One of my favorite movies is “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” I like both versions near equally. Both have visuals of the interior of Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory that fire the imagination of where candy comes from. Not dreary machines and conveyor belts. No! In the Wonka world there are things like chocolate rivers where the candy bars come from. There is a fallacy that the smell of chocolate is overwhelmingly sweet. Whenever I see that river in the movie the nose in my mind’s eye doesn’t smell milk chocolate. It is rich Dutch process cocoa powder which is on my mental Scratch N’ Sniff card. That overwhelming sweetness is where way too many perfumes inspired by chocolate fall apart. The nose isn’t as gluttonous as Augustus Gloop shoveling chocolate into his mouth. Independent perfumer Sarah McCartney gets this because 4160 Tuesdays Over the Chocolate Shop is one of the best chocolate perfumes I’ve ever tried.
Ms. McCartney was inspired by the smell of her friend’s apartment who, wait for it, lived over a chocolate shop. Early in her career at 4160 Tuesdays she made a very limited edition of Over the Chocolate Shop. It had gained a near-legendary status on the gourmand discussions within the Internet. I had chalked it up to one of those small-run productions that I was destined not to encounter.
At the end of the summer Ms. McCartney announced Over the Chocolate Shop was returning in a non-limited edition. Looked like I was going to get a chance to try it after all. What had always piqued my interest is those who had tried it, from the original release, mentioned how it was rich without being too sweet. It also displays much of what sets Ms. McCartney out among her independent perfumer peers.
If you’ve ever smelled cocoa powder it has a desiccated richness which I have not seen replicated in a perfume until the early moments of Over the Chocolate Shop. Ms. McCartney starts with that. It becomes more liquid as the mixer starts to transform the powder to thick liquid. This is a subtle inflection from powder to liquid which is enticing on my skin. At this point things could have started off down a sweet onrush to the end. Ms. McCartney blunts that momentum with the use of two nutty ingredients of praline and hazelnut. It slows the development down as both ingredients provide a toasted nuance to the chocolate which still predominates. This is where I admire Ms. McCartney’s restraint; this would have been easy to be just another too-sweet chocolate perfume. She finds a way to stand apart. In the later going the bitterness of black coffee provides another bit of nuanced contrast.
Over the Chocolate Shop has 10-12 hour longevity and above average sillage.
The gourmand sector of perfumery has still not been populated with a lot of stand-out perfumes. It is an emerging area for which I expect more to come especially over the next couple of years. Those future perfumes will have a high standard to live up to if they want to use chocolate as their keynote. Over the Chocolate has no equals in its Wonka-licious chocolatey goodness.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample I purchased.