A More Affordable Olfactionary
Amouage Interlude Man
Amouage Opus III
Amouage Opus VAmouage Opus VI
Amouage TributeAnnick Goutal Encens Flamboyant
Annick Goutal Heure ExquiseAnnick Goutal Petite Cherie
Annick Goutal Sables
April Aromatics Calling All Angels
April Aromatics Bohemian SpiceApril Aromatics Jasmina
At the Moment (Chanel 22 & Marshall Crenshaw)
At the Moment (Secret de Suzanne /D'Orsay L'Intrigante) At the Moment (Vera Wang & Fireman's Fair novel)
Ava Luxe Café NoirCarner Barcelona D600
Caron Aimez-MoiChantilly Dusting Powder
Clive Christian C for WomenComme des Garcons Daphne
Comme des Garcons LUXE ChampacaCostes by Costes
Creed Virgin Island WaterDeneuve
Devilscent ProjectGucci Eau de Parfum Gucci L'Arte di Gucci Guerlain Aqua Allegoria Lys Soleia Guerlain Samsara Parfum
How I Store Decants
Il Profumo CannabisKenzo Jungle l’Elephant
Kenzo SummerLa Via del Profumo Hindu Kush
La Via del Profumo Milano Caffe
La Via del Profumo Oud Caravan Project
Montale Black AoudNeila Vermeire Creations Bombay Bling
Nina Ricci L'Air du Temps
Nez a Nez Ambre a SadeOmar Sharif Pour Femme
Oriscent Pure Oud OilsParfum d'Empire Azemour
Parfum d'Empire Cuir OttomanParfum d'Empire 3 Fleurs Parfumerie Generale Indochine
Parfums de Nicolai SacrebleuParis, je t'aime
Pascal Morabito Or Black
Ramon Monegal Cherry Musk
Robert Piguet Fracas
Serge Lutens Borneo 1834
Serge Lutens Boxeuses
Serge Lutens Un Lys Sonoma Scent Studio Voile de Violette
Sonoma Scent Studio Winter Woods (brief mention)
SoOud Ouris Parfum NectarStone Harbor, NJ Vacaton pix (non-perfume related)
Strange Invisible Perfumes Lyric RainThe Diary of a Nose, Book Review
Tokyo Milk Ex Libris
Vero Profumo Mito Viktoria Minya Hedonist
Viktor & Rolfe Flowerbomb
Links to Other Blogs I Enjoy
All I Am - A Redhead
A Perfume Blog (Blacknall Allen)
Another Perfume Blog (Natalie)
Australian Perfume Junkies
Beauty on the Outside
Bois de Jasmin
Bonkers About Perfume
Ca Fleure Bon
Eyeliner on a Cat
From Top to Bottom - Perfume Patter
Giovanni Sammarco (artisanal perfumer) blog
Grain de Musc
I Smell Therefore I Am
Katie Puckrik Smells
Memory of Scent
Muse in Wooden Shoes
Natural Perfumery by Salaam
Notes on Shoes, Cake & Perfume
Notes From Josephine
Notes From the Ledge
Now Smell This
Oh, True Apothecary!
Purple Paper Planes
Redolent of Spices
Riktig Parfym: Ramblings of a Fragrant Fanatic
Scents of Place
Scents of Self
Sorcery of Scent
The Alembicated Genie
The Candy Perfume Boy
The Fragrant Man
The French Exit
The Scented Hound
The Vintage Perfume Vault
This Blog Really Stinks
Undina's Looking Glass
WAFT by Carol
La Via del Profumo Milano Caffè: Coffee with European Élan
I love living in the United States—I’m proud to be a native citizen and grateful for the freedoms, opportunities and luxuries this country affords me. That said, I think of the United States as a place where one experiences largesse—a generosity of spirit and a sense of grandness across many spheres—more so than culture and elegance. Certainly, the US has its fashionable enclaves, but when I think of having a truly elegant experience, I think of Europe. Not only the obvious venues where one expects elegance, but the common everyday places. I think of a train ride I took from the Zurich, Switzerland, airport to the little resort town of Engelberg, twenty-some years ago: how clean, quiet and charming the ride was, and how a woman pushing a cart of gourmet sandwiches and pastries up the center aisle of the train made it a wonderful dining opportunity too.
I think about Europe’s café culture, and I think about my trip to Rome last September and seeing the way coffee is taken there, which is markedly different from the way we take it here. There are lots of coffee houses in the U.S. these days, enough to make us think we are on par with the Italians, speaking the same coffee language of the country that gave us our espressos, cappuccinos, macchiatos and lattes, though that’s not quite accurate. For one thing, no one in Italy orders an espresso—what we consider espresso is a regular “caffè” to them—nor a latte, which is the Italian word for milk. And whereas Starbucks and other cafés in the U.S. routinely sell their coffee drinks in “grande” sizes and larger, in Italy the drinks are always the same size: fashionably short and served in a proper cup. But these differences are trivial compared to what I’ll call the “cultural difference,” which has to do with the fact that many Italians don't drink their coffee sitting down. They order it at the bar—at a bar that looks like a bar (the kind we associate with alcohol)—where they stand and drink it. Of course, there are also tables where you will find Italians drinking their coffees, particularly if they are eating, but by and large, when the locals file into the café to enjoy their caffès and cappuccinos from delicate cups and saucers, they do so at the bar. Perhaps they do this to save money (because service at the table is a couple euros more), but from what I’ve observed, the social fabric of Italian life is woven into the way the locals have coffee “al banco”. When Americans order coffee drinks, they are primarily concerned with their beverage order—with consuming the coffee itself and having it made to their expectations (with skim, whole or soy milk, etc., etc.)—while the Italians file into their neighborhood café with the expectation of an interaction: a social interaction. There is a distinct exchange of greetings—a “ciao” and the European style of kissing cheeks, one side and then the other, first with the person who takes their order (the beautiful girl at the cash register, in the case of the café I frequented in Rome), often times with the barista and one or more of the waiters flitting by, and sometimes with the other patrons too. Newspapers are read at the bar, conversations flow, and considering the passionate way that the Italians speak with their hands, having coffee is an event that wakes one up in a manner that goes beyond the stimulation of caffeine.
I’ve been thinking about this lately while wearing Milano Caffè, a fragrance from indie perfumer Abdes Salaam (aka Dominique Dubrana) of La Via del Profumo. His coffee-inspired scent is distinctly different from coffee perfumes I’ve worn in the past, because it is indeed perfumey. There is a true and unmistakable coffee note in Milano Caffè—it is this perfume’s starting point—but where it leads goes beyond the cup. In the same way that taking coffee in Italy is an outward-looking, communal activity—an exercise in greeting the world and the people around you—wearing Milano Caffè is an exercise in expressing beauty: it is a scent that mirrors the aesthetic of a city and thus encompasses more than that city’s famous beverage. Perfumistas expecting a gourmand comfort fragrance that delivers up the rich smell of coffee and its various accoutrements (cream, sugar and the like) won’t find it here. While Milano Caffè does possess a chocolate note that accompanies the coffee scent, and a pianissimo vanillic sweetness as it dries down, it doesn’t follow in the path of perfumes like Bond No. 9 New Haarlem or Ava Luxe Café Noir. If there’s a perfume it can be likened to (only as a point of reference, for Milano Caffè is quite unique), I’d reference Serge Lutens Borneo 1834 and then quickly point out that Milano Caffè is more woody, green and silky than the former. I don’t know whether there is patchouli in Milano Caffè (from what I’ve read about the development of this perfume, there probably isn’t) but it smells patchouli-like with its coffee, cocoa and raisiny-darkness in the early stages of wear. That’s where the resemblance to Borneo 1834 begins and ends, because Milano Caffè is far more mutable and soon reveals a green floralcy that reminds me of vetiver (in my sniffing experience, vetiver often starts off smelling green, spicy and woody and then segues into a floral sweetness … sweet in the way that fresh ginger is sweet). In a nutshell, Milano Caffè is an all-natural perfume that smells of swarthy treats, gradually lightened up and made fluid by way of a gingery, green-woody/green-floral zing.
The perfumer’s list of notes for Milano Caffè includes coffee, cappuccino, chocolate, iris, woody notes, spicy notes, opoponax, tonka bean and amber. It’s described by him as a “masculine” scent, which my husband (who briefly sampled it) feels is accurate, though I beg to differ. Milano Caffè is rich and bold initially, but its overall development has such a graceful arc, I view it as possessing an elegance that lays no claim to gender. Its bouquet of olfactory niceties—a main accord that, to my nose, comingles the aromas of coffee, cocoa, pipe tobacco and raisins laced with spices of ginger, mace and cinnamon—is intersected by another accord that smells of cedarwood, green vines, a floral air of delicate jasmine, and a vanilla so subdued, it resembles the amount of vanilla contained in a sea-foam meringue. I can’t imagine any woman saying no to it, or thinking that Milano Caffè should belong to anyone but her. Not because it’s feminine (or masculine), but simply because she covets the kind of day this perfume spells out: a day spent at an outdoor café in one of the most cosmopolitan cities in Europe. Unnamed, it could represent the scent of a street in Paris or Rome or any number of fashionable cities, but the perfumer employed a specific olfactory pairing to make it reflective of Milan.
“I have blended coffee with chocolate because that is the Milanese way: the residents of that marvelous city add Cacao powder to cappuccinos, and place a single square piece of chocolate next to your cup of coffee,” he says of Milano Caffè on his website.
Given that Milan is also a city known for its designer fashions, it seems fitting that Milano Caffè’s composition drifts away from the café and, without abandoning its main accord, incorporates a sense of uplift that reminds me of both of the outdoors (of vines and flowers climbing up the trellised side of a building) and of silk fabric (because of the delicate floralcy and the foamy amount of vanilla that lend shimmer and meringue-like softness to the perfume). The fluttery movement within this coffee perfume is an unexpected delight. It’s like looking up from my coffee and seeing a city street come to life, with its movers and shakers in their fine attire, its passionate citizenry stirring the morning air with their kisses and salutations.
Though I am one of those Americans who drink coffee from an awfully large mug, because I’m into perfume, I’m always striving towards elegance (as I imagine most perfumistas are.) Wearing Milano Caffè is my reminder that true elegance encompasses more than fashion: it’s about having social graces, it’s an expression of courtesy, and while it pivots around the idea of availing oneself of niceties, it eschews gluttonous indulgence. Elegance involves sharing the wealth, and it begins the moment you look up to acknowledge the good things that have landed in your cup.
Milano Caffè eau de parfum is available from La Via del Profumo and currently priced (in euros) at €
32.73 for a 15.5 ml bottle; € 70.82 for a 33 ml bottle; and € 97.20 for
a 50-ml bottle. My review is based on a sample provided to me by the
Credits: photo of woman in a Milano cafe is by photographer Ferdinando Scianna of Magnum Photos.
Photo of Milano Caffe perfume bottle is from the perfumer's website.
Posted by Suzanne Keller, 4/8/2014.
Winter is dying, finally. Though it can’t go fast enough for me, I’ve been grateful that, at least where I live in central Pennsylvania, we haven’t had a terrible amount of snow. February was fairly snowy, yet we managed to miss a number of storms that were supposed to hit us and mainly only had to deal with the arctic chill of the “polar vortex.” I can deal with frostbite weather if the skies are blue, and since the best cure for anything that ails me is usually one of “getting out,” that’s what I’ve been doing. A couple of weeks ago, I decided that now would be as good a time as any to embark on a project I’ve always wanted to do—to create a portrait of the area I live in, both in photographic and olfactory terms—and though I'm not far along in it, I'm far enough to realize that one doesn’t always have to wander the world to get a fresh perspective on life. Winter might seem drab, but when I decided to walk the neighborhoods and snap photos of my favorite houses, I realized just how colorful, textured and diverse my proverbial “back yard” really is. I live just outside of State College, Pennsylvania, so named because there is a state university here, and while I live in a tiny development on the rural outskirts of town, it only takes fifteen minutes to drive into any of the town’s pretty neighborhoods.
In contrast to Boalsburg, in the borough of State College the architectural style is wide-ranging, even with houses keeping company on the same street, yet despite the lack of uniformity, it somehow works. Most likely because, in the best neighborhoods, the houses have generous lawns and, what they don’t share in terms of a common style, they make up for in their commitment to having a sense of style, period. These aren’t the cookie-cutter houses of modern developments, where entire neighborhoods are composed of homes put up by the same builder. The homes in the borough seem to be interested in conveying their owners unique aesthetic—or rather, the aesthetic of the people who originally built them, as many of these are old, yet scrupulously maintained edifices: the kinds of homes “they just don’t make anymore.” While many are stone houses of colonial or federal design, modern (minimalist) architecture is also well represented—and tucked into the wooded hillside of this same neighborhood there are even some A-frames (my favorite being one with a bold exterior painted in lavender and white—colors that accentuate its angularity and seem the perfect complement for a Swiss alps-style of architecture because they remind me of the smell of lavender and the feel of snow, both of which convey an air of briskness and movement). Certainly there are also blocks of the town where a uniform architectural style reigns, and on one of them is a small series of homes that look they were built by the same person, but again, not in a cookie-cutter sameness. Each house is different yet they share an oriental aesthetic and look like something out of a Japanese garden, with their corresponding stands of bamboo providing an elegant screen of privacy along the sides of each one.
When I’m walking in the heart of State College—its borough—I feel like the neighborhoods accurately reflect the diversity of thought, and of people, that one expects of a university town. In truth, the undergraduate population of our university resembles a homogenized group of white-bread, small-town kids from across Pennsylvania, but there is also a thriving, multi-national graduate-school population here that has made the area I live in richer (especially culinary-wise). That’s what I’m reminded of when I wander these streets that possess both a familiar and solid, home-town feel and an air of the grand and expansive. Appropriately, the perfume I was wearing when I captured this second group of photos was Milano Caffé by La Via del Profumo (which I have slated for my next review—it’s so good!). Cafés, coffee houses … whatever name they are called by, they are my favorite places to hang out, and they too are places that are both homey and artistic, cozy yet outward-looking (the best ones are haunted by worldly, idea-happy people). Milano Caffé represents that idea well—it’s a coffee perfume that is more fluid and elegant than the gourmand coffee scents I usually wear. More about that later, but for now I’ll say that it’s a sleek coffee perfume, well-suited to a stroll through the neighborhoods of State College that I think of as being both historic and fashionable in a classic way.
As to how this part of town, itself, is represented in terms of an actual scent for me, I can only say that it smells wonderfully clean and ozonic … like pine trees and cool, quick-moving air. Whenever I’ve been away from home and spent time in the city (usually New York City), I come home marveling at how refreshingly clean everything smells here, no doubt due to the fact that State College is surrounded mostly by mountain ridges and farmland.
At some point in the near future, I’ll present my photo-and-olfactory impressions of the collegiate and downtown areas of State College, but as I’m not sure this type of post has much interest for readers (it’s more or less a project that is helping me remember how beautiful my everyday world is, at a time of year when it’s easy to forget), I’ll interject them in between posts that hopefully are more perfume-specific.
Photo collages of houses in Boalsburg and the borough of State College are my own; photo of The Pump Station cafe in Boalsburg was stolen from WPSU.edu.com and snapped by Naomi Elle Schwartz, whose profile of the cafe (and other terrific photos of it) can be viewed at this link.
Posted by Suzanne Keller, 3/19/2014.