Strawberry in perfume. Sounds scary, doesn’t it? Strawberry is a note so familiar from jam, yogurt, and Bonne Bell Lip Smackers that it seems like it would instantly deep-six a fragrance. Strawberry carries a lot of baggage.
Imaginary Authors Cape Heartache and Dawn Spencer Hurwitz Amouse Bouche feature strawberries in ways that are fresh and interesting. For me, neither fragrance makes me hungry for shortcake and Cool Whip, and they both lend a new appreciation for strawberry — in completely different ways.
Cape Heartache takes strawberry into unexpected territory by butching it up with resinous notes. Cape Heartache’s notes include Douglas fir, pine resin, western hemlock, vanilla leaf, strawberry, and old growth and mountain fog, the customary Imaginary Authors notes based more on romance than chemistry. “If you are looking for the pieces of a broken heart,” the copy on its tester slip says, “you might try rifling through the twigs and needles on the forest floor.”
My broken heart would probably smell like old wine bottles and unwashed hair, but fortunately Josh Meyer, the nose behind Imaginary Authors, envisioned a mountain man’s heartache, complete with incense cedar’s mysterious ability to smell slightly funky, yet spiritual. A hint of vanilla and what in my mind are tiny, misshapen but sweet wild strawberries soften the resins’ piney edge so that Cape Heartache doesn’t lean toward turpentine, as some resinous fragrances can. The strawberries are easy to pick out, but they never turn sticky or jammy.
Cape Heartache is fairly linear and lasts a good eight on hours on me, although it does quiet down after the first hour or so. It was the perfect fragrance to wear while I decorated the Christmas tree.
Amouse Bouche takes strawberry somewhere else completely. Amouse Bouche (Hurwitz deliberately chose this creative spelling of “amuse bouche” because she liked the visual symmetry of “ou” in both words) includes notes of strawberry aldehyde, floral heart, rich wood, and buttery brioche. It comes in both Extrait and Eau de Parfum. My sample is Eau de Parfum.
Hurwitz describes Amouse Bouche as a “succulent strawberry gourmand perfume layered within an aldehydic floriental design.” It’s part of a series of fragrances she created to complement the Denver Art Museum’s Passport to Paris exhibit featuring French art from the late 1600s to the early 1900s. Amouse Bouche was inspired by Toulouse-Lautrec’s The Dunce’s Cap.
When I first tried Amouse Bouche, my thoughts went straight to Kirsten Dunst as Marie Antoinette in a gilded boudoir surrounded by shoes and creamy pastel cakes. I smelled strawberry, and lots of it, but fine patisserie strawberry as light as angel’s breath sprinkled with powdered sugar. The next time I tried Amouse Bouche, I thought I’d sprayed the wrong fragrance and went digging through my sample bowl to look for the right vial. This time the strawberry was subtle, and fragrance was a puffy, diffuse jasmine, although still served on a sweet and tender butter crust.
What was going on? The same kind of floral-gourmand magic that makes marvels like jasmine macarons and Isaphan cakes, that’s what. Cloud-like strawberry and buzzing jasmine married by pâte brisée is something Pierre Hermé should jump on right away. In the meantime, if you want a fragrance to go with your cheek-pink diaphanous ballgown, look no further.
Imaginary Authors Cape Heartache Eau de Parfum is $85 for a 60 ml spray. For information on where to buy Imaginary Authors Cape Heartache, see Imaginary Authors under Perfume Houses.
Dawn Spencer Hurwitz Amouse Bouche Eau de Parfum is $5 for a sample and $63 for a 10 ml spray. For the Extrait, a sample is $15, 5 ml in an antique-style bottle is $75, and 15 ml in an antique-style flacon is $185. For information on where to buy Amouse Bouche, see Dawn Spencer Hurwitz under Perfume Houses.