February 15, 2012
I think as an American perfume reviewer it becomes very easy for me to keep my eyes trained on the bounty of independent perfumers that abound close to home. Particularly in the past year I have been presented with the opportunity to broaden that vision. To cast it across oceans to discover new indie perfumes on almost every continent. The latest perfumer to help cure me of my myopia is Maria Candida Gentile. After my colleague, Sergey Borisov’s, interview with her she sounded like an artist of singular will who imposed that vision on her creations. I soon ended up with the six fragrances which make up Mme Gentile’s Classic Collection in front of me and over the course of a couple of weeks let them impose their will and Mme Gentile’s vision upon me. A couple of them have left indelible imprints.
Barry Lyndon is based on the movie of the same name directed by another willful creator Stanley Kubrick. When the movie was released it was received with moderate success and reviews. Only over the years has it risen to become one of the consensus great movies of all-time. The fragrance by Mme Gentile I don’t believe will need time to be appreciated as it is spellbinding from the first moments. The top notes of lavender and artemesia are what draw you in. The lavender used is said to be Stoechas Lavender which is only found at high altitude in the Alps. This lavender in combination with the artemesia creates a mostly herbal opening that has a recessive bit of floral genetics floating around. Other less floral florals like heather and arnica also arise. All of this leads to a leather and vetiver base that creates the smell of a saddle over the grassiness of the pasture. This is a completely realized vision by Mme Gentile and it shows.
Cinabre is also called Dragon Blood and Mme Gentile starts this off with a bit of fire in the group of pink and black pepper along with a full ration of ginger. The early going is a rush of flame. The flame all but disappears as rose dominates the heart and it turns Cinabre quite powdery. Vanilla and benzoin act to contrast the powderiness but after the early spicy blast Cinabre became a mostly rose fragrance on my skin. I think I would have liked a bit more fire but the rose is beautiful and one that those of you who are rose fanatics will like.
Exultat was inspired by the fragrance used to purify wedding linens of ash and lavender. What is funny is there is no ash or lavender. What there is is a sublime mix of incense, violet, and vetiver. The incense is there right from the start and it is balanced and made less arid by the addition of some citrus. You really have to pull yourself away from the incense to notice the citrus but it is there to lighten up the incense and keep it from overwhelming the composition. I love the sharp character of violet and violet leaf and in Exultat Mme Gentile extracts every bit of that scalpel-like quality out of her ingredients and they slice through the incense with an astringent slash. Vetiver and cedar, but mostly vetiver, adds a woodiness to ground the incense and violet. As Exultat lingered throughout the day I found it kept presenting itself to my senses slightly differently and it made the wearing of this fragrance that much more special.
Gershwin feels like it shares much of Exulatat’s genetics as citrus and incense play a big part in its development. This time though the violet is not there and Mme Gentile tilts to a much more woody composition comprised of sycamore and sandalwood. Gershwin is a nice fragrance and for someone for whom Exulatat might be a little too extroverted Gershwin feels like Exultat’s less outgoing but perhaps more easy going little brother.
Hanbury is Mme Gentile’s paean to Dorothy Hanbury’s garden at Villa Hanbury in Ventimiglia. It is comprised of familiar accords that hearken back to other fragrant Mediterranean gardens. The top is a fresh citrus dominated by lime. The heart is comprised of a calycanthus, which is an intensely sweet floral accord, paired with acacia. A golden honey accord is crossed with benzoin to create a sweetly resinous base to Hanbury. The calycanthus is what makes Hanbury unique among the Mediterranean garden family of fragrances and is what makes it worth seeking out.
Sideris was inspired by a midnight walk along the beach. The fragrance feels like it is born of the shank of the night when the tide is slowly returning and the stars fill the sky. Mme Gentile fills the opening with incense, myrrh, and saffron to create mystery and the sense of midnight to me. Rose makes up the heart but where it was all powdery in Cinabre; in Sideris the slightly spicy aspects of rose are enhanced and that powdery quality is firmly shoved to the background. Benzoin recapitulates the resinous aspects of the incense and myrrh and sandalwood provides a base for that reminder to vibrate against. Sideris is a fragrance to look up into the sky, at the darkest hour, and revel in its possibilities.
For fragrances composed only of natural essences all of these fragrances have outstanding longevity and above average sillage.
Mme Gentile has once again helped me to sharpen my vision and remember creativity has no borders and the only hindrance to experiencing these artists is the price of the postage. In the case of Maria Candida Gentile pay the price I don’t think you will be disappointed.
Disclosure: This review was based on samples provided by Maria Candida Gentile.
Thanks to Maria Candida Gentile we are able to offer a Reader’s Choice draw of 15mL of any of the Classic Collection. Just leave a comment with which one you would like to try. We will draw one winner on February 19, 2012 via random.org.
We announce the winners only on site and on our Facebook page, so Like Cafleurebon and use our RSS option…or your dream prize will be just spilt perfume.
–Mark Behnke, Managing Editor