A piece of dark chocolate is my idea of a perfect dessert. It is bitter and creamy, sweet and nutty, tender and animalic. Chocolate has such a kaleidoscopic range of flavors and aromas that it would seemingly be perfect as a perfume note. Yet, instead of conveying luscious darkness, most chocolate fragrances go no further than the creamy cocoa impression suggested by vanilla and milky notes.
As beautiful as true dark chocolate can be, it is extremely challenging to work into a composition. The very qualities that chocolate lovers crave—bitterness and richness—can register more like a gamey stew than a mouthwatering confection. Enter Arquiste Parfumeur Anima Dulcis, a fragrance that does not shy away from bringing out the animalic facets of bitter chocolate, while remaining harmonious and tempting. It is an oriental composition that hints at gourmand, but ends up in an unexpected chocolate incense territory.
Arquiste Parfumeur is a relatively new niche line conceived by architect Carlos Huber. Huber worked on restoring old buildings, and his taste for history is clear in the inspiration behind each fragrance: the Russia of Nicolas I, the engagement between Louis XIV and Infanta Maria Teresa of Spain, the 12th century Calabria, and the interior of the Royal Convent of Jesus Maria in Mexico. The unexpected intersection of the convent and the pastry kitchen is the idea behind Anima Dulcis, an amber oriental composition developed by perfumers Rodrigo Flores-Roux and Yann Vasnier.
I find Anima Dulcis to be deliciously baroque. The dazzle of cinnamon, pepper and orange gives way to a beautiful heart of sweet amber. It evokes the warm and sticky resin of freshly cut wood and the softness of melting caramel. The layer of chocolate appears soon thereafter. It is sweet and creamy, but the strong animalic accent—a mix of tanned leather, dark musk and salty skin—transforms chocolate into something far more sensual. A splash of smoky incense gives an unusual somber twist to Anima Dulcis, becoming both a reminder of its austere roots and a relief from indulgence.
It is a great gourmand fragrance for those who do not want to be mistaken for a lollipop. While vanilla softens out some rough edges, Anima Dulcis requires an appreciation of the animalic effects. The resinous amber dominates the gourmand sweetness, and as such it would be equally delicious on both women and men. Since I enjoy Tauer L’Air du Desert Marocain or Annick Goutal Ambre Fétiche, Anima Dulcis appeals for its similarly opulent character. Its play on textures and impressions, its surprising contrasts and its sensual character make for an irresistible morsel.
Arquiste Parfumeur Anima Dulcis includes notes of cinnamon, chocolate, spices, and vanilla. Available at Barneys, 55 ml/$165.
Image: Still Life with Sweets and Pottery, painted by the Spanish baroque era painter Juan van der Hamen y Leon in 1627.
Sample: my own acquisition.