Sammarco Naias

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.

Giovanni Sammarco. Source: Fragrantica.

Giovanni Sammarco. Source: Fragrantica.

In case you’re unfamiliar with the brand, Sammarco is a Swiss artisanal perfume house that was founded in 2013 by Giovanni Sammarco. According to Fragrantica, he trained as a lawyer in his native Italy before moving to Switzerland to become a perfumer. On his website, he says his philosophy is “to create something beautiful using the best raw materials and without compromises.” (I thought he achieved that goal in spades with one of my favourite fragrances that I tried last year, the gorgeous patchouli-chocolate-amber extrait called Bond-T.)

Naias via the Sammarco website.

Like his other fragrances, Naias is a pure parfum or extrait in concentration. On his website, Signor Sammarco describes the scent as follows:

NAIAS is born from the idea of a noble soul meeting violet.

Although it is not a violet perfume, you can recognize a violet aura.

A romantic and sensual fruity floral side with a radiant effect and a sandalwood musky body. NAIAS is close to the idea and to the esprit of a proustian woman with skin naturally smelling of precious flowers.

Naias’ note list is:

Violet, rose, jasmine, osmanthus, neroli, iris/orris, sandalwood, apple, pear, cassis, mandarin, amber.

Photo: Monigabi. Source: Redbubble.com (Direct website link embedded within.)

Naias opens on my skin with a flood of green apples that are bright, crisp, and tart like Granny Smith apples combined with Jolly Rancher’s famous, lip-puckering, Sour Apple candy. The apples are heaped generously atop a bouquet consisting first of waxy, retro-style, violet-iris lipstick, then dewy violet flowers, and bright red fruity roses, all nestled between leaves of bright green. The latter have an unexpected and utterly delightful crunchiness to them as well as a mix of pepperiness, bitterness, and something almost a little tannic, like fig leaves.

Source: 123rf.com

Naias shifts quickly. Roughly 10 minutes in, the violet-iris lipstick accord fades to the background and the roses take over as the apple’s main companion. I would have liked the violet lipstick to remain longer as a concrete, clearly defined, and major element on my skin, rather than turning into a mere suggestion that floats amorphously in the background, but it seems to be intentional given Sammarco’s words on an “aura” instead of an actual violet fragrance. And, on my skin, Naias is definitely more of an apple-rose fruity floral scent than either a violet or a purely floral one. Geysers of fruity, berried, and jammy sweetness emanate from the roses, subtly accentuated by light touches of fresh pear and musky cassis (black currant). Even more subtle are the flickers of honeyed osmanthus sweetness, soapy cleanness, and brisk citrus freshness that dart around the edges.

Source: 123rf.com stock photo.

A central element in understanding Naias and how it smells is something called Montaverdi. It’s rarely used in perfumery, was created by IFF in 1997, and smells intensely green with aromas of tart apples and ripe pears. Mr. Sammarco was kind enough to send a sample of Montaverdi to me last year and even a small drop radiated with monumental strength, creating a diffuse but powerful and persistent note that lasted for much of Naias’ lifetime on my skin. On me, its aroma skews predominantly towards the Granny Smith apple side, as much as 80% at a rough estimate, rather than the sweet pears but it’s a question of balance or degree since both things are inextricably fused together with Montaverdi. I think individual chemistry will determine how the note balances out on your skin since I’ve read some descriptions of Naias that mention the pear far more than the apple. For the rest of this review, though, when I mention “apples,” you may want to keep in mind that a small portion of pears are subsumed within as well.

Naias continues to change in small degrees as it develops. Roughly 20-25 minutes in, the apple grows tarter than ever, its sour tang cutting through the rose’s jammy richness to create both balance and a certain bright airiness. That’s not to say that Naias is sheer or thin in body; it’s not. As a fragrance, it is simultaneously strong and diffuse in its opening hour, but the apple definitely helps to keep things on the crisper and airier side. I happen to be a fan of apple notes in perfumery and think they should be employed more often than, say, fruitchouli or raspberries, and the apple note here is particularly nice. Not too sweet, not too sour, it adds an exuberant playfulness to the scent. It’s also an inventive twist on the traditional fruity floral, marrying on floral lushness with the modern aspects of a lip-puckering apple Jolly Rancher. Green, crisp violet leaves and a retro violet/violet lipstick “aura” act as thin threads that tie the apple-rose-fruit elements together in a bouquet.

Art: Paulina722, Etsy, now sold out. Source: her Etsy store. (Direct website link embedded within.)

The violets rejoin the festivities on center stage during Naias’ second stage that begins roughly 1.5 to 1.75 hours into the fragrance’s development. The rose steps aside as the lipstick-scented iris-violets shine once more, their pillowy creaminess taming the apple’s bracing green tang. At the same time, Naias softens and its edges begin to blur. The cumulative effect is more of an impressionistic tableau — pastel-colored flowers framed now with more delicate touches of apple, leafy greenness and quietly honeyed fruitiness — instead of a close-up, still-life portrait of the most electric bowl of fruits and flowers painted in wide slashes of almost 3D colour and brightness. For me, it’s a more inviting scent now because, while I’m a fan of green apple as a fragrance note, the intensity of the Montaverdi is a little overwhelming on my skin for my personal tastes, particularly in the first 90 minutes.

Source: urbanspiritual.org

Dark shadows appear at the end of the 3rd hour and beginning of the 4th, marking the start of Naias’ next stage on my skin. The darkness smells like a mix of leather, smoke from dark woods, and muskiness. I don’t know the source but it appeared in all three of my tests of Naias and I wonder if it’s the result of several elements combined: a slightly raspy, synthetic sandalwood, possibly a woody-amber aromachemical, the leathery side of osmanthus, the cassis’ innate muskiness, and a touch of civet, those last two adding a sotto voce streak of something animalic to the accord. Like a slow-moving eclipse, this mixed darkness falls over the increasingly abstract blur of Montaverdi apples, berried fruits, roses, and creamy violet-orris. The result is a clever set of contrasts: masculine and feminine; dry and satiny soft; creamy pastels and blackness, all shot through with diffuse, amorphous smears of greenness, fruitiness, and rosiness.

Art: Ryan O’Neill & Rostudios Etsy Store (Website link embedded within.)

The most solid, clearly delineated part of this impressionistic tableau is now the sandalwood. I’m a little ambivalent about the note. I’m not keen on its smoky raspiness, but there are nice undertones of spiciness and its creaminess (alongside the equally creamy aspect of the orris) works nicely against the leathery, musky darkness. These three separate elements are now the central parts of Naias and, as a result, the feel of the scent is completely different than it once was. It’s no longer a geyser of fruitiness, either sour or jammy, nor a fruity floral scent with a retro, semi-vintage vibe. The latter is long gone, while the fruitiness is a layer subsumed under the surface of an iris-woody landscape smudged with smoke, a small touch of leather, and a hint of animalic buzz.

It’s nicely done but, for my personal tastes, the smoke becomes too scratchy as Naias progresses further, particularly during the 5th hour, and its dryness increasingly cuts through the pillowy, buttery, and creamy aspects of the scent. When I smell my arm up close for too long, the wood smoke irritates my throat quite a bit. Having said that, there is a certain rugged charm to the bouquet, particularly when smelt from afar where it wafts a dry, woody, smoky iris that’s licked at the edges with jammy, berried, and honeyed sweetness and just a ghostly whisper of greenness.

Source: photos-public-domain.com

Naias changes direction once again when its drydown begins late in the 6th hour. The smoke begins to slowly clear away and its retreat is paralleled by a growing rise in amber which seeps up from the base to impart a caramel-ish, benzoin-ish sweetness to the notes. Naias is now a blurry, abstract mix of ambered praline sweetness, dry woodiness, and creaminess. The latter feels more like powdery tonka than orris to me, but it’s nice next to the woody amber. As the drydown continues, the scent turns into a simple golden warmth imbued with sweetness, a soft whisper on the skin until Naias finally dies away.

Naias had good longevity, soft projection, and moderate sillage. The latter was thanks mainly to the power of the Montaverdi, but this is a fragrance where the amount you apply will really determine the strength and prominence of the bouquet. I was sent a little atomiser vial that emitted little spritzes (rather than the amount you’d get with an actual bottle), and I noticed that Naias could be soft or strong depending on whether I used spritzes amounting to the equivalent of 1 spray, 2, or 3 from a bottle. With the equivalent of one spray, Naias opened with about 2 inches of projection and a soft, airy scent trail of about 4 inches. With the equivalent of either 2 or 3 sprays, the numbers went up to 3-4 inches of projection and 7-8 inches of sillage, sometimes even more at the end of the first hour when the raw materials began to bloom and expand. However, the numbers consistently dropped quite sharply at the end of the 2nd hour, regardless of how much scent I applied. With the equivalent of one spray, Naias dropped to an inch above the skin and the sillage turned discreet. With two sprays, the sillage was about 4 to 5 inches. Naias typically turned into a skin scent at the start of the 4th hour, although it was easy to detect until the 7th hour. In total, it lasted just under 9 hours with the equivalent of 1 spray and just over 10.25 with the equivalent of two. Naias is an extrait in concentration but, in its weight and body, it feels airier and lighter than that on my skin, more like an eau de parfum or super strong eau de toilette.

On Fragrantica, there are four reviews for Naias at this time and they are mixed. One reason why is because two of the people seem to struggle with the civet or animalics, although a third seemed to like it. A fourth poster, “SuzanneS,” loved every part of Naias, calling it “stunning” and saying she wanted a bottle from the first sniff alone even though she wasn’t normally a big fan of violet fragrances. I’ll quote parts of a few of the reviews and leave you to read all of them in full if you’re interested on Fragrantica:

  • This is stunning. First thought was..damn..I need a full bottle of this! [¶] That was my first spray of Naias. […][¶] Im not a huge violet fan by any stretch, so to have won me over..that says volumes. It smells a little vintage but massive in personality and freshness. Violet, osmanthus, a tinge of apple and the rose and iris keeping things lush and feminine. This is a deconstructed violet and thanks to the ionones, user results will vary if they block certain receptors in the nose. Drydown a powder amber. Why isnt this getting more press?! Its fantastic!!!!
  • I believe it’s the violets, apples, pear, and osmanthus blend that causes the animalic note at first and soften through time. Roses, jasmines, and sandalwoods are also there but blended well in away that causes a support to that animalic top note. [¶] It’s not stinky animalic, or even musky, it’s just that slightly harsh naughty animalic that could cause something sensual and captivating or maybe luring someone who’s around.
  • The violet is tame here, dusty but quiet, just enough to take the tartness edge off the fruit and the civet/amber remain throughout for me albeit subdued compared to the initial first blast. It reminds me of a lighter zoologist Civet but with more fruit going on, very unique and wearable but not a summer time scent for me, I have a bottle and will use it but it’s not a must have for me so probably won’t replace it when its gone.

Source: wallpapersbuzz.com

Naias’ Basenotes page has only one entry thus far and it’s a positive review from “hoschhti.” While he found Naias to be too feminine to be unisex, he liked the scent, finding it to be easy to wear and with a lot of subtle details. He wrote, in part:

On his website NAIAS is described having a violet aura. This description is spot-on because the violet lingers in this perfume but never becomes overwhelming – NAIAS is not a violet soliflore. Actually to my nose it’s more a rose scent with a green undercurrent and a very abstract and subdued fruitiness. The drydown is mostly a sweet sandalwood affair, actually quite similar in its vibe to ARIEL. NAIAS is an uncomplicated scent, not in the sense of being uncomplex, but in the sense that it’s easy to wear. It’s not too heavy or too light or too sweet in a girlie way. It manages to hit the right tone and thus is suitable for all occasions and all women (and maybe men too?). Uncomplicated yes, but not uncomplex. NAIAS is blended perfectly and shows a lot of subtle details. Longevity is good and projection is moderate.

Photo used by Ms. Vukcevic to illustrate her review and the scent.

I’ve only found one blog review for Naias thus far and it’s also positive, but this time, the reviewer thought Naias was predominantly a violet fragrance, not a rose one. Claire Vukcevic wrote a wonderfully detailed piece for Fragrance Daily called “Deconstructing Violet,” and it contains technical information that may interest some of you about violets and the alpha ionones that create its various facets in perfumery. It’s a long piece, so I’ll let you read it on your own if you’re interested, but I’ll whet your appetite by saying that Ms. Vukcevic found small parts of Naias to echo, at different times, a wide range of scents like Lutens‘ Iris Silver Mist, Chanel‘s Misia, Ramon Monegal‘s Impossible Iris, and Ormonde Jayne‘s Ormonde Woman. On top of that, her violets came bearing a “shiny, raspberry-slicked boot polish or solvent note” that might perhaps be the same sort of smoky, leathery darkness that I encountered and have written about. She concluded by saying:

I find its progression from classical (rooty iris-violet pairing) to hyper modern (boot polish) to fairytale, gothic fantasy forest to be very interesting. It might be too early to call, but I think that Naias is to violet as Romanza is to narcissus or L’Attesa is to iris, i.e., a way of holding up a traditional perfumery ingredient to the light, turning it over and over in your hands, and figuring out all the ways you can deconstruct it and then reconstruct it so that it takes on a new shape, while also retaining its original ability to please. MasqueBogue, and Sammarco – deconstructing classicism? Who knows, but these Italian perfumers have certainly come up with some new and interesting twists on classical formats these past two-three years, haven’t they?

They certainly have. In the case of Sammarco, his intensely green and apple-scented twist on the classical pairings of lipstick violets and roses is original, and it’s given further modernity through the later juxtaposition of musky, lightly animalic darkness next to pastel creaminess and woodiness.

A few comments on availability: if you are in the U.S., you might be interested to know that the brand is now available in this country and arrived just last week at Luckyscent.

Regardless of your location, if you’ve never tried Sammarco, you may want to give the brand a sniff. It’s a solid, well-made line with good quality ingredients that are blended seamlessly together in an interesting mix of vintage and modern styles. If violet fruity florals are not your thing, one of the other four fragrances might be:

  1. the gorgeous Bond-T (patchouli, dark black chocolate, amber, cognac);
  2. the intensely dark vetiver fragrance, Vitrum which takes a Sycomore-style vetiver and mixes it with incense, rose, and citrus;
  3. the jasmine bomb, Alter (with incense and civet); or
  4. the semi-retro, semi-gourmand floral oriental, Ariel.

At the end of the day, I like parts of Naias, but it isn’t for me personally due to some of the notes. I’m not really a violet or rose person. As many of you know, roses are actually at the bottom of my list of favourite florals, just one step above iris, in fact, which comes in dead last. Naias’ leathery, smoky darkness (or the “boot polish” aroma as it appeared to Ms. Vukcevic) wasn’t the easiest thing for me, either. So, it’s purely a personal issue involving certain scent profiles. Having said that, on an objective level, I think Naias is nicely done, interesting, creative, different, and definitely worth trying if you’re a fan of the main notes.

Disclosure: My sample was kindly provided by Sammarco. That did not impact this review. I do not do paid reviews, and my opinions are my own.

DETAILS:
Cost & Availability: Naias is an extrait that only comes in a 30 ml bottle. It costs $150, €130, and CHF140. In the U.S.: the entire Sammarco line is now available exclusively at Luckyscent. They have Naias, sell samples, and ship worldwide. Outside the U.S.: In Canada, Indiescents is the exclusive retailer. They have Naias and also sell samples. In Europe, you can order it directly from Sammarco. He also offers a sample set of all 5 Sammarco fragrances for CHF 30 with free worldwide shipping included. A sort of FAQ/Info page states that he ships to most places in the world, including the UK, but Italy is the one firm exception. Elsewhere in Europe, you can find Naias at First in Fragrance, the NL’s ParfuMaria, Italy’s Profumo Milano, Russia’s Spell Smell, and Lithuania’s Kevapalu Baras. Sammarco is generally carried by Italy’s Neos1911 and Sacro Cuore (among many other Italian retailers) as well as Essenza Nobile, but neither store has Naias listed on their website at the time of this review. Samples: several of the sites listed above sell samples. In the U.S., Luckyscent is your best bet. I haven’t found Naias on any of the American decanting sites at the time of this post.

14 thoughts on “Sammarco Naias

  1. I’m a violet hater – in parfum. I love the scent of tiny fresh violets hidden in green grass – but in parfums I always miss that freshness and lightness, I only get the old-lady’s strong heavy unpleasant violet.
    I will give it a sniff, but I’m much more interested in Bond-T, Vitrum and Ariel

    • I think you’d LOVE Vitrum, Mi’Lady, and enjoy Bond-T. I don’t know about Ariel, though. The mix of Angelica herbs and greenness encased in almost gourmand sweetness might not be your thing, but it will be interesting to see what you think. Let me know when you give all 3 a try.

    • Given your tastes, I think Vitrum and Bond-T would more up your alley. This one skews very feminine, imo. (And thanks for not calling me “Kaf,” my dear. 😉 😛 I feel less like a caffeinated drink already. 😉 )

  2. Maybe you don’t know this, but I LOVE violet! I’ve been wanting to try Bond-T and Vitrium for a while now, had forgotten about them, but do recall your raves for the former! Now at Lucky Scent? May be overdue for a sample order! Great review!

    • I didn’t know that about you and violet! Given that and your love of roses, you should definitely try Naias. Vitrum and Bond-T are also good choices for you. But hold off on your Luckyscent sample order for a day, Julie, because my next review is for a fragrance that I think will intrigue you and that you’ll probably want to try as well.

  3. Ah Sammarco, such an interesting brand.

    I really loved Vitrum. Alter was not bad either, but with poor longevity on my skin and not that exciting all the way to the end.

    This sounds like something completely different…but…apple…lipstick violet….and roses. Not a big fan of those notes.

    Oh I really struggle with rose notes. There probably is a rose that works for me, but dont think this will be it.

    I wont ‘run’ to the online stores to buy a sample, but if I accidentaly bump into a sample or bottle in a store, I will make sure to give it a try!

    • Ha, given the notes you struggle with, I agree with your conclusion that Naias would be a challenge. I can see Vitrum being much more your thing, and I’m not too surprised by your longevity issue with Alter because a few other people have told me they had the same problem. Have you tried Bond-T, or are you iffy about patchouli?

      • Patchouli is not a problem for me, though I am not the first to seek out a soli-patch/patchouli oil or something like that.

        But I dont mind at all if it is prominently there. I just looked up the notes in Bond-T.
        I can imagine the patch in Bond-T is very nice with chocolate/cacao (the combo works for me in Black Orchid, though there is so much more going on in that scent). So I will check this one out soon.

        I love the smell and taste of cacao by the way. I have a small batch in my kitchrn cupboard because I always use a pinch of cacao in my chili con carne…and i’d rather be prepared for when a hot chocolate craving pops up!

  4. It is always such a pleasure to read your descriptions; the details are wonderfully intricate and I feel almost as though I can smell the fragrance you are writing about.

    I sometimes feel that we might be “evil” perfume twins though! I think I have a fondness for notes that you don’t get on with, and on the whole I am a sucker for rose/violet combinations, particularly when they are powdery, and have grown to like quite a few iris-heavy perfumes. I am not keen on apple (or pear), nor anything too spicy or woody.

    This perhaps means I really like some that you don’t, and vice versa, but I am sure that there are quite a few about which we agree!

    The name Naias intrigues me – what does it mean? My first thought is that it is an anagram of Anais!

    • “Evil Scent Twins” can be a lot of fun, in addition to actually being quite useful on occasion. So long as the quality is there in a fragrance (no endless laundry white musk, for example), then I think it’s great if you use things that I like as a barometer of what *not* to try or, by the same token, things that I struggle with as an indicator of what you *would* like and *should* try. It certainly won’t offend me, my dear. Well, not unless you suddenly find yourself thirsting for every Bounce laundry detergent fragrance on the market. 😛 😉 I kid, I kid. I know you’re not particularly keen on those yourselves. See, an area of complete mutual agreement!

      As for the name “Naias,” I don’t think it has any meaning but I’m not certain. If I remember what Mr. Sammarco once told me about his name choices, he likes it to have five letters and end in a consonant. All his fragrance names have that. I think I have a vague memory that he also once said that he’s strongly influenced by the sound of the word as well as the vibe and feel of a name. More than that, I can’t really tell you.

      Please give The Fluffy Emperor a kiss from me. And a hug to you, my dear, as well.

      • Well I have just given to all my neighbours big bottles of what was once my favourite laundry detergent but which has been “improved”, meaning they amped up the musk and made the smell so long-lasting it took three washes of my bed linen to remove it. I can not even bear to have the stuff in the house but sadly had stupidly ordered several online thinking I was getting the old formula. No danger of my ever craving Bounce!

        The FE has been duly kissed – and I am so pleased to tell you that he has made a wonderful (miraculous) recovery. I am hoping the same for your dear Overlord.

  5. Thank you Kafka for this detailed review!

    I love all the Sammarco’s offerings up until now (especially Bond-T and Alter), and violet is among my favourite notes, so what could go wrong? Eh…it turns out that I’m glad that I got a sample first and didn’t commit a blind buy.

    I enjoyed the classic violet nuances such as lipstick and herbal spicy Violette de Toulouse candy in Naias, but the “green” note in the opening really bothered me. I don’t perceive it as crunchy green leaves or rooty iris, but a weird aldehydic/boozy herbalness that I can’t quite put my finger on. Maybe the “boot polish” is indeed the closest term to describe it.

    Moreover, I wasn’t able to detect the “animalic” described by a few reviews on Fragrantica, and Naias turned out to be primarily a fruity floral with quite a bit of raspberry (which unfortunately is around the bottom of my notes preferences). The discrepancy between expectation and reality made me quite bitter towards it at one moment.

    But once I readjusted my expectation, it’s indeed a very peculiar violet fruity floral. I pulled out the sample to smell it again last night while reading your review and Claire’s, and they really provided more insights helping me to see it in a new light!

  6. Thank you Kafkaesque for the reviews of Naias and the other Sammarco fragrances. I’ve not tried any of these but they all sound like they’d be good to experience, so I’m ordering samples. Florals tend not to last on me, but I’ve had some pretty good luck with roses. I’ll see how I feel about vetiver. I’m especially interested in Bond-T since a couple of my favorites feature patchouli, and the dark chocolate sounds heavenly.

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