The Scents of the Mediterranean

Armrests down, tray tables up, seat belts buckled, please. We're traveling to a distant land: the Mediterranean of my mind. It's just a little bit south of the windmills of my mind. (If you get to the boxing ring where angry squirrels battle my internal tantrums, you've gone too far. Please stay safe when you venture into my unruly brain.) This journey is but one of 17 on a perfume bloggers' tour of a mythical Mediterranean, sponsored by Ines from All I Am - A Redhead and Elena from Perfume Shrine. So slip on your comfy walking stilettos, and let's go! My in-depth research (Googling a world map) has revealed that if you want to be all technical about it, the Mediterranean Sea flows all the way from Morocco to Syria, lapping past a whole bunch of other countries that don't seem to have too much in common -- other than fantastic food. And a ton of ancient history, of course. So while I've been fortunate enough to spend time in Morocco, Spain, France, Italy, and Israel, I'm going to narrow things down for my Mediterranean musings. I'm pinning the donkey tail on...Greece! The following perfumes slingshot me right in there: Tom Ford Private Collection Neroli Portofino. This is the billionaire version of the old classic 4711 cologne, which I've always associated with Mad Men-era jet set travel. Neroli Portofino is the smell of airplane moist towelettes of the gods. It's “just” sweet neroli, tart citrus, distant woods, some laid-back amber warmth, but it is shockingly glamorous. Wear it and you wouldn't dream of traveling in sloppy sweats -- or those overgrown toddler clothes seen on the middle-aged American male (baggy long shorts roomy enough for diapers; chunky white sneakers that look like baby booties). Annick Goutal Eau Du Sud. The smell of hot sunshine and herbs. When I first discovered Eau du Sud, I'd already had history with Chanel Cristalle and Diors Diorella and Eau Sauvage. I felt right at home with Eau de Sud's mossiness, and loved the combination of fresh grapefruit and orange with the vaguely sweaty, lived-in aspect that materializes at the drydown. (Eau Sauvage does “lived-in”, too -- only more on the leathery side.) Eau du Sud's aromatic basil starts to blur the line between smelling and eating. Eau d'Italie Sienne l'Hiver. Speaking of blurring the smelling/eating line, you could practically spray Sienne l'Hiver on your pita bread. Olives! It smells like olives. And earthy, truffley, mushroomy savoriness. Is eating all you're going to do while you're in Greece? What about filthy sex in strange places? C'mon! What's a holiday for? Etro Sandalo. The ferry from Athens to Naxos is filled with exhaust fumes which permeate your tiny, sweltering cabin. Shutting the door that won't lock doesn't guarantee privacy. But it does guarantee that you can't see anything, because there are no lights. Maybe you'd better leave the door open a crack for air? And whatever you're doing in the dark there, you'd better make it fast. Etro Sandalo kicks off with the sharp note of gasoline. It's sort of ugly, until a milky sourness rises up to harmonize with it. Together, the petrol and the sourness soften into creaminess. Before you know it, the initial discomfort has passed, and Sandalo has ripened into a sexy, warm-skin sandalwood. Awkward to begin with, it really gets there in the end. Miller Harris Fleurs de Sel. A snootful of salty sea air and remnants of last night's bonfire on the beach. It's simultaneously green/aromatic and charred/leathery. The opening sharpness of the vetiver gradually gives way to faint iris and rose struggling to thrive in the dryness. Fleurs de Sel is evocative and delicate -- qualities not normally associated with masculine accords. Yves Saint Laurent Kouros. Evocative, yes; delicate, hells to the no. Its barnyard powderiness vibrates between incense and soap. In your luxury Cretan hotel room, generations of maids have doggedly applied daily scrubbing bubbles to bathroom tiles permeated by the ghosts of guests past. But the smell of shaving cream, unguents, and personal emissions will never fade. And neither will Kouros. This fragrance is a memory of life fully lived, with the promise of further adventures in foreign lands. Fumies -- which fragrances speak Greek to you? For more Mediterranean pleasures of the senses, jet on over to these aromatic bloggers: All I Am - A Redhead A Rose Beyond the Thames Bonkers About Perfume Eiderdown Press I Smell Therefore I Am Illuminated Perfume Notes From the Ledge Olfactafama Perfume in Progress Perfume Shrine Scent Hive Smellyblog Hortus Conclusus The Non Blonde Under the Cupola Waft by Carol


  1. Hi Katie,

    I do see some crossover between the Mediterranean of your mind and those windmills.. : - )

    I am with you on the Tom Ford - that just reeks of money. And your choice of Kouros is inspired!

    If I had gone for Sienne L'Hiver it would have been as an Italian "mouldy church crypt" scent, so it will be fun to see which scents turn out to be associated with which countries in other people's unruly brains. : - )

  2. I was all buckled in and all, but since I think you stayed within bounds of reason...after all, who am I to categorize filthy sex with strangers in unusual places (wait, you *did* say with strangers, right? no? oh...)...but since I felt tilted, perhaps, but not squirrel attacked, I enjoyed the ride.

    LOL @ TF being the rich folk 4711. That's a whole category of perfumes, isn't it? "Rich versions of common/cheaper options." :)

    You've got me taking off my socks and ready to dip toes into Eau de Sud. Love Diorella, do battle with Cristalle, I do. It would be interesting to see how the Sud falls.

    I wish I could enjoy Sienne l'Hiver. Every time I've tried it, I've been interrupted by a sharp, a few small sharp blades...trying to clean my nose. I've not laid hand on the culprits...yet...

    I'm going to go finally crack that mini of Kouros I've had waiting for the right occasion to sample. Though I fear it might take me to an office as visioned by the Cohen brothers rather than that Cretan hotel room.

  3. I really need to try etro sandalo....

  4. "The ferry from Athens to Naxos..." I took the inter-Island ferry too, and hadn't thought about it for ages -- you got that gasoline/diesel smell thing just right! (We were up on the top deck, as it was a day ferry that carried mail, cars, and students to the Islands. We continued on to Ios.) Thanks for the good memory.

  5. Ha-ha, ScentScelf, revealing to see how your mind works...

    ScentScelf and flittersniffer, I don't know that I could make myself actually wear Sienne d'Hiver. Smelling it is good as an appetizer, though -- perhaps as an "amuse-nez"?

    Olfacta, I'm always fascinated by how harsh or unpleasant odors can have as many good memories attached to them as lovely smells.

  6. Katie, I so enjoy your wit...the video is fun too.
    You have peaked my interest with Eau d'Italie Sienne l'Hiver, must get a sniff.

  7. LOL, "amuse-nez."

    ...or should I shriek, "shut your bouche!"? ;)

  8. Roxana, t'will be interesting to see if you're as yakked out by the others on this one. It is strange...

  9. I, too, am now curious to try Eau d'Italie Sienne l'Hiver! And I need to try Tom Ford Private Collection Neroli Portofino too -- that sounds great. Enjoyed your post!

  10. Eau De Sud! You are so right, how could I have not thought of this one? Great choices, the Tom Ford would be perfect for holidaying with an Italian Count on Capri wouldn't it? Or am I dreaming a little too far there?!

  11. I'm all for holidaying with an Italian count as well! And wearing Tom Ford Neroli Portofino (not that I know how it smells but will fix that). :)
    Thank for joining in the fun Katie!

  12. Hi - forgive if this posted twice. Interesting Katie that you smell olives in Sienne L'Hiver. Olives? I smell blood and air conditioning to open, then it turns into a delicious, lush sandalwood, before it disappears on my skin completely. I've never been to Greece, though, so this could very well be what Greece smells like, though I would hope some feta cheese works its way in. Good to see you at Sniffa! If I get to LA in October, we'll have to meet at Scentbar with my sister-in-law again! Cheers,Laura B

  13. Katie,

    you're awesome!! How did you unearth that video from the old Greek film comedies/musicals of the 60s??? (highly recommended to watch more, they're so "stylisized") Not to mention there's Demi Roussos there on the bass from Aphrodite's Child and later solo career...

    Your perfume choices are more than apt (Kouros had been so popular once upon a time! and people literally use up gallons of classic colognes ever since I can remember myself). And that ferry smell of the gasoline, urgh...the bad part of exquisite island-to-island hoppings. But as we say here: "όλα καλά" (everything's all right)

    Thanks for playing! :-)

  14. I think I need to GET TO the Mediterranean soon as these posts have me longing to go in a big way.

    I love your point that TF Neroli is the rich peoples version of 4711. It is undoubtedly true. Same for the Dior 4711's (Escale Portofino and the like)

    Hmmm, not sure I even want to try the olive-y mushroomy Sienne L'Hiver...I tend to like these scents on my plate rather than on skin :-) But I know I'll try it (it's a sick obsession really)

  15. Katie,

    The new Ninfeo Mio is surely the jewel in the crown of Mediterranean scents in my collection. The eastern Mediterranean would be Serge Lutens La Myrrhe, perfect for all the sites in the Old City in Jerusalem.

  16. Abigail, the grosser a perfume sounds, the greater the intrigue, I find.

    Kate, I'm eager to try La Myrrhe. Speaking of the Old City - I was dumbstruck by the "Stations of the Cross" souvenir kiosks there that sold crowns of thorns. So wrong, but...still pretty wrong. Wonder if the kiosks should offer anointing perfumes?

    Rose & Ines, is there going to be a tug of love with you 2 over the Italian count? Will I need to be a ref?

    Laura! Nice to "see" you again. Sienne l'Hiver smells like blood and air conditioning? I would never authorize that on my pita bread! Every time I smell it, I involuntarily exclaim, "This smells like pizza!" Which is also Mediterranean.

    Elaine, as I just commented under your drool-inducing post, I am so digging 60s Greek musicals now, a genre I never knew existed until I was "researching" (ie goofing off YouTube surfing) for this post. And yeah, I clocked Demi R in the vid above looking deep with his soul patch. He gets major name checks in the Mike Leigh film, "Abigail's Party".