It’s not coincidence that so many fragrances tap Italy and its islands for inspiration. Though Europe’s boot isn’t particularly blessed with economic foresight and honest politicians, it abounds in pungent forest, fruit groves that tumble down hillsides strewn with wild herbs, and an ecclesiastical tradition not shy with the incense.
Italy’s renowned cathedrals are particularly odorous, exhaling the high church’s heady blend of smoke, musk and wine. For anyone who spent their early years in mass, a whiff spewing from their doors rushes even the most lapsed Sunday schooler back to the pews.
Mercy, then, that German fine fragrance house Linari didn’t take its religious inspiration literally for Porta Del Cielo, a scent that shares its name with the Cathedral of Siena’s vaulted roof. The Italian translates as ‘gates of heaven’, a lofty ambition for any scent but one that nose Mark Buxton is more equipped to scale than most.
Though born in the more parochial surrounds of Derby, Buxton trained at Germany’s leading fragrance producer and has a couple of hundred fragrances to his name, including the debut scent for Comme Des Garçons – a brand that inspires its own breed of fanatic.
So though Porta Del Cielo doesn’t pick up ecclesiastical notes explicitly, its opening rush of pineapple, bergamot and raspberry is about as overwhelming as suddenly facing St Peter. That waft soon mellows out, dissolving into softer notes of violet and sandalwood, lily of the valley and orange blossom. It’s rich and floral, undercut with the sweetly nauseating aroma of dying blooms.
The base arrives late, a rich blend of vanilla, tonka bean and white musks. This is not a scent that trades on subtlety, but rather arrives with the fire of a cardinal in his pulpit, and lingers longer than Catholic guilt.
Available from The Grooming Clinic, priced at £145 for 100ml of eau de parfum.
Bottle: A glass-and-wood circle inlaid with 22c gold. As subtle as what’s inside, but still very pretty on your dresser.
Head notes: Calabrian bergamot, pineapple, Indian davana, raspberry, freesia;
Heart notes: lily of the valley, violet, Kashmir wood, Australian sandalwood, Tunisian orange blossm;
Base notes: cedar, patchouli, sandal, amber, musk.
Best for: smelling like the renaissance.