First Smell: Providence Perfume Co.’s Cocoa Tuberose

I’m not normally fond of gourmand fragrances—at their worst they can be like getting the smell of food stuck in your clothes after too long in the kitchen.

So I was caught off guard when someone handed me a test strip sprayed with a chocolate floral fragrance at the Elements Showcase trade show last month. It’s stunning.

Cocoa Tuberose by Providence Perfume Co. ($115 for 1oz. or $26 for 6ml) starts out with an almost powdery blast of thick, bitter chocolate, laced with a more subtle floral note. It’s described as a unisex fragrance, and as I’m wearing it, I can see why. Between the chocolate and the floral notes I’d thought it might skew too feminine but it’s rich enough that a man should wear it without reservations. An hour after spraying it on my wrist the cocoa notes have settled but they’re still warm; they’ve also sweetened a bit. There’s clearly an undertone of tonka bean adding dimension to the chocolate. But there’s also a subtle spiciness in there. I don’t think that’s the vetiver, but I’m catching occasional hints of that as well.

Providence Perfume Co. describes it as:

“A rich gourmand scent made with dark African cocoa, buttery white tuberose, tonka, vetiver and wormwood blended seamlessly. A bit of pink grapefruit refreshes. A comforting cashmere scent with a light woody pipe tobacco drydown.”

In the drydown, I am catching a glimpse of the sweet tobacco qualities but also the vetiver.

I asked the perfumer, Charna Ethier, about how she created this fragrance and what her inspiration was. “I originally wanted to create a unisex perfume that did indeed smell of dark cocoa and tuberose, an essence typically associated with feminine fragrances,” she told me via e-mail. “I really wanted to play up the buttery aspect of tuberose and added a bit of butter CO2 to the formula. Isn’t it incredible that such an ingredient exists? Butter as an aroma? Cool, I think. To keep it veering too far into gourmand land I added a good amount of wormwood, a.k.a artemisia, as a top note along with pink grapefruit, golden champaca to the heart and a cocoa, amber base. These are the dominant notes, of course there are more. All these essences don’t seem like they would blend well, but they do.”

They really do. What’s so interesting about this fragrance to me is how forward the chocolate is, and yet how wearable it is in spite of that. Like I said, I don’t normally like to smell like food. With Cocoa Tuberose, you get all the best of the chocolate without smelling like a candy bar.

Cocoa Tuberose reminds me a bit of Bond No. 9’s New Haarlem. With the latter, it’s coffee instead of chocolate, but the initial powdery burst is similar to me. Both have a bitter heaviness to them that’s counterbalanced by lighter elements, preventing them from smelling too thick or syrupy.

I like to think of Cocoa Tuberose as a fragrance counterpart to the chocolate whiskey I reviewed last week from Kings County Distillery. Each take cocoa to the next level by blending something we think we know with unexpected ingredients to create something new. Neither is sweet, and I think this is important.

Providence Perfume Co. is a small company focusing on natural ingredients based in Providence, Rhode Island. “Ironically, I hear often that my scents don’t smell ‘natural,'” says Ethier, who founded the Providence Perfume in 2009. “I believe this is meant as a compliment. The stereotype of natural perfumery being unrefined, hippie-ish, or lacking depth is something I try to challenge. I like to focus on creating long-lasting perfumes with impressive sillage…not an easy feat when blending with natural essences.”

Cocoa Tuberose is one of ten eau de parfum-strength fragrances in the collection, but there are occasional limited editions as well, like the mushroom, jasmine, and oakmoss-driven Indolice eau de parfum currently offered. Providence Perfume Co.’s fragrances are stocked at a few small retailers and online. Sample vials are normally between $7 and $10, and travel-size spray bottles are a great deal at $26. Full-size bottles are all $115 for one ounce.

This review was based on a complimentary sample vial.

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5 Responses to First Smell: Providence Perfume Co.’s Cocoa Tuberose

  1. I love this scent – definitely a highlight of the Elements Show – don’t you think? Charna is such a cool chick also.. look forward to experiencing more of her fragrances. Here is my take on Cocoa Tuberose

    • Thanks for the comment, Ron! Yes, it definitely was one of the highlights. I had at least two people recommend I check out Charna’s booth before I smelled Cocoa Tuberose — there was a good natural buzz behind it.

      The only place where I disagree with your review is the office-friendly part. I actually think this is okay to wear to work — and not just because I’ve worn it to my office two days in a row. I know what you mean. I certainly wouldn’t try wearing Nasomatto’s Black Afghano to work, or even really Bond No. 9’s New Haarlem. Maybe it’s just me, but I think this one can pass for daytime wear. Maybe I’m just intoxicated by the chocolate. I should have asked my co-workers if they noticed it. Haha.

      It definitely lasts a long time. Impressive for a natural fragrance. I put this on at 8am and at almost 6pm, it’s still smelling great.

      • djron91 says:

        I see what you are saying about the office friendly part.. when I wear it, it projects a lot and I think it would be too much for a normal office. Luckily, I work from home for my day job (and in clubs at night) – so I can wear whatever I want 🙂

  2. I tend to really dislike these sort of “food” or gourmand scents as well, but I might actually be willing to give this one a try if you liked it. Now if I can only track down a sample..

  3. Pingback: My Take on Niche Fragrances in the Globe & Mail | cocktails & cologne

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