Eau d'Italie Le Sirenuse Positano is a line of perfumes originally inspired by Hotel Le Sirenuse in the locale of Positano on the Italian Amalfian Coast. To the initial Eau d'Italie have succeeded three other perfumes, all inspired by Italy and its history: Paestum Rose, Sienne L'Hiver (Sienna in Winter), and Bois D'Ombrie (Umbria Woods).
I find that perfume and nostalgia being intimately linked, it is only fitting that a sense of place be translated into perfumes. The symbolic gesture of taking a handful of dirt and inhaling its scent deeply to be reminded of one's roots and provenance is something that all people who have been transplanted in their lives can relate to. It may be those few grams of earth, that some even take with them upon leaving, as it may be any types of physical evidences of our lives past.
I also said earlier that nationalism as a deeply aesthetic emotion could be potentially shared and reactivated through the sharing of common, iconic smells. Le Sirenuse seems thus to be piecing together an image of Italy, ideal and worth remembering. It is a romanticized version of the Italian peninsula in the fall and winter...
These scents are evocative and even, atmospheric. People who enjoy being transported to other places will particularly appreciate the dreamlike, even melancholy quality of, in particular, Sienne L'Hiver and Bois D'Ombrie. They speak of interiority rather than travels and set a mood that is very much attuned to the more reflective retreats we make into ourselves perhaps never more so than in the coldest and rainiest days of fall as well as winter in that period of lull when the calendar is not yet filled with festivities.
Sienne L'Hiver and Bois D'Ombrie are reflexive and moody, changing like the weather, or perhaps it is only the passage from one to the other that gives this impression. Paestum Rose also has interitority, at the same time it is not so much nostalgic as solar and seems to be open to change through its search of exoticism inviting us to consider the charms of unknown far-away places rather than abjure us to leave with regret the familiarly trodden paths of memories. They are all about departures but their outlook on those are different.
The roses of Paestum have an interesting history. In the Antiquity, Paestum became an important center of the winter rose trade. Virgil evoked the fields of roses of Paestum in The Georgics (29 B.C.) telling of their marvellous twice-flowering character (biferique Rosaria Paesti) as they bloomed both in the spring and late fall"...of Paestum too, Whose roses bloom and fade and bloom again". The epigrammist Martial with his "To Caesar, on the Winter Roses" also wrote a little political pamphlet on the roses of Paestum flattering Caesar with the mention that Paestum had overtaken Egypt in its capacity to supply Rome with winter roses,
"The ambitious inhabitants watered by the Nile have sent thee, O Caesar, the roses of winter, as a present valuable for its novelty. But the boatman of Memphis will laugh at the gardens of Pharaoh as soon as he has taken one step in thy capital city - for the spring in its charms, and the flowers in their fragrance and beauty, equal the glory of the fields of Paestum. Wherever he wanders or casts his eyes, every street is brilliant with garlands of roses. And thou, O Nile, must now yield to the fogs of Rome. Send us thy harvests, and we will send thee roses".
Many more authors from the Antiquity cited these roses. Much later, in the 16th century, in Orlando Furioso, Ariosto mentioned the fact that Paestum roses were used as a makeup ingredient "Each martial damsel's visage, overspread
With the rich dyes of Paestum's crimson rose..."
These are a few highlights regarding the rich tradition of the Paestum roses. Today, the roses of Paestum seem to have gone extinct but there is still an echo of their former glory in a living rose called Rival de Paestum about which Nancy Steen writes "This gem.... possibly rivalled in beauty the roses grown by Greek gardeners at Paestum, in the days of Nero's might".
The recreated Paestum Rose by Le Sirenuse is based on a Turkish rose and apart from this note also contains myrrh, black and pink pepper, coriander, black currant buds, patchouli, osmanthus, peony, cedar, Wenge woods, and white musk. It is a woody spicy and fruity rose delicately enveloped by incense. The incense is not humid and churchey but rather approachable in feel, making you understand its widespread popularity in the Antiquity. The rose impression is very sensual and a bit narcotic. I find that the osmanthus and peony notes rather than bring transparency lend an exotic touch to the composition making it be a bit more excessive of a composition. It is an eau de toilette and therefore does not last very long on the skin. The top and middle notes of Paestum Rose hold greater charm for me than the drydown which I find to be a bit standard.
Sienne L'hiver (Sienna in Winter) has notes of violet leaf, geranium, black olive, white trufle, smoke, woods, coal roasted chestnuts, Autumn leaves, French straw, iris root, and white musk. It is a green floral woodsy scent with fruity accents. Interestingly enough, it is rather strongly reminiscent for me of the new Paprika Brasil by Hermes and also of the recent The Unicorn Spell by Les Nez, except that The Unicorn Spell has a much more complex structure.
As the perfume evolves, its sappy green character accentuates rather than abate. It starts with an impression of freshly crushed or cut green stems and what to my nose smells like the fruity note of litchi. It then shows a contrast between a powdery muted iris root in the lower background and more transparent high-pitched notes; it behaves a little like a chypre in this respect. The greenness will linger on as the scent mellows down.
Of the three reviewed here, Sienne L'Hiver is the one that has the best drydown in terms both of longevity and consistency. It is for this reason and also because I like green scents that I prefer it, personally, to the others as I find that Paestum Rose and Bois D'Ombrie are perhaps more enticing at the beginning but less so overtime. In fact, my best first impression was with Bois D'Ombrie and now I find it to be on the finish line the least compelling of the three.
Bois D'Ombrie (Umbria woods) is an eau de parfum like Sienne L'Hiver. It has notes of Cognac, Whiskey, orris, leather, myrrh, tobacco, and vetiver.The perfume starts with the evocation of good amberey alcohol, good leather armchairs and a fire lit with humid logs therefore creating a smoky atmosphere. The leather is very animalic. The perfume becomes hazy, misty like a walk in the countryside at dawn with the vapor of the fields rising up in the air mingled with the Parma violet and rosy early hues. It has a liquorishy sweet facet to it with some dryness included. The longer drydown smells like tallow and is a bit fatty, a nuance found in certain leather fragrances. Bois D'Ombrie retains nevertheless a certain sharpness reminiscent of the acrid smell of burning humid wood. If you like the fireside smell of John Galliano by Diptyque but hesitate to wear a home fragrance this might do the trick for you.
The composition style of these fragrances is rather simple and economical. They present a certain intellectual character. People who like bare or minimalist aesthetics, well-circumscribed and also realistic fragrances will appreciate them the most. They certainly also contain a Romantic streak in them.
Sources: Virgil Georgic IV; Roses of Paestum by Edward McCurdy (1895); Parsons on the Rose by Samuel Brown Parsons (1869); Aedes; Lafco.