10 Corso Como is the fashionable Milan boutique of "style guru" Carla Sozzani. Since opening in 1991, the business has expanded to include a design gallery, bookstore, restaurant, and even a small B & B called 3Rooms. The eponymous fragrance was created by perfumer Olivier Gillotin and launched in 1999, and features notes of rose, geranium, vetiver, musk, sandalwood and Malay oud-wood oil.
The 10 Corso Como fragrance opens on a sour-sweet medicinal haze that has been compared to gasoline; the rose and geranium slowly emerge as recognizeable elements as the oudh calms. They are joined in short order by smoky incense and sandalwood, both of which stay front & center for the duration. The very early stages are rather rich and heavy, with warm spice notes lending a bit of an exotic touch, but the dry down leaves a much lighter and more restrained scent, more dry than sweet, and only vaguely spicy.
It does not, for me at least, evoke the same kind of spiritual reaction as Diptyque Tam Dao or the Comme des Garçons Incense series. All the same, it is beautifully done, and has a velvety-soft, squishy comfort scent kind of feeling that makes it more wearable than many woodsy incense fragrances. Lest that sound too much like something to spray on as you pad around the house in your slippers and old flannel bathrobe, I must add that there is something very sexy about it too, and despite its muted nature, it has good lasting power.
10 Corso Como has developed quite a cult following, and as I said above, it is beautifully done, but I still haven't decided if it is something I need to own. That is not unusual — there are quite a few fragrances in my collection that I came around to very slowly. I'd love to hear other reactions, so do comment if you've tried it.
Update, May 2008: 10 Corso Como has reportedly been reformulated, as have many other sandalwood-heavy fragrances ("real" sandalwood is now scarce and expensive). I have not had the chance to smell the new version, but you can read a detailed comparison of new vs. old in the comments to the review for the Jo Malone Kohdo Wood Collection (scroll down or search for comments by reader ahtx).