La Via del Profumo Italian Series: Giardini Segreti and Milano Caffè (And a Prize Draw!)
Picture yourself in a secluded garden, with only the birds for company. It's an old garden; there is a film of algae in the pond and fountain, moss on the marble statues, and the trees are gnarled and bent, their advanced age masked only by the tangle of vines climbing their trunks. The walls might be made of stone, or an impenetrable hedge, and they keep the noise of the modern world out and allow the silence to settle in, broken only by the sigh of a gentle breeze and the murmur of water. Wide paths wind enticingly through this hushed green refuge, and at each turn there is a different vista, a new delight – the arching branches of an antique rose flaunting its plump pink blooms, a collection of aromatic herbs clustered around a sundial, a stand of elegant sky-blue irises, or a jasmine in full flower tumbling over a wall, spilling its exquisite scent throughout the garden. This is a garden of dreams and reverie, and if you happened to see a poet or noblewoman dressed in Renaissance garb walking around, it would seem like the most natural thing in the world. This is the magical effect of the new Giardini Segreti from La Via del Profumo, an homage to the hidden gardens and storied past of Venice. The main floral notes are jasmine and rose, decorated with herbal touches and resting on a base of soft leather, mysterious myrrh and a hint of the nearby sea that come from real ambergris, a rare and precious thing indeed in modern perfumery.
Of course, this is a very special kind of scent, made of completely natural materials in honor of the perfumer's adopted home country of Italy. The luscious jasmine Sambac in this fragrance is particularly sublime, and since my skin tends to amplify white florals, it is quite dominant at first, but that's fine with me, since I love jasmine, and the languid dreaminess of the composition speaks to my own personality as a lover of gardens, history, beautiful vintage objects, and good stories. The rose is the handmaiden to the jasmine here, adding a ripe fullness and plush comfort to the centerpiece of jasmine. I don't know what pure ambergris smells like, but its inclusion in this perfume seems to give in an overall patina of nostalgia and wistfulness, like the ineffable pull of memory experienced when looking at faded photographs of places you have never been, but to which you feel a deep connection, and you wish you could somehow become a part of that long ago scene, where all the rough edges have been erased by time, leaving only the watercolor beauty of happy memories and idyllic living. Wearing Giardini Segreti is like stepping into that fantasy world, and I never want to leave it.
In sharp contrast, Milano Caffè is a fragrance of modern life, of rubbing shoulders with your fellow urbanites in the crowded coffee houses, reveling in the hustle and bustle of city life while stealing a moment of relaxation out of your busy day. For a natural perfume you may find it to be surprisingly urbane and sophisticated if you are not accustomed to the formidable talent of perfumer AbdesSalaam Attar (Dominique Dubrana), and it sits on the skin in perfect comfort and assurance right from the beginning with none of the sometimes disconcerting rough stage that naturals sometimes pass through before they settle down and begin to coalesce.
It is by no means a coffee “solibrew” (for lack of a better term) or novelty scent, but a complex composition that also includes a profound chocolate note, dry woods, tonka bean, opoponax and warm spices. However, make no mistake, coffee is the star of the show, and it's a darkly bitter brew that hits the nose like a triple shot of the best espresso you ever tasted. The perfume's longevity is excellent and its development fascinating; it most definitely does not get too sweet over time like some other coffee scents, and it should find favor with both men and women. This is the kind of fragrance that almost makes me wish for winter so I can wear it all the time, and I feel a different kind of nostalgia with it – an overwhelming desire to visit a real Milanese coffee house. I have never been to Italy, but smelling Milano Caffè makes me even more determined to go there someday.
I am offering a sample of both perfumes to two lucky readers; sorry, you must live in the continental U.S. A. in order to enter the draw due to international mailing restrictions on perfume. Please indicate in the comments if you would like to be entered, and let us know if you have ever tried and fragrances from this line, and if so, what are your favorites? The draw will close one week after the publication of this post. Good luck!
Image credits: Garden: One of the real “secret” gardens of Venice, courtesy of Abdes Salaam Attar. Coffee: Original image from papalanigelato.com via kootation.com.
Disclosure: I received samples of these perfumes directly from La Via del Profumo at my request for testing purposes.