Exploding roses, 3D roses super concentrated to feel like an attar, divaesque roses that sing arias at such bombastic decibels that Maria Callas would be embarrassed… Cruda from Morph Parfums evoked all those thoughts and more. It is a wild ride that felt like a rollercoaster and, unfortunately, it sometimes feels as crude as the name.
Cruda is an extrait-strength parfum that was released in 2013 by Morph, a relatively new Italian house. Like its iris sibling, Montmartre, Cruda comes with a long story, this time about a woman and the purity of the smell of her skin. Honestly, I see no link between the story and the actual perfume, no discernible point to it at all other than a story for story’s sake. It doesn’t even briefly mention any of the notes in the perfume, so I’ll skip it entirely. Morph doesn’t have any note list for Cruda, but First in Fragrance fills in the gaps:
Top Notes: Bergamot, Cedarwood, Cumin
Heart Notes: Damask Rose, Cinnamon, Carnation
Base Notes: Ambergris, Patchouly, Cashmerewood, Nutmeg, Vanilla, Musk, Tonka Bean
If you ask me, there is a very specific, intentional reason why the expensive, hand-done, Italian linen box is such a flaming shade of purple, and that’s because Cruda opens on my skin with a torrent of purple grapes. A positive deluge of grapes, in fact, sometimes akin to the American Welch’s grape jam, but usually more intense and combined with fresh grapes stomped into fleshy, sweet chunks. They slather the rose which follows, a rose which is the undeniable star of the show and which is so rich, so sweet, that it feels like a very expensive rose absolute oil has been used.
There is far more to Cruda’s opening bouquet than Concord grapes and roses. In full, it’s a very spicy, fruited sweet floralcy infused with sour tanginess and tartness, then sprinkled with nutmeg and cinnamon. It’s an intensely concentrated mix that is rich, heady, almost fiery in its spiciness, and syrupy sweet, though it isn’t gooey. At least, not at first. Instead, the opening is simultaneously too tangy and too sweet. The bergamot isn’t distinct at all, but something about Cruda’s fruits reads like lip-puckering, mouth-watering, extreme tartness that lies right next to ridiculously candied Welch’s grape compote. It’s like a really intense, concentrated version of a Jolly Rancher candy which is overly sour and sweet at once.
Neither of those things seem to stem from the damask rose itself, particularly the fruity sweetness. Instead, the flower feels like a completely separate thing with a beefy, heady, very narcotic aroma that instantly reminds me of a concentrated rose attar. The spices amplify the flower’s innate attributes, but are never so strong as to detract from it for feel like a separate layer.
For those of you who are cumin-phobes, let me say right now that I never detect the note in any strong or individually delineated way. For the most part, Cruda merely has a general spiciness that is initially a little fiery red in nature, and then, later, occasionally translates as either nutmeg or cinnamon, depending on the moment. The cumin, though, is always fully subsumed within and doesn’t generate any dusty, stale, sweaty, or bad body odor aromas on my skin. At most, there is a tiny whiff of something earthy later on, but I think that stems from the patchouli instead.
All those small parts come together like praying supplicants at a towering altar of the almighty rose, melting together to create the main bouquet which is really a super bright, over-saturated, 3D rose. Its innate fruity, spicy, sweet characteristics have been amped up by a 1000, then boiled down to be reduced even further in concentration, before being glazed by a mix of ridiculously candied grape jam mixed with mouth-puckering, tart citruses.
It’s simultaneously too, too much and, yet, oddly alluring for precisely that reason, drawing me in against my will and despite almost all my usual feelings about certain notes, perhaps because the intensity and richness are so completely bonkers. It helps that Cruda feels overwhelmingly dense and opaque, as dense in feel as an Amouage attar but with significantly greater projection in the opening minutes.
Unfortunately, 20 minutes in, my partial fascination has faded and my tolerance worn thin. Cruda’s sweetness has ballooned to a painful extreme, radiating dark purple, Concord grapiness to such a degree that I feel as though I’m teetering on the verge of a sugar coma. I have a low tolerance threshold for extreme sweetness in general, and it was quite exceeded even at Cruda’s start, but the spiciness and tanginess of the rich bouquet kept me hanging on by a thread. Now, however, the two redeeming facets have been engulfed by what has become a virtual tsunami of purple grape goo, which dilutes them enormously, and effectively blitzes the few counter-balances to the syrupy excesses. They flee before the onslaught and retreat to the sidelines, much to my regret.
Yes, this is the richest fruited rose I’ve come across in a while and, yes, it has a truly heady, floral lushness, but Cruda has now gone several steps beyond bombastic and entered into ridiculous territory. The sharpness of the changes gives me whiplash, but the lack of balance between the notes is what’s really disappointing. When I start to feel actual, grainy sugar at the back of my throat, that’s where I draw the line. In truth, it’s an exhausting over-saturation, and I came close to scrubbing Cruda a few times during the first hour.
Cruda continues to shift and change. 30 minutes in, vanilla, woodiness and patchouli (both the spicy and fruitchouli kinds) appear in the background. They give out little puffs, the vanilla most of all, but they’re not as evident as the dollops of tart citrus, nutmeg, and cinnamon that wait on the sidelines. They work indirectly from afar, giving Cruda’s 3D rose a lightly dusting of spiciness and a subtle tart tanginess, but the individual notes aren’t really clear in a separate, distinct way. The cinnamon is the most defined of the supporting players and it sometimes tries to dance with the rose and grapes on center stage, but, generally, it hovers at the edges. Near the end of the first hour, it’s the same story with the vanilla which briefly steps out of the shadows, but it doesn’t last long and soon retreats back. The woods and patchouli make the same effort, but last even less time. Throughout it all, the grape-slathered, lightly spiced rose bellows out floral sweetness with divaesque intensity and off-key balance.
The vanilla finally merges with the fruity, spicy rose at the start of the 2nd hour. The fruited patchouli (fruitchouli) now trails a feet behind, but the dry woods still hover in the far distance. Cruda is primarily a fruity, vanilla rose infused with a quiet, light sprinkling of spiciness, and even quieter slivers of tart fruits and woodiness. In all honesty, it feels like a more concentrated version of any number of existing fragrances on the market, perhaps something from Mancera, one of the more exclusive Guerlain collections, or a higher-end, non-synthetic version of one Dior Poison flankers. All that separates it is its super-concentrated richness and full-bodied heft.
Things finally settle down about 2.75 hours into Cruda’s development. What’s left is a truly pretty (I mean that honestly!) spicy rose coated in creamy vanilla softness and with a surprising balance in terms of both fruitiness and sweetness. Glimmers of woodiness shine quietly in the background, as well as a spicy, brown patchouli. I’m rather stunned that all the goopy horrors, grape, and sugar have receded almost to the point of irrelevancy, but they have. The rose now bears an unctuous creaminess that evokes images of velvet or clotted cream. The spices continue to add a nice touch, too. They’re mostly a shapeless mix, but the nutmeg stands out on occasion.
Unfortunately, the rollercoaster ride isn’t over yet. As the 5th hour draws to a close, there is a sourness to the rose, as if the citrus had returned. At the same time, the lovely creaminess weakens, the perfume turns drier and thinner, and a tiny whiff of carnation appears in the background. In essence, Cruda is now a sour-ish rose infused with fluctuating levels of spiciness and woodiness, but only the lightest streaks of vanilla. Wisps of a ghostly carnation float about from time to time. So does an occasional suggestion of something vaguely earthy, perhaps from the patchouli, but it’s so minor and indistinct, it’s hard to pinpoint.
Making matters harder is that everything is now a haze except for the rose. The notes overlap, but every time I think something has vanished, it comes back to some degree or another. For example, the top of the 7th hour marks the return of the sweeter fruits, though it doesn’t always feel like grapes, per se. Cruda fluctuates between a lightly spiced, sour rose with woodiness, and a sweeter, fruitier version with an occasional grape facet. All of this is really a question of degree, though, a matter of the extent to which the supporting players impact Cruda’s main bouquet. That continues to be some form or another of a very basic, fruity rose. Cruda remains that way until its very end, finally dying away as a simple floral sweetness with a vague fruitiness about it.
Like its iris-incense sister, Montmartre, Cruda has excellent longevity and its projection generally averages out to moderate after an opening that is very strong. It also leaves a moderate sillage trail. Using 3 small smears equal to 2 sprays from a bottle, Cruda opens with a dense, heavy cloud that radiates about 5-6 inches, before dropping to 2 inches after 90 minutes. There, it stays for a while, only turning into a skin scent 6.25 hours into the perfume’s development, though the scent still wasn’t hard to detect up close. All in all, Cruda lasted 14 hours, just like Montmartre.
I haven’t found any blog reviews for Cruda and nothing is written on its Fragrantica page, but there is a comment on Parfumo. It’s not hugely positive, though one of the main issues seems to be Cruda’s lack of distinctiveness or originality in light of the company’s marketing strategy. (The bottle gets some flack, too, as being “plain” in reality.) “Gold” entitles her review, “New Stories for Well-Known Fragrances,” and writes:
“Morph” is a new house, but that doesn’t mean “Morph” sell new fragrances. Creating a genuinely new perfume seems to be extremely tough those days, and I guess that “Morph” didn’t even try. Instead, they invented a clever marketing strategy. Each fragrance is accompanied by a very short story, and the marketing people tell us it is a “beautiful short story”, each and every time, a different one for each single fragrance.
Well, I wouldn’t call the stories “beautiful”, but at least they are quite inventive (yet often ultra-tacky), written in order to conjure up different pictures/emotions which we, the consumers, are supposed to link to the fragrances. I for my part don’t need a short story of any kind in order to enjoy a perfume. On the contrary, those prefabricated notions rather annoy me. But Dr. Andrea Angelino, the artistic director, wants to guide us into a specific direction. Together with perfumer Maurizio Cerizza, he built a story around “CRUDA”, a fragrance which is supposed to be perceived as ultra-erotic. [¶][…]
What we actually get here when smelling “CRUDA” is a basic amber, an aromatic-sweet scent, featuring cedarwood, cinnamon, tonka-bean and a musky vanilla base. I’ve smelled this a thousand times before, but I can’t say that should be a reason for me to dislike “CRUDA”. The packaging is purple and designed by the Italian company Fedrigoni, relating to the Fedrigoni scale of colours (other fragrances feature white, red, green etc.). But the bottle looks plain, in spite of the company’s effort to make their basic glass bottles seem unusual (the small twist of the vessel is not particularly impressive, let alone attractive).
Other fragrances in the range are called “Antigua 1937”, (copying the structure of “Aria di Mare” et.al.) or “Malaga 1964”, a sweet, flowery fragrance which smells a bit like the ice-cream marketed in Germany under the name of Malaga (sweet, vanilla, raisins).
All Morph-scents have great staying-power (33% concentration) and most of them deliver, i.e. they smell pleasant/fine/okay/nice. They all relate to well-known and firmly established niche-scents which have been around for a couple of years already and which managed to capture the hearts of their clients without using mini short stories. I’m sorry to say so, but not a single one of those new Morph-frags smells unique.
I completely understand her feelings and share a number of them, particularly about Morph’s lengthy stories that, so far, seem to bear no relation to the actual scent that I tried. And, as I’ve said, I don’t think Cruda smells unique or distinctive, either. It could easily be something from any number of niche houses, though Guerlain is what came to mind most often during the creamier, more vanilla-ish, middle phase.
That said, I’ve found that people seem to love rose fragrances more than any other floral genre, and fruity roses are immensely popular no matter how much overlap one scent may have with another. So, I could see a hardcore rose lover of either gender completely falling for Cruda’s 3D richness, though I would only recommend it to someone who also enjoyed very sweet, very fruity floral fragrances. (Ideally, they wouldn’t mind grape notes, either.)
For someone who met those criteria, then I would recommend sampling Cruda, particularly as it’s not hugely expensive at €115 or €116 for a 100 ml bottle of high-quality, smooth, very concentrated pure parfum. At the current rate of exchange, that comes to roughly $128 which I think is a great deal for a large bottle that yields a positive explosion of roses with various facets, saturated heft, and great longevity from even a few quantity. Right now, the entire Morph line seems to be sold exclusively in Europe, but samples are easily obtainable both there and in America. And European retailers like First in Fragrance ship worldwide.
In short, if you really adore rose fragrances and have a high tolerance for sweetness, then give Cruda a sniff.