liked it, even though I really didn't understand the whole urban voyeurism/seduction theme of the video and print ads. Why doesn't the Reveal scenario unfold on a beach at sunset? According to French Vogue, Klein's "latest fragrance recalls hazy Summer sunsets and as the evening begins to cool, a touch of Cashmeran evokes the delicate warmth of a cashmere shawl upon the shoulders."1 That's a much more intriguing and accurate description than the ramblings about erotic games between equals.

Reveal is warm and translucent, and — to me, at least — more comforting than sexy. It does have a distinctive "salt signature," which it balances against a sweeter amber accord. I experienced the fragrance differently on two consecutive days. On an unseasonably cool summer day, the salty/iodine part dominated and smelled almost briny. (This reminded me of the fictional Calvin Klein fragrance named "The Beach" that was a plot point on Seinfeld back in the early 90s.) The next day was considerably warmer, and Reveal slipped more rapidly into its sweetish vanilla-sandalwood-musk dry down, although the saltiness never fully faded away. In between the saltwater top and the oriental base, there's a very smooth pepper effect and a similarly cleaned-up ambergris note.

If you already have a favorite fragrance with a more offbeat interpretation of marine notes and ambergris, like Hermès Eau des Merveilles, you may find Reveal a little safe and bland. It reminds me of more easygoing salt-air-and-sand scents like Rem de Reminiscence or CB I Hate Perfume's Mr. Hulot's Holiday. It's not identical to anything else I've smelled, but if you know a salt-and-sun-and-skin fragrance that seems similar to Reveal, do chime in. This fragrance really could be described as a "solar oriental" (it claims to be the first of this genre),2 and it has excellent longevity to boot.

Where do I stand on Calvin Klein perfumes in general? Well, I've owned and enjoyed Euphoria since its release in 2006, and (dating myself here!) I have fond recollections of the years when I smelled Obsession at every party and dance I attended. I also liked Truth, which seemed to vanish from most fragrance counters soon after it was launched in 2000. However, none of the more recent releases (Beauty, Downtown, et al.) have made much of an impression on me. Unlike Downtown or the endless CK One flankers, this fragrance is reportedly aimed at women between the ages 25 and 49,3 which includes me. I think men in this (or any) age group could also wear Reveal. It feels contemporary, but it flirts with the edges of mainstream territory. I'm curious to see how it sells — will female customers fall for the unisex salty (and non-fruity-floral) top notes? Will they stick around for the more commercial woody-gourmand hints in the dry down? Only time will, er, reveal this fragrance's fate in the marketplace.

Calvin Klein Reveal fragrance bottles

Calvin Klein Reveal is available as 30 ml ($50), 50 ml ($70) and 100 ml ($90) Eau de Parfum. A 9 ml rollerball ($24), 200 ml body lotion ($38) and 200 ml shower gel ($30) are also available.

1. Via Calvin Klein's Sunset Fragrance at Vogue France.

2. Ed. note. I did not do an exhaustive search, but Estee Lauder used the same term for Bronze Goddess Capri in 2012; suffice it to say Reveal is not the first.

 3. Via Coty and Calvin Klein dare to bare with new feminine fragrance Reveal at Moodie Report.

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29 Comments

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  1. pyramus says:

    I too am old enough to remember Obsession’s launch in 1985. For fifteen years Klein was a masterful innovator, but for the last decade it’s been mostly flankers and boring duplicates of of-the-moment scents.

    I’m still going to try this. I might even like it.

    • Jessica says:

      I agree… CK really had his/its/their finger on the pulse with Obsession and Eternity and CK One. Way too many flankers lately, and I don’t even remember what Beauty smelled like… but I do like Reveal. I hope it does well enough to stick around for a while.

  2. Absolute Scentualist says:

    I don’t usually do well with salty notes in perfumes unless they’re really subtle. But I do have and still love Euphoria, and while I grew up more in the CK1/CKB/Truth era of CK, I have always liked Obsession both for women and men, but especially the womens’ version. Even if by the time I came to appreciate it, it was very much out of vogue. It is one of my winter staples and the shower gel and body cream are amazing! Most of the women I knew or grew up with wore light florals so when I smelled Obsession for women for the first time as a teen who wanted to seem more worldly, it blew my other fragrance favorites out of the water. It and the original D&G with the red cap were two perfumes I promised myself I’d buy when I graduated, went to college and got a better job since they just seemed so grown-up and take no prisoners sexy to me then.

    Ah, the memories Calvin Klein brings back… Thanks for the review, Jessica.

    • Jessica says:

      Less than a year ago, I asked a co-worker what fragrance she was wearing, because she smelled amazing. It was something warm and spicy and grown-up. She was almost embarrassed to tell me it was Obsession — but she shouldn’t have been embarrassed at all! It smelled great. I hadn’t been around it in ages.

  3. JolieFleurs says:

    I shall have to read your lovely review again….. my mind came to a complete halt when it got to the whole Charlie Hunnam voyeur part. ;)

    I haven’t cared much for any CK fragrances other than Obsession, which my best friend still wears to this day.

    I feel I owe it to myself to watch that video about a hundred times, to see if this fragrance might be something I’d like…

    • Jessica says:

      I do think Mr. Hunnam is attractive, although I’ll always remember him as the British roommate on the short-lived TV series “Undeclared”!

  4. Merlin says:

    Euphoria was the first perfume I bought myself – and probably the first perfume I wore as an adult. Therefore its a shock that it came out in 2005 – when I was already in my mid-20s. Guess that’s what they call a late bloomer, lol! I haven’t really liked anything else in the CK range but this does sound promising given that I like salt in a perfume – but find something like eau de Merveilles way too salty. I like a touch of salt – Terre d’H style :)

    • Jessica says:

      I have no interest in the various Euphoria flankers, but I still like the original! I bet many people don’t buy their first “independent” fragrances until they reach their 20s…

  5. TreasuredAgain says:

    THANK YOU! I thought I was going crazy here! I too thought the commercial was creepy. Voyeur even enters her apartment. She seduces! Now seduction is fine, but on a creepy voyeur? You’re treading dangerously. Very unrealistic.

    I often bring my netbook to work at macy’s fragrance counter, just to research hard to find fragrances for people or read fragrance blogs to get ahead of the game…. the commercial has recently had a permanent tab on my internet connection – the cosmo girls always want to see charlie. I don’t think any have interpreted it like I did. They are all like “charlie can watch me anytime.” Hm. These young girls don’t have a reality on stalking to the point of restraining orders I don’t think.

    But what shocked me most (although looking back it really shouldn’t) is when I recently sat down with a coty rep (not frag model, but the model’s bosses boss) and voiced my concern about the commercial and it’s reception she was like “oh, not at all! I think it’s a romantic story about two people who watch each other and are attracted to each other and they finally get together.”

    Whatever. I shouldn’t have expected more from someone who is trying to get me to sell their stuff.

    As for the scent, I was disappointed. Not very distinctive, and a bit overly musky to me. My first reaction was “Womanity meets Alien with a huge dose of musk.” The dry down is very sun drenched skin, but on me… b.o. Maybe it’s how I wear it. I’ll try it again, but I think it’s going to be a hard sell. One that you need to get on the customer and/or get many returns. I honestly think Charlie will be the driving force behind the sales of this.

    I think CK is looking for another Obsession, Euphoria, or CK1. Can’t forget Eternity either. While it isn’t distinctive to me (who sniffs almost anything I can get my hands on) it might be different enough (bland enough) for customers to turn away from the fruity florals. Maybe.

    Oh, and the Coty rep revealed (pun intended) there is a men’s version coming. All she had to show was a print ad with the bottle. It’s similar, but the square is sitting straight up, not on diagonal, and juice is a greeny blue.

    • Jessica says:

      A men’s version?! What a shock! ;)

      I look forward to the flankers, too… Reveal Flower. Reveal Noir. Reveal Eau Lite.

      I thought of the salty note in Womanity for a second, too! — although Womanity has so many other things going on, with the fig, etc. that I didn’t mention it in the end.

  6. Elisa says:

    Perfume Shrine recently did a post on “solar notes” and I realized I really like them, so it sounds like I would like this. (I still have bottles of CK Be and Truth!)

    • Jessica says:

      I have to admit that I really enjoy solar/salty notes, depite my dislike of actual sun exposure! I’ve reviewed quite a few beachy scents, and I own a few, too…

      • Elisa says:

        Same here! I am NOT a “sit on the beach all day” person.

  7. Anna Stromberg says:

    I’m very interested in this.
    I becam an adult in the ninties and wore Eternety for a long time. Also love Truth and cKBe. And I have some hope that this might be a scent like cK used to do them ( since Truth and Sheer obsession, I’ve only like – and I know I might be the only one- cKIn2U).

    • Jessica says:

      I don’t think they’ll ever do anything as iconic and zeitgeist-y as Obsession or cK One again, but I find Reveal a lot more interesting than Downtown, for example!!

  8. rebeccat94 says:

    I just bough this fragrance and I find it to be quite addictive. I can’t stop smelling my wrist! I tend to like most CK fragrances. I own and frequently wear Euphoria, Eternity, One Summer, but this is my favorite one so far. It’s a very unique scent

  9. sweetgrass says:

    I like salty notes in perfume, so I will probably give Reveal a sniff if/when I see it. I haven’t really worn many CK perfumes. Obsession smelled like Play-Doh on me after the top notes faded.

    • sweetgrass says:

      I saw Reveal at a discounter today and gave it a sniff, though only on a strip. I thought of Womanity a bit too. Like Womanity meets EL Sensuous Nude or something.

      • Jessica says:

        “Womanity meets EL Sensuous Nude” is an excellent analogy! and I only like part of Womanity, and part of Sensuous Nude, so Reveal hits the spot for me. ;)

  10. Carolyn says:

    Much as I love Charlie (Queer As Folk, the original Brtish version, remains one of my favourite all-time programmes), CK’s perfumes have never done much for me although Obsession reminds me of a long-time colleague many years ago who wore it & always smelled lovely.

    • Jessica says:

      I was sick of Obsession back in the late 80s when everyone was wearing it (and possibly wearing too much of it) — but you’re right, on the right person at the right moment, it’s a gorgeous sensual spicy perfume.

  11. Delacey says:

    I just tried this this evening, after reading your review, and then came back to the review to read it again. I didn’t notice any of the salty marine notes, or at least, they must have faded very quickly into the background. Certainly, I got nothing of the salt and bleached driftwood effect that I enjoy so much in Eau des Merveilles. I find it warm, and comforting, as you say, but heavier on the vanilla than I would usually like. Maybe I’ll have to try it again after winter has set in in earnest.

    • Jessica says:

      It’s funny, because sometimes I really get more amber-vanilla, and other times I get a looooonng phase of salty wood with the teensiest bit of citrus! I think it would actually make a very nice autumn scent.

  12. cavewoman says:

    How is it that CK can use the name “Reveal” when Halle Berry has a perfume with the same name?

    • Jessica says:

      Hm, good question! They can probably afford better lawyers than she can. No, just kidding. I don’t know. ;)

  13. adamj2004 says:

    Both fragrances are distributed by Coty so I’m sure that helps them both using the same name :)

  14. Das says:

    This perfume was chosen as one of Chandler Burr’s Untitled Series (S02E04) on Luckyscent before it went on the market. Check out the comments there about how people perceived it before the name/brand was revealed… Really interesting the variance of responses.

  15. taudrey says:

    Tried this today. It smells like Maison Martin Margiela’s Replica Beach Walk.

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