Violets and roses, lipsticks and leathery darkness, lip-puckering tart green apples and buttery sandalwood — these are some of the many strands, both classical and brightly modern, that Giovanni Sammarco weaves together in his latest fragrance, Naias.
In case you’re unfamiliar with the brand, Sammarco is a Swiss artisanal perfume house that was founded in 2013 by Giovanni Sammarco. According to Fragrantica, he trained as a lawyer in his native Italy before moving to Switzerland to become a perfumer. On his website, he says his philosophy is “to create something beautiful using the best raw materials and without compromises.” (I thought he achieved that goal in spades with one of my favourite fragrances that I tried last year, the gorgeous patchouli-chocolate-amber extrait called Bond-T.)
Like his other fragrances, Naias is a pure parfum or extrait in concentration. On his website, Signor Sammarco describes the scent as follows:
NAIAS is born from the idea of a noble soul meeting violet.
Although it is not a violet perfume, you can recognize a violet aura.
A romantic and sensual fruity floral side with a radiant effect and a sandalwood musky body. NAIAS is close to the idea and to the esprit of a proustian woman with skin naturally smelling of precious flowers.
Naias’ note list is:
Violet, rose, jasmine, osmanthus, neroli, iris/orris, sandalwood, apple, pear, cassis, mandarin, amber.
Naias opens on my skin with a flood of green apples that are bright, crisp, and tart like Granny Smith apples combined with Jolly Rancher’s famous, lip-puckering, Sour Apple candy. The apples are heaped generously atop a bouquet consisting first of waxy, retro-style, violet-iris lipstick, then dewy violet flowers, and bright red fruity roses, all nestled between leaves of bright green. The latter have an unexpected and utterly delightful crunchiness to them as well as a mix of pepperiness, bitterness, and something almost a little tannic, like fig leaves.
Naias shifts quickly. Roughly 10 minutes in, the violet-iris lipstick accord fades to the background and the roses take over as the apple’s main companion. I would have liked the violet lipstick to remain longer as a concrete, clearly defined, and major element on my skin, rather than turning into a mere suggestion that floats amorphously in the background, but it seems to be intentional given Sammarco’s words on an “aura” instead of an actual violet fragrance. And, on my skin, Naias is definitely more of an apple-rose fruity floral scent than either a violet or a purely floral one. Geysers of fruity, berried, and jammy sweetness emanate from the roses, subtly accentuated by light touches of fresh pear and musky cassis (black currant). Even more subtle are the flickers of honeyed osmanthus sweetness, soapy cleanness, and brisk citrus freshness that dart around the edges.
A central element in understanding Naias and how it smells is something called Montaverdi. It’s rarely used in perfumery, was created by IFF in 1997, and smells intensely green with aromas of tart apples and ripe pears. Mr. Sammarco was kind enough to send a sample of Montaverdi to me last year and even a small drop radiated with monumental strength, creating a diffuse but powerful and persistent note that lasted for much of Naias’ lifetime on my skin. On me, its aroma skews predominantly towards the Granny Smith apple side, as much as 80% at a rough estimate, rather than the sweet pears but it’s a question of balance or degree since both things are inextricably fused together with Montaverdi. I think individual chemistry will determine how the note balances out on your skin since I’ve read some descriptions of Naias that mention the pear far more than the apple. For the rest of this review, though, when I mention “apples,” you may want to keep in mind that a small portion of pears are subsumed within as well.
Naias continues to change in small degrees as it develops. Roughly 20-25 minutes in, the apple grows tarter than ever, its sour tang cutting through the rose’s jammy richness to create both balance and a certain bright airiness. That’s not to say that Naias is sheer or thin in body; it’s not. As a fragrance, it is simultaneously strong and diffuse in its opening hour, but the apple definitely helps to keep things on the crisper and airier side. I happen to be a fan of apple notes in perfumery and think they should be employed more often than, say, fruitchouli or raspberries, and the apple note here is particularly nice. Not too sweet, not too sour, it adds an exuberant playfulness to the scent. It’s also an inventive twist on the traditional fruity floral, marrying on floral lushness with the modern aspects of a lip-puckering apple Jolly Rancher. Green, crisp violet leaves and a retro violet/violet lipstick “aura” act as thin threads that tie the apple-rose-fruit elements together in a bouquet.
The violets rejoin the festivities on center stage during Naias’ second stage that begins roughly 1.5 to 1.75 hours into the fragrance’s development. The rose steps aside as the lipstick-scented iris-violets shine once more, their pillowy creaminess taming the apple’s bracing green tang. At the same time, Naias softens and its edges begin to blur. The cumulative effect is more of an impressionistic tableau — pastel-colored flowers framed now with more delicate touches of apple, leafy greenness and quietly honeyed fruitiness — instead of a close-up, still-life portrait of the most electric bowl of fruits and flowers painted in wide slashes of almost 3D colour and brightness. For me, it’s a more inviting scent now because, while I’m a fan of green apple as a fragrance note, the intensity of the Montaverdi is a little overwhelming on my skin for my personal tastes, particularly in the first 90 minutes.
Dark shadows appear at the end of the 3rd hour and beginning of the 4th, marking the start of Naias’ next stage on my skin. The darkness smells like a mix of leather, smoke from dark woods, and muskiness. I don’t know the source but it appeared in all three of my tests of Naias and I wonder if it’s the result of several elements combined: a slightly raspy, synthetic sandalwood, possibly a woody-amber aromachemical, the leathery side of osmanthus, the cassis’ innate muskiness, and a touch of civet, those last two adding a sotto voce streak of something animalic to the accord. Like a slow-moving eclipse, this mixed darkness falls over the increasingly abstract blur of Montaverdi apples, berried fruits, roses, and creamy violet-orris. The result is a clever set of contrasts: masculine and feminine; dry and satiny soft; creamy pastels and blackness, all shot through with diffuse, amorphous smears of greenness, fruitiness, and rosiness.
The most solid, clearly delineated part of this impressionistic tableau is now the sandalwood. I’m a little ambivalent about the note. I’m not keen on its smoky raspiness, but there are nice undertones of spiciness and its creaminess (alongside the equally creamy aspect of the orris) works nicely against the leathery, musky darkness. These three separate elements are now the central parts of Naias and, as a result, the feel of the scent is completely different than it once was. It’s no longer a geyser of fruitiness, either sour or jammy, nor a fruity floral scent with a retro, semi-vintage vibe. The latter is long gone, while the fruitiness is a layer subsumed under the surface of an iris-woody landscape smudged with smoke, a small touch of leather, and a hint of animalic buzz.
It’s nicely done but, for my personal tastes, the smoke becomes too scratchy as Naias progresses further, particularly during the 5th hour, and its dryness increasingly cuts through the pillowy, buttery, and creamy aspects of the scent. When I smell my arm up close for too long, the wood smoke irritates my throat quite a bit. Having said that, there is a certain rugged charm to the bouquet, particularly when smelt from afar where it wafts a dry, woody, smoky iris that’s licked at the edges with jammy, berried, and honeyed sweetness and just a ghostly whisper of greenness.
Naias changes direction once again when its drydown begins late in the 6th hour. The smoke begins to slowly clear away and its retreat is paralleled by a growing rise in amber which seeps up from the base to impart a caramel-ish, benzoin-ish sweetness to the notes. Naias is now a blurry, abstract mix of ambered praline sweetness, dry woodiness, and creaminess. The latter feels more like powdery tonka than orris to me, but it’s nice next to the woody amber. As the drydown continues, the scent turns into a simple golden warmth imbued with sweetness, a soft whisper on the skin until Naias finally dies away.
Naias had good longevity, soft projection, and moderate sillage. The latter was thanks mainly to the power of the Montaverdi, but this is a fragrance where the amount you apply will really determine the strength and prominence of the bouquet. I was sent a little atomiser vial that emitted little spritzes (rather than the amount you’d get with an actual bottle), and I noticed that Naias could be soft or strong depending on whether I used spritzes amounting to the equivalent of 1 spray, 2, or 3 from a bottle. With the equivalent of one spray, Naias opened with about 2 inches of projection and a soft, airy scent trail of about 4 inches. With the equivalent of either 2 or 3 sprays, the numbers went up to 3-4 inches of projection and 7-8 inches of sillage, sometimes even more at the end of the first hour when the raw materials began to bloom and expand. However, the numbers consistently dropped quite sharply at the end of the 2nd hour, regardless of how much scent I applied. With the equivalent of one spray, Naias dropped to an inch above the skin and the sillage turned discreet. With two sprays, the sillage was about 4 to 5 inches. Naias typically turned into a skin scent at the start of the 4th hour, although it was easy to detect until the 7th hour. In total, it lasted just under 9 hours with the equivalent of 1 spray and just over 10.25 with the equivalent of two. Naias is an extrait in concentration but, in its weight and body, it feels airier and lighter than that on my skin, more like an eau de parfum or super strong eau de toilette.
On Fragrantica, there are four reviews for Naias at this time and they are mixed. One reason why is because two of the people seem to struggle with the civet or animalics, although a third seemed to like it. A fourth poster, “SuzanneS,” loved every part of Naias, calling it “stunning” and saying she wanted a bottle from the first sniff alone even though she wasn’t normally a big fan of violet fragrances. I’ll quote parts of a few of the reviews and leave you to read all of them in full if you’re interested on Fragrantica:
- This is stunning. First thought was..damn..I need a full bottle of this! [¶] That was my first spray of Naias. […][¶] Im not a huge violet fan by any stretch, so to have won me over..that says volumes. It smells a little vintage but massive in personality and freshness. Violet, osmanthus, a tinge of apple and the rose and iris keeping things lush and feminine. This is a deconstructed violet and thanks to the ionones, user results will vary if they block certain receptors in the nose. Drydown a powder amber. Why isnt this getting more press?! Its fantastic!!!!
- I believe it’s the violets, apples, pear, and osmanthus blend that causes the animalic note at first and soften through time. Roses, jasmines, and sandalwoods are also there but blended well in away that causes a support to that animalic top note. [¶] It’s not stinky animalic, or even musky, it’s just that slightly harsh naughty animalic that could cause something sensual and captivating or maybe luring someone who’s around.
- The violet is tame here, dusty but quiet, just enough to take the tartness edge off the fruit and the civet/amber remain throughout for me albeit subdued compared to the initial first blast. It reminds me of a lighter zoologist Civet but with more fruit going on, very unique and wearable but not a summer time scent for me, I have a bottle and will use it but it’s not a must have for me so probably won’t replace it when its gone.
Naias’ Basenotes page has only one entry thus far and it’s a positive review from “hoschhti.” While he found Naias to be too feminine to be unisex, he liked the scent, finding it to be easy to wear and with a lot of subtle details. He wrote, in part:
On his website NAIAS is described having a violet aura. This description is spot-on because the violet lingers in this perfume but never becomes overwhelming – NAIAS is not a violet soliflore. Actually to my nose it’s more a rose scent with a green undercurrent and a very abstract and subdued fruitiness. The drydown is mostly a sweet sandalwood affair, actually quite similar in its vibe to ARIEL. NAIAS is an uncomplicated scent, not in the sense of being uncomplex, but in the sense that it’s easy to wear. It’s not too heavy or too light or too sweet in a girlie way. It manages to hit the right tone and thus is suitable for all occasions and all women (and maybe men too?). Uncomplicated yes, but not uncomplex. NAIAS is blended perfectly and shows a lot of subtle details. Longevity is good and projection is moderate.
I’ve only found one blog review for Naias thus far and it’s also positive, but this time, the reviewer thought Naias was predominantly a violet fragrance, not a rose one. Claire Vukcevic wrote a wonderfully detailed piece for Fragrance Daily called “Deconstructing Violet,” and it contains technical information that may interest some of you about violets and the alpha ionones that create its various facets in perfumery. It’s a long piece, so I’ll let you read it on your own if you’re interested, but I’ll whet your appetite by saying that Ms. Vukcevic found small parts of Naias to echo, at different times, a wide range of scents like Lutens‘ Iris Silver Mist, Chanel‘s Misia, Ramon Monegal‘s Impossible Iris, and Ormonde Jayne‘s Ormonde Woman. On top of that, her violets came bearing a “shiny, raspberry-slicked boot polish or solvent note” that might perhaps be the same sort of smoky, leathery darkness that I encountered and have written about. She concluded by saying:
I find its progression from classical (rooty iris-violet pairing) to hyper modern (boot polish) to fairytale, gothic fantasy forest to be very interesting. It might be too early to call, but I think that Naias is to violet as Romanza is to narcissus or L’Attesa is to iris, i.e., a way of holding up a traditional perfumery ingredient to the light, turning it over and over in your hands, and figuring out all the ways you can deconstruct it and then reconstruct it so that it takes on a new shape, while also retaining its original ability to please. Masque, Bogue, and Sammarco – deconstructing classicism? Who knows, but these Italian perfumers have certainly come up with some new and interesting twists on classical formats these past two-three years, haven’t they?
They certainly have. In the case of Sammarco, his intensely green and apple-scented twist on the classical pairings of lipstick violets and roses is original, and it’s given further modernity through the later juxtaposition of musky, lightly animalic darkness next to pastel creaminess and woodiness.
A few comments on availability: if you are in the U.S., you might be interested to know that the brand is now available in this country and arrived just last week at Luckyscent.
Regardless of your location, if you’ve never tried Sammarco, you may want to give the brand a sniff. It’s a solid, well-made line with good quality ingredients that are blended seamlessly together in an interesting mix of vintage and modern styles. If violet fruity florals are not your thing, one of the other four fragrances might be:
- the gorgeous Bond-T (patchouli, dark black chocolate, amber, cognac);
- the intensely dark vetiver fragrance, Vitrum which takes a Sycomore-style vetiver and mixes it with incense, rose, and citrus;
- the jasmine bomb, Alter (with incense and civet); or
- the semi-retro, semi-gourmand floral oriental, Ariel.
At the end of the day, I like parts of Naias, but it isn’t for me personally due to some of the notes. I’m not really a violet or rose person. As many of you know, roses are actually at the bottom of my list of favourite florals, just one step above iris, in fact, which comes in dead last. Naias’ leathery, smoky darkness (or the “boot polish” aroma as it appeared to Ms. Vukcevic) wasn’t the easiest thing for me, either. So, it’s purely a personal issue involving certain scent profiles. Having said that, on an objective level, I think Naias is nicely done, interesting, creative, different, and definitely worth trying if you’re a fan of the main notes.
Disclosure: My sample was kindly provided by Sammarco. That did not impact this review. I do not do paid reviews, and my opinions are my own.