The opening of Heliotrope immediately transports me to my grandmother's kitchen. She was my step-father's mother yet you would never know I was not one of her own, save for my fair skin and red hair contrasted with her olive skin. Her parents immigrated to the United States from Southern Italy and although she was born on U.S. soil, she did her best to retain her Italian roots. She was an incredible cook, waking up at six a.m. on Sundays to prepare pasta, meats, salads and sweets for the dozens of children and grandchildren that would chaotically dine in her home.
My favorite time to spend with Louise was Saturday, the day devoted to baking. Whether it was an extravagant wedding cake for a customer who paid her, her delectable pizelles, or the undeniably decadent chocolate chip cookies she made "for the kids," her kitchen always smelled scrumptious. As I walked into her home, the kitchen was the first room I entered. It seemed to warmly embrace me as she did, for I always felt completely safe and comforted there. I would watch her with wide-eyed amazement, periodically and deftly sample her work and chit chat about everything under the sun while she cracked jokes and made witty comments. Quite honestly, some of the most precious moments of my life were spent in Louise's kitchen. It's smell? Pure bliss.
What I describe is quite a lot to live up to and while not an exact match, Heliotrope immediately and loudly bursts forth with almond and vanilla, like the smell of Louise's warm pizelle iron with a fresh new stack of the Italian cookies right next to it. Although I have never smelled a heliotrope flower, the top and heart of this fragrance are undeniably gourmand, sweet, creamy and boozy. The heavy vanilla remains for hours and when it dissipates, what is left is an undeniably cool, fresh scent, reminiscent of baby powder on my skin. It is as if the warm kitchen suddenly becomes a cool, damp garden of scented, powdery delights, not particularly flowers. I never quite detect the orange blossom, jasmine or rose described by the sample card, for the dry down lacks floral definition. Rather it becomes smooth, cool and pleasant. The entire effect creates quite a contrast with its strong, warm beginning followed by its indescribable cool and powdery dry down. Although I do not plan on purchasing a bottle anytime soon, I will consider a decant for days I long to be back in the arms of the ambrosial kitchen of my youth.
Etro Heliotrope is available at a discounted rate on fragrancenet.com. A 3.3 oz. bottle runs for $50.19.
Image sources - Pizelles - dominicsdesserts.com; fragrancenet.com