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 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.