Ol’ Man River

paul obeson

Someone was chuntering on in a Radio 3 discussion lately, lamenting that there are so few pieces of music inspired by water. Did he get a wrong number! Starting with Handel we launch a flotilla of family favourites featuring the Blue Danube, Old Father Thames, A Life on the Ocean Wave, Moon River and even Gertie Gitana’s signature tune There’s An Old Mill By The Stream, Nellie Dean. Water is the essence of life; from the seas we all came, and is not our biological makeup only slightly less liquid and aqueous than that of the cucumber family?

Perfumes celebrating seas and pools and rivers tend to brilliance, clarity and freshness. Silver Mountain Water, Au Lac, En Passant and Fath’s late lamented Green River glitter and rush over rocky beds, sparkling with light as they brush aromatic foliage hanging low over the water. Or they sit cool and tranquil, reflecting immense changing skies and the scented gardens on their banks. Angeliques Sous La Pluie irrigates a burgeoning spring plantation with soft refreshing rain, while Erolfa and Sel Marin celebrate sunny breezy beaches, the sea-green glassy tang of ozone and lips kissed with sea salt. Discreet hints of iodine and seaweed, tar and deck varnish enhance these fascinating shell-pictures of marine life.

All these perfumes have spirit, elegance and style: but they tend to soft-pedal sex. Fluid as regards gender, they are romantic rather than voluptuous, ethereal not earthy. Let’s turn to an altogether more complex even sinister composition, Caron’s Yatagan. Officially inspired by a Turkish dagger, it suggests to me something quite different – a vast bottomless forest pool, home of sprites and water nixies. Or a still, brooding flooded slate quarry with sheer shiny sides, the colour of a pigeon’s breast and gilded with chips of mica, hung about with bracken and aromatic pungent herbs; the scent of dark icy green water, peat, woods and the sharp woody bitterness of vetiver. With its dangerous gleams of hidden honed steel, Yatagan arouses memories of those fathomless depths in the South American jungles into which the Inca and the Maya cast maidens adorned with emerald quetzal plumes, loaded with gold and jewels to carry to the next world, hidden beyond the pool. A journey of no return to appease implacable deities who ruled empires of water and rain. Yatagan is a virile fragrance, clean but dusky, metallic yet full of spice and warmth. Slightly hesitant with blonds, it’s perfect on an olive or dark skin, confident yet mysterious. Its disturbing notes ripple with echoes of underground lakes (“The Phantom of the Opera”) and subterranean fountains: linger with it on the banks of the Styx or the shores of the nine lost rivers of London, still invisibly feeding the Thames with the scents of of our heritage.

Image from silentsandtalkies.tumblr.com

Advertisements

Eau d’Italie at the Scent Salon

On Thursday night, we played host to Marina Sersale and Sebastian Alveraz Murena of Eau d’Italie. We were treated to a history of the Le Sirenuse hotel, which Marina’s father, Paolo, founded in 1951. Paolo was the Marchesi of Positano – he ran the town with the local Priest, and they enjoyed eating, drinking and playing cards together. Then we were taken on a tour of the fragrances, and also Italy itself – which has inspired all of the scents in the collection.

The family decided they should do something special to celebrate the 50th anniversary the hotel in Positano. The idea of a fragrance was brought up, and so they decided to create the scent of Le Sirenuse. They gave themselves a few rules in the development of the scent: to make it original, and they didn’t want it to be full of lemon and citrus as it is a cliché of Italian fragrance. Working with perfumer Bertrand Duchaufour, they created Eau d’Italie taking inspiration from the ideas of sun on the skin, warmed terracota, the shrub that grows on the cliffs, incense from the church, and the salty sea breeze.

The next scent they created with Bertrand, thanks to the success of the first fragrance, was Paestum Rose. Inspired by an ancient Necropolis in Paestum, the birthplace of Italian perfumery, they took Turkish rose, spiked the opening with pepper and coriander, and gave it a dark and woody feeling, from woods and resins.

Sienne L’Hiver & Bois D’Ombrie were described as two takes on the same theme. Both of them to evoke the end of the year in Italy: Sienne L’Hiver (Winter in Sienna) is subtly earthy, a smoky and dark fragrance, given coolness from it’s violet leaf note and a surprising depth from black olives! Bertrand Duchaufour reportedly considers this fragrance his masterpiece.

Bois D’Ombrie is an autumnal scent, inspired by the exapnsive woods and forests of Umbria: it has a powdery facet from iris, warmth from leather, and green woody notes such as vetiver and patchouli.

Magnolia Romana was inspired by the magnolia trees that grow around Rome’s Villa Borghese. Marina and Sebastian said, and quite rightly, that very few fragrances really do smell of the magnolia in full bloom. The magnolia in Rome blooms in June, and the scent around the Villa Borghese is said to be truly incredible.

Baume du Doge was created for Venice: the gateway to the tradesmen of the East. The Doge of Venice was an elected official that held office for life, and Baume du Doge translates as balm of the Doge. As the gateway to the East, Venice was the centre of the spice and aromatic trade in Italy and most of Europe, and thus it contains spices, such as cinnamon, cardamom and saffron, as well as incense, myrrh and benzoin.

Au Lac was inspired by a love affair around Lake Maggiore, between the Futurist artist Umberto Boccioni and Princess Vittoria Colonna, many of their meetings taking place in the beautiful garden on the island. Centred around Osmanthus, they wanted the scent to be bright and fresh, like the waters of the lake – it opens with water lily and bitter orange, drying to a beautiful jasmine and musky-ambery warmth. This was the first time they worked with a different perfumer, Alberto Morillas. The departure from Bertrand Duchaufour was due to a desire to use some captive molecules from Firmenich that leave a beautiful sillage, without making a perfume too strong to wear. They collaborated without knowing who the perfumer was until the end result, so they wouldn’t be influenced by previous creations of the same perfumer.

Jardin du Poete was again created by Bertrand Duchaufour. Marina and Sebastian finally desired to create a fragrance with the typically Italian notes: citrus. But a frustration to many people that wear citrus fragrances is their shortlived nature, which is a technical problem caused by citrus notes: they are small molecules which evaporate quickly. Inspired by Sicily, when it was a Greek colony: Syracuse, full of aromatic plants and citrus trees. Bitter orange is extended with angelica, pepper, vetiver and musk.

Finally, Sebastian and Marina introduced their new fragrance! Un Bateau Pour Capri celebrates the 60th Anniversary of Le Sirenuse. In it’s hayday of the 50s and 60s, Grace Kelly and Elizabeth Taylor taking a Riva speedboat to Capri, looking incredibly glamorous and of course, smelling divine! The notes include peony, freesia, peach, jasmine sambac, rosa centifolia, heliotrop, solar woods, cedarwood and musk. It is a softly fruity and powdery floral, with a hint of a sea breeze, and the feeling of the sun beating down on you. It will be the first Eau de Parfum from Eau d’Italie, and was created by perfumer Jacques Cavallier.

We’d like to thank Sebastian and Marina very much for their company – and are very much looking forward to next time we see them! Ciao!

Images supplied by Eau d’Italie