Saturday, 21 February 2015

Review: Carthusia - Numero Uno, The Aromatic Meets Modernity

Carthusia's wonderful logo - Karma Sutra for Botanists

At last, winter is creeping back to it’s fearsome lair and my frozen battered nose has begun to function again enabling me to write about one of my favourite genres, the ‘aromatics’.

The aromatic scent is typified by a profusion of culinary and medicinal herbs, often accompanied by citrus and woody notes that remind us of warmer climates. A successful aromatic evokes an olfactory journey to a picturesque Mediterranean landscape. A failed one makes us smell like a Greek salad. Aromatic fragrant waters were produced long ago, with one of the eldest being Santa Maria Novella’s Acqua di Colognia which was created in 1533. It thrills me to imagine that many of today’s traditional eau de colognes continue to utilise ingredients once grown by monks in cloister gardens. History in a bottle.

A historic cloister herb garden

Numero Uno, the 2007 launch from Italian perfumery – Carthusia, is a fine example of aromatic splendour.

In recent years, our noses have become used to what the online community term ‘beast mode’ scents i.e. those whiffable from many metres away and more tenacious that a cat protecting it’s catch of part of a chewed off vole’s leg. Arising from a trend of heavy amber orientals, patchoulis and Arabian perfumery influences, these uber strong scents have led many people to be unimpressed by more subtle and fleeting aromatic and citrus scents, judging them to have ‘poor performance’ in comparison. You can understand their point as being able to actually smell your perfume is an important factor!

Numero Uno bridges the gap between the delicate (and sometimes fleeting) nature of the traditional aromatic and the more contemporary tastes of the ‘beast’ lovers. It does this with the inclusion of a dominant patchouli note, which alongside stabilising woody and balsamic base notes, gives it a rich and long lasting density that will appeal to both the traditionalists and a modern audience.

So what does it actually smell like?

‘Appealingly therapeutic’ is my primary impression. A strikingly natural blend of herbs and citruses imparts an uplifting sensation that is typical of its genre. With this in mind, it reminds me of the iconic Clarins ‘treatment’ fragrance – Eau Dynamisante in that there is a distinct mood elevation associated with its application. Interestingly, I can also smell one of my favourite quirky notes from childhood, that of Creosote, the sticky wood protector that gave me enormous olfactory pleasure when my Dad treated our garden fence in the summer months. I notice this also in Heeley’s Le Tigre and in Penhaligon’s Bayolea. The patchouli note is almost ‘savoury’ alongside it’s companions. With an absence of any sweetness, it takes patchouli into aromatherapeutic territory rather than oriental cosiness or chypre grandeur.

Carthusia have thankfully priced it at a reasonable cost, with 100 ml currently retailing for 75 Euro on their website. As I become increasingly more aghast by the spiralling cost of fragrance, it’s pleasing to see that Carthusia are selling significantly under the £1 per ml mark.

Although marketed to the male customer, Numero Uno is appealing to my feminine nose and I’d happily anoint myself with it without any fear of an overly butch aura.

If you’re a fan of the aromatic you might like to read my article on Nobile 1942 and the fine ankles of Jude Law. Patchouli lovers can read about hippy heritage in my rave review of Jovoy Psychedelique.


  1. Does sound yummy, and it's got my beloved ylang ylang at its heart too. Stop tempting me woman! ;-)

    1. Hi Gemm, You can't really smell any Ylang. I think it's just an 'edge softener'. You can stay temptation free on this one!

    2. Thank you Ms. Temptress Odiferess. ;-) [actually don't think I could be tempted anyway at the moment - wallet says "NO!"] :-/ Still loving my Habanita though :-) xxx

  2. Ps. Loving the Jude Law ankles too :-)

  3. I wouldn't mind smelling of a Greek salad! As long as you held the olives. Like the previous commenter, the ylang-ylang appeals to me, also the myrrh. Might ultimately be a bit odd even so, but I am quite curious now!

    1. Hi Vanessa, It is a rather refreshing foody whiff eh? A kind of 'anti-gourmand gourmand'. I've gone off olives recently. At the same time as I have become more of a floral fetishist. I wonder if it's hormonal?

  4. I’m really enjoying my sample of this. Might be fbw...
    Just discovered you! Love finding a fellow perfume junkie.