Corsica Furiosa is the latest fragrance from Parfum d’Empire, the always refined, interesting French niche brand founded and run by Marc-Antoine Corticchiato. It is an eau de parfum that seeks to capture the essence of Mr. Corticchiato’s native home, Corsica, and one that I was extremely excited to try.
I was in Corsica about 5 years ago, and went around the island, but my friends and I stayed mostly at a place called Domaine de Murtoli. It is a large 2,500 hectare estate with luxury villas near Figari, Corsica, which has everything from private beaches and forests, to shrub-covered “maquis” (small mountains), a farm, horse-back riding, and more. I very much enjoyed the island’s wild, untamed nature, whether it was Corsica’s mountainous plains of herbaceous greenness with a floral touch, its dusty paths, its pristine (slightly rocky) beaches, and its sunny warmth. From fragrant immortelle growing on high cliff-tops over azure waters, to an ancient wood that the Druids would have loved, beachside lunches of oursin (sea urchin) and langoustine (small lobsters) that had been caught just hours before, and a superlative restaurant located in a series of large, prehistoric caves inside a mountain, Corsica was a magical experience for me.
I was even more enthused to try Corsica Furiosa when I read the press release description a few months ago. Parfum d’Empire’s website is undergoing construction, so I can’t quote them directly, but Jovoy Paris and ParfuMaria have the full text:
A verdant blast built around lentiscus, an evergreen shrub typical of Corsica. Wood, moss, earth, hay, honey, resin, leather… Green from top to bottom and in every shade, its sillage carries the smells of the mountain maquis. Energizing and impetuous.
Furioso. The term, used as a direction in music, means “to be played rapidly and with passion”… because Corsica, where Marc-Antoine Corticchiato has his roots, is never restful. It sends your eyes, your nose, and your heart into overdrive. So when you’re close to bursting with sensations and emotions, you take to the maquis. The perfumer’s new tribute to his homeland was inspired by the moving scent that greets the returning traveler: the green, intense, facetted fragrance of lentiscus, a shrub that grows on the sunny slopes of Corsica, from the highlands to the Mediterranean seaside.
But Corsica Furiosa is far more than that: the quintessence of everything that makes the “Island of Beauty” unique, fierce and strong. The violent contrasts of its smells, colors, reliefs, passions, secrets… Since everyone in Corsica has their own recipe for it, a fiery swig of eau-de-vie sets the top notes ablaze. In its combustible wake, it trails the green bite of nepita, a local variety of wild mint. Crisp green tomato leaf intensifies the natural vibe. When lentiscus kicks in, the plot thickens. The headstrong essential oil is the first to take off. Peppery, fruity, aromatic, then earthy with mushroom overtones, it thrusts itself into the heart of Corsica Furiosa. Then the absolute takes over with a smoother shade of green with hay, blond tobacco, honey and straw accents, darkened with a tinge of liquorish. A third type of extraction, obtained through a special technique, adds wafts of resin, spices and leather that draw you deeper into the mountain maquis… until you come to rest on a bed of moss.
Sounds glorious, “combustible,” rich, “fiery,” and multi-faceted, does it not? Alas, almost none of that occurred on my skin, nor on that of several friends of mine. In fact, the Corsica embodied in both the press descriptions and the notes is absolutely nothing like what I experienced when I tried the fragrance. In total, I’ve tested Corsica Furiosa 2 or 3 times, using different quantities, even experimenting with temperature changes, and the Parfum d’Empire description is miles away from the extremely simplistic, linear fragrance that I encountered. It’s certainly not the island of my fond memories, though it definitely has the same greenness. The most positive, tactful interpretation I can come up with would be a tomato leaf garden drenched by a tidal wave of gin-and-tonic, and located at the base of an icy Alpine mountain in Switzerland.
The notes in Corsica Furiosa, according to Luckyscent, are:
Lentiscus oil, eau-de-vie, nepita (a local variety of wild mint), lentiscus absolute, tomato leaf, pepper, lentiscus extract original, cistus [labdanum amber], oakmoss.
However, Premiere Avenue mentions “mastic gasoline,” and “brandy” in their version, while Fragrantica says the list should also include “lime, grass, hay, honey.” (I definitely agree with them on the grass!) Les Senteurs echoes the honey and hay, but also tosses in leather and resins (plural), as does the press description. So, perhaps the complete list should look more like this:
Lentiscus oil, eau-de-vie, nepita (a local variety of wild mint), lentiscus absolute, tomato leaf, pepper, lime, grass, honey, hay, resins, lentiscus extract original, cistus [labdanum amber], oakmoss.
I want to take a tiny moment to talk about two notes, the tomato leaf and Lentiscus (also known as Pistacia lentiscus or Mastic), as both were quite a key part of Corsica Furiosa on my skin. According to my research, including Wikipedia, it is a Mediterranean shrub that seems to be in the evergreen family. Fragrantica says that Lentiscus has a resinous aroma similar to pine, cedar, or olibanum. Judging by what appears on my skin, I think it smells more like another member of the evergreen family: juniper. As for the tomato leaf, Fragrantica says its aroma is green, “slightly astringent and bitterish in tonality.” Personally, I think it is also vegetal in aroma, very peppered, crunchy, with a brittle coolness and an undertone of black soil. For the most part, though, it’s just a very bitter, peppered, leafy aroma.
Corsica Furiosa‘s opening blast makes me feel as though I were dunked into a Gin & Tonic bath in the middle of a massive tomato patch in the Alpine mountains. Heresy as this may be for some, I don’t like Gin and Tonic cocktails, or gin as a general rule. It’s the smell. (Years ago, a mere whiff would make me nauseous, though I’ve gotten past that point. Well, most of the time.) I’m also not keen on tidal waves of tomato leaf, either. Here, the cocktail accord clearly stems from the combination of the tentiscus’ juniper tonality with the “eau de vie,” which is a clear alcohol in the same vein as vodka or gin. The tomato leaf adds to the bitterness, and to my lack of enthusiasm.
Corsica Furiosa’s dominant two notes are quickly followed by a lot of peppery ISO E Super-like rubbing alcohol, then by small touches of lime, mint, and grass. There is a momentary, extremely muffled touch of earthiness in the base, but the main tonalities are all chilly, crisp, fresh, peppered, and astringent. Gin-and-tonic winteriness and Alpine white in a sea of green tomato leaf with something strongly resembling ISO E Super. In fact, the first time I tried Corsica Furiosa, the ISO E-like, rubbing alcohol note was the first thing I smelled, and was actually far more prominent than the lentiscus.
I wish I could say that Corsica Furiosa develops substantially over time, or that multiple layers slowly unfold, but it doesn’t. Not on me. Not even remotely. The only changes which occur are ones of degree and sillage. At the end of the first hour, the tiny dab of lime retreats to the sidelines, while the peppered astringency becomes stronger. Whether it’s simply the tomato leaf, or its combination with actual ISO E Super as well, I have no idea, but something in Corsica Furiosa reeks of aromachemical antiseptic, if you ask me.
I suppose, if you put a gun to my head, I could say that Corsica Furiosa turns vaguely warmer and richer in feel around the end of the 4th hour, but it’s so subtle that I wouldn’t bet any money on it. By the start of the 5th hour, Corsica Furiosa is dominated almost entirely by peppered, lentiscus Gin and Tonic, with equally peppered aroma-chemical astringency and tomato leaf greenness. The perfume remains unchanged until its very end when it dies away in a blur of greenness that vaguely smells like tomato leaf. All in all, Corsica Furiosa lasted just over 10 hours on me, when I used 3 very large smears amounting to 2 sprays from an actual bottle. With a smaller amount — 2 small smears amounting to one small spritz — the fragrance lasted just over 8 hours.
I think quantity impacts the prominence and strength of the various notes. The first time I tried the Corsica Furiosa, I applied the smaller amount, and the main note in the perfume’s opening was bitter, peppered tomato leaf that was completely imbued with ISO E Super-like antiseptic rubbing alcohol. Green grass trailed behind in third place. The Gin-and-Tonic accord was weaker, and not a driving part of the fragrance. In essence, Corsica Furiosa’s bouquet was centered mainly on peppery tomato leaf, heavily flecked by ISO E Super aroma and grass, with much lower levels of the lentiscus-gin note.
Regardless of quantity, however, Corsica Furiosa is a very quiet, light-weight fragrance with moderate to low sillage. When I used the larger quantity, the perfume opened with about 2-3 inches of projection, before quickly dropping after 30 minutes to hover just an inch above the skin. There, it remained for quite a while. Corsica Furiosa turned into a pure skin scent on me at roughly the 4.75 hour mark. With a smaller application, the perfume opened with about 2 inches of projection, dropped even more quickly, and became a skin scent just after the end of the 3rd hour. In all cases, however, the perfume was easy to detect up close for much of the first 7 hours.
As you may have gathered by now, I was disappointed with Corsica Furiosa. It’s endlessly green, rather exhaustingly dull, and completely monolithic in its focus. I always say that there is nothing wrong with linear scents if you like the note(s) in question, but, my God, is this perfume green and singular! Still, I thought my response to Corsica Furiosa was merely a personal issue stemming from my dislike of juniper and gin notes, as well as my difficulty with very green fragrances and ISO E Super.
So I was surprised when a few friends of mine — who never mentioned experiencing Gin and Tonics, and who are wholly indifferent to ISO E Super — said they didn’t like Corsica Furiosa, either. One is a very experienced perfumista who recently told me how much he loved the very green, alcoholic, citrusy Christopher Street. The other two are crazy about the extremely green Chypre Mousse. In short, all three men have no problems with green fragrances, but they all felt that Corsica Furiosa was “too green!” As one of them put it, “it’s just greenness, grass, and nothing else.” Actually, the issue of grass being a significant note came up from two of them, but the main problem across the board was greenness without layers, complexity, or development.
Corsica Furiosa has received mixed responses in the perfume world. On Luckyscent, there are only two reviews thus far, and both are positive Five Star ratings. Interestingly, one of them found the fragrance to resemble Escentuals Molecule 02, which just goes to show that I’m not the only one who detected a profound aromachemical element in Corsica Furiosa. The two reviews read as follows:
- The best perfume I ever tried in my life. It does smell like a sun dried hay with some hints of peppermint, citrus and some wild mountain flowers. It is unique, pleasant, long-lasting. I haven’t yet tried anything better than this. I’ve immediately ordered the entire size once I realized how good the tester was.
- Rec’d my sample today and was very pleased! It smells very crisp and vegetal to me. Then my daughter smelled it and said it smelled like Molecule. I went and sprayed from my Essentric 02 and the dry down is exactly the same. So will hold off on purchasing a full bottle for now. But it is a lovely fragrance. [Emphasis to names added by me.]
On Fragrantica, some people struggled with the herbal, green, and tomato leaf aspects of the scent. Actually, the tomato leaf comes up quite a bit. For “Bluedude02,” it was so profound that Corsica Furiosa became a “foody” scent, as it reminded him of someone making Italian tomato sauce. His review reads in relevant part:
I am not sure how I truly feel about this scent. It starts off with a blast of grass, tomato leaf and pungent lime. It has an almost herbal feel to it, but not of the medicinal variety. More like herbs on a kitchen window sill or a spice rack.This is truly one of those scents I would have to be in a certain mood to wear. I’m not really sure what lentisque is but i get a faint piney type of smell or at least some type of resinous wood. All in all, the final effect is that I feel like I’m 8 years old again helping my grandmother pick and can tomatoes on the farm I grew up on in the south-eastern US. The property was surrounded by hay fields and pine forest. Personally I don’t smell the mint or honey until later in the dry down but growing up on a farm, I can say that the hay is more of a background note. It doesn’t really stand out but, you would notice if it were absent.
All together, I find the scent pleasing after the initial 20 minutes or so. I’m not sure if I would splurge on a full bottle though considering it very much smells like my Italian friend Louie making “Sauce” while his grandmother yells at him for adding too much basil. LOL Not to mention it isn’t in the same league as some of the house’s other offerings like Cuir Ottoman and Ambre Russe.
Grass and tomato leaf gardens were an issue for someone else as well. “CarlosRafael” writes, in part:
Empire of Grass and Agrimony…
CF’s opening is very grassy, mossy and tomato-plant like. CF did bring me back immediately to the times when I helped my grandmother collect tomatoes from her vegetable garden (the smell of the green plant, not the tomatoes per se).
Unfortunately for me the opening, which extends into CF’s mid-life, is all that it took to dislike this fragrance. I used to play hide and seek with my cousins as a little boy in my grandmothers vegetable backyard, and CF makes me smell like I did walking out of there: grassy (green and dry), vegetable plant like, chlorophyllous and soiled (wonder if moss and the hay together causes this).
However, one fan called it an “aromatic ninja,” and felt the labdanum amber intertwined within:
This is part Illuminum Tomato Leaf and part Aqua Di Gio or you can just say this is a tomato plant version of Aqua Di Gio. Either way, this is some good stuff. This is predominantly crisp/sharp but never overpowering with green and yellow nuances. A labdanum layer is intertwined within the verdurous composition but never interferes with this green island of briskness; If anything, it adds a welcoming complexity. [Emphasis to names added by me.]
For The Non-Blonde, Corsica Furiosa was centered around a herbal “kitchen garden,” and was a “delicate” fragrance with mild sillage and longevity. Her review reads, in part, as follows:
Imagine a kitchen garden [… belonging to] an old cottage, stone-built and obviously continental. The garden is overgrown in a charming way that miraculously doesn’t include weeds, and right by the ancient back door there’s a vegetable patch and an herb area where several aromatics grow wild. You smell the place as soon as you step out of the kitchen: mint and basil, tomato vines and green peppers, and everything is intertwined with the delicate scent of the lemon trees further in the back, the various flowers you will pick this afternoon, and the damp and mossy grass that grows everywhere.
Corisca Furiosa is much more delicate than most of the fragrances from Parfum d’Empire. The perfume, a tribute to owner-perfumer Marc-Antoine Corticchiato’s native Corisca is a very obvious labor of love. There’s a tenderness to the leaves and stalks that can only come from cherished memories; the longing is palpable. [….]
Testing from a dab-on sample is probably giving me a false impression of Corisca Furiosa’s longevity and projection. It appears very mild, but with my experience with other Parfum d’Empire fragrances I know that none of them is lacking in potency.
Speaking of longevity and sillage, the votes on Fragrantica are equally mixed. For sillage, there are 3 votes for the lightest category “Soft,” 5 for “Moderate,” and 1 for “Heavy.” With regard to Longevity, there are 2 votes for “Poor,” followed by one vote each for “Weak,” “Moderate,” and “Long Lasting.”
I want to take a moment to digress into the issue of packaging and accessibility. For a period of time over the last year, a number of Parfum d’Empire’s fragrances were quite hard to find as the company was doing a complete overhaul of its packaging. The new bottles are simpler (I’m not a fan and much preferred the old ones), but, supposedly, none of the existing fragrances were reformulated. However, I’ve read some accounts where people felt there was a reformulation of a few scents that they tried in the new format, and that they said smelt weaker. All that is rumour, though, so let’s get back to the packaging, because the relevant issue here is sizing and cost options.
Corsica Furiosa is only available in a 100 ml bottle, and the price for those has risen by $35 to $145. In Europe, they now costs €120. I don’t know if the company is going to continue to release its scents in the more manageable 50 ml size. All the fragrances that I’ve seen in the new bottles on Luckyscent are in the 100 ml size, and no smaller option is provided. Same with a few European vendors. My (admittedly unconfirmed) sense or conclusion is that the company may be discontinuing the 50 ml bottles.
Parfum d’Empire was one of those rare companies that stood out for the wide range of options that they provided to perfume lovers. Their website has been undergoing a revamping for quite a while, so it’s impossible for me to know what they themselves may offer when they return. For example, I hope the company will continue to have their two Sample Sets which were such an affordable, easy way to explore the line, but who knows?
Finally, accessibility has been impacted by the repackaging situation, at least for the time being. A lot of retail sites that normally carry the Parfum d’Empire line are either down to what remains of their old stock, or have not yet received the new bottles. And that includes Corsica Furiosa.
In short, if you’re interested in Corsica Furiosa, your choices are limited at this time. It’s a 100 ml bottle, a tiny sample vial from some vendors, or nothing. And a number of your usual, local retailers may not yet have the fragrance at all.
At the end of the day, if you absolutely adore crisp, really (really) green fragrances, tomato leaf, grassiness, and/or herbal gardens, then you may want to consider trying Corsica Furiosa for yourself. Those of you who are Gin-and-Tonic fans may possibly be lucky enough to get the lentiscus and eau de vie combination to manifest itself on your skin in the same way if you apply a lot of the scent, but you may notice that no-one else has mentioned experiencing a similar aroma. In short, don’t count on it. What you can count on, though, is a tidal wave of greenness (and bitter, astringent tomato leaves). It’s a complete pass for me.