Santa Maria Novella Citta di Kyoto.
There´s a certain type of fragrance for January. It´s contemplative; it goes with the smell of wet leaves on the ground, lingering snow, and wood smoke from chimneys at night, when the wind rattles the branches of the ancient black walnut tree in our back yard and a dog barks, faintly, in the distance.
Last night when I stepped outside and gazed up at the moon, the first verse of that incomparably lovely poem by Christina Rossetti popped into my head:
In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow,
In the bleak midwinter, long ago.
Ice, Rock, Leaves
Mark Hudon Photography
Today I found myself turning to a perfume that, to be honest, perplexes me. However, I seem to be wearing it pretty regularly these days, because it is perfect for January and weirdly compelling. It is Santa Maria Novella Citta di Kyoto, released late last year, and apparently limited in distribution to Italy. I googled and could find basically nothing except the excerpt below, which I have cribbed in its entirety from Marlen at Basenotes.com (thanks, Marlen!):
“Santa Maria Novella Citta di Kyoto, or ‘City of Kyoto’ is a dead ringer for a traditional Japanese potpourri of sandalwood, clove, cinnamon, patchouli, and camphorwood. Though it may sound a bit like Comme des Garcons, it’s sweeter and smoother and actually not too dissimilar from another scent that I am wracking my brain trying to put my finger on…Citta is all woods and spice, but somewhat sweet, more of a wood resin than a dry wood… ”
Let me say right off that sandalwood, clove, cinnamon, patchouli and camphorwood are not things I’d put at the top of my Favorite Smells List. Actually, I find it difficult to pick this scent apart into its individual notes, other than the camphorwood at the very beginning. Instead, I view the smell as a color: the deep, rich red of a lacquered bowl or screen.
Red Lacquer Screen
Li Gui Jun
I concur with Marlen’s “wood resin” perspective. As it dries down, Santa Maria Novella Citta di Kyoto is a meditative, incense-laden smell, both warm and spare – it seems “Japanese” in its austereness, with a very slight herbal/medicinal note that is quite pleasant. I can honestly say I have never smelled anything like it, and I am grateful to have it. Citta di Kyoto has good lasting power on me – I can still smell it, faintly, the following morning – but I´m one of those people for whom perfume tends to overstay its welcome, rather than the reverse.
Santa Maria Novella was founded in 1612 and is the purveyor of all sorts of interesting herbalist/pharmacy items, including a series of simple eau de colognes (e.g., amber, iris, rose, vanilla) that are pleasant enough, if not especially memorable or long-lasting. Citta di Kyoto seems to me like a fairly remarkable departure from their regular fragrances. Another SMN – Nostalgia – was also being discussed enthusiastically on basenotes.com as a weird amalgam of leather, gasoline, motor oil, rubber, and tobacco. So I guess it´s not all plain Vaniglia at the Antica Farmacia.