Women’s magazines often have features titled “What’s Your Type?” You’re supposed to figure out in under 60 seconds how to fit your personality into various boxes : romantic, edgy, rock-n-roll, etc. Heaven forbid that someone who likes rose printed dresses would want to listen to Massive Attack, or that a bookish, academic type might have a passion for red lipstick and frilly lingerie. In the ideal glossy world, someone who likes Chanel No. 5 would steer clear of Aquolina Pink Sugar and would never let the twain meet upon the vanity table.
My idea of fun is to mix things up, and for this I need Pink Sugar. The gourmand fragrance style isn’t meant to be serious; it’s all about delighting the senses and teasing us with a suggestion of something mouthwatering. I’m not eating a piece of chocolate cake to get my daily intake of calcium. I’m eating it because I love chocolate. It’s the same with gourmand perfumes. I wear them when I want to smell like a piece of candy. Sometimes that’s exactly what you need to make a cold, rainy city feel warmer or to make a stressful day less so.
Pink Sugar will certainly do that. The perfume delivers on its promise of candy and more. It smells like a funfair fantasy of sticky cotton candy, chewy licorice sticks, caramel dipped strawberries and hazelnut praline filled wafers. It’s so sweet that it can make your teeth ache, but if you can’t get enough of perfumes that smell like desserts, Pink Sugar might be your holy grail.
The first time I tried Pink Sugar, I was puzzled. It didn’t even smell like a real perfume to me. A candy or a soft drink flavor, perhaps, but nothing I could imagine as a “fine fragrance”. In the 10 years since the launch of Pink Sugar in 2003, the gourmand perfume family has grown so much that we no longer bat an eyelash at fragrances smelling like cupcakes or waffles. Today, Aquolina, along with Thierry Mugler Angel, its spiritual father, seems perfectly normal. When Estée Lauder releases its top seller Pleasures as the chocolate and caramel enriched Pleasure Delight, it’s clear that we’re in a new perfume era.
On a technical level, Pink Sugar is a clever thing, and I find it impressive how its creator, Pierre Nuyens, chose to offset the dessert extravaganza with plenty of sharp citrus, tart berries and crunchy anise seeds. The drydown of musk and sandalwood is like a sprinkling of confectioner’s sugar on warm brioche. Its softness offers a respite after the burnt caramel overload. It’s a long lasting, tenacious fragrance and a little goes a long way.
Pink Sugar was an unexpected success, and many brands have followed suit. For instance, the only reason you should buy Acqua e Zucchero by Profumum ($240) and not Pink Sugar ($60) is if you have money to burn.
Pink Sugar is not one of my most worn perfumes because of its sweetness, but when I’m in the mood for a perfume dessert, it’s perfect.
Aquolina Pink Sugar includes notes of bergamot, orange, fig leaves, raspberry, lily, candy floss, licorice, strawberry, sandalwood, musk, vanilla, and caramel. 30ml/$30, 100ml/$60. Available at Sephora, Walgreens, Ulta.