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.
There’s a romantic garden at the heart of Violette Noyée from Sultan Pasha Attars, similar to the one in Guerlain‘s vintage Apres L’Ondee. It’s a garden filled with sweet, fresh flowers, laden with dew in the cool morning light, unfurling amidst green vegetation, and then blooming with lush abandon. Violette Noyée (hereinafter spelled without the accent) means “drowned violet,” but that is only one of the many elements at play in this rich, complex tableau. Lilacs, iris, mimosa, jasmine, heliotrope, a wonderful recreation of hyacinths, and other flowers grow far and wide, all set against a rich tapestry of greenness, wet earth, and dark musks. A cool winter light shines upon them, slowly turning warm and golden. Eventually, an ambered haze falls over the garden, first encasing the flowers, then erasing them in waves of brown velvet and musky ambered sweetness. It’s a fragrance that is quite different from Apres L’Ondee in its particular details, its feel, and its development, but the same romanticism is at play in both fragrances, which makes the attar a great alternative for fans of the discontinued Guerlain fragrance.
A garden lies at the heart of Guerlain‘s vintage Apres L’Ondee, a secret garden pulled straight out of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s famous 1910 children’s classic by the same name. It’s a magical place awakening after a long sleep, brought back to life in early Spring, reborn with tender efforts that make its once untamed nature a thing of the most civilized Edwardian beauty. It’s an exquisite portrait, even a heartbreakingly tender one, where fields of iris and violets sprout to spread their wings in the morning light, their petals glistening with dew and the last traces of Spring showers, their fragile bodies shooting up out of dark, loamy soil to bloom against rambling thickets of rose, sweet jasmine, and green walls covered with climbing vetiver and mossy greenness. The morning light is bright, fresh, and crystal clear, offset by gleaming rays of yellow citrus freshness and clean aldehydes, but a mist of sweet powder swirls through the air like pixie dust and tiny fairies.
The past and present both run through Ariel, a very feminine floral fragrance from Sammarco that consistently evoked thoughts of the two great bastions of classical perfumery, Guerlain and Chanel. Ariel’s structural core echoes legends from the past, like Chanel’s clean green florals or Shalimar, but it’s fleshed out by equally strong echoes of the present, whether it’s fragrances like Angelique Noire or Misia, or modern elements like herbal sweetness. The result is a fragrance that exudes modern chic and a cool polished elegance before taking on elements of a soft, fluid, purely floral femininity that called to mind Pre-Raphaelite romanticism then ending in a grand finish of golden lushness. Luca Turin recently described Ariel in his admiring review as “neoclassical perfumery, played out on original instruments,” and I agree.
But it’s also not quite as simple as that. Ariel is a complicated fragrance, in my opinion, and one that is not easy to characterize. For one thing, it doesn’t fall into any one single genre but covers a range of different fragrance families. For another, I was startled to see that not one single account of Ariel was the same. Not one. Five different reviews give five different descriptions of the scent, and they have little in common beyond the most simplistic summation of “citrusy, spiced floral.” My review basically amounts to a sixth version, which should tell you just how difficult it is to confine Ariel to a single box and why you should try it for yourself if any of the descriptions intrigue you.