Equal parts guava and grapefruit, Sophia Grojsman's stunner Calyx is arguably one of the best of its fruity genre. Its genius? Reproducing the funky fruit-going-bad ripeness that can make tropical fruit like guava, jackfruit and Durian a little scary for those who want fruit to smell like bubblegum. Add to Calyx's overripe sweetness the bitter freshness of a grapefruit accord so authentic-smelling I can almost taste the rind. Like a Jolly Rancher for your nose, Calyx gives you tart and sweet at once.
Calyx's initial slightly rotting fruit note dips down low, like an orchestra that opens by allowing the musical saw to sound its first wavering, carnivalesque note. Once the rest of its song gets back on its feet to a "normal" register, that fruit-on-the-verge-of-going-bad note lingers, coloring the way the rest of Calyx's fruity floral notes are experienced.
With as much fruit that's packed into this perfume, you'd think that it would be cloying and overbearing like the fruit-bombs that stink up Sephora's perfume aisles today. But, again, Calyx's intelligence belies its often ditzy perfume family (fruity floral).
Sophia Grojsman works some alchemical magic — providing enough green notes, citrus, moss, mint and transparency from fresh florals such as lily of the valley that the fruit comes across as more aromatic than sweet (or at least aromatically sweet).
Calyx is more of a southeast Asian tropical fruit salad — with pomelo, guava, passionfruit, mango and jackfruit — than it is a hypersweet, uninspired fruit salad of strawberry, apple and banana from an American cafeteria. The name alone tells you this isn't just an ordinary fruity floral. A calyx, in botany, refers to "the whorl of sepals of a flower...forming the outer floral envelope...enclosing and supporting the developing bud; usually green." Calyx's predominant feel is tart, fresh — green, like a guava or a grapefruit, neither of which is mentioned in the notes.
Top notes: Peach, apricot, cassis, green notes, tagetes (marigold), spearmint, bergamot
Heart notes: Lily of the valley, lily, jasmine, rose, cyclamen, melon, orris
Base notes: Cedar, musk, moss, raspberry
Diorella, one of my favorite floral chypres, has buried inside it a similar rotting fruit smell, but it gives you some time to take it in. By introducing this difficult note before the "easier" fruits and florals that comprise Calyx's primary character, Grojsman throws off our expectations, playing with perfume time by inverting the order in which notes classically arrive. I'm not sure how she does this, or if I'm making more of it than I should, but unlike civet or cumin or some "difficult" note that rises up more subtly in other perfume compositions, I get the sense that Grojsman deliberately shoved that note conspicuously to the fore, as if to say, "You want fruit? How about overripe fruit?"
When it was announced that Prescriptives, the cosmetics line known for matching makeup colors to skin tones, was discontinuing its line, many a Calyx-lover started stocking up in anticipation that the beloved guava/grapefruit-themed Calyx would go with it. Calyx, thankfully, is still available, and although I'm not sure if there's been a reformulation, I know that when I need a pick-me-up during the upcoming heat-filled months, the aromatic, funky, sweet and green Calyx is going to be on my list of scents.