Tardes would like you to take a stroll, starting with an after-dinner, liqueured cocktail involving Calvados and drunken roses steeping in a wooden vat, through a geranium patch in a forest, before ending up in a pillow cloud of fragrant heliotrope and sweet tonka vanilla.
It’s a lovely journey, compliments of the Spanish niche perfume house of Carner Barcelona which was founded in 2009 by Sara Carner. According to Fragrantica, Tardes was created by Daniela (Roche) Andrier, and released in 2011. It is an eau de parfum which they categorized as a “floral woody musk.”
Carner Barcelona describes Tardes as a pure, serene fragrance that conveys the feel of a peaceful stroll through wheat fields on a late summer’s afternoon:
A tribute to the peace and harmony of a late summer afternoon; a fragrance that is pure, serene and enveloping.
A peaceful stroll through the wheat fields and almond trees as the light of a summer day wanes and the warmth of the air caresses your skin… Admiring the beauty of the sun as it starts dipping behind the rolling hills and bunches of wild roses and geraniums color the dimming countryside.
Their bountiful blooms release subtle droplets of nectar that float in the air and blend with the earthy scent of freshly cut wood, invading the early night…
Egyptian Geranium, Bulgarian Rose, Rosewood, Almond.
Virginian Cedar Wood, Celery, Plum.
Venezuelan Tonka Bean, Musk, Heliotrope.
Tardes opens on my skin with a drunken, brandy rose, infused with almonds, plum, heliotrope, dry cedar, tonka and a dash of clean musk. The rose is simultaneously incredibly boozy and fruity. It smells like expensive brandy, but even more so like Calvados which is an apple variety with a slight pear nuance. In fact, there is a strong whiff of pear about the opening bouquet which conjures up images of Poivre Williams, an “eau de vie” that one often sips as an after-dinner digestif.
While the drunken trio lead the way, there are other elements trailing hot on their heels. There is a plum note which circulates all around, as rich and deep as a Christmas plum pudding set on fire with brandy. (Yes, another fruit with a drinking problem.) Tiny slivers of almonds dance in and out, smelling fresh, raw, and slightly creamy. There is even a light tinge of celery, though it is muted and remains largely on the sidelines, before fading away 20 minutes into the perfume’s development. Finally, there is the cedar which feels simultaneously dry and green.
From afar, Tardes’ opening bouquet is primarily a dark, blood-red rose drenched in the juices of highly alcoholic, stewed fruits, then sprinkled with slivers of fresh almonds, dusted off with a heliotrope-tonka blend, and left to steep in the dry embrace of a cedar vat. It’s lovely, especially as nothing about the mix is cloyingly sweet on my skin. In fact, the mysterious pear note feels like dewy, cool nectar that has been either chilled in the fridge or bottled on the vine. It has a tinge of natural cleanness underlying it, but the main impression is of liquidy freshness. At the same time, the plum has a tiny, brief streak of tartness swirled into its alcoholic haze. Actually, after 10 minutes, the plum seems more like rum-raisin than anything else.
The overall effect is like a rose-dominated cousin to some other, much beloved, boozy fragrances. Tardes’ opening reminds me first and foremost of Frapin‘s 1270, only with apple-pear instead of oranges, and heliotrope-almonds instead of cocoa. In the same way, the boozy warmth, fruited sweetness, and rum-raisin note create a faint tie to Hermès‘ Ambre Narguilé, with rose replacing the latter’s incense as a key note. However, Tardes feels much richer and deeper on my skin than the gossamer light, airy Hermès’ fragrance. Three tiny dribbles from my rather wonky manufacturer’s sample, amounting to 1 spray from an actual bottle, initially gave me 4 inches in projection. Tardes’ opening cloud is airy, not opaque and dense like a Profumum scent, but it has great body and potent, narcotic richness.
Tardes’ booziness seems to grow in depth as time passes. The rose fluctuates in visibility amongst the alcoholic haze, and initially seems merely like one more facet of a wonderful cocktail. That changes later on, but, in the opening 90 minutes, Tardes is as more about fruity Calvados and Poire Williams on my skin than the actual rose. It certainly isn’t about the heliotrope, almonds, or vanilla, but, as you will see, others had the exact opposite experience.
Tardes begins to shift at the end of the first hour. The heliotrope and tonka finally rise to the surface, adding one more layer to the delicious opening. Heliotrope is one of my favorite notes, due to its soothing nature. It often smells of almonds, almond-vanilla meringues, sweetened powder, or marzipan. Here, however, it smells very floral with a touch of vanilla powder, thanks to the tonka which is indelibly intertwined with it. The two together act as a blanket on Tardes’ fruity booziness, squashing it down a little, and bringing out the rose in a much more significant way.
At the same time, the geranium starts to awaken in the base and has a lovely indirect effect upon the rose. For all its lushness and dripping juices of rum-raisin and brandy, the rose actually is starting to take on a very natural, authentic aroma, much like a fresh flower in nature. I’m generally not one for roses, but this one is beautiful. It’s all thanks to the geranium, which cuts through the fruited liqueurs and adds a touch of piquant greenness and freshness. The green undertone is further amplified by the cedar.
The result feels like a multi-dimensional recreation of a rose from the greenness of its leaves to a stem of twiggy woods and cedar. The difference is that this rose is also doused with Calvados and Pear Williams cognac, then stuck inside a giant bush of heliotrope. That soon changes, however. Roughly 90 minutes into its evolution, Tardes loses a good deal of its boozy and fruity head notes, leaving a softer scent dominated by a rich, red-green rose with geranium, heliotrope, and subtle whiff of tonka. The perfume now hovers roughly 1.5 inches above the skin, and feels lighter, though still very rich and potent up close. By the 2.5 hour mark, the booziness has vanished entirely.
Tardes seems to have five distinct phases on my skin, almost all of which are rather short in duration. The first is the very alcoholic fruit cocktail led by the various cognacs. The second starts at the end of the first hour, and sees the emergence of the rose as a distinct and dominant note. The booziness take a step back, while the heliotrope and geranium advance, though they both act as ladies-in-waiting to the queenly rose.
The third phase begins at the start of the 3rd hour, and involves the gradual dominion of the geranium. Initially, as the perfume transitions over, it is a soft scent that is fragrantly sweet and dry at the same time with geranium, rose, heliotrope and cedar in equal parts. A growing streak of woodiness lurks under everything. The soothing heliotrope shares center stage with the other florals, while the tonka vanilla and white musk wait on the sidelines. The geranium soon overtakes the rose, however, and grows dominant with nuances that veer from rosy, to green and fresh, to faintly lemony and a wee bit bitter. Now, Tardes is a mix of geranium and heliotrope, infused with woodiness, with only tiny speckles of roses and tonka vanilla at the edges.
Tardes feels like a relay race where one note passes the baton to the next. In the fourth stage, the heliotrope takes over from the geranium. It happens roughly in the middle of the fourth hour, in what feels like a final transitional phase to Tardes’ drydown. The perfume is now dominated by the heliotrope’s serene, soothing florals nestled within a cocoon of abstract woodiness. The two main notes are lightly flecked by a touch of green geranium, a wisp of tonka vanilla, and a clean, white musk, but none of the latter are very profound on my skin.
Given how key the heliotrope is during Tardes’ last two stages, it may be helpful to any readers who are unfamiliar with the flower if I quote Fragrantica‘s wonderful explanation of all its nuances, as well as how it appears in well-known fragrances:
The odour profile is powdery, like vanilla meringue with a helping of almond. The characteristic comforting scent of heliotrope has been proven to induce feelings of relaxation and comfort, a pampering atmosphere that finds itself very suited to languorous oriental fragrances and delicious “gourmands”.
In Kenzo Amour the heliotropin take is on the vanillic side, boosted by milky notes. In Love, Chloe we encounter the retro-smelling pairing of heliotropin and violet notes producing a powdery effect, reminiscent of makeup products. […] In Lolita Lempicka eau de parfum heliotropin takes a anisic mantle and becomes a full-blown gourmand, while in the older Cacharel Loulou it’s the comforting billowy background alongside tonka bean (with which it shares an almond and hay facet) and orris, producing a true floriental. In L’Eau d’Hiver (F. Malle) heliotropin is almost reduced to its pure state: fluffy, like a late afternoon cloud. [Emphasis to names added by me.]
Initially, and at this point, Tardes is different from many of those fragrances. On my skin, the heliotrope is much more floral than gourmand or powdery. It is not marzipan or meringues at all. The best way I can describe it is as floral fluffiness, almost as if sweet pollen had been gathered up in a big, pillowy, pink-purple cloud. Another important difference is that Tardes has a definite undercurrent of woodiness on my skin which turns the scent drier than other heliotrope fragrances that I’ve tried. To be clear, Tardes isn’t a dry fragrance, but it’s drier than the marzipan or almond cream of some scents in the genre. Yet, Tardes doesn’t feel like a purely “floral, woody musk,” either. It lies somewhere between a quasi-gourmand and a woody floral.
That changes with the advent of the fifth and final stage which begins at the end of the sixth hour. Tardes loses all traces of woodiness and turns into quite a fluffy, daintily sweet fragrance with only two main notes: soft heliotrope with tonka vanilla. They are both infused with a clean, white musk, which I normally despise, but it’s not hugely excessive here and thankfully never sharp. To my surprise, the heliotrope continues to be largely more floral, like a pollen cloud, than almond-centric, though others had a different experience in that regard. But it’s definitely not a powder bomb the way some heliotrope fragrances can be.
Despite the heliotrope’s fluffiness, I still don’t find Tardes to be a gourmand scent. Gourmands are very dessert-like, with profound sweetness and, frequently, either heavy sugar or a buttery, unctuous richness. Tardes lacks all that on my skin. The vanilla is relatively dry, and, though it is pretty, the perfume is too sheer at this point for it to feel like a mousse or custard. In fact, in its final hour, Tardes is a mere blur of dry, vanillic sweetness with a vaguely floral character.
All in all, Tardes consistently lasted over 8.5 hours on my perfume-consuming skin: just over 8.75 hours with the atomizer equivalent of 1 spray from a bottle, and roughly 9.5 with 2 sprays. The sillage is initially large, even with a small amount, but my skin seemed to eat it up by the start of the third hour and the projection thereafter became only moderate to soft. On me, Tardes generally became a skin around the 4.5 hour mark, though the number was pushed higher with a larger quantity. However, one person found Tardes to have “monster” sillage, while I’ve read two accounts which describe it as “soft” or “mild.” I think the quantity you apply makes a difference, in addition to the obvious skin chemistry issues.
From what I’ve observed, there seems to be a lot of love for Tardes out there in the perfume world. I’m constantly hearing raves about the scent, and I’ve noticed that one vendor of Carner Barcelona, the Osswald boutique in New York, often seems to run out of stock. In fact, they’re completely sold out of Tardes at the time of this post, while another New York store has run out of the large bottles. I think that says something. I’ve also noticed that quite a few men seem to go utterly nuts for Tardes, even more than women do. That seems to be particularly true if they love gourmand fragrances in general, a fact which leads me to suspect that Tardes may be much sweeter on them, and much less woody or dry than it was on me. My skin usually amplifies sweetness, but it didn’t do so here. Or, perhaps, the geranium and woodiness kept things in check. One thing seems clear, though: Tardes is unisex in its appeal.
On Fragrantica, the reviews are generally very favourable, though a handful found Tardes to be far too sweet for their tastes, and completely gourmand in nature. Almost everyone talks about Tardes being essentially an almond, tonka vanilla and heliotrope fragrance, with some comparing it to a mousse. However, one person reported experiencing a scent that was mostly fruity, without any heliotrope. For another, there were roses and woodiness amidst the almond-vanilla bouquet. Several people thought Tardes bore a similarity to Guerlain‘s Instant Magic.
A sampling of the various comments:
- I generally don’t like heavy tonka bean but this one is added at just the right amount the scent actually smells really good. Looked up fragrantica and found out that heliotrope actually has almond facet. I don’t really pick up the other notes they may be well-blended I think. […] Although marketed for women, this can easily be unisex IMO. All in all, it’s a gourmand-ish nutty almond scent with a musky background. It has moderate projection and longevity on my skin.
- Strangely, it is the fruity notes that are the focal point of this fragrance, particularly in the opening. I don’t get any of the almond/heliotrope notes, but as the fruity edge disappears, there is a strange, almost tobacco note that emerges. While it is interesting, it is not one that is appealing to me.
- Tardes is a very soft, creamy and somehow airy almond fragrance. It’s sweet, but not cloying or choking. At the beginning I felt some rose (or maybe rosewood) in it, then the almond step forward, and took center place. It’s a creamy, slightly vanillaish, silky smooth almond. Tardes is an enchanting fragrance.
- The aroma is all about almonds, tonka bean and heliotrope. [¶] I can detect plum rather than rose. [¶] The almond is not eatable but bitterly-sweet and aromatic. [¶] The fragrance slightly reminds me of L’Instant Magic Guerlain but latest is not so strong and dense. Considering the “thickness” in both perfumes is like comparing velvet to veil. [¶] Despite its monstrous silage Tardes is surprisingly smooth – more like almond-vanilla mousse rather than cashmere scarf. There is a certain depth and richness in the smoothness.
For one male blogger, the overall composition of Tardes was “determinately floral” in nature, not almond-centric. Scent Bound‘s charming review begins by saying that “Tardes defines beauty in feminine fragrance,” and ends by calling it a “masterpiece,” even if the scent ultimately felt too feminine for him to feel comfortable wearing it. His review reads, in part, as follows:
Tardes defines beauty in feminine fragrance for me. It starts with intoxicating Bulgarian rose, geranium and almond, which possess a very sheer quality. As notes, rose and almond can be very heavy and sweet. As they are used here, however, they recreate the environment around almond trees in a rose field. [¶] Tardes sweetens up a little with notes of plum, tonka beans and musk, however, the overall composition remains determinately floral. […][¶]
Tardes evokes emotions of happiness and feel-good mood. It achieves it without trying too hard and without being cliche or tacky. It is nonchalant, not boastful about it. It is as casual as a late afternoon stroll down the main street of a small seaside village. The warm air is cooled by a soft breeze and the only way you can feel in that moment is content and full of exciting expectations for the evening to come – great food and wine with friends and family. Absolutely gorgeous. Congratulations, Sara Carner, you have created a masterpiece.
For another blogger, Tardes was a soft gourmand that evoked a reflective evening in the countryside. Birgit of Olfactoria’s Travels has a lovely review which also has a useful comparison to other almond or heliotrope fragrances from brands like Serge Lutens, Etro, and Guerlain. She writes, in part:
Tardes opens sweet and softly woody. Almond is prominent, but it is light and airy, like some kind of whipped almond and plum cream dessert (Cooks and pastry chefs, please chime in, whether there is such a thing!) The geranium makes itself felt later on, bringing a slightly green, cool note to this gourmand festival. Musk, tonka bean and heliotrope build the seemingly edible backbone of this perfume that never veers off into total food territory though, thanks to the geranium, which adds a detached, masculine element and cuts into the dessert fantasy in a most pleasing way.
Tardes is a gourmand scent, an evening scent, a perfume that does not go unnoticed and is unusual. There are perfumes that come to mind like [Serge Lutens’] Louve, as I said previously, or Etro Heliotrope, even Guerlain Aprés l’Ondée, but I like it better than all of those heliotrope-centered perfumes. (Well, not better than Apres l’Ondée, but that has more going on than the gourmand aspect I’m referring to here.) Strangely, what Tardes shares with the Guerlain is its melancholy facet. I get still and introspective when wearing it. […]
My experience seems to be a third version as compared to that recounted by the two other bloggers. Like Scent Bound, I had a distinctly floral fragrance with roses which eventually turned into a heliotrope and tonka scent like that described by Olfactoria’s Travels. Yet, my heliotrope was primarily floral in nature, not hugely almondy, and it was slightly too woody or dry to be a true gourmand fragrance (at least by my definition of “gourmand.”) Plus, I had a heavily boozy, liqueured and fruity opening, which differs quite distinctly from both their accounts.
I don’t know what version will turn up on your skin, but I definitely encourage you to try Tardes if any of the descriptions quoted or described here sound appealing. Plus, Tardes is reasonably priced by the admittedly skewed standards of the niche world. A 50 ml bottle costs $130, €90, or £81. They’re not giving it away, but anything around $100 is practically the new “free” in today’s world of insane perfume prices. (I’m trying to decide if I should review a fragrance next week that costs $1,150. Some of you may throw a shoe at me….)
The bottom line for Tardes is that you should give it a sniff if you enjoy almond-vanilla-mousse, floral heliotrope with tonka, fruited booziness, or quasi-gourmands with a touch of deep, lush rose and some woodiness. I think it’s very appealing.