At Esxence I met Giovanni Sammarco, a Swiss perfumer. He sent me samples of four of his fragrances. They are of such unusual quality that I feel I would be remiss not mentioning them all. 1- Vitrum, a beautiful, quiet vetiver with a touch of rose, one of the best of its kind that I can remember. I am minded to wear this one every day. 2- Bond-T, a huge and delightful chocolate-patchouli fragrance that flirts with gluttony for the first twenty minutes. Of course Angel was there in 1992, perversely married this type of accord with a floral base, and went on to change the world. But this one achieves a very different, muted effect reminiscent of Borneo 1834, but sultrier, with a honeyed drydown that veers towards a narcissus note. 3- Alter, a lovely jasmine floral. 4- Ariel, at once the most ambitious and in my opinion the most successful of the lot.
It seems some niche perfumers are revisiting and, as it were, fixing up and restoring old mansions that had fallen into disuse or been commandeered as accountants’ barracks by the big brands. This particular Palladian villa used to be inhabited by green florals in the style of Chamade (Guerlain, 1969). Ariel opens the french windows, shoos the chickens away, restores the frescoes, sands the floors down to the wood, puts back the gold leaf on the mouldings, and cleans the facade to reveal an unmistakable rush of effortless beauty one had forgotten existed. All the listed materials, for a change, are present and correct: angelica root, tuberose, violets, iris, sandalwood. Also for a change, this is as low-concept as it gets: Giovanni Sammarco composed it for someone he loves, about whom all we know is she has red hair. Concepts, as is often the case in the visual arts, can be an excuse for banality and shortage of skill. Sammarco is instead embarking on a new thing altogether, something one might call neoclassical perfumery, played on original instruments.