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Will The CLEAN Summer Sun Eau de Toilette Have You Walking On Sunshine?


From Warm Cotton to Fresh Laundry, Mountain Air, and Rain, the unassuming but captivating scents in the CLEAN Perfume library have always managed to evoke the simple pleasures of life, to capture the comforting feel of often-ignored aromas. CLEAN’s unique approach to fragrance has earned the brand a cult following, as has its eco-conscious approach to perfumery, its insistence on using natural ingredients and implementing responsible manufacturing practices that ensure a minimal carbon footprint. I’m still overcome with nostalgia when I get a whiff of the CLEAN Warm Cotton EDP, picturing cotton sheets hanging from clotheslines, drying under the heat of the sun. So, when I heard CLEAN had launched a new limited-edition scent for summer — aptly dubbed CLEAN Summer Sun Eau de Toilette ($59 at Sephora.com and CleanPerfume.com)— I expected love at first sniff. Unfortunately, it was not a match. Based on the initial aromatic impression alone, I’d swipe left.

Though the fragrance incorporates clementine, citrus tonic, and crisp apple top notes, I didn’t detect any of these when I spritzed the eau de toilette on my skin. There was no mouth-watering juiciness, no sunny zest, no ripe sweetness. My first reaction was to check the bottle again to make sure it wasn’t men’s cologne because what I smelled was distinctly masculine — not androgynous, not musky but sensual, not woody but alluringly mysterious. It was all amber and musk. Now, these notes do exist within the aromatic composition, but they’re meant to be background players, base notes that help to extend the fragrance’s life span and to create a more well-rounded product. Instead, they rush to the forefront immediately, making all the other notes as indistinguishable and forgettable as uncredited film extras.

The saddest part of the experience for me is that the fragrance’s heart goes unnoticed. The middle notes of honeysuckle, orange blossom, and juniper berry only appear in the most subtle of ways. An hour after applying the fragrance, once it’s faded to the point of being practically non-existent, you might notice the sweet honeysuckle and powdery orange blossom notes — albeit still enveloped in woody musks. Because the fragrance doesn’t have much lasting power, that moment when it finally hits its stride (an hour to 90 minutes after application) elapses incredibly quickly.

While perfumer Carlos Vinals hoped the fragrance would feel “free-spirited, confident, pure, and, most important, happy,” he fell short of the mark. For me, there was nothing euphoric, carefree, lively, or whimsical about this scent. If anything, it just felt like a man’s cologne in a pretty bottle.

That said, the bottle is rather stunning, featuring a gradient glass that moves from a warm yellow along the upper third to a peachy pink along the center, then transitioning to a deep fuchsia at the base of the bottle. This gradient scheme reminded me of the 2009 edition of the Carolina Herrera 212 on Ice fragrance, which itself captured the colors of a summer sunset. But, alas, the CLEAN Summer Sun’s packaging only goes so far and what lies inside that pretty bottle is hardly the makings of an aromatic summer romance.

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