Blu Mediterraneo

Until last week I’d probably spent less time and attention on Acqua di Parma´s Blu Mediterraneo line than on picking the chipped polish off my nails. I tried Fico di Amalfi on my fig jag and found it nice enough, but anything that sounds like “fecal” when you say it isn´t on the top of my list, no matter how dumb my thinking is. Yet there I was recently in our newly opened, kinda mediocre Bluemercury (seriously, do the mediocrity fairies live here in the area? Are they employed by the CIA in Langley? What.is.the.problem.with.our.retail?) because I wanted to re-smell L´Artisan Vanilia based on its review in The Guide. And I am sure that, reading those words, there are a number of you who wish you had a tiny button you could push that would give me a short, sharp electrical shock through my computer keyboard so I´d shut up about The Guide and never mention it again, but honestly I feel like I need to give credit for an inspiration where it´s due.

Anyway, shutting down my usual sidewinding mental amble through the weedy hills of my mind and getting to the point, next to their pitiful L´Artisan collection was the Blu Mediterraneo, which I know some of you think is kind of heinous-looking but to me appears intended to be a spa-brand product extension of the AdP line – clean and calm and simply packaged. Actually, I think the bright colors and blue bottles are cheery. In the teeth of the heat that day (high 90s, matching humidity, air quality index = unhealthy), I couldn´t face the L´Artisan, so I gave this line a go instead.

Fico di Amalfi – bergamot, grapefruit, lemon, orange, tangerine, cedar leaves, jasmine, Rose/pink pepper, fig nectar, cedarwood, fig wood, guaiac wood. A dry, herbal/woody fig, more about the wind through the grove than the fruit, and totally absent that sweet coconut smell you sometimes get with fig sometimes. Although I don´t like it as much as, say, Philosykos, my appreciation for its subtleties has grown the longer I sniff its figgy kin. The woodiness is smokier and more nuanced than I’d given it credit for.

Arancia Di Capri – probably the least interesting to me, although it´s fine. A pleasant citrus (orange, mandarin, lemon, grapefruit) with a hint of petitgrain and a little musk. Worth trying if you like orange blossom-type fragrances.

Mirto Di Panarea – myrtle, bergamot, Calabrian lemon, sweet orange, basil, jasmine, rose, green lilac, sea accord, blackcurrant, lentisc, juniper, cedarwood, amber. The sleeper of the bunch — a lilting, dry cocktail of a summer scent, woody and faintly sweet, like the breeze coming off the sea and across the small sunny Mediterranean garden to reach you. Unisex, tilting interestingly (interesting to me, anyway) in reverse order from the slightly more masculine woodiness of the opening to the softer citrus and florals, still with plenty of woody herbs to ground it. Don’t let that “sea accord” scare you, I don’t get anything that isn’t delightful. It made me smile. I want some more.

Mandorlo Di Sicilia – bergamot, star anise, jasmine, white peach, green almond, coffee, cedarwood, white musk, vanilla. The gourmand of the bunch, obviously, although lighter than you´d think reading that list. This strikes me as a love-it-or-hate-it, depending on your tolerance for its sweetness. It´s supposed to be almond-scented, but instead was weirdly reminiscent of either sassafras or birch beer. It´s fun to try, but I can´t say I´d want to wear it more than once. It dries down into a pretty musky/gourmand floral that my girls quite liked.

Cipresso Di Toscana – grapefruit, petitgrain, clary sage, basil, rosemary, ferns, lily of the valley, jasmine, coriander, cardamom, woods, pine needles, cypress, oakmoss. My other strong favorite of the bunch. A delicious, straightforward masculine herbal/woody scent that manages to avoid cliche and that I´d borrow in a heartbeat. You know what I love about this? It´s the perfect non-romantic gift scent for some nice man in my life (nephew, brother, friend, dad) – something I´d smell very happily that isn´t laden with a weird ad agenda (I’m rich!! sexxxy!), it looks nice but not too nice (no guy-perfume vibe), not too pedestrian either, yet would be fairly easy to replace if he wanted some more. That´s a harder combination than you´d think.

Trying these all together, I found myself charmed — and reminded that when exploring fragrances, sometimes a lot can be learned from sniffing one line together and nothing else. No, none of them is going to win the Comme des Garcons award for perfume innovation (on second thought: that Mandorlo is pretty strange), at worst they’re merely pleasant, and I´d cheerfully wear the fig, myrtle and cypress scents. Their lasting power isn´t anything to write home about, but somehow that seems right. I think each also comes in a body cream and shower gel, with a couple other ancillary products for particular scents, and now I´m thinking a gel would be pretty fabulous. If you´ve fallen into a summer rut and are looking for something to wear in brutal heat that ends up feeling refreshing, but isn’t a straight-up cologne, these are definitely worth a try. Maybe it’s living in such a status-conscious area, but I am appreciative of a line of fragrance that doesn’t immediately conjure any particular marketing message, highbrow, trendy or otherwise (Chanel! David Yurman! Gwen Stefani!) These say: hey — smell nice,simple, relax, enjoy, and they do so beautifully. At $65 for 2 ozs. of sunshine, I can think of worse ways to spend my money.

41 Comments

  1. I tried very hard to love L’A Vanilia way pre-Guide. In the end it was too sweet, too one dimensional, not sultry & I sent it away. The person I sent it to also sent it away. She said something about bubble gum. One thing I’ve found consistently about the Guide: most of their raves are not to my taste. Most of my loves are not to theirs. That’s fine, taste is subjective but I’ve stopped trying to find new appreciations based on their recommendations.

    Re: the spa smelling stuff. Myrtle, grapefruit & bergamot. This is me running screaming. Wish I could do refreshing. Maybe someday but for now summer for me is jasmine or dry woods. It’s my favorite season for everything but perfume.

    • Man, that was weird. I wandered over here this morning and my post wasn’t up, although I published it last night. Sometimes they’re published but not visible … there’s probably some philosophical wisdom there, but I need more coffee to detect it.

      Myrtle, grapefruit and bergamot?!?! What is not to love, my little chickadee? In the summer I have to avoid fragrances that make insects want to pollinate me (insex?) or choke to death in my own miasma. I do agree that overall, fall and winter are my favorite fragrance seasons.

  2. I wore Vanilia back when I didn’t put too much thought into fragrance. Now I don’t care for its smoky, rubbery taffy at all. The difference is contextual: When I had a bottle of Vanilia in the nineties, it was remarkably different than anything on the market and oppositional to what I had been wearing (chypres). Now, having tried so many other scents (not just vanillas), I find it almost objectionable.

    Mandorlo always reminds me of a natural toothpaste. This is not the only scent with almond that takes on something akin to mint, but it’s the most prominent one.

    • That Mandorlo is SUCH an odd smell. Watch this space and see if I’m raving about it in six months. 🙂 I need to smell some more natural toothpastes, clearly.

      I agree with LT (?) that the Vanilia is fun, but (shhhh!) I don’t need a whole slew of vanillas, and I’m not sure it’s different enough to need a spot on my shelf. YOur point is well taken — in the vast world (wasteland?) that is current perfumery, we can be a lot pickier about the subtleties of a scent.

  3. Doh…I posted a comment, and then I fudged it up and it disappeared. Stupid Monday mornings. 🙁

    Anyway, I also have neglected this line. I remember smelling the one that was oddly like rootbeer, but I don’t think they can stand out next to something wonderfuly like Acqua di Parma Assoluta, which is stunning.

    I too am a fan of the guide, and will without shame say that I went out to re-smell Vanilia once I read the review. Not to my taste, but nice nevertheless. I almost prefer Vanilla Fields, even if it is a blatant, cheap copy. Easier to wear and a bit more fun.

    • Vanilla Fields IS fun, isn’t it? And one of those musky ones … wild musk? Skin musk? White musk?

      I get the criticism of The Guide, and I had criticisms of my own. But I have very much enjoyed re-trying things with a new perspective given by the authors, which seems to me more important than any issues I might have with their “expertise.” When I differ with their opinion, they’re wrong, and it’s as simple as that. 🙂

      The Colonia Assoluta is wonderful (I like the Iris Nobile too) and I probably should have given it an aside in this review. Speaking of scents you can give that are gorgous and are free of whatever associations you might make with a heavily advertised house like Chanel or Gucci, if that makes sense.

  4. I want to like citrus. Sometimes I can bear lemon. But grapefruit has an unflattering bitterness on me. Myrtle makes me feel wheezy, as does bergamot in all but the smallest doses. I know that when I smell that myrtle water trough in the Korean spas it makes me all gakky. I wish I could do brisk breezy & refreshing but things like that all turn sour on me. Mea culpa mea culpa 🙁

      • Divalano –

        If you are looking for refreshing without all that citrus, you might try Agraria Bitter Orange. I know, I know….it don’t get much love here (or anywhere – I’m always surprised that anybody even knows about it)…but it smells like a very fresh, ice-cold glass of Constant Comment tea with a little incense thrown in! In a good way.

        Obviously you need to LIKE Constant Comment Tea for this to be a good thing for you – if you do, check it out. On shriekingly hot days I layer it with Acqua di Parma’s Arancia or Malle’s Bigarade but if you’re not a citrus lover that might not be to your taste.

    • It’s okay! We love you just the way you are — unscented by citrus-y things. Grapefruit can go either way for me btw — lovely, or urinous. And I think the myrtle works for me in this one primarily because there are some other sweet things to counter its bitterness.

      The bergamot must be a bummer for you, though — it’s in so many scents. 🙁

      • I have discovered that I can wear it if it’s skillfully blended & not too prominent. I’m pretty sure it’s in SDV but so far it hasn’t tweaked me out yet. On the other hand, I used to adore The Pour Un Ete but once I got a heavy whiff of earl grey that was it for me.

        • Earl grey (shudder). One of the few teas I cannot stand. Along with lapsang souchong or however you spell it. (I just typed “smell it.” I do that all the time…) /:)

  5. I tried the fig one, but somehow it didn’t do much for me. Maybe because i think the original one is so great.

    I didn’t realise that there were so many of these!

    • Tom, I vividly recall your devastating pan of Fico because I was wearing it a lot at the time. I tried three times to post a response that day and couldn’t get past the blogspot barricade, by which time I chickened out. We disagree, obviously, which now I find funny (and I’d sort of like to do a counter-review for PST) but I remember how aghast I was. 8-|

      You do know how to lower the boom…

      • Gee- I don’t remember hating it, I just remember not thinking it was all that.:(

        That and the fact that you can get a ginourmous bottle of the original one sort of turned me off to it a bit.

        • Yes, that’s pretty much what I remember. Damning by extremely faint praise. You sort of went through the notes saying nope, not there, nothing to see here folks, move along… I’ll have to go back and take a look. The reaction, as I said, was pretty much all about me, me, me… /:)

          • This actually happens to me a lot- I’ll be reminded of something that rolled of my lips that I thought was mildly amusing and think “God, Tom! Don’t be such a bitch!”

            You know, when I’m not trying to be one. >:)

          • Personally, I feel like nobody writes a damning-with-faint-praise review quite like Bois de Jasmine when she’s at the top of her game. I have read some in the past that had me laughing really hard, and yet if I read it to someone standing next to me they would have no idea what was so funny. It’s a gift.

          • Personally, I feel like nobody writes a damning-with-faint-praise review quite like Bois de Jasmin when she’s at the top of her game. I have read some in the past that had me laughing really hard, and yet if I read it to someone standing next to me they would have no idea what was so funny. It’s a gift.

      • I’m sure that Marina would be more than happy to print your impression of the scent!

  6. I’m glad to see you giving this line some love. I’m a fan of Fico–there’s something about the woods in the bottom that gives it just a bare tang of salt where the coconut sweetness usually shows up in fig perfumes and I much prefer salty wood. The others I can’t really wear myself, but I’ve passed them on to my male friends with a lot of confidence an enjoyment. They may not be radically innovative compared to women’s niche scents, but they’re way better and more interesting than most of the designated men’s stuff out there.

    • You and I clearly agree on this one. And I know maybe I’m obsessed in some weird way with the particular no-giant-brand detail, but I have male friends who would find Gucci or Chanel too … Euro-sounding? or like wearing a cravat or something. But I feel like I could hand them this and they wouldn’t back off in fear. /:)

      Yes, and anything that doesn’t smell like that generic guy woody-musk thing right now is great — and I like that smell, but it is so played out.

  7. Too bad about your Bluemercury. I really like the one that opened in NYC. Your post makes me want to go and sniff these fragrances, especially the Cipresso di Toscana. I love grapefruit fragrances, but so far haven’t found one, outside of an extremely light body spray, that I really love, or that doesn’t make me go “gack” a little in the back of my throat. Any suggestions?

    • There must be some sort of local law that national chains opening here must carry their least interesting stuff. 😉

      Non gaggy grapefruits. 06310 (or whatever the numbers are) Yuzu Rouge? Jo Malone makes a grapefruit, I think. The Guerlain AA one smells like pee to me, so I’m not recommending that one. Let me think some more…

      • I sorta liked the Yuzu Rouge, of which I got a little sample at the spring Sniffa, but it wasn’t love. Will have to check out the Jo Malone. Agree on the Guerlain AA one (you mean Pamplelune, right?); it was kind of sick-making.>:p
        I’ll have to check out Ananas Fizz again, which according to LT is more of a grapefruit than a pineapple.

        • I know, he says that, but it smells like pineapple candy to me — too sweet. [-x How about Patricia de Nicolai’s Balle de Match, I recall that is grapefruit? Has a lot of fans, anyway. My personal go-to is Mandragore, which smells like grapefruit to me, and not necessarily to everyone else.

  8. Best fig scent hands down? Marc Jacobs for men. And Mandorlo di Sicilia smells like root beer to me.

    If the Vanilia bashing continues, you will all force me to write a post about how much I hate Chanel No. 5. Vanilla is my crack and Vanilia was my first love. :d

    • Marc Jacobs for Men smells great, just on women. Men I see smelling it back away like they made a mistake. And knock yourself out on the No. 5 — or do an ode to Vanilia so we can all see the error of our ways. Or do a more general post on stuff that is great that people under-appreciate (you can put the MJ men in that one, I read terrible reviews of it all the time, what is their deal?)

      • 😕 😕 😕 😕

        That would be me thinking about possibilities for Friday. I’ll be in touch. 🙂

  9. Mirto is the new one, right? (I’m too tired to go look it up). Anyway, if it is, only tried it very quickly on paper and should go try it again on skin this time, it sounds lovely.

    I don’t like “our” Blue Mercury either.

    • It is the new one, and I liked it very, very much. I had a better impression of the line than I did before.

      • Maybe I need to try them all at once too. Gosh, they redid the bottles and they’re still dull, though. It’s that darned cap. It’s almost a cool apothecary bottle, but not quite. (complain, complain, complain)

        • It’s funny, they were sitting around in the store without the caps on, of course, and I thought they looked great! Maybe it’s the blue atomizer? I definitely think they look cheesier in the online photo with the plastic cap.

          It’s always the cap, isn’t it? :-w

  10. Tried Cipresso di Toscano a couple of years ago and loved it; got a decant this summer, and found I’m not so crazy about it. My notes on Arancia just say “orange”, but it’s a very nice orange indeed. I do like the Fico di Amalfi, nice balance of fruit/wood/leaf with a very pleasant, clean drydown. None of them last long, but they’re refreshing in the summer. The line is at least in my “decantworthy” list.

    • Why do you think you liked it less, I wonder? 😕 I would definitely put the Cipresso on a gift list for a friend. Gosh, I thought it smelled handsome. I never appreciate scents like this in the winter — always “meh” — I shouldn’t even try them then. In the dog days of summer, it’s a different story. The fact that I can keep the bottle in the fridge and reapply often is a bonus then.

    • Two disappointments this summer were decants of Cipresso and of Creed Baie de Genievre both of which I loved when I tried samples a year or two ago, but Cipresso seemed less cypressy and B de G seems to have lost the cinnamon leaf goodness and complexity I experienced when I first sampled it. Both are pleasant, sure, but they’re not at the top of my decant list. I don’t know, maybe I was in a different place when I first tried them … maybe I got bad decants or samples. Would I get another decant of Cipresso? Sure, but I’m not certain I’d buy a whole bottle.

      • Well, you’re entitled to a change of opinion … heck, I have a whole collection of (moderately pricy) decants that I sniff now and think, what the heck was I thinking?!?!? If I could have a free bottle of one of them, I’d take the Mirto. And I’d send you some. 🙂

  11. My DH and I wear the Mandorlo occasionally (it was from friend who didn’t like it). It’s sassafras (sp?) and school paste and other weird things, kinda minty, and it’s nice when you don’t feel like wearing anything remotely “perfumey”. I think it really could be a CdG.

    • I agree that it could definitely be a CDG, the more I ponder it. What a peculiar smell. I agree with your addition of “minty” to the notes.

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