You know the whole "scent-is-memory" thing? Sometimes I get a little tired of hearing about it, science notwithstanding. I don't even know whether it affects me, when we're talking strictly about perfume. A specific fragrance can remind me of people and prior scenarios involving that same fragrance, of course — Guerlain Shalimar will always remind me of a certain eccentric aunt, and patchouli oil of a dear college friend — but there's no memory to account for my love of roses and violets or my distaste for pear or indolic jasmine notes, for example.
Food and scent and memory, on the other hand — there you've got me. I realized again how susceptible I am to the combination of smell, taste and storytelling when I recently sampled a few scents from niche perfumer Hilde Soliani. Soliani is also a painter, a "theatrical performer," and a jewelry designer, so she's engaged in creative pursuits that engage various senses. Also, she's Italian, and so am I (half-Italian-American, at least), so she's from a culture that places food at the center of all social and familial events. (That's another cliché, but it happens to be true, in my experience.)
So when I sniffed and then dabbed her fragrance Una Tira L'Altra (whose name seems to be playing on the expression "una cosa tira l'altra," or "one thing leads to another"?), I was transported back to a long winter evening at a neighbor's dining room table, chatting with friends at the end of a home-cooked meal that he and his wife had just served, about to sip from a tiny glass of his homemade cherry liqueur. Sure enough, Una Tira l'Altra is meant as "a recreation of [Luxardo] liqueur, resulting in a fragrance that, while straightforward, conceals endless complexity of fruit-drenched flavour."
This is definitely a boozy cherry, with lots of juice; you'll have to love fruity notes on your skin to enjoy it. Since this particular fruity note is sweet yet tart, with an aromatic edge, and does not remind me of mass-market shower gels, I find it slightly addictive. I think the cherry heart is supported by some red currant and maybe a hint of juicy rose, plus a sheer musk for added warmth. I wish it lasted longer on my skin, but that's a minor complaint about a fragrance that made me remember a happy gathering and smell good.
Another gourmand fragrance from Soliani's line is Conaffetto, whose punning name combines "confetti" with "con affetto" ("with affection"). When we say "confetti" here, we don't mean the bits of colored paper tossed in celebration, but the candy-coated almonds that are traditionally given to guests at weddings and other important occasions. (Atlas Obscura has a wonderful article about confetti's long history, here.) When I was a child, my parents would bring home the tiny bon-bons of almonds that they received at weddings, as a treat for me; naturally, I later served confetti at my own wedding celebration.
Conaffetto has notes of almond, sugar and orange blossom — the traditional flower of brides and weddings. Again, this could be a love-or-hate fragrance, depending on your tolerance for sweetness. I happen to love sweet gourmand fragrances when they're well-executed, so Conaffetto is another success for me. Its powdery almond note verges on "doll head," and there might be some heliotrope in there too for good measure. The orange blossom feels candied, and there's a generous dusting of confectionary sugar, plus a vanillic base beneath the nutty and floral notes.
At this point, you may be either shuddering with distaste for this gourmand overload, or else clicking away to find a site with more information about these fragrances. I understand; they're not for everyone, but I like them a lot, both on their own merits and for the memories they evoke. They're coherent and cheerful, and they're more wearable (and less expensive) than the gourmand perfumes offered by another Italian brand, Profumum Roma. I may be reviewing one or two more Soliani scents in the near future.
Hilde Soliani Una Tira L'Altra and Conaffetto are available at Luckyscent, $160 each for 100 ml Eau de Parfum.