7/13/14

Ca' Luna (Acqua di Biella)





When Jim Gehr sent me his perfumes, he also sent me a slew of samples from his extensive catalog of raw materials and synthetics. This has been helpful in familiarizing myself with the intricacies of his work, and the works of others. Above is a snapshot of just some of the materials, which include champaca CO2, cistus labdanum EO, orris root CO2, Omani frankincense resin, jasmine CO2 (one of my favorites), wild Somalian frankincense resin, Palo Santo EO (Bursera Graveolens/heartwood), artemisia EO, civet, Mysore sandalwood EO, Mysore sandalwood SCO2, and New Caledonian sandalwood EO. There were also a handful of synthetics, including alpha isomethyl ionone, bois ambrene, synthetic agar, cis-3 hexenol, coumarin, "Timbersilk," a type of Iso E Super, and a few other marvelous things. My education in understanding these materials has been, put simply, a lot of fun.

The Italian firm of Acqua di Biella is one of those obscure European niche-makers that comes to America pre-prepared with a long, drawn-out history lesson, detailing through decades of narrative how something like Ca' Luna came to pass. Unlike Creed and Penhaligon's, there aren't any palaces of the Legion of Honor, archaic royal courts, or bloody world wars in their story, but rather a typically Italian portrayal of tradition being passed down from nose to nose. After reading its note pyramid, I expected this scent to be exotic, complex, perhaps hard to wear. I wondered if my being of Italian descent would make it a must-have, regardless of its pedigree. I ended up a bit stumped.

All the recognition of notes and accords and quality of oils used could not prepare me for this ghostly, waif-like bastard child of Green Irish Tweed and Fahrenheit, a meager quibbling of post IFRA violet ionones, bare leaf alcohols, and synthetic sandalwood chemicals. The Fragrantica pyramid lists ivy, galbanum, and elemi resins as the top three notes, but I just smell alpha isomethyl ionone, cis-3 hexenol, and whatever clever synthetic sandalwood reconstruction was used in Cotton Club by Jeanne Arthes. Having recently enjoyed Jim's Black Antlers, Pandit, and Nature Boy, I unconsciously developed a gold standard for expensive niche, and a Mendoza line (the line was forged after smelling Guess for Men a couple years ago).


I'm of two minds with this scent. On the one hand, I dislike its synthetic simplicity. For a dollar a milliliter, this stuff should be using a whole variety of 10 carbon alcohols, rich coumarin, octyn esters, and real sandalwood EO. This would make it a smooth woody masculine from the late eighties/early nineties mold, and something I could possibly love. But on the other hand, its sparseness is easy on the nose, and seems to create a subliminal message for the wearer, heard sporadically throughout his day. Its quiet tones make it a pleasantly fresh little thing that wafts up gently through a shirt collar, to remind the wearer that a fragrance is being worn, without ever overpowering anyone at the table.

If you're wealthy enough to afford a bottle of Acqua di Biella, and you buy and wear it on regular occasions, you're the sort of person who doesn't mind splurging on an "after-shower scent" that simply connotes cleanness and good grooming, without getting into the personality of a full-bore perfume. You're probably in your mid thirties or early forties, just old enough to remember Dior's Fahrenheit when it was new, and appreciate that kind of line-cutting individualism, that starkly modern masculinity that embraces sweet floral tones and throws caution to the wind. Yet you prefer to be seen and not smelled. So you wear Ca' Luna, and everyone assumes you're a regular man's man, simply because you smell of almost nothing at all.






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