The Perfume Society‘sThe Scented Letter features our annual 19-page scented gift extravaganza, with a beautiful Venetian theme. In fact, we travelled to that city to research its fascinating scented heritage, from 1,000 years ago to today. Because despite being almost written out of the perfume history books, this unique city is once again reclaiming its rightful place in the fragrant universe.
For this 60-page issue of our Jasmine Award-winning magazine The Scented Letter we travelled to Venice to explore its fascinating scented heritage. Almost written out of the perfume history books, this unique city is once again reclaiming its rightful place in the fragrant universe. And is there a more romantic place to go scent-shopping, at Christmas or indeed any other time of year…? We think not.
• Bellissima! This seasonal edition also features our annual perfume gift guide extravaganza. Across 19 pages, we hand-picked perfect scented gifts for everyone on your list, whatever your budget
• For our cover story, Venice’s Perfumed Past, Jo Fairley follows Venice’s spice routes back in time – from 1,000 years ago, right up to today
• We also lead you by the nose for the latest in our occasional series, Scents of Place: Venice – your ultimate scented shopping guide to ‘La Serenissima’
• Sharing her aromatic life in Memories, Dreams & Reflections this edition is superstar make-up artist Ruby Hammer
And of course, as usual, we bring you all the Latest Launches, news, events – and so much more!
Why not make yourself a cup of something soothing, put your feet up and bury your nose in a festively fragrant magazine for a while…?
(NB The Scented Letter is always free online for our VIP Club members – we send you a link to download or in flickable format to read online as soon as it’s published. OR, after much demand, you can order gorgeously glossy print copies, (which are sent out approximately 10 days after each new issue of The Scented Letter appears on the website. We work right up to the wire to make sure everything is truly newsworthy!)
Ermanno Scervino is one of the hottest fashion houses around, and with the catwalks of the world having been freshly strutted, we wanted to pay tribute to the house currently wowing the perfume world, too, with their just-launched first fragrance…
‘As a boy, I was immediately attracted to the world of beauty and aesthetics,’ Ermanno Daelli admits, and even his childhood was full of fashion fantasies, as he reminisces spending the summer ‘…in Forte dei Marmi and the Cote d’Azur and winter in Cortina. These places were always crowded with the great divas of Italian and Hollywood movies, such as Monica Vitti, Sophia Loren, Elizabeth Taylor or Kim Novak.’
Rather more fabulous-sounding than our own childhood holiday memories of wet weekends in Bognor, we have to say! Among such glamorous icons, he ‘…dreamed, one day, to be the one who dresses such beautiful, talented and inimitable women.’ That dream came wonderfully true, as his clothes have been worn by Amal Clooney, Nicole Kidman, Angelina Jolie to name but three.
There’s an airiness of the materials the designer favours in his collections and an insouciance in the way they are styled: exquisitely gauzy gowns worn with precisely (yet so-relaxed looking) Italian tailoring. Now, this refined but playful aesthetic is translated perfectly in the first perfume from the house. And with his love of strong, brilliant women, Ermanno chose a trio of female perfumers – Julie Massé, Véronique Nyberg and Mathilde Bijaouo – to compose it.
Ermanno Scervino for Womenencapsulates the frothy frivolity of a couture dress, opening with an irresistible gourmand Giaduia (chocolate and hazelnut) accord shot through with the sunshine of neroli and the sharpness of green mandarin, balanced against a fluff of white flowers.
The trio of perfumers visited the Ermanno Scervino boutique to get closer to the couture while creating the fragrance together, and you can see a video of that trip, below…
Julie Massé notes that ‘…composing a fragrance is like tailoring: mixing and matching raw materials, readjusting the formula, until it’s the right fit.’ Véronique Nyberg adds that Ermanno’s juxtaposition of fabrics, ‘…inspired us to create a multi-textured fragrance.’ Agrees Mathilde Bijaoui: ‘Giving texture to a fragrance is key,’ explaining: ‘In this creation, we created it from the top to the dry-down.’
That white heart simply billows with hushed, velvety tuberose absolute, a transparent jasmine and the coconut-water like Jungle Essence extraction™ – an exclusive formula from the fragrance house MANE. Set against the creamy vanilla, cashmere wood and white musk of the base, the overall effect is of white tulle on a backdrop of sunshine: sparkling, refined, and simply beautiful.
There are THIRTEEN fragrances to sample at home, from the chic and uplifting Banana Republic Neroli Woods to dazzling Oscar de la Renta Extraordinary Pétale via creations by the hot new niche brands Mihan Aromatics and Les Eaux Primordiales. There’s a fragrance for every look with Michael Kors, that fabulous Ermanno Scervino, Kenzo – and so many more...
The box also includes a FULL SIZEINC.redible Semi Matte Lip Click (worth £10 alone) and an invitation to wind down into colder nights with the shimmering, decadent new Molton Brown Muddled Plum Bath & Shower Gel.
The entire box is only £19 + P&P (£15 for VIP Club members), so if you want to get front row to be in the know – and make sure you’re dressed in the best that fragrance has to offer – you can get your hands on the box right here…
Pitti Fragranze is one of the world’s leading fragrance trade fairs, where the industry come to see (and smell) new perfumes, spot new trends emerging and spy new houses showcasing their scents for the very first time. We took a trip to the glorious Tuscan city of Florence, our noses a-quiver in excitement, and invite you to look back with us at some of our favourite things…
Pitti is held in a huge old building that used to be a train station, an annual event that’s now celebrating its 17th year. If you can picture a space filled with hundreds of brands all competing for attention, and thousands of perfumes being sprayed in that space, you’ll get an idea of just how fragrant the whole situation can get. Add to that several thousand visitors, including press, distributors, buyers and store managers from around the world, and the odd perfumer wandering the exhibition – we spotted Betrand Duchafour, Cecile Zarokian and Pia Long – getting to have good catch-up chats with those last two – and you’ll also understand how overwhelming the experience can be!
As you walk into the exhibition space, the question is: where to begin? And the only answer is to wander around and around, going back with a greater focus for several hours over three days, and homing in on the things that caught your eye (and nose) the most.
We were delighted to see so many houses we know so well proudly showing their scented wares, and were introduced to other really exciting brands we hope will make it to the U.K. very soon…
The Miller Harris stand was definitely the most vibrantly enticing in the whole show – if you’ve ever visited one of their boutiques, you’ll know how these guys excell at visual merchandising that makes fragrance artistically exciting and accessible for everyone. Here they were showing recent launches of the ‘Brighton Rock’ collection (including our favourite, Violet Ida (softly powdered lipstick kisses) the lovely Blousy (all luscious strawberries and rose), and a sneak peek at a forthcoming launch of Secret Gardenia (think voluptuous bouquets of dewy white flowers).
Sana Jardin had their soon-to-be-launched candles on display – a first for the house which we will certainly be filling our own homes with! Torn between the options, if forced to choose we’d plump for the Tiger By Her Side: a stunning evocation of the perfume, weaving Morocan rose and Somalian incense for an intenseley beautiful scent we couldn’t stop smelling. There was a real buzz around the stand, of people entranced by the story of the foundation they’ve set up for the women who pick the flowers – allowing them to create their own side-business making products from the rose water, for example, left over from distilling the fragrances. With lots of questions about sustainability circling the industry, here’s a house who are way ahead of the game.
Talking of candles, we couldn’t help but fall in love with the entire aesthetic of Coreterno – meaning ‘eternal heart’ in Italian – a lifestyle brand ‘conceived in Rome and born in the streets of New York’ by designers Francilla Ronchi and Michelangelo Brancato. Drawing inspiration from rock stars and rebels throughout history, they began with candles and were now showing their fragrances for the first time. We loved The Wild Passion candle and the Catharsis perfume, which smelled spicy and soothing all at once, with drifts of cardamom and transcendental woodiness.
We bumped into Olfiction Director and perfumer Pia Long at the very moment she first saw the fragrance she’d created for BeauFort London finally on display. Given a difficult brief for Terror & Magnificence to evoke the imposing structures and life of notorious architecht Hawksmoor, with all the associated brooding spaces and darkly mysterious atmospheres, Pia absolutely nailed it. We sprayed and felt a shiver of cold flagstones, echoes of hushed voices, ancient church pews infused with incense and a stunningly wearable suplle leather dry down. There’s far more magnificence than terror, and she looked rightly proud (if a little overwhelmed) holding that bottle aloft.
A new name we got excited by was the French niche house of Maison Rebatchi, founded only last year by Mohamed Rebatchi, collaborating with a stellar line-up of perfumers, including Bertrand Duchaufour, Alienor Massenet and Maurice Roucel. All seven scents are remarkably beautiful, with an assuredness and elegance reflected in the noses who made them, and the freshness of this Rose Rebatchi really blew us away – exactly like standing in the rose fields of Grasse during May. We have no doubt this house will be picked up by a U.K. stockist soon, and we’ll be forming an orderly queue…
A standout event had to be the Jean-Claude Ellena Retrospective – choosing fifteen of his fragrant compositions and discussing how and why they were created. Collated by Chandler Burr, and including a fascinating interview with the great perfumer himself, you can listen to to the English translation in full, here. It’s a must for any perfume fan, to give you greater insight into Ellena’s work, and no doubt (as we did) scurrying to find your own favourites from his collections, now smelling them again with a new understanding.
We could go on and on (and on) about the highlights we saw and smelled at Pitti this year, but are still mentally processing the many hundreds of perfumes and people, to be perfectly honest! We do hope, though, that we’ve given you a flavour of this year’s fragrance fair, and an idea of what you want to smell next…
Perhaps one of the most tender stories told through scent we’ve ever heard, Lorenzo Dante Ferro pays homage to the strength of an entire nation with his fragrance, 401 È Amatrice – meaning ‘come back’ or ‘rebirth’…
The fragrance was made in collaboration with RIFLESSI – the Serafini family’s perfumery – and the perfume is to capture the memory of their perfumery, which was sadly lost in a monumental earthquake. Lorenzo wanted to pay tribute in the best way he knew how.
One of only a hundred perfumers who’ve earned the title Master Perfumer, yet stoically remaining a private figure, Lorenzo Dante Ferro is a name revered in the industry for his exquisite creations – quietly providing bespoke olfactive décor ‘to private homes, historical estates, luxury hotels and numerous private and public establishments in Europe’. And yet we realise not everyone will be familiar. There’s nothing we love more at The Perfume Society than introducing your noses to something beautiful, and houses we think you’ll love. And when we heard the inspiration behind the latest fragrance, we just had to share it with you.
‘The Essence of Life, between the skies and the lands of Amatrice, is rich in history and poetic art, made strong by new energy and life blood, like the newly sprouting plants and a heart that goes on breathing…’
Poetic words, indeed, to describe this perfume, and no wonder when you hear the story behind its creation. This time last year, the citizens of Amatrice had no idea they were just days away from devastation. An earthquake shook the historic town, leaving hundreds dead, dozens more injured and the whole of Italy reeling from the news. At the time, The Guardian reported that ‘Amid the rubble of a town that seems almost to have toppled on to its hillside, it is, miraculously, still standing. But the clock on the 13th-century bell tower in Amatrice is stuck at 3.39 – three minutes after the earthquake struck.’
As the RIFLESSI website explains, the family are, ‘A family of shopkeepers who run one of the oldest perfumerie shops in Amatrice. Marina and Roberto, along with their daughters, Alessia and Domiziana, luckily have a story to tell. Yes, luckily, because only thanks to fate and luck were they saved during the night of the 24th of August 2016. They survived while their town collapsed around them.’
Since then, the town has struggled hard to overcome their loss and rebuild the wreckage this natural disaster wrought, but the resilliance of people’s spirits has been nothing short of miraculous. Created by the Serafini family, once owners of that fine perfumery in Amatrice, and with the help of Lorenzo, the entire story of the scent is carried within the name itself. The heart of the perfumer resolutely beating for the nation he so loves. The Serafini family say:
‘We created this perfume, as an authentic scent that represents our culture, where people have always lived with age old wisdom in harmony with Nature.
401 is the code assigned to the creation and beyond being a primary number, it revealed itself to us with all its naturalness, much like its perfume. Rich in numerical symbolism, 401 is citied in ancient scripts as the equivalent of the Alpha and the Omega – the beginning and the end – and the beginning once again…’
There’s a sense of soaring skywards, of great space and bouyancy somehow, from the very first spritz. Over 140 essential oils and aromatic raw materials were carefully selected, which in the hands of a lesser perfumer could have become muddled, but experience will always show through, and there’s no loss of clarity here. Zesty and timeless, with a nod to a traditional Cologne style, you feel a salty breeze caress your skin, a mineralic haze that could descend into mist, but instead carries you ever upwards to a harmonious crescendo. It truly feels like flying, and is fresh without falling back on the streotype of citrus scents.
Even without knowing the back story, this would feel like a wonderfully reviving fragrance at any time, and for anyone to wear who appreciates the subtlety of a master perfumer’s restraint at work. But when you do know, it becomes even more special. A fragrant revery to escape in when times feel tough, when the world seems impossible to cope with, perhaps…?
Imagine how thrilled we were to be invited to a prestigious gathering of press, buyers and distributors from around the world on an enchanting voyage with The Merchant of Venice – to celebrate the birthplace of fine perfumery and the launch of their most recent perfume: Rosa Moceniga – a scent with an intriguing tale of rediscovering the lost rose of Joséphine Bonaparte. Join us – and swoon at the pictures! – as we recount our journey…
Venice is one of the most beautiful cities in the world, and birthplace to perhaps the earliest commercial appreciation of fine perfume – the moment when Catherine de Medici married King Henry II was a turning point in modern culture. Travelling to France with her huge retinue, she imported the taste for previously unheard of Italian luxuries: perfume (and Royal perfumers from her court), a fork for eating with, ballet and extravagant Italian fashions.
With turquoise canals casting shimmering reflections on golden buildings of sun-bleached grandeur, everywhere seems softly lit, as though by candlelight. Arriving at Marco Polo airport and travelling to the city, you’re immediately on the water in a Vaporetto (taxi boat) and living La Dolce Vita. It’s impossible not to be overcome with the incredible romance of it all – surrounded on all sides by history, feeling as though you have stepped straight in to a Canaletto painting.
Venetians are fiercely proud of their heritage as a great trade route – the destination and meeting point of merchants from all over the new world, desperate to attain shipfuls of oppulence to carry back and trade within their own lands. As such, it’s the perfect home for the perfume house fittingly named The Merchant of Venice. Trading, themselves, not only on the heritage of perfumery but turning that love into exquisitely presented and diverse, contemporary scents.
Owned by the passionately perfume-obsessed Vidal family, the brand is one of several distributed by Mavive – established in 1986 by Massimo Vidal, and currently under the careful stewardship of the third and fourth generation of the Vidal family. With their headquarters in Venice, Mavive is intimately connected with this truly unique city – and for us, they threw open the doors to celebrate their 30th anniversary while proudly showing us their fragrant wares.
One of the many culturally significant projects the Vidal family have concerned themselves with is the careful preservation of the largest collections of perfume flacons (dating back before Christ!), perfume-making equipment and related materials in existence.
Taking on ownership of the magnificent Palazzo Mocenigo in the heart of Venice, they turned what was once a slightly crumbling textile museum into the Museo del Profumo – displaying perfume bottles, raw materials and ancient manuscripts in themed settings around the palace – most of them on full public view rather than shut away in cabinets.
Touring the Palazzo with the eloquent son of the family, Marco Vidal, was like stepping back in time, with each fabulously evocative room scented as they would have been, with distinctive perfumes made to ancient recipes diffusing the atmosphere with clouds of fragrance.
So significant is this collection, students from ISIPCA – the famous perfume accademy in France – travel to the Palazzo to complete their final studies in the history of perfumery. As do textile students – the Vidal family have maintained and added to the costume collection, with over 35,000 pieces – and makeup historians, for yet another floor is dedicated to cosmetics. Truly a must-visit for any fragrance (or costume/makeup) fantatic!
After our mind-blowing tour of the luxuriously and sympathetically refurbished rooms, we finally got to hear the story behind their latest launch – Rosa Moceniga. Marco introduced Andrea di Robilant, author of Chasing the Rose, framed by an archway of rambling roses amidst the main hallway of the Palazzo and eager to tell us his part in this intriguing tale… Andrea explained that while rummaging through his family’s papers for research during his autobiography of his great-great-great-great grandmother, Lucia Mocenigo, he found genuine treasure: a description of a once-lost rose that smelled of peach and raspberries – symbol of a deep friendship between Lucia and Joséphine Bonapart, the precious cutting a gift to a fellow rose-lover.
What began as a light-hearted search for the bloom led to years of further research and finally, stumbling across that very rose in the now completely wild and overgrown gardens in Venice. A chance meeting with Marco Vidal led to the realisation their stories were now intimately connected – the Vidals owned the Palazzo the rose was named for, and not only that – they made perfumes. Their fragrant future was sealed, and now Rosa Moceniga blooms once more with every spritz of this beautiful scent…
And what does the final perfume smell like? Romantically nodding to the past but with its head firmly in the present, this lush flower bouquet is sheer as the finest silk scarf with fresh Sicilian lime and blackcurrant leaves garlanding the main event – that delicately fruity, luminous rose. Definite notes of peach and raspberry entwine with softly powdered cedar and amber for a magnificently elegant dry down. Venetian history infused with that golden sunlight and bottled.
The final day included a trip to the stunning flagship store of The Merchant of Venice. Wood-panelled and with historic books and perfume materials dotted around the walls, the perfumes are presented not merely with paper blotters – oh no. Hand-blown Murano glass sniffing jars are proffered, allowing the notes to blossom as they would on skin and offering a more realistic smelling experience.
In the breathtaking surroundings of Teatro La Fenice – the Venetian Opera House – we were shown films on the history of the Vidal family’s involvement with perfume and the many fragrance houses they are custodians of, before the family themselves took to the stage to give thanks to their many supporters for celebrating their anniversary.
The evening concluded with an olfactory themed banquet in a private room upstairs, saffron sprinkled throughout the courses with abandon and floral cocktails quaffed.
We left in no doubt of the huge significance Venice holds in the heart of perfume history, the great care and attention the Vidal family place on preserving this heritage for future generations to enjoy while greatly expanding their diverse fragrance wardrobes, and the fact that we would most definitely be returning to this incredible city drenched in the culture of scent as soon as we possibly could.
Until then? We’ll be spraying Rosa Moceniga and sighing dreamily at the memories… The Merchant of Venice Rosa Moceniga £120 for 100ml eau de parfum
Buy it exclusively at House of Fraser
Written by Suzy Nightingale
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