Laboratorio Olfattivo – a journey and a giveaway

 giveawayItalian perfumery and I have a complicated relationship.  When it’s good it’s extremely fabulous (i Profumi di Firenze Ambra Grisea comes to mind) and when it’s not so good (for me) it gives me nightmares (Tuberosa d’Autunno).   There always seems to be a little sidestory to Italian perfumes, a hint of sadness and melancholia from bygone eras ..and no matter how chic and edgy the scent, there remains an inextricable link to the land, with eons of humanity struggling to make an imprint…only to be swept away.  As with Italian food, Italian perfumery never seems to quite be able to escape the past – at least to my nose – and that’s a good thing.  I like the olfactory web of history thrumming underneath modern fragrances.  And I could be making all this up.  But sampling the Laboratorio Olfattivo line took me on an intriguing journey through Italy, past and present – and a couple of other places, too.  I miss Italy.  The closest I’ve been to Italy lately is Iowa (hey, it starts with ‘I”).  But this isn’t the pasta-laden tour bus version – Lab Olfattivo takes me on a more intricate, slightly darker journey.  Care to tag along?

I wasn’t focused  on history when I first spritzed the sample of Noblige – but at first sniff I was transported to the hills above Rome on a sunny June morning, that sense that everything has already been done – but all things are possible.   The citrus marries beautifully with a cobbler note (the shoes, not the pie) you know how shoes smell when you get them back from the cobbler?  It’s an indefinable, very transitive smell that manages to be both very, very modern (the chemicals) and as old as man himself (the leather).  This scent immediately takes me to those lavender-strewn Roman hills …but I have a paper bag with a really nice pair of shoes  that have just been re-soled…and I am sitting in the shade of a lemon tree, inspecting the soles of my fabulous shoes.  This sounds ridiculous, I know.  But  that’s what this scent conjures, in a really good way.  This is an amazingly intriguing scent.

Cozumel.  I was expecting suntan lotion but I need to expand my thoughts.  Cozumel is known for its beach and sea but there is also a nearly virgin jungle within the island.  The basil, clary sage, hemp and a deep fougere-like cedarwood (really – it doesn’t smell like fern, it smells that sort of cedarwood that conjures up notions of rainforests).  I like this one for the chiaroscuro of blasting light and deep shadow.  Don’t let the name fool you – it’s not a ‘fun’ fragrance – it has a lot of haunting facets and a bit of a scary undertone, like those vipers that lurk in the sunflower fields in Tuscany.  Or the many, many things that lurk in that impenetrable jungle on Cozumel.


Decou-Vert. Very, very green, with a lush magnolia heart.  It has a fleshy, round quality to the florals, that are in uneasy harmony with the greens.  This is, perhaps, the most ‘inside’ scent in the line.  Every time I sniff this I think of Gene Tierney and Clifton Webb in ‘Laura’ with its sense of enclosed elegance and tamped-down sexuality.   There’s lily of the valley therein but it’s turned perverse, like a 1940s Very Good Girl who, thinking herself with the man of her dreams, gives herself…only to find herself cast aside.  It’s not an altogether bad thing – she ends up leaving that small town, goes away to school and marries well…but ..well there’s something irreparably bruised inside..and the hard nacre builds up around that bruise, burnishing to a high sheen much admired at the country club.   I don’t know if it’s done that way in Italy – this one feels like a Savannah transplant in 1940s New York.  I love stories like that.  This scent tells that story.laura


The Laboratorio Olfattivo website takes a minute to get used to but it provides perfumer and notes for each scent.  MiN New York carries the entire line of perfumes.  Surrender to Chance has samples of several of the scents as well.


There are several others including the gorgeous Nirmal with its rooty-iris & leather melange, which I adore.  But I don’t want to drag you all over Italy, via Savannah and Mexico and Floyd-knows-where.  It’s time for one of you  to take your own journey.  Let’s do a giveaway!   MiN New York graciously sent me samples.  I want to pass these samples on to you.  Tell me about your favorite chiaroscuro scent.  Or a scent tinged with sadness.  Or make up a story.  Carmine will spin the random wheel (bless his heart.  I always dab a bit of perfume on his head when he spins the random wheel)…and a winner will be chosen.

  • Ninara Poll says:

    Melancholy scent: EL Youth Dew, because even though it is lovely and works on me, my abuelita wore it, and at random times while wearing it or sniffing a tester, I will recall her and how much I miss her and love her (she passed away in the early 00s). At least I have wonderful memories of her, along with having had the honor of helping pick some stone monuments for her gravesite and paying for it all 🙂


  • mridula says:

    I think many of Mona di Orio’s scents have this quality of light and dark – chiaroscuro – yes? Especially, I think her oud, which is dull in other people’s hands but in hers is transformed into this movement between light and dark. Thanks for the chance.

  • Emily S says:

    L’Heure Bleue was the saddest fragrance I have ever experienced for the first 30 minutes, and then it tragically turned to play-doh on my skin. SL Iris Silver Mist is like unrequited love on my skin, so somber. Thanks for the opportunity!

    • Mary P. Brown says:

      I am going to have to sample L’Heure Bleue due to all of the comments about it’s melancholic nature – so interesting!

  • CharlotteH says:

    I haven’t tried anything from this line – I’m excited about something new to explore! As for melancholy, two spring to mind: L’Artisan Iris Pallida which seems perfectly appropriate at a funeral and, of course, Apree L’Ondee which is spring rain in a bottle.

  • cynthia3403 says:

    I was also thinking Après l’Ondee, but I see I’m not original with that thought!

  • alexander says:

    I would love to try all of them they sound very interesting.I don’t have a perfume making me sad.I’m curious if Humiecki&Graef Skrab would make me sad 🙂

  • Rene Groyer (@ReneGroyer) says:

    Tessor by Lancome makes me sad because something bad happened to me the first time I wore it at work.A colleague stabbed me in the back and it will always be associated with this time although its a beautiful fragrance

  • I adore Noblige and I love your giveaways. I feel naked if I don’t spritz on perfume
    every day…Many thanks, Cindi

  • lucasai says:

    I love Italian perfumery, Prada is my BIG BIG LOVE! And I fancy some other Italian houses. I discovered Laboratorio Olfattivo some time ago and I’m really enjoying Noblige, Decou-Vert and mum mum has a decant of delicious Rosamunda from them.
    To me a melancholic perfume is D600 from Carner Barcelona

  • Beth says:

    At the risk of sounding cliche, I have to say Apres le Ondee is meloncholia in scent to me. Something about it just a sepia photo of rainy Parisian streets to me.

  • Irina says:

    for me, “L’Heure Bleue” is melancholinc and chiaroscuro, too ( almost by definition)
    thanks for the draw

  • Audrey H. says:

    I also feel L’Heure Bleue is touched by sadness or melencholy. I wore a sample of it and felt it, my husband gave me the side eye lol

  • Debbie says:

    I agrre with Em, En Passant definitely gives off a melancholy feel.

  • Heather F says:

    This line hadn’t even been on my radar, now I’m really curious (argh…:) My favorite chiaroscuro perfume is Opus VI…I feel mysterious and oh-so-put together when I wear it (which is oh-so-not me, period). Thanks for the reviews, Musette, and thanks for the giveaway!!

  • Nemo says:

    I don’t actually know what a chiaroscuro fragrance is…does that mean it has layers? I have only tried two Italian perfumes (10 Corso Como and i Profumi di Firenze Zenzero), neither of which struck me as particularly melancholy. However, I could see a little bit of melancholy in SSS Winter Woods, which a number of people have mentioned.

  • FeralJasmine says:

    On the subject of Italian perfumes, I recently fell for Ambre del Nepal. It smells historical, although I have no clue what I mean by that. I have read that it was ruined by reformulation, but I never smelled the old version so I’m not bothered.

  • Tara says:

    My chiaroscuro fragrance is Incense Pure by SSS… As for melancholy, I often feel that way when I wear Byzance, the perfume I wore when I was 20… It reminds me of my lost youth.

  • FeralJasmine says:

    De Profundis is my melancholy scent. I didn’t much care for it at first, but with a very sad health situation in my family, I find myself dabbing it on to help me remember tragic beauty, not just tragedy. Beauty can encompass grief, and it seems to me that perfume is the form of beauty that does that best.

  • CC ... says:

    Beautiful reviews, Musette, as usual. I’d have to say Après L’Ondée is my melancholy scent. Beautiful but sad (for me).

  • FearsMice says:

    I get a certain wistfulness in some green scents… like Silences.

  • Jackie b says:

    Perfume has the power to put you in a time and place, and recreates the emotions then…I remember a bittersweet time in my life when I was obsessed with Mystere de Rochas. I can’t wear it now.

  • wefadetogray says:

    for me there is beautiful sadness in SL de profundis and in Guerlain apres l’onde. I do like a healthy dose of nostalgia and sadness in my life. I used to be very depressive and believe it or not, perfumes helped me overcome sadness 🙂

  • Maria B. says:

    Serge Lutens Iris Silver Mist smells melancholy to me. It’s spring and iris is coming up out of the moist earth, but the sky is overcast. It is a nice scent to wear to funerals. This doesn’t mean I don’t like it. I do.

    OTOH, I love L’Heure Bleue and have never found it melancholy.

  • Mary K says:

    I have often heard people say that Apres L’Ondee has a certain melancholy feel to it, but I can’t say that I’ve noticed that. It just makes me think of early spring, which is a favorite time of year for me.

  • poodletwins says:

    I would say L’heure Bleu for the evocative name and scent as melancholic. But I also have another choice, Beautiful by EL. I gave a present of it to my best friend who was terminally ill with cancer. It was her favorite and she was so happy with it. And so I always associate that scent with her, that difficult time, her appreciation. Beauty tinged with the past, with wistful, bittersweet memories. Thanks for the wonderful writing and the draw.

  • Merlin says:

    Perfumes described as reflective quite often make me feel inward and a little out of tune with the world out there. At the beginning of my ‘perfume journey’ I was drawn to incense fragrances, but now I prefer extrovert fragrances when I need to be pulled out a slump.

  • Steve Tsotras says:

    Been meaning to try the line, haven’t had the chance as of yet. Alambar, Alkemi, and Daimiris are others that I’m really interested in.

  • tomate farcie says:

    I must have been about five and I was Christmas shopping with my dad. I chose a tiny bottle of Evening in Paris for my mom. Flash forward 50 years or so, when she died there was that little bottle of Evening in Paris on her dresser. Now it ‘s on my dresser with so many memories and emotions in that little bottle.

  • solanace says:

    My favorite Itaian perfume is the original black Armani. I feel so chic wearing it, and I do feel it has a chiaro scuro feel to it. Amouage Dia somehow conjures a similar atmosphere. Thank’s for the draw, Musette!

  • thegoddessrena says:

    Not melancholic exactly, but I was sampling Rue de Lilas and the opening, a fairly realistic lilac, seems to include a few that are on the edge of turning

  • fleurdelys says:

    My favorite Italian perfume, the original Mariella Burani, isn’t a melancholy one. However, it has so many layers it truly takes you on a journey, always changing on its trip from top notes to drydown.

  • LaurenW says:

    My dark/light scent is CDG Zagorsk. I wore it to a Maundy Thursday service years ago because it seemed somber to me, but at the end of the service, a teenager I’d been sitting near said my perfume smelled like oatmeal cookies. I can’t smell the sweetness in it, but I guess it’s there.

  • Teri says:

    My most melancholy scent is due more to the circumstances than the scent itself. As my beloved grandmother neared the end of her life, she was losing her sight and at times her grip on the real world. As her vision became more and more problematic, she asked loved ones and friends to wear a specific fragrance each time they visited so she could identify them. I was wearing a lot of Caron’s Fleur de Rocaille at the time and it became inextricably associated with that bittersweet time.

    I LOVE Italian perfumery, though, and find it uplifting even with its deep sense of history. So much of Italian perfumery is laced with citrus of one type or another, which makes it quite bright.

  • maggiecat says:

    These scents sound so intriguing. And oddly, while I wouldn’t necessarily associate melancholy with fragrance, I had that experience only this week: I’d ordered a sample of Sung and tried it on. It immediately reminded me of…someone. A female relative, no longer present but somehow conjured back into being via scent. I cannot for the life of me think hwo used to wear this, or when – but someone did, and I had to put the sample aside until I have the time and emotional energy to think it through.

  • AnnieA says:

    Tuscan Leather has an edge of sadness for me. It smells of Kindly Grandfather, but it reminds me sometimes that I didn’t have one growing up…

  • Cacomixtle says:

    I have a penchant for melancholic scents, and consider Bal a Versailles to qualify here. A more subjective melancholic scent for me is Sonoma Scent Studio’s Winter Woods, and in the loveliest possible way. I agree with the commenter above that says a number of Laurie’s fragrances qualify for being some nostalgic and melancholic…. which is part of why I own more of her scents than any other single line (Parfum d’Empire comes in next), and why I consider them my favorites to wear just for myself. So evocative and full of light and dark endlessly eclipsing each other.

  • Janice says:

    It might be partly the power of suggestion from the name, but I think Aftelier Perfumes’ Sepia is a melancholy, nostalgic, strange sort of scent–and perfect when you’re in the right mood for it.

  • shaney says:

    What a beautiful post! I find that Serge Lutens Fumerie Turque contains a bit of sadness for me. Although gorgeous, it doesn’t convey wealth and expensive cigars; instead I find it depicts the end of a day of very hard work with not much to show for it 🙁

    Thank you for the draw…I am really interested in Cozumel!

  • KJourneay says:

    Yosh’s Sombre Negra (The original, not the refomulation) tells the story to me of the 1,000 ships launched to retrieve Helen of Troy. In my mind those ships have come into the harbor, have been set alight and have started to burn. Sombre Negra makes me think about how far we will go for beauty, and how much yearning we will willingly suffer, and allow others to suffer, for love.

    I suppose the meloncholy comes in when I start to wonder what it must have been to be Helen; two nations and peoples destroyed because the need to possess her. Where was her will? Her desire? What did Helen want?

    I wear Sombre Negra when I want to reach out for something dangerous, knowing I skate on the edge of sorrow in the very act of reaching. -Please enter me in the draw.

  • Claudia D. says:

    My melancholy fragrance is not a specific scent, but it’s one that you can usually find in “hippie” shops and other places that sell perfume oils. It’s usually called Egyptian Musk, or something else Egyptian, but to me it always smells like a dusty attic, but in a strangely attractive way. Attics are full of nostalgia, which always contains an element of sadness, even with the happy memories.

    I would love a chance to try some of the scents you mentioned, so please enter me in the draw. Thanks so much! 🙂

  • linnea wiedeman says:

    I haven’t tried any but I would say that the scent of rose makes me feel sad. I will always tie it with death.

  • Maureen says:

    My melancholy fragrance is L’air du Temps, for 2 reasons. It was the first perfume (in the crystal doves bottle) that my late husband bought for me, but the real reason I cannot wear it anymore is that it reminds me of a very sad period of my 20’s when my little sister was in the hospital and then was taken from us at the age of 21. I used to wear it all the time, and when I smell it it reminds me of visiting her in the hospital, and her funeral which was especially painful for me, we were only 3 years apart. I miss her.
    On a happier note, I love your writing, you make me smile all the time. I have never tried any of this line, but I love some other fragrances from Italian lines…Profumi del Forte Roma Imperiale especially. I would love to try these fragrances. Please enter me in the draw. Thanks.

  • Magdalena says:

    Oh my… My melancholy fragrance is one not much known outside my country: Pani Walewska. My great grandmother used to wear it nearly everyday – she was a 100% classy woman. Even though she had been disabled since her late forties (for over thirty years) and she would rarely leave her home and garden, each day she would curl her hair, dress up neatly and put jewellery and perfume on. I’ve never sniffed her perfume again since she passed away 15 years ago, but together with her blue eyes & blue stones brooch it’s vivid in my memory. Whenever I think of it, I’m transported to my early childhood.

    Pani Walewska is actually nothing fancy: it is extremely low priced nowadays, but it used to be quite luxurious years ago over here. The composition is rather elegant, though. Aldehydes, lily of the valley, rose and jasmine.

  • masha7 says:

    Beautiful writing, Musette! I miss my Italian friends, and Italy, every day. It actually hurts physically sometimes. My favorite melancholy perfume is anything with myrrh or dark incense. I think Caron’s Parfum Sacre’ is a good choice for more serious, melancholy times. It’s gorgeous, but contemplative.

  • Carolyn C. says:

    I’ve been yapping away about Decou-Vert to perfume buddies for weeks…ever since I bought a bottle at MiN New York at suggestion of sales associate. It’s THE perfect Spring scent for me. Glad to see the line getting some love from the Posse!

  • Connie says:

    I think of ELO’s Putain des Palaces as being chiaroscuro. For me it conjures a cheap whore’s room during the day off- there’s leather furniture, aging face powders in an open drawer, and an unmade and soiled bed. I picture someone in a messy room with mussed hair sitting at a disorganized vanity, wishing things were different. It makes me sad to wear it.

  • Ann says:

    What a beautiful, evocative review, darling Musette! You do have such a wonderful way with words. No draw for me, of course, but several of these do sound lovely. YSL’s Rive Gauche is melancholy to me; it’s one of the few scents that my mother wore that I can remember. It makes me think of a life brimming with so much promise but held down by depression and addiction. A nice helping of that sunny Noblige for me, please!

  • Tora says:

    I think that the fragrances that come to mind having the most chiaroscuro effect are some by Sonoma Scent Studio. I think of Winter Woods, Ambre Noir, Champagne de Bois, and Fireside Intense. All of these, on me, open pretty bright full of light and openness. There is in all of these the wonderful use of gorgeous woods that create that shadow behind the shimmering top notes. Ambre Noir especially, for me is sweet bright Rose, with always the dark and mysterious and beloved (for me) Labdanum peeking through.

  • dremybluz says:

    Tabu is my melancholy scent because it was my grandmother’s signature scent, When I get a whiff of the perfume I remember a truly great woman, who I will always cherish and love.

  • rosarita says:

    Oh, such lovely reviews, Musette! It’s wonderful to be transported like that first thing in the morning. No need to enter me in the draw, though.
    Dawn Spencer Hurwitz Inner Sanctum is one of my favorite perfumes; it is deep,drawing you all the way into the depths of your soul, and it has a melancholy feel.

  • Amer says:

    I think the scent of beauty tinged with sadness is the scent of early spring nightfall. It is at that hour that you can smell the labor of green things growing in the dark, beauty in the making just to present itself in the first light of the following day. A primordial scent with hints of everything and nothing. Ozone and dirt, green and floral, honey sweet and bitter sap.
    The landscape that surrounds us, even in the concrete cities, wherever greenery can creep into, is transforming. The scent of an orgy of creation. Why this makes me sad you say? Because it makes me feel left out. A mere human, cut off from the circle of nature by the hand of our civilization I can only observe the results of this creation but I cannot partake in the process. This party is not for me. I can only watch from a distance. And the scent of earth and wet soil which signals birth for all the living things has an opposite connotation for humans no matter how much we hate to admit it.

  • Elia says:

    I think of L’Instant de Guerlain pour homme as a chiaroshuro scent; never sure if you’ll be subject to it’s clinical iciness or embraced by the warm cacao.
    Perfumes that make me sad are horrible plastic florals and sharp acrid fruits, otherwise I don’t associate perfumes with sadness.
    I’d probably go with Prada Infusion d’Iris for a melancholy tinge
    and I think I’d chose Vol de Nuit over L’Heure Bleue for melancholy.

  • Annamaria says:

    I also think of L’Heure Bleue as being tinged with sadness, but in a beautiful way. They’ve named it well; to me, it conjures a view of wildflowers in the changing light that looks almost magical, and the sadness that there is such a short amount of time to appreciate it before it goes entirely, combined with the knowledge that no other twilight will look quite the same as that one.

  • Millions says:

    My classic scent of melancholy is L’Heure Bleue.. This perfume is simply filled with emotions and finally we’re starting to get a good chemistry together. I wish I could try one of the vintage formulations. Laboratorio Olfattivo sounds great and I haven’t seen them in my Italian trips but will certainly look for these scents next time: Noblige and Nirmal are practically screaming to be tested! Thanks for a great hint!

  • Mary P. Brown says:

    I’ve never had the pleasure of trying any Labrattorio Olfactivo’s, and I haven’t tried any fragrance that I felt was melacholic either…… but I’ve not been on the fragrance trail for very long so my experience is pretty limited. Come to think of it there was a home fragrance that I once had, Nantucket Briar from Crabtree & Evelyn. I didn’t really use it, I would just pull it out and smell it once in a while because it always reminded me of a Gothic Victorian romance. It wasn’t ‘bad’ it was to me just like old potpourri, dark, heavy, musty – patchouli, ambergris, roses…… By the way, I love the fragrance descriptions you write – very inspiring!

  • Elena says:

    Un Matin d’Orage has got a hint of sadness to it, perhaps, but it might just be the suggestion of the name, which I love saying in my fake/bad French accent. Thanks for the word of the day, chiaroscuro. My other word of the day is consanguinity, like in Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides.

  • Rina says:

    The melancholy scent for me is Elizabeth Arden Sandalwood for Men. It exudes longing for something no longer here (lost youth, lost love, lost place – Italy for me!) and not just because it’s a lost scent…thanks for the draw, they all sound amazing!

  • Cat Schultz says:

    Hmmmmm… I’ve never tried these. They all sound amazing!! I don’t have a melancholy one,thanks to my perfume posse. Y’all always steer me in the right direction. <3 y'all!!

  • Em says:

    I think of En Passant as being melancoly, or a least misty…