Suzanne's Perfume Journal

September 23, 2011:

Bottega Veneta Eau de Parfum:

Leather as Skin-Scent and Confection

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I’m a leather lover when it comes to perfumes; I particularly love it when the note is pronounced. But yesterday I received a sample of the eponymous new fragrance for Italian luxury and leather goods company Bottega Veneta and found myself somewhat enchanted with the kid-glove treatment of leather in this very feminine fragrance. Though not classified as a gourmand—perfumer Michel Almairac classifies it as a chypre, though it bears no resemblance to one aside from the notes, while the company calls it a leathery floral—Bottega Veneta smells to me of leather and candy. Really dainty leather and very silky candy. When I wear it, I picture a character from an Edith Wharton novel—let’s imagine Wharton’s genteel but bohemian-spirited heroine, Countess Ellen Olenska (from The Age of Innocence), enjoying a break from New York City and taking some much-needed air on the Atlantic City boardwalk in the early weeks of autumn. And let’s also pretend she is strolling there in the 1880s, rather than the 1870s, so that she and the gentleman strolling with her can visit the stand of a salt-water taffy seller. The air is cool, the boardwalk largely deserted, and when she slips her hand out of her glove to receive the piece of candy that he has unwrapped for her, only the soft warmth of her skin stirs the vanillic scent of the day-old candy into life. She gently licks her fingers afterwards, relishing the way the soft, peppery scent of the air, the impression of kidskin leather still on her hand, and the gentle sweetness of the taffy comingle on her fingertips, enhancing the scent of her own skin in an irresistible way.

Benzoin, much more so than leather, is the prominent note in Bottega Veneta, and its fluffy-vanilla-meets-resinous-balsam character is anchored and accentuated by a patchouli note of the clean variety. (Bottega Veneta’s official list of notes includes jasmine sambac, Brazilian pink peppercorn, bergamot, Indonesian patchouli, plum, benzoin and oak moss.) Perfumistas who grumble when they hear the words “pink pepper”—a fragrance note that seems to have become ubiquitous to new fragrances—should consider that the note provides a nice counterbalance to the benzoin, adding a touch of briskness and movement to the scent. The oak moss functions here in much the same way, adding cool lift and airiness that diffuses the sweetness and prevents it from veering into cloying territory. I should state here that I don’t find Bottega Veneta to be terribly unique (there are echoes of Viktor & Rolf Flowerbomb within it, though they are pale and faint echoes), but it is a splendidly balanced fragrance in which leather gets an airy, feminine treatment. The very delicacy of the leather note, as well as the gentle, candied sweetness overall, leads me to suggest that Bottega Veneta would appeal to fragrance lovers who enjoy both “skin-scents” (in this context, I‘m referring to “the-scent-of-your-skin-only-better” type of skin scents) and fragrances that have a touch of the gourmand about them. It has great lasting power, and while its quiet nature might not be apparent in the opening minutes of application, very shortly into its wear Bottega Veneta calms and softens, adopting its suede-like character.

Reflective of the company it was created for, Bottega Veneta manages to smell both refined and graceful—though I judge its target audience as perfume lovers (specifically women) under the age of forty, whose noses are largely unacquainted with the heady perfumes of yore. Despite my borrowing the image of Wharton’s Countess Olenska for my description at the opening of this review—which I did primarily to illustrate the genteel delicateness of the leather—Bottega Veneta is a very modern scent that will likely register as too clean and sweet to appeal to the hard-core perfumista crowd. Still, if the idea of skin that smells like suede, ocean air and sea-foam taffy appeals to you, you might want to slip your hand inside its glove.

Bottega Veneta eau de parfum is available from NeimanMarcus.com; 50 ml (1.75 oz) for $95.  My sample was received from the store as part of a gift with purchase.