The first release in the Dior travel fragrance line, Escale à Portofino, came out last year but was in extremely limited release. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think the only place you could get it here was Epcot Center at Disney World, and file that under “bizarre distribution decisions.” As Now Smell This notes, it was to remain in extremely limited distribution, in one store in the US, although maybe it was in the Dior boutiques eventually? I wouldn’t know, but there are so many releases I forgot about it in fairly short order.
And then, wonder of hilarious wonders, it did show up in one store — Nordstrom — which means that even if you don’t live near one, you can order it online. It’s quite reasonably priced for an EDT, at 2.5 oz for $65 or 4.2 oz for $85.
I admit I wasn’t on fire to try it; it’s a cologne type, and I’m one of those people… really, how many colognes do you need? They’re a necessity in the humid summer, along with my tea standbys, but I think Robin’s recent post on the Sisley colognes, and the comments thereon, reflect a reality for a lot of us. Those Sisleys cost $165 for 100 ml, and no thanks. Colognes can be lovely and refreshing and all, but they’re almost by definition short lived, and there are a lot of good options out there that don’t cost an arm and a leg. Although yes, okay, I’d like a bottle of the Chanel Les Exclusifs cologne — but I won’t be buying one.
Escale à Portofino’s notes are Calabrian bergamot, Italian citron, Sicilian petitgrain, bitter almond, orange blossom, juniper berry, cold spices (no, I have no idea what that means), cypress, cedar, white musk, caraway and galbanum.
First off, it wears more like the EDT it actually is, and less like a traditional cologne — it’s got presence and decent lasting power, not a scent that needs reapplying after 20 minutes. And I know I hold onto most scents like a limpet, but I got pleasant whiffs of this for the balance of the day; I did three sprays with no ill effects.
It starts off bright and citrusy, as you’d expect from the notes, but pleasantly dry and slightly astringent – it’s got a little bite to it. Then comes that moment when such things tend to break in one of two traditional directions — a “masculine” citrus/musky drydown, or a feminine floral one. Instead, I get an interesting unisex Option C. The orange blossom is mildly indolic but not soapy or powdery or sour, and the almond and caraway are brilliant here, the sharp, nutty/anisic richness a perfect foil for the orange blossom. I wish I could find my darn samples of the Dior Colognes because I’d like to compare the almond notes and effect — Cologne Blanche or Bois d’Argent, I’m not sure which. I never arrived at the point in the Portofino development when I think, eh, and lose interest. Instead I’m served up with something faintly gourmand but at the same time refreshing — almond/caraway sorbet or maybe gelato? I’m afraid to type that here in case it sounds disgusting to you, because it’s not — it’s fun and interesting and eminently wearable without being run of the mill. Orange blossom had worn out its welcome in my house; I think I overdosed, and for awhile its powdery sweetness was nauseating. Escale à Portofino brings back the love, and the trick is, at least on me, a complete lack of powderiness, either from the orange blossom or anything heliotrope-y from the almond. It’s good fun — more substantive than the Prada Iris but with the same kind of unisex joie de vivre.
If you’re a fan of orange blossom, and/or you’re looking for something cologne-ish in smell but that actually has decent lasting power but won’t gag anyone on the subway in July, and/or you’re getting a teensy bit bored with your Prada Iris and you hated the new orange one (it smelled wretched on me, that’s for sure) you might want to look at this. In the meantime, I’m looking forward to Escale à Pondichery, coming next month (although I don’t know where) with notes of black tea, Sambac jasmine, cardamom and sandalwood, also done (like Portofino) by Francois Demachy.