Santa Maria Novella Nostalgia: Drive, Baby, Drive

One of perfume’s many joys is its transformative power, its ability to take you to other worlds and points in time, or to turn you into someone else. The rather aptly named Nostalgia briefly made me feel like the racing legend, Mario Andretti, in a 1970s Alfa-Romeo Spider convertible or like the ultra-cool Steve McQueen in his Jaguar XKSS.

Steve McQueen in his Jaquar. Source:

Steve McQueen in his Jaquar. Source:

Close your eyes and imagine a powerful old car on a racing track set in a birch wood forest. The smell of diesel fuel is in the air, along with the cracked leather seats of the ancient vehicle, and the smell of campfire smoke from a fire in the trees beyond. Bergamot swirls its sweet juices into the mix, along with vanilla, amber and earthy patchouli. As you rev your engines, and press your foot on the pedal, you speed away so fast that you leave the diesel fuel far behind, and enter into a vanilla, amber cocoon nestled amidst the birch trees. There, you take shelter in a haze of creamy, warm, lightly powdered vanillic sweetness infused with campfire smoke. It’s a simple smell, but then, Nostalgia is a return to a simpler, more nostalgic time.

Nostalgia is a fragrance from Santa Maria Novella, an Italian niche house based in Florence and one of the oldest actual pharmacies in the world. By many accounts, Santa Maria Novella is also the real, true source for the birth of cologne as a type of fragrance. You can read the full details of their fascinating, storied history going back to the 1200s and to Dominican friars in Florence in my earlier piece on the Farmacia (and its Ambra cologne). The house has been connected to everything from Catherine de Medici on her wedding day, to a marchioness burnt at the stake as the last “witch” in France, and marauding thieves who fought off the Black Plague. It’s completely fascinating stuff, if you are a history junkie as I am.

Santa Maria Novella. Pharmacy salesroom today. Source:

Santa Maria Novella. Pharmacy salesroom today. Source:

Even cooler is the fact that many of the current fragrances in Santa Maria Novella line continue to have the exact same olfactory profile as they did several centuries ago. In fact, they are said to follow a completely unchanged recipe, thanks to Santa Maria Novella’s heavy focus on all-natural ingredients (with no animal testing).

Source: Santa Maria Novella website.

Source: Santa Maria Novella website.

Nostalgia, however, is brand new fragrance, relatively speaking. It is an eau de cologne that was released in 2002, which is a far cry from the 1600s or 1800s date of some of their other creations. By those standards, it was practically delivered yesterday.

Nostalgia is a leather scent which Santa Maria Novella describes as follows:

Santa Maria Novella’s most original fragrance for men, Nostalgia is the scent of a vintage racing car. Using mixes of rare South American woods, vegetable musk, patchouli, citrus wood, tobacco, amber and vanilla, it brings to mind the smell of benzene, tires and vintage leather for a truly unique and individual eau de cologne.

According to Fragrantica, Nostalgia’s perfume pyramid is:

Top notes: bergamot, rubber and styrax. Heart: cedar and patchouli. Base: leather, amber, vanilla and birch tar.

Nostalgia opens on my skin with diesel fuel. Yes, the smell of actual gasoline, but an extremely refined, high-class gasoline, if you can believe it. It smells like filtered, perfumed gasoline that is scented with fresh, sweetened, but somewhat zesty bergamot, and with a hint of vanilla. Something very herbal and fresh lingers in the rubbery corners, along with traces of general sweetness and the tiniest suggestion of a warm element in the base. The vanilla quickly recedes to the sidelines, and its place is immediately taken by birch tar on fire. There is smoke, more smoke, black rubber, and then, bubbling black tar, all enveloped in that refined, bergamot-scented racing fuel.

Ferrari Formula 1 rubber tire, post race, via

Ferrari Formula 1 rubber tire, post race, via

I find the whole thing fascinating, and, I swear to you, it’s not like an olfactory assault at NASCAR. Instead, it’s oddly and shockingly smooth. I repeat, something about the overall combination feels almost refined, or as refined as such an accord could be. One reason why is because nothing is out of balance. The racing fuel is not a barrage of anything really sharp, extreme, or chemical; I never feel as though I’m filling my car at the gas station, though the vehicle may have a tiny leak somewhere. The strong element of crisp, chilled, but sweetened bergamot definitely helps, as do the subtle hints of vanilla and amber lurking at the edges.



Thanks to the singed birch trees, there is an outdoors feel to this Grand Prix race track. At the same time, there is also an undertone of black pepper and cracked leather. The latter is not the butch, latex, fetishistic bondage leather of some fragrances, like Etat Libre‘s difficult Rien. However, it’s definitely not the well-oiled, polished leather of Puredistance M, either. Despite the birch tar commonality, this leather also has nothing in common with Caron‘s Tabac Blonde, Knize, or Cuir de Russie, at least in their current, non-vintage manifestations.



Nostalgia’s note is a tiny, fractional bit closer to Andy Tauer‘s Lonestar Memories, but it’s not really that either. It lacks the feeling of soldering mechanics, the sticky sweetness, the sharpness, and even the forcefulness of the birch tar in Lonestar Memories. This is much smoother, softer, and more refined. As a whole, both the birch tar smoke and its leather undertone in Nostalgia feel like a completely different take on the note for me. This is the leather of an old car with some goaty, diesel, smoky aspects. It’s rough in the untamed way of birch campfire smoke, but it is also darkly resinous with styrax, and a little bit fresh and cologne-like with bergamot.

Paul Newman in his racing days. Photo:

Paul Newman in his racing days. Photo:

Less than 10 minutes in, Nostalgia shifts and starts to move away from the racing fuel. Earthy patchouli arrives, complete with both its faintly camphorous side and its sweeter, softer tonalities. The amber becomes more noticeable, too, while the bergamot takes a step back. The golden sweetness infuses the tarry, smoked woods and the old leather, softening that initial, utterly cool smell of racing fuel turned sophisticated. It’s a bit of a shame, as the opening minutes were Cool with a capital “C.” We’re talking Steve McQueen and Paul Newman cool in a Mario Andretti racing world. Instead, Nostalgia is now all about campfire smoke, tar and patchouli, lightly flecked with smoother, more refined leather, all upon a warmed, sweetened vanilla and amber base. It’s warm, smoky, masculine and sexy, but not as unique as that debut.



Something about Nostalgia mesmerizes me, for reasons that I cannot fully explain. Upon reading about it initially, I thought, “racing fuel sounds cool, but who wants to actually smell of it??!” And if you phrase it as “gasoline,” it sounds even worse. All of the descriptions seemed to entail a scent that would be too raw, tough, dry, beastly, and masculine, even by my expansive standards. Yet, somehow, Nostalgia hits that perfect sweet spot for me. It’s hardly as smoky as Profumum‘s birch tar bonanza, Fumidus, or as austerely dry as Naomi Goodsir‘s Bois d’Ascece; and it’s definitely not as rubbery or leathered as numerous scents that I’ve tried recently. It also lacks the difficult, black, mentholated, “car oil” gasoline of Patchouly Indonesiano from Farmacia SS. Annunziata, another old, Italian, “pharmacy” fragrance house.



Yet, on my skin, Nostalgia is not predominantly about diesel fuel after the first 10 minutes, and it’s not even really a birch tar leather fragrance as a whole. Both aspects are there — though the “leather” is much weaker than the singed campfire wood — but they are seamlessly blended into a bouquet that is primarily about smoky warmth. After 20 minutes, Nostalgia is so smooth, refined, ambered, and golden that I find it absolutely beautiful. (And quite addictive, too, judging by my eagerness to smear on more Nostalgia wherever I could.) I love the touches of sweet, warm, slightly spiced patchouli, with vanilla, sweet bergamot, and the balsamic resins in the base. They complement the subtle touch of leather beautifully, removing its goaty, cracked, aged facets. From the seats of an old convertible, the leather has now turned into something more akin to a well-worn leather jacket worn by a guy who spends his time around a campfire.

The accompanying notes are interesting. Tiny touches of something herbal and vaguely medicinal lurk at the edges, but they are light and seamlessly blended within the larger whole. On occasion, the patchouli even offers up a touch of fresh, green peppermint that, oddly enough, works well with the bergamot. In the base, the styrax resin offers up a smoky, dark, resinous touch with the faintest hint of leather. It’s the same resinous note that lies at the heart of vintage Habit Rouge (which had a lot of styrax in its drydown in the old days), and in Shalimar.



At the end of 30 minutes, Nostalgia is a warm, graceful, vaguely leathered scent infused with birch tar and its campfire smoke, patchouli amber, and styrax, all lightly threaded with veins of sweet bergamot and vanilla. Initially, the perfume’s sillage was very forceful, wafting about 4-5 inches above the skin, but Nostalgia never felt opaque, dense, or chewy. Now, 30 minutes in, the projection has dropped, in keeping with Nostalgia’s generally softer nature. The perfume wafts in any airy cloud about 2 inches above the skin, and feels even thinner. Up close, all the notes are potent and visible in their individual state. From afar, however, the most noticeable element is the birch with its smoked, burnt woods aroma, only this one feels sweetened, almost honeyed in nature.

Nostalgia continues to soften, turning more abstract and warm as time passes. By the end of the first hour, the perfume is a soft haze of browns and gold, dominated by birch tar amber with patchouli and bergamot, with a base that just barely nods to sweetened vanilla. It’s lovely, but very sheer and light in weight. To my disappointment, it hovers just above the skin. In fact, my voracious skin seems to be eating it up with every passing moment, no doubt because it is an eau de cologne. Still, the notes continue to be very strong when smelled up close, particularly the ambered, sweetened birch. I just wish I didn’t have to put my nose right on my arm to detect the rest of the elements.

Vanilla powder. Source:

Vanilla powder. Source:

The vanilla starts to rise to the surface, increasingly taking over Nostalgia’s focus to share center stage with the birch and amber. Midway during the 2nd hour, the birch’s smoke is fully subsumed within the other notes, and the impression of leather fades away. Oddly, and for reasons that I don’t understand, the bergamot briefly seems to grow stronger again, and it occurred during both my tests of the perfume. Even odder still, on one of my arms, Nostalgia remained much smokier and less citric than it did on my main (left) testing arm. Perfume doesn’t usually vary on me, from one arm to the next, but when it does, my right one always reflects a much drier, darker, or smokier version of the scent. That seems to be the case with Nostalgia, though it’s a short-lived, very minor difference as a whole.



At the end of the 3rd hour, Nostalgia is a skin scent centered on vanilla amber thoroughly infused with black smoke and a touch of singed woods. The patchouli and amber have melted into the base, where they add a general, indirect warmth but they no longer feel distinct or clear in an individual way. The most striking aspect of Nostalgia at this point is how creamy that vanilla is. It feels like a sweet crème anglaise sauce: thin but rich, and almost silky in the mouth.

The vanilla increasingly becomes the focus of Nostalgia’s drydown on my skin, with slowly fading levels of birch smokiness. There is a tiny touch of powderiness, in the way that tonka can generally impart, but it is not substantial on my skin. Nostalgia is a gauzy, thin blur, and it feels as though it’s about to fade away any moment now after the start of the 6th hour. To my surprise, the perfume hangs on tenaciously a little bit longer. In its final moments, Nostalgia is a simple smear of something vaguely sweet and dry, conveying the subtle sense of a note that might once have been vanillic in nature. All in all, Nostalgia lasted just short of 7.5 hours on my skin with low sillage after 90 minutes.

On Fragrantica, Nostalgia seems to be a massive hit with the vast majority of posters, with guy after guy writing how they have to buy a bottle. Or, in the case of one commentator, a second bottle:

Cigars gasoline sweet powder rubber and a bit of sweat. What could be sexier? Take that first sexual experience in a car with a bearded guy who is way too old for you, guilty, uncomfortable and exciting, wanting to run away from it and wishing it would last forever at the same time, and put it in a bottle. Nostalgia is a perfect name for this fragrance. […] Oh man I totally need another bottle of this.

"Rush" movie still, via

“Rush” movie still, via

Another commentator amusingly began his positive review by describing Nostalgia as “FERRARI AUTO REPAIR,” writing:


I could also called this ‘Elegant Benzoin’. [¶] The gasoline opening is challenging yet intriguing. [¶] The other notes are present and accounted for, even if they can’t be specifically named (at least, by me). [¶] After time, the complex notes sparkle more than the Benzoin – and this fragrance keeps pulling me into it’s unique, luxurious heart.

I just may need to own this.

1967 Fiat Spider. Source:

1967 Fiat Spider. Source:

Some other impressions:

  • Rubber and leather that smell exacactly like the interiors of my grandad’s old FIAT 500 during the summertime, when odors are emphasized by the high temperatures of the season. A great fragrance if you like challenging smoky rubber/leather scents a-la Knize Ten / CDG’s Garage / Lisa Kirk’s Revolution. I do. [¶] Downside: the drydown is quite conventional if compared to the opening, but still pleasant..
  •  this juice is damn amazing and dramatic…Reason being, right out of the gate it smells really strong like racing fuel and literally 15 seconds later it begins changing..into this gorgeous blend of rubber and leather and several minutes later upon dry down remains the alluring vanilla-leatherish-Bvlgari Black blend. [¶] 10 out of 10 for uniqueness, quality, shock factor, longevity, sillage, and originality.  [Emphasis to perfume names added by me.]

For one person, it took time and repeated tries to appreciate Nostalgia. His first attempt was not positive, but then he fell in love with the opening. He writes, “I just wish this stunning opening lasted longer” — and I share his feelings. He’s going to buy a bottle, and I would too if my skin did not eat up Nostalgia.

Women have written about Nostalgia too. One lamented that she only detected “sweet, prickly green tea,” which seems to be quite a unique experience and definitely not the norm. Another female Fragrantica poster, however, had a more typical encounter, and loved it:

I love love love this perfume. Not for the fainthearted nor the heavyhanded. Best worn on autumn as it can get too heavy for summer yet it lacks that certaint ‘warmth’ necessary for winter. Very avant-garde, surprisingly sexy. The funny thing is that my husband loves it on me but not on him.

One thing I found very interesting is that the current version of Nostalgia may have been reformulated to lose a lot of its leather heart. Almost three years ago, in July 2011, a poster called “Roan” wrote:

The re-edition doesn’t have the scent of leather.
In few words, this perfume during the opening is very very unusual…the first sniff will make you cry 🙂
It smells on tyres, pit stop, road, gas, rubber, cars, colors, like the store which has everything for the house – ‘do it yourself’. The smell is fantastic hehe, after a while it settles down and becomes powdery and sweet, very conventional, it has a lot of similarities as Le Dandy D’Orsay in the drydown. This is a must try for everyone who love perfumes and the art of perfumery!
P.S. Sillage and logivity are good enough, regarding the smell, I expected that will last for days. [Emphasis to name added by me.]

Ferrari Formula 1 Pit, practice session. Photo: Reuters via

Ferrari Formula 1 Pit, practice session. Photo: Reuters via

On my skin, the “pit stop” aroma was very short-lived indeed, as it seemed to have been on those who posted more recent reviews of the scent. I get the impression that the fuel note (like the leather one) may have been tamed down or reduced even further since 2011, judging by a few, more recent, comments that I’ve read on its duration. It’s rather a shame, because it’s truly lovely in its uniqueness and in its incredibly refined nature. It’s not NASCAR, but the Ferrari Auto Repair that one of the comments mentions, but it doesn’t last for very long.

There are several blog reviews for Nostalgia out there. On CaFleureBon, Ida Meister raved about the scent in a 2011 article that compared it with Lisa Kirk‘s Revolution.

Nostalgia revs you up with all the aromas of an imported vintage automobile – it reeks of luxurious leather interior, exotic woods, and benzene; what’s not to like?

I’m not a driver, and I’m mad for it.

The photo used by Ida Meister to convey Nostalgia. Inspector Morse with his famous Jaguar.

The photo used by Ida Meister to convey Nostalgia. Inspector Morse with his famous Jaguar.

Both begin with that unholy blast that sears your nostrils, it’s NOT a gentle come-hither, I’ll grant you that.

Where they differ is in the drydown.

Nostalgia is an original Sillage Monster.

It may soften a bit, but it remains fairly potent and outspoken to the last, it just won’t give up the ghost.

I’m incredibly appreciative of this bizarre quality, and keep spraying myself over and over again.

But I’ve yet to purchase a bottle; where the hell would I wear this?

She does have a point. It may not be the most versatile scent, but I would wear it at home happily as a cozy scent (yes, I know, I’m odd) if it actually were a sillage monster on my skin. I’m sure that spraying from an actual bottle would improve things a bit, but only at the start. My skin simply doesn’t do all that well in the long-term with fragrances that are colognes in strength.

I think the most interesting and useful review for Nostalgia comes from the blog, Cocktails and Cologne, which analyzes in-depth just how much the fragrance does or does not replicate the “vintage race car concept”:

I love the smell of exhaust and unburned fuel from a hot rod without a catalytic converter—I even like the way my clothes smell after I’m around it. But would I bottle it? Fortunately, Santa Maria Novella’s vintage race car concept fragrance doesn’t take it too literally.

Nostalgia’s inspiration was the metal, rubber, wood, and leather of hand-built Italian race cars. It’s a great concept for a perfectly masculine fragrance, very elemental, and very sentimental too. […][¶]

NostalgiaThat Nostalgia doesn’t have more fans may be a result of its polarizing top notes and its lackluster packaging (More on that later). I’m guessing many people never get beyond the top notes to the smooth, Bulgari Black-like vanilla and rubber stage.

The top notes are bright and utterly artificial smelling. I worked in a garage for a couple years and I’ve been around vintage cars my whole life but none of Nostalgia’s top notes quite conjure up the feeling of vintage racing to me. It’s closer to the smell of the plastic glue I used to use to build 1:24 scale models of cars as a teenager.

About an hour in, it smells a little more like Bulgari Black’s top notes: smooth and rubbery with a hint of leather and vanilla. It’s much milder than you’d expect for something that comes on with such a chemical assault. Unlike Black though, Nostalgia’s vanilla isn’t sweet; it’s more leathery with a hint of smoke. I love Black but I may prefer Nostalgia. [snip.]

The whole review is very well-done, astutely noting how the Nostalgia is suited to a specific audience, and discussing the issue of the old-fashioned packaging. (It puts some people off.) The article is definitely worth a complete read for anyone interested in the fragrance.



As you may have noticed, the subject of Bvlgari Black comes up a lot in the discussion of Nostalgia. I haven’t tried it, but the perfume is mentioned so often in other, very similar fragrances that I’ve covered that I really need to rectify that soon. At this point, though, I suspect I pretty much know how it smells, and yes, Nostalgia’s drydown is probably quite close.

I bring up Bvlgari Black for another reason. I know a number of women who love the fragrance, and have no problems wearing it. Those same women should also love Nostalgia. Yes, this is a fragrance that initially skews somewhat masculine, but that “racing fuel” opening is incredibly short-lived on me and on others, and the rest of the fragrance is much more approachable. Nostalgia should work for anyone who can handle the smoky birch tar aspects of Lonestar Memories, Profumum’s Arso and Bvlgari Black, along with the leather in Rien or Tabac Blond (both of which are significantly and substantially more leathered than Nostalgia), and smoky scents which contain touches of earthy patchouli. Those people should have absolutely no problem with all those various elements coming together in one fragrance that smooths out their rougher edges into a refined blend.

For everyone else, I’m not sure I would recommend Nostalgia. If you don’t like leather or birch tar, I don’t think you’d enjoy the scent. That said, I would like to emphasize again that all of the potentially difficult elements appear only in the opening phase of Nostalgia, since the majority of the fragrance’s life is centered on a very simple amber-vanilla with birch smoke that eventually turns to mere vanilla and smoke.

In short, if you’re even slightly tempted, then don’t let the sound of Nostalgia’s opening scare you off. It is a scent that both men and women who love birch leather, smoky fragrances, vanillic leather, and Bvlgari Black should try. Nostalgia is very affordable, utterly fascinating, and extremely well done.

Cost & Availability: Nostalgia is an Eau de Cologne that comes in a 100 ml/ 3.3 oz splash bottle and which costs $125 or €95. In the U.S.: Nostalgia is available directly from Santa Maria Novella’s US website which offers free shipping for orders over $150. (You may need to buy an atomizer spray that they offer to go with the bottle, as I believe it might be a dab bottle, like some of their other fragrances.) Santa Maria Novella also has numerous other sections worth checking out. All items are cruelty-free and have not been tested on animals. The Pet Section includes everything from Lemongrass Anti-Mosquito repellant in lotion form to No Rinse Cleansing Foams, and more. Santa Maria Novella also has stores in 5 U.S. cities from L.A., to New York, Chevy Chase, Dallas and Bal Harbour, Fl, and you can find those addresses on the website. Also, LAFCO, on Hudson St. in NYC, is said to carry the entire SMN line. I checked the LAFCO website, and I don’t see any Santa Maria Novella’s products on it, but I believe they carry them in-store. Other U.S. vendors: Brooklyn’s Dry Goods NY sells Nostalgia below retail for the old SMN price of $110, while NY’s Carson Street Clothiers sells it way above retail at $165. Aedes in New York seems to carry a good selection of some Santa Maria Novella products, from candles to soaps, along with Nostalgia for $125. You can order Nostalgia by phone from Luckyscent, but it is not one of the fragrances that you can order from the website. Frankly, there seems to be an odd situation with a few vendors being unable to sell SMN fragrances on their website, with one NL site explicitly saying that they received a directive from the company not to do so, but only to offer their fragrances in store. I don’t understand it.
Outside the U.S.: In Canada, a retail chain called Gravity Pope carries an extensive number of Santa Maria Novella products, from fragrances to shampoos, lotions and soaps. They show Nostalgia on their website, but for the reasons listed above, cannot sell it online but only in store. In Europe, you can turn to the Italian Santa Maria Novella website to buy Nostalgia, but I’m having a little trouble navigating the site. There is also no pricing that I can find. The SMN Farmacia has a number of European off-shoots: stores in London and in Paris. I can’t find an address for the Paris store, but the official distributor for the company’s products is Amin Kader Paris which has two stores in the Paris. Again, I can’t find Euro pricing information for the fragrance. On a side note, on a Fodor’s site, I read that Santa Maria Novella has shops in the following cities: Roma, Venice, Lucca, Forte dei Marmi, Bologna, Castiglione della Pescaia, London, Paris, and Livorno. In the Netherlands, Lianne Tio sells Nostalgia in her Rotterdam store for €95, but not on her website due to the SMN directive. Switzerland’s Osswald also carries the full SMN line, but doesn’t seem to have an e-store. In Poland, I found Nostalgia at Galilu, while in Auckland, New Zealand, it is available at Passion for Paper, though you can’t seem to buy it directly from the website. In Russia, the full SMN line, along with Nostalgia, can be ordered by phone from Ebaumer.
Samples: I obtained my sample from Surrender to Chance which carries Nostalgia starting at $3.99 for a 1 ml vial.

18 thoughts on “Santa Maria Novella Nostalgia: Drive, Baby, Drive

  1. I bought this perfume in 1994 at Santa Maria Novella in Florence when at the last moment I was asked to guide a small group on a trip to Italy with three days in Florence. I am not a travel agent but had been there before and wanted the group to experience the aura of the place. Situated on a side street near the train station, once you are in there you are completely transformed. It is a beautiful edifice and if you did not know, you would not realize you were in a farmacia but rather the monastery that it once was…but then you find your way into the back room filled with bottles of colognes and soaps almost to the high ceiling. I purchased some soaps and then tested the Eva Cologne and Nostalgia. I ended up buying a bottle of each. I still have them and the fragrances smell just as they did 10 years. I get comments every time I wear Nostalgia–at the time I did not know it was a man’s fragrance. Now that would not matter to me as I own several men’s fragrances in the Prada line as well as Tom Ford. Anyone lucky enough to be traveling to Florence should definitely stop at Santa Maria Novella…it is a wonderful experience for perfumistas and also those who are not.

    • I fully agree with you, though I haven’t been there myself. Everything I’ve read and all the photos that I’ve seen indicates that it is a stunning, fascinating place. The frescoes or murals seem especially lovely, as does that lofty ceiling. I’m really taken by the whole history of the house, though, even more than its beautiful “pharmacy” showroom. I just wish that they made something more concentrated and projecting than a cologne so that my skin wouldn’t eat it up so much. That said, at least one person seems to think Nostalgia is a “sillage monster” so it’s obviously an issue of skin chemistry.

      I’m so glad that you liked Nostalgia so much, and have no problems wearing it. And lucky you for having a bottle of the original, un-reformulated version!

  2. Bvlgari Black is one of my very favorite scents. In fact, I’m awaiting a new bottle right now. I find it an eminently wearable and lovely scent. Yes, it has a “rubber” note, but it’s smells like lapsang souchong tea to me (and I do believe that it is that, though I may be wrong). I get no benzene, no gas fumes at all. If I did, I’d never wear it and I have no fondness for those scents. I can not bear the smell of gasoline. So, I’m weary of Nostalgia. I also have zero nostalgia for old cars as I got oh so carsick in my parents’ old Peugeot. I can practically smell that combo of smells in my mind and don’t want to go back. . .but I am curious, of course. Funny, ’cause there are folks who are wary of Bvlgari Black!

    Loved the review (and the last one, and the one before). . .Thanks!

    • I honestly don’t think the smell is as strong — let alone as long-lasting — as some of the Fragrantica comments would indicate. At least, it wasn’t on my skin, but skin chemistry can obviously vary from person to person. It only lasts about 15 minutes, if that, before it turns to the more traditional rubber and smoked birch wood campfire aromas. Also, even when it does appear, it’s incredibly refined and not at all like sitting in an old ’70s diesel car (or Peugeot, for that matter). It’s light, bergamot-infused, with hints of vanilla and amber. So, definitely not hard diesel fuel.

      That said, Nostalgia won’t be for everyone, so no worries if this scent doesn’t tempt you. As that one blogger said, Nostalgia’s opening is polarizing, and I can certainly understand why. 🙂

      • Oh, it’s tempting because I do so love Bvlgari Black. Then again, as I really never tire of it, I probably don’t “need” anything like it. Of course, I do want to smell everything! 🙂

  3. Very Dear Kafka
    Been reading your wonderful reviews for several months now and have come to think of you as my ‘go-to’ fragrance critic (today, for example, I wondered what you would think of the white musk in Helmut Lang EDP)… Thank you – for your consistently inspiring, insightful and unflinchingly honest perspectives – such a joy!
    Anyway, I thought I’d chip in today because, in this review, you note your bemusement at not being able to purchase Nostalgia on-line. I recently found a scent shop website that only allows telephone ordering, explaining that some perfume houses forbid web sales to ensure that their goods are available from authorised and approved stockists. Websites backed by product-selling shops have stock delivered direct from the perfume houses – as opposed to e-warehouses which may be part of the ‘grey market’ selling out-of-date or fake products. Guess it makes sense, integrity-wise. Doesn’t explain why you can’t find prices on their own site though…hmmm…
    Best always
    Gaia HR

    • First off, welcome to the blog, Gaia! 🙂 Second, I’m glad you stopped lurking and I do hope you will stop by to comment more often. Perfume is the most fun when it is shared, regardless of whether people agree or not. So, please, don’t lurk! 🙂

      With regard to the issue of ordering SMN online, thank you for the interesting information. I’m a little confused, however. If website have their product delivered from the perfume houses, how is there a danger of e-warehouses and grey-market selling? A lot of these niche places are also very small in terms of location and don’t rely on big warehouses, like the big perfume retailers or discount ones like FragranceNet. I am sure a place like Luckyscent is delivering straight from their own supply and shop, as would small retailers like Lianne Tio in the Netherlands. I doubt either one is sending from e-warehouses. Both retailers operate out of one main location, and I’m sure their online store is stocked from their immediate inventory or something close at hand, not a gigantic warehouse like Amazon might have. So, for me, it’s not like ordering from the latter, or from Estee Lauder, Fragrance Net, etc. These are tiny boutiques and approved stockists.

      Plus, even with approved stockists like Luckyscent, there is a very weird situation. Luckyscent offers 5 SMN colognes for online, web purchase from their site. The others, however, along with the soaps or lotions, have to be ordered by phone or in-person/on-site. That’s not consistent, and rather odd, no? Why would Nostalgia be one of the ones singled out (on a number of sites), but other SMN fragrances are fine for online purchase via a website? I think that discrepancy applies to other SMN scents beyond just Nostalgia too, judging by my memory of the retail links for SMN’s Ambre (which can be purchased online). All in all, I find it rather mystifying. LOL. 😀

      Onto less bewildering topics: STOP lurking and join the fun, Gaia! I’d love to get to know you and your perfume tastes better. 🙂

      • Thank you for the welcome, Kafka. Will do my best to contribute!
        I’m a green perfumista – if not very young in years. I adore classics like Arpege and Vol de Nuit – most older Guerlains – and the modern Alahine and I also appreciate, with a growing sense of awe, the extraordinary blossoming of contemporary niche lines. My tastes seem to swing from opulent balsams and aldehydes to cold and zingy cardamon-y things like Frapin L’Humaniste; OS Lumiere Blanche and Costume National 21 (with ‘meh’ to the Emperor all sniffy about it – and Eau du Soir as well!)…
        …Spellbound by Uncle Serge, the man and the artist (your interview is sublime), Jeux de Peau is my cuddle-blanket with L’Eau Froide and Douce Amere on my wish list. Plus some PdN, MFK, ELdO (Faun) and those two Hesse numbers from Dorissima. I’m also beginning a tentative flirtation with Amouage. Like you, I really don’t like white musks. Unlike you, I’m not very brave. To be honest, I hate anything screeching at me: melon, tiare, diesel, tar, ozones – whatever that scratchy thing was that yelled and growled at everyone all the time and kicked me in the throat in the ’90′s (calone?)…
        As regards the SMN sales situation, perhaps the strict controls enable best monitoring for new product lines? Also, I didn’t really paraphrase the info as well as I might have. There was the suggestion that houses prefer their new customers to be nurtured with a more personal touch…
        Best always

        • I smiled at the list of notes “screeching” at you and at the reference to the ’90s! It probably *WAS* Calone! And the awful melon note is undoubtedly melonal (sp?) or something spelled a bit like that. It’s terrible, I agree.

          You have a lovely range in your perfume tastes, Gaia. That shows an open mind and an enjoyment of lots of different things, both of which are wonderful. I hope I can help find you a few more things to love. I’m so pleased you found me, and I look forward to getting to know you better. 🙂

  4. Great review, as ever. I’m still at the stage where I enjoy the smell of Bulgari Black, but don’t quite want to wear it, so this one would be a bit much for me. I used to really like the smell of gasoline, but don’t any more. I wonder if the lead improved the smell?

    What’s really intriguing is the No Rinse Cleansing Foam for pets. Has anyone tried it, or anything similar? My old dog can’t stand up long enough for the groomers nowadays, and something like a dry shampoo would be easier on him. I don’t know how he’d feel about smelling of roses and orange blossoms, but it sounds good to me.

    • I’ve never tried SMN’s pet stuff, but I have tried a No Rinse Foaming Shampoo on my various pets over the years. As an occasional, rare measure for those days when the weather or something else doesn’t permit a full grooming, I think the dry/no-rinse shampoos are a great idea. I’ve used both a foaming mousse kind and a more liquid spray. I haven’t liked the really intense “clean white” synthetics in some of them, as they are too strong for my nose, so I’d definitely prefer the less invasive SMN version. They seem pretty all-natural from what I’ve read.

      I think you should look into something like it for your boy, whether from SMN or someone else. They’re really easy to do. I have my furry child lie down, and I spray onto various parts, then brush through. Pretty simple, if your boy has the patience to sit for grooming.

      • Thanks, I’ll look around the pet store. (The SMN was sold out.) He’s not crazy about baths, but loves to be towel-dried, so I think it’d work. He’s 14, with rapidly deteriorating joints, so I’d like to spare him too much standing.

  5. I just ordered a bottle of Nostalgia and I am really excited. I love birch tar and rubber scents. I have tried CDG Black and it is black pepper with birch tar and its wonderful but I think this sounds so much more unusual and appealing. I think the amber and vanilla will add a nice element. What I found appealing in the review was the fact that the birch tar remained throughout the fragrances development. The birch seems to fade quickly in a lot of fragrances I have tried and it sounds like this one stays along for the ride. I also appreciate the fact that the birch won’t be screaming loudly but whispering softly after the initial blast. I also find the bergamot aspect of this fragrance appealing. I thought about Lonestar Memories but I thought the combination of elements in this fragrance sounded so much more appealing. This is a blind purchase but it just sounds so good for the price, I just could not resist.

    • I’m so glad I could tempt you with something, John, and I hope you’ll let me know how Nostalgia ends up on your skin. The most appealing bit of gasoline around, imo, odd as that may sound. LOL.

      You know, if you’re a passionate birch-tar lover, you may want to consider Jovoy’s Private Label, and look up my review for it. It’s very different than Nostalgia, and hardcore to the MAX with massive, hefty smoke (and vetiver, along with patchouli), but some guys love its sort of Apocalypse Now darkness. It’s not a scent that screams loudly in terms of projection after a while, so that aspect may work for you too. But it is DEFINITELY not a scent to ever risk a blind-buy, as I know one person who loves Nostalgia but hated Private Label. Too, too much for him. For me, too, actually, though I like parts of the drydown and think the scent would be sexy on the right guy. So, it’s a question of tastes. But look up the review, and see if it sounds like something you’d want to sample.

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