Star rating: 5 stars–outstanding/potential classic, 4 stars–very good, 3 stars–adequate, 2 stars–disappointing, 1 star–poor.
Usually I steer clear of any fragrance named “Candy,” given my unfortunate experiences with Aquolina Pink Sugar and other high-calorie gourmands. However, Prada Candy had a few things going for it: I generally very much enjoy Prada’s aesthetic, and I love the refined work of Daniela Roche-Andrier, the perfumer responsible for many fragrances in the line. She tends to render her accords as luminous and sparkling, and this radiant quality permeates Prada Candy. Although it explores rich materials like caramel, vanilla and sweet resins, Candy lives up to its name by conveying a dainty, luscious confection.
The idea of a rich gourmand composition presented as an elegant sweetmeat is much more difficult to execute than it might seem. Oriental resins like benzoin and tolu balsam that have an enveloping sweet darkness are also heavy and dense. Layered with vanilla, musk, tonka bean and other classical gourmand notes, the effect can be both cloying and rough. The main reason that Candy captured my heart from the first inhale is that it eschews all of the above. From the caramelized top notes with their illusion of pineapple and mandarin to the woody vanilla drydown, it retains an appealing brightness. Its sweetness is obvious, but never tiring; the aura of Candy overall is coquettish and playful, with a distinctly elegant character.
After the shimmering prelude, Candy becomes warm and velvety. The musk and vanilla lend it a delicious softness, while benzoin and amber fill the drydown with their smoky darkness. The accent is on the dry woods, rather than the buttery caramel (in contrast to the aforementioned Pink Sugar, which I find overly sweet and creamy,) a facet that makes Candy quite a sophisticated gourmand fragrance. The closest references for me would be Comme des Garçons Burnt Sugar and Serge Lutens Un Bois Vanille, though Candy is more of a radiant, abstract dessert than those perfumes. The abstract gourmand quality means that it does much more than simply indulging one’s sweet tooth; its luscious warmth is also irresistibly sensual.
Prada Candy includes notes of musk, benzoin, and caramel. It is available from Prada boutiques and select department stores (Neiman Marcus, Bergdorf Goodman, Barneys New York.) 1.7 oz of Eau de Parfum, $80; 2.7 oz, $108
Sample: my own acquisition