Writing a perfume blog can be quite claustrophobic at times. There are so many perfumes that I have and so many samples and so many ways to approach a perfume. It is like an unexpected gift when things I read in other blogs give me feedback and new ways to approach perfume. I have wanted to write about Eau d’Italie Sienne l’Hiver and I knew I had to write about this one before the weather starts getting cooler because both the name (Sienna in Winter) and the aura of this composition are strictly hibernal.
This wonderful post appeared on Sherapop’s Salon de Parfum made me think about the implications of branding and naming on our perception of a perfume. And there I found the perfect angle to write about Sienne l’Hiver, a perfume released in 2006 by Eau d’Italie, a perfume house founded by Marina Sersale and Sebastián Alvarez Murena, owners of Le Sirenuse Hotel in magnificent Positano, Italy. I do not know what was the brief for the Eau d’ Italie perfumes but something magical happened and Bertrand Duchaufourd has offered his best work through this line.
Sienne l’Hiver is a very special perfume. It is a breakthrough in many ways. It is beautiful in a restrained and melancholic way that completely transports the wearer to a grey, hibernal landscape that somehow manages to remain familiar and comforting. It is one of the best Duchaufour creations and it is as unconventional as wearable perfumes get. Notes as listed in Parfumo are Benzoin, Fern, Geranium, Gaiac wood, Labdanum, Musk, Papyrus, Violet leaf, Cedar and the end result has nothing to do with what you would expect from these. In reality it opens with a milky, sappy note that is quite indefinable. One thing comes to mind: dry beans soaked overnight. If you crack one open before you start boiling them this is exactly what it smells like. Something between green and doughy. In fact Simone lists Sienne l’Hiver in her best iris perfumes list, but guess what: iris isn’t listed in the official notes. It does however has that creamy doughy-ness of iris. Together with this starchy opening note the smell of crushed read clay bricks creates a surreal atmosphere. A little cinnamon is a familiar “back to reality” note but only to be joined with a slight truffle note, the mushroom, not the chocolate! But what dominates the rest of the development is a note that is only familiar to people who have lived in olive producing regions. In the early winter, when the olives are collected they are transferred to oil presses which are usually near the olive orchards. The olives are pressed and a black mass is what is left when olive oil is extracted. It is rich with pits, skins and oily residue. Pure biomass going by the name pomace. As it is left behind or in its way for further solvent extraction of lower quality oils, it exudes the most narcotic smell that travels with the wind and marks the harvest time in these oil producing regions. I can only describe it as oily, sweet, slightly plastic-y, slightly soapy (have you ever smelled pure unscented olive oil soap? ). It doesn’t have the tart fruitiness of olive oil but is rather thick and sticky. To my nose this is what Sienne l’Hiver is about. The milky papyrous-violet opening sets the mood for a romantic, nostalgic and dark scent. Cedar and woods set the rural backdrop. And Duchoufour with a stroke of genius creates a gourmet minestrone soup with beans, truffle and olive paste. Of course the composition is immediately recognisable as a Duchaufour creation, with a combination of iris and cedar in a milky texture. It also has the warm spiciness that is featured in many Eau d’ Italie scents.
This is where marketing comes in. By naming this Sienne l’ Hiver the wearer has already a preconceived notion of winter and Italy with all the associations of deep green foliage, cypress trees, wet forests, red brick walls and romanticism. In reality Sienne l’ Hiver is a futuristic, abstract, avant-garde perfume that is borderline wearable. Had it been bottle in a clear plastic atomizer and labelled Comme des Garcons Factory 2, Olive Mill it could have easily been up there on the pantheon of techno-scents next to Soda and Skai. The intense smell of pressed olives justifies this completely If it was sold in a glass square bottle with a bull’s eye logo and lanelled Poubelles de Paris (Paris Trash Cans) it would have been a provocative, ironic, conceptual unwearability. The amalgamation of savoury gourmand notes, beans, truffle, are the perfect notes to build an unconventional gourmand scent.
In reality every scent can be seen from different perspectives. It is not a two-dimensional photograph or painting. And like all three-dimensional objects it can look very differently depending on what angle one chooses to look at it. Bottle design, name choice, marketing, offer an angle that makes the scent approachable to a prospective audience. Still our own experiences determine the references we are going to use to interpret the metaphors of the actual ingredients into a figurative note listing.
Notes from Eau d’Italie: Geranium, Violet, Fern, Iris, White Truffle, Olibanum, Hay, Labdanum, Gaiac Wood
Notes from my nose: soaked beans,red bricks, truffle, olive paste
MemoryOfScent by Christos Karageorgos is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License