Suzanne's Perfume Journal

Canturi eau de parfum is available from Bergdorf Goodman, where a 50-ml bottle is currently priced at $95 and a 100-ml bottle is $140.

Images are from the 2005 motion picture Memoirs of a Geisha, featuring actresses Gong Li, Zhang Ziyi, and Michelle Yeoh.

I’ve fallen under the spell of Canturi, an eau de parfum from Australian jewelery designer Stefano Canturi, whose love for the art movement known as Cubism is celebrated in the signature line of his jewelry collection and serves as the inspiration for his fragrance, too. Yet, as is often the case, I find myself at odds with the “official” description of the scent—and while out of respect for Mr. Canturi I should strive to review his eponymous scent by connecting it to the ideals of that modern era in Art History, instead my bad habit of assigning my own associations to the fragrance (and writing something that is probably the polar opposite of what the brand intended to convey) will once again surface here. Because really and truly, this fine-boned fragrance has become coupled in my mind with everything that is Asian in sensibility—from the way its notes, in its early stages of wear, conspire to produce the smell of Japanese plum wine, to the way it radiates warmth and sensuality with such delicacy. Even the bottle reminds me of the shoji screens of a Japanese house—the glow of light caught and artfully suspended on a thin skeleton of wood lattice and paper.

Classified as a chypre-oriental, Canturi has notes of bergamot, mandarin, neroli, rose damascene, jasmine, iris, lily of the valley, white pepper, cardamom, patchouli, red cedarwood, oakmoss, amber, musk and vanilla. (And for those who are wondering, yes—it’s real oak moss: Evernia Prunastri extract is among the ingredients listed on the box of my generous sample.)

A plum-like rose, warm and softly sparkling, is how this fragrance presents itself in the initial stages of wear. Though not listed among the official notes, I detect a hint of barbershop-like geranium in Canturi, and it provides just enough of a masculine edge to keep the rose and the other florals in check, deepening them without letting them veer into sweet territory. The plummy character of the scent is also accentuated by a quiet hum of spice, so gentle in its vibration it reminds me of a bumble bee stirring in the soft folds of an early autumn rose. What is most impressive about Canturi is the way it conveys warmth in such a fine and silken manner: Is it the lily-of-the-valley note (undetectable to my nose) that lifts and balances the deeper notes—or is it the haze of oakmoss and musk that casts a soft-focus filter over the entire thing?

Perhaps only Kevin Verspoor, the young and gifted perfumer who composed Canturi, can answer that question, but however he achieved it, the fragrance delivers olfactory warmth and beauty on such a slender frame that one can’t help thinking of geishas…and bone-china cups that feel like warm silk when tea or sake is poured into them...and the glow of light that emanates from a paper lantern and is captured on the translucent panel of a shoji screen.

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October 25, 2010:

Like an East Asian Beauty: Canturi Eau de Parfum

As the fragrance dries down, it takes on a soupçon of powderiness from the iris but doesn’t lose its spicy nuances. The longevity of Canturi is impressive, and this is a beautiful fragrance to wear to bed because it unfolds so slowly on the skin, and by morning has transformed itself into the more familiar, but no less beautiful, scent we associate with Oriental fragrances: a vanillic, amber splendour. It lingers on the skin forever, constantly tempting one to bring wrist to nose to inhale it more deeply, to seek out its every creamy pleasure. And then, having provided such contentment, it lulls one back to dreamy sleep again.

“Geisha is an artist of the floating world,” I am reminded from a line in one of my favorite films. And as I catch a whiff of Canturi on my pillow when I make my bed the next morning, I am reminded that perfumes—the truly good ones—are artists of the floating world too.