Tom Ford has added Costa Azzurra and Mandarino de Amalfi as two new, summer fragrances to join his extremely popular Neroli Portofino. The trio now comprise The Neroli Portofino Collection, but are also part of the higher priced Private Blend line. Both fragrances will be released in early July, and are not yet available in most stores. Yesterday, I took a look at Mandarino de Amalfi. Today is Costa Azzura‘s turn.
Costa Azzurra is an eau de parfum created by Yann Vasnier, and described in the Tom Ford press release as follows:
COSTA AZZURRA evokes the fragrant and sun-baked landscape of coastal and island Mediterranean woods, where pines and oaks mingle with wild-growing herbs and salty water.
The fragrance opens with a hint of fucus, a species of seaweed, and then the sandy, salt-baked wood notes of driftwood accord and agarwood accord. A spicy shimmer of ambrette seed, celery seed, and cardamom conveys glints of freshness.
A combination of armoise, juniper berry, myrtle, basil and French lavender lilt into crisp Italian lemons and yellow mandarin. The presence of dense coastal forests of oak, cedar and cypress is unmistakable.
Ambery citrus and resin from the lentisque shrub and smoky olibanum, incense and vetiver oil touch the air with sensuality, as carnally rich vanilla completes the composition.
The succinct list of notes for the perfume is:
Top: seaweed, driftwood, agarwood (oud), ambrette (musk mallow), celery seeds and cardamom;
Middle: juniper, myrtle, lavender, lemon, yellow mandarin and artemisia;
Base: mastic or lentisque, olibanum, incense, vanilla, vetiver and oak.
Costa Azzurra opens on my skin with a truly beautiful, bright sweetness from sun-ripened, delicious, yellow mandarins. They are soft, almost more akin to an apricot than a truly zesty or tangy tangerine, and fully golden in hue, thanks to a streak of warm vanilla. There is an abstract floralcy that floats about them, and a honeyed touch from the ambrette seeds. Yet, Costa Azzurra’s opening is about far more than about delicate, fruited sweetness. There is a salty freshness which is threaded through every inch of it from the seawood, which works beautifully with the ripened tangerines.
Other notes follow in quick succession. There is incense, then a light touch of herbal, slightly pungently green artemisia, and an even lighter wisp of lavender. Much more noticeable is an aquatic note that weaves its way through all the notes like an ocean breeze. It brings in its wake a dry woodiness, as if wafted over from forests near the sea. There is a definite touch of piney juniper, but there is also something like fresh, green cedar. I’ve never encountered mastic or lentisque, but Fragrantica tells me that it is a gum resin whose aroma profile is similar to cedar, pine and olibanum frankincense. Whatever the source of the note, Costa Azzurra evokes for me not a summery, sandy beach where one frolics in warm water, but a more desolate, rocky landscape with herbal outcrops on the cliffs, and cool chilliness. There merely happens to be a tangerine orchard next to this one as well.
The orange-gold beauty of the sweet mandarin, vanilla, salt, and ambrette warmth are truly lovely, even without the added complexity added by the dark, woody, and herbal elements. The killer touch is the creaminess that runs through Costa Azzurra as a smooth, silken base. It is light and thin, but works particularly well with the contrast of sweetness and saltiness. In fact, I find the mix in the early minutes to be compulsively sniffable, and would love a fragrance centered solely on the warm, sunnier elements, though the light tendril of incense is pretty as well.
Alas, trouble soon arrives, and starts Costa Azzurra’s long, slow road downhill. Less than 15 minutes in, the early flicker of oud blooms into full-blown, hardcore aromachemical woodiness, complete with medicinal, peppered sharpness. It is a very cheap, fake “oud,” though it stops short of Montale levels and doesn’t have any pink bandage notes. I suppose one should be grateful for small mercies, but the terrible quality of the supposed “agarwood” is a disappointment given the price that Tom Ford charges. Frankly, I’d be shocked if even a small portion of the “oud” were real, as I’d bet almost all of it was concocted in one of Givaudan’s laboratories. (Yann Vasnier is a Givaudan nose.)
Around the same time, the rest of Costa Azzurra begins to change as well. The juicy, golden mandarin and saltiness start to weaken; the oud grows stronger; the artemisia merges with the lavender and juniper into a light blur of amorphous herbaceousness; and the incense and creamy vanilla elope to the sidelines where they remain muted and in hiding. By the 30-minute mark, all the notes except for the oud merge into a haze, losing their individual shape and layers. What is left is a fragrance with an increasingly weak mandarin note and dominated largely by multiple forms of dry woods that are flecked with abstract herbal, aromatic, and aquatic touches, as well a streak of peppered, aromachemical dryness.
The start of the second hour ushers in Costa Azzurra’s main phase. The perfume loses the remainder of its mandarin touch, along with its sweetness, and turns much drier as the oud takes over completely. It now has a faint nuance of medicinal rubbing alcohol to go along with the pepper, synthetic dryness. The artificial aquatic element has grown stronger, too, turning Costa Azzurra into something reminiscent of a man’s department store fragrance. I can’t think of which specific, mainstream aquatic-woody concoction it might resemble most closely, mostly because it is a genre I avoid like the plague. Someone on Fragrantica mentioned Zegna‘s Z, but I haven’t tried it to know.
For the most part, Costa Azzurra doesn’t change much on my skin. It’s simply a mix of dry, aromatic, synthetic woodiness with fluctuating degrees of green citrus, slightly bitter herbs, saltiness, and aquatic elements over a light, thin layer of creaminess. The saltiness comes and goes, the fruited sweetness pops up occasionally like a ghost in a very nebulous form, and there is a vague suggestion of something herbal wafting around.
The woody tonalities are really the core focus on my skin, so it’s a shame that there is such aridity to the notes. Neither the oud nor the more abstract, amorphous “woodiness” feel smooth or well-rounded. Instead, they’re thin and sharp. There are only two nice things that I can say about it. First, the combination of notes really conjures up the visual of driftwood left on a beach to turn into a withered husk under the elements, then dusted off with sandiness and salt. Second, there is a genuinely pretty creaminess underlying the perfume. It becomes most noticeable by the end of the 2nd hour, and helps to keep the desiccated nature of the woods in check. Unfortunately, it weakens by the time the 5th hour begins, and the woods feel more bleached than ever.
There really isn’t much more to Costa Azzurra on my skin. The perfume turns softer, more abstract, and simplistic as the hours pass. The only thing of interest is that the citrus note returns around the 8th hour, and, for some strange reason, it smells like lime on my skin. It’s bitter, green, and slightly acidic. I can only assume that the artemisia has had some indirect effect on the lemon note, and turned it astringent. Other than that, Costa Azzurra is merely a haze of dry woods with clean, vaguely aquatic-tinged undertones, along with minuscule hints of greenness, saltiness, and cleanness. Once in a while, ghostly touches of creaminess or a warm muskiness stir in the base. For a brief moment, I had the vague sense of the way skin feels at the end of a long day at the beach, when you’re radiating a lingering trace of the sun’s warmth and are lightly coated with tiny particles of salt. It was enjoyable but, like the creaminess in the base, it’s a brief, ghostly presence which spends most of its time in hiding.
All in all, Costa Azzura has good longevity and weak sillage on my skin. Using 3 big smears, or the equivalent of 2 sprays from an actual bottle, Costa Azzurra lasted 10.25 hours. The perfume initially wafted 2 inches above the skin in an airy bouquet before quickly dropping down further by the end of the first hour. It turns into a skin scent on me at the start of the 3rd hour.
I was wholly unimpressed by Costa Azzurra and think it is over-priced for the scent in question, though I personally wouldn’t wear it even if it cost less. Still, it would be a decent, approachable fragrance for a mainstream designer who offered it for about $60, but not for a Tom Ford Private Blend at $210 (which may have been further hiked up to $215, if the price on the Ford website is any indication). $210 for a small bottle leaves me snorting. Nothing about Costa Azzurra is distinctive or remotely interesting, in my opinion. And it certainly doesn’t smell luxurious, niche, or high-quality to me.
On Fragrantica, there are only two reviews thus far from people who have actually tried the perfume, and they are mixed. The one chap who tries to praise Costa Azzurra as a “great fragrance” actually ends up damning it with inadvertent insults, in my opinion:
I’ll start off by saying that while many may think that this fragrance isn’t interesting or different enough to be part of the Private Blend line… it needs to be. Yes, this is more your mainstream “cologne” scent, but regardless, its still very good. Tom Ford has been completely off his mark lately with the majority of the Atelier d’Orient collection, (aside from Plum Japonais), his Jardin Noir collection, Jasmin Rouge, Santal Blush, Tobacco Oud, etc. The majority of the ones he’s been coming out with lately don’t deserve to even be mentioned in the same sentence with some of the originals like Tobacco Vanille, Arabian Wood, the original Oud Wood, Noir de Noir, etc., much less actually sold as part of the same line. He’s been needing to put out something that many people will like in order to keep the line alive, and this is exactly what he’s done. Everybody should like Costa Azzurra, its not too strong, its a fairly “happy” scent, its just good overall. Nobody who smells it is going to think it smells bad, just some may like it more than others. To be honest, it reminds me a little of Z by Ermenegildo Zegna…. aside from the fact that Tom Ford’s is much better quality of course, smells better, and isn’t “chemically” the way Z sort of is.
Overall this is just a good fragrance to have in your collection. If you don’t want to spend as much money, you could get Chanel Allure Homme or something along those lines for a lot less money….. but still I like Costa Azzurra a lot. Its definitely more of an everyday “going to get Starbucks”, “going out with your girlfriend to see a movie”, “wanting to ask a girl on a date”, etc. kind of fragrance. Its not going to be Tobacco Vanille, its not going to be Tuscan Leather, its not going to be Noir de Noir, but at the end of the day, its still a damn good Tom Ford that you can wear pretty much everywhere.
Well, okay. It’s a “go to Starbucks” fragrance whose character, distinctiveness, and originality have been toned down to appeal to the masses through a “mainstream” scent that is “just good overall” and designed to keep the Tom Ford brand alive after a series of recent flops. I agree with all of that, because, in my opinion, that summation is actually an ouch-worthy analysis that is pretty much the worst thing imaginable for a supposedly luxury line that wants you to spend $215 on a small bottle. I see the deadly negatives in his statement, even if he doesn’t. And, remember, this is the supposedly positive review for Costa Azzurra.
The only other analysis from someone who has actually tried Costa Azzurra is a sharply negative review. Like me, the poster, “poboijosh,” finds the opening to be beautiful in its salty mandarin-vanilla combo but, like me, find the perfume to go down hill from there with great rapidity. His long critique reads, in part, as follows:
This juice has a fantastic opening that’s somewhat salty from Driftwood, a tad sweet from the Vanilla accord, a bit of what smells like an old wooden table, and of course, boring Lavander. In a matter of a mere 15 minutes, that fantastic opening globbed together in what now smells exactly like, ugh and I really hate to say this because I just love these Private Blends, but Costa Azzurra is extremely reminiscent of some cheap aquatic mainstream Men`s perfume if not smelling exactly, that I cannot even pick one out for comparison purposes, but the closest I can possibly get would be Van Cleef & Arpels `niche` Bois d` Iris minus the Iris accord, but with some citruses thrown on top, and that`s entirely an insult to that stunning Van Cleef`s. Longevity was under 2 hours, and I can say with honesty that even if this juice was handed to me free of charge in a 250ml decanter, (and that decanter is gorgeous!) I still wouldn’t wear it, because it smells cheap, which leads me to… what in God`s name was Tom Ford thinking with these 2 new blends?! I’m sorry, I can somewhat understand and see these new juices being designed as `people pleasers` with obviously not even taking into account his enthusiasts, and even as people pleasers these 2 new ones simply… suck, so ultimately, these juices are straight utter misses, and dare I say, epic fails [….]
In short, an “epic fail” designed to please the masses that smells so cheap and so much like a mainstream aquatic that an avowed Tom Ford fan wouldn’t wear it if a big bottle were given to him for free. I think that pretty much sums up Costa Azzurra in a nutshell, if you ask me.
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Bah, humbug! I haven’t tried it yet, and don’t intend to actively seek it out, because I generally find the Tom Ford fragrances a veritable scam (and they are owned by the Estée Lauder group, who are in turn owned by L’Oreal, who have butchered, amongst many things, the fragrances under YSL). I did like the sound of a ‘salty’ note, but mandarin doesn’t really do it for me, and most definitely not ‘oud’.
Oh, and, hello from Singapore! 🙂
First, I hope your move went smoothly, and that it wasn’t too much of an ordeal. I also hope your perfume bottles survived the passage without damage. It’s great to see you so soon, my dear Smelly.
Second, Estée Lauder and L’Oreal are two separate monoliths. L’Oreal doesn’t own EL, so whatever L’Oreal’s crimes against poor YSL Parfums (and we both know they are many), Estée Lauder isn’t responsible. It’s a separate multi-national which is still run by the Lauder family who are majority shareholders. L’Oreal was founded by Eugene Scheuller and his daughter, Liliane Bettencourt, is its largest shareholder to this day (and one of the world’s wealthiest women, as a result). Just thought I’d clarify all that, but it’s an easy mistake to make since both companies seem to essentially own EVERYTHING these days. LOL. 🙂
Ooooh (can you hear my disappointment ?)
First you made it sound so nice, really nice – like a lovely holiday of bygone days. I was already looking forward to Juniper, which I like a lot.
My note to TF : (my) life is far too short to spend it with cheap Agarwood !
Have you ever tried Profumum’s Acqua di Sale? A lovely salty trip to the seaside. I think it’s a great scent in capturing the feel of the North Atlantic beaches. Very different from Tom Ford’s Costa Azzurra, though. In many ways…. 😉
while i do like citrusy scents, as a general rule i don’t like paying out my nose for them… and it’s so disappointing that many citrus scents have such a great opening but a subpar base. of the tom ford fragrances i tried, i do like noir de noir and tobacco vanille… but the prices are rather terrifying. i’ll have to satisfy myself with decants.
Noir de Noir and Tobacco Vanille are certainly amongst the big TF hits and, I’d argue, substantially better than either of these two new scents. Have you tried Andy Tauer’s Cologne du Maghreb? It is a super-rich, intensely citrus fragrance that doesn’t feel like a usual cologne, and you may like it quite a bit. See if you can find it at any Tauer stockists in your neck of the woods, as the perfume was originally released in 2011.
I simply can’t stand that dry, synthetic, rubbing alcohol, wood note. In tiny, and I mean tiny, doses sometimes it doesn’t burn the nostrils but this sounds like it would be a scrubber on me. Not a shock really since I’ve yet to find a Tom Ford perfume that knocks my socks off. Neroli Portofino is okay but I wouldn’t pay the price for it.
Neroli Portofino is better than these two, if you ask me. If that one didn’t knock your socks off, I doubt either of these will either. 🙂
PS– I know I owe you an email. Will send as soon as I come up for air!
No worries my dear. I know you’re busy.
Hello Kafkaesque, fantastic review! I’m thoroughly pleased that we both feel the same about Costa Azzurra, and… that other one. I was so looking forward to these two, but, oh well, I guess it’s time to start branching out a little. Hey, thank you kindly for sharing my thoughts, and keep up those spot-on reviews! Warmest Regards -Poboijosh 😉
First, please let me apologise for the slight delay in responding to your kind words, and, second, let me welcome you to the blog, Joshua. With regard to Costa Azzurra “and that other one” (rofl), there is something that I’ve noticed and, perhaps, you have, too: Tom Ford seems to be moving away from the very rich, heavy, dense, and oriental style that made him so popular. If you consider the Atelier d’Orient collection and, now, these two, I think he’s moving towards a much lighter, airier, and more commercial type of perfumery.
I think there are two reasons: one, Tom Ford but particularly Estee Lauder (which owns TF) are trying to break into the Asian market. I’ve covered that market, and don’t think they’ll be successful given the cultural attitudes towards perfumery. The second reason is that lighter, simpler, and more commercial-style fragrances are cheaper to make. Less expensive, rich ingredients, more commercially safe profiles with inexpensive synthetics, and a safer style as a whole. All of that saves money in terms of production costs and increases sales, especially as the retail price goes higher. Fragrances like Amber Absolute which used expensive labdanum and amber accords, and the other discontinued one (whose name I’m blanking out right now) with the expensive rosewood… all much more costly than something like his new, lighter, more overtly synthetic, simpler scents. Well, that’s my personal analysis in any event.
There are much better perfumes out there nowadays, I’m afraid. My favorite new line that I’ve discovered this year is the SHL 777 (Stephane Humbert Lucas 777) line which blows even the best Tom Fords out of the water. If you’re looking to branch out at all, read up on those and give them a try. You may be happily surprised. 🙂
Wow! Thank you so much for the 411! I will have to agree with you 100%, and I firmly believe that that is entirely a foolish move on Estee Lauder`s/Tom Ford`s part, or whoever is behind this brand because that shows me that this really just all boils down to money, which there’s a boatload more of it in the Asian market as compared to and probably the combined countrys elsewhere, and that leaves me with the impression that Tom Ford himself has made his billions so he really doesn’t care too much about his devoted enthusiasts, so yes, as sad and true as that is, ultimately that is what it is, so I will just be spending my dollars elsewhere now… thank you for the suggestion to the house of SHL777, I will most definitely be checking that one out, and have you sampled anything from Perris Monte Carlo yet? Those perfumes are unbelievably awesome! I’m curious as to the Private Blend you were blocking out that contained Rosewood… is it *** Wood? I don’t particularly care for that one… 😛
I think Tom Ford (or Estee Lauder) is simply doing what other houses are trying to do as well. Case in point, Kilian with his Asian Tales collection. The super light, airy, incredibly wispy and discreet “Flower of Immortality” was aimed squarely at the Chinese market. In contrast, some of his others are aimed at the uber-rich Russians (his new Vodka perfume, for example). Tom Ford is a clever businessman at the end of the day, has always had mainstream roots (YSL, Gucci, etc.), and he’s not a real niche perfumer, so can you really blame him?
I can’t remember which one is the Rosewood Tom Ford now, but I do think it’s probably Oud Wood. That’s not bad on my skin, as it’s a very approachable oud fragrance, but it’s not my favorite oud perfume as a whole. I love Neela Vermeire’s Trayee which is a spice, smoke monster based on the most incredible, walloping amounts of actual, real Mysore Sandalwood. Hardly any fragrances have that these days, as it costs so much it might as well be truly extinct, but her fragrance has it in huge amounts. Oud too. And, for other ouds, I like some of the Amouage line. Tom Ford is okay, but generally a bit too commercial or mainstream for me, and he definitely uses quite a bit of synthetics at times.
With regard to Perris Monte Carlo, I’ve tried their Bois d’Oud which was nice. However, it has quite a bit of synthetics (Norlimbanol, if I remember correctly) and I have a bit of an issue with that, especially in large quantities. The real thing, though, is that LM Parfums did the same thing much better, imo, with their Black Oud. (Which was also better than the very expensive Puredistance Black which followed it by a year but for twice the price.)
BTW, LM Parfums is another company that you should consider. I love a number of things from the line, and their Hard Leather was my pick for the #1 best release of last year, as well as for my favorite fragrance that I tried last year as a whole. (It’s another one of the super rare fragrances that uses actual, real Mysore sandalwood!!!) But it’s not for everyone, and has an animalic opening 15 minutes that can go quite south on some people’s skin, so you have to give it time. (And don’t test on paper alone!) But, as a whole, I think the most luxurious, rich, opulent line when taken as a whole is the SHL 777 line and, of course, Roja Dove. The latter isn’t quite for me in terms of style, as it’s frequently a little TOO classical and straight-laced, but the SHL 777…. Black Gemstone, wow. Seriously, WOW. (And Holy Cow, as well! lol) Read my reviews for the line, if you’re interested and then, you can order samples from Osswald NY or Luckyscent. Just be warned that it is a very expensive line, unfortunately, with prices that can make some Amouage scents look like a bargain….. 🙁
It seemed so promising! Shame it took such an unfortunate turn.