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.
A garden lies at the heart of Guerlain‘s vintage Apres L’Ondee, a secret garden pulled straight out of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s famous 1910 children’s classic by the same name. It’s a magical place awakening after a long sleep, brought back to life in early Spring, reborn with tender efforts that make its once untamed nature a thing of the most civilized Edwardian beauty. It’s an exquisite portrait, even a heartbreakingly tender one, where fields of iris and violets sprout to spread their wings in the morning light, their petals glistening with dew and the last traces of Spring showers, their fragile bodies shooting up out of dark, loamy soil to bloom against rambling thickets of rose, sweet jasmine, and green walls covered with climbing vetiver and mossy greenness. The morning light is bright, fresh, and crystal clear, offset by gleaming rays of yellow citrus freshness and clean aldehydes, but a mist of sweet powder swirls through the air like pixie dust and tiny fairies.
The past and present both run through Ariel, a very feminine floral fragrance from Sammarco that consistently evoked thoughts of the two great bastions of classical perfumery, Guerlain and Chanel. Ariel’s structural core echoes legends from the past, like Chanel’s clean green florals or Shalimar, but it’s fleshed out by equally strong echoes of the present, whether it’s fragrances like Angelique Noire or Misia, or modern elements like herbal sweetness. The result is a fragrance that exudes modern chic and a cool polished elegance before taking on elements of a soft, fluid, purely floral femininity that called to mind Pre-Raphaelite romanticism then ending in a grand finish of golden lushness. Luca Turin recently described Ariel in his admiring review as “neoclassical perfumery, played out on original instruments,” and I agree.
But it’s also not quite as simple as that. Ariel is a complicated fragrance, in my opinion, and one that is not easy to characterize. For one thing, it doesn’t fall into any one single genre but covers a range of different fragrance families. For another, I was startled to see that not one single account of Ariel was the same. Not one. Five different reviews give five different descriptions of the scent, and they have little in common beyond the most simplistic summation of “citrusy, spiced floral.” My review basically amounts to a sixth version, which should tell you just how difficult it is to confine Ariel to a single box and why you should try it for yourself if any of the descriptions intrigue you.
The Tsar’s violets — the signature scent of not one but two Imperial Romanov rulers. How many fragrances can make that claim? Oriza L. Legrand‘s Violettes du Czar can — and now the imperial favorite has been brought back to life after more than 150 years to be made available to the modern man.
It’s the coolest thing imaginable for someone like me who loves history even more than perfume, but almost everything about Oriza L. Legrand (hereinafter just “Oriza“) is historically fascinating to me. For one thing, out of all the European perfume houses who created scents for royal or imperial courts (there is a difference), only Oriza was chosen as “Purveyor to the Russian Court.” Oriza made a number of fragrances for the imperial court, but their Violettes du Czar was the signature scent of two of the more significant Romanov rulers.
In fact, it was made specifically for Alexander II or “Alexander the Liberator” who emancipated the serfs. Later, it was worn by his grandson, Nicholas II, whose actions were one of the causes that helped bring about the end of the Russian Empire and who was murdered in 1918 by the Bolsheviks. Of course, Oriza also made fragrances for other imperial courts as well, including another violet one for Prince Albert, Queen Victoria’s consort, but it is the Romanov violet that is the subject of today’s tale. It is a scent with several kinds of violet in it, from a particular variety from Nice (France), to the crunchy green of its leaves. In the ultimate symbolic parallel, the coup de gras comes in the form of Russian leather and golden amber. The end result is a scent that not only takes me back in time but, in all honesty, feels like something which a man like Alexander II would wear.