Italian 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.
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.