Discount Diamonds: Pino Silvestre- A Sturdy Fir

At this time of year one of my favorite smells of the season is that of the Christmas tree and the associated pine roping and wreaths which decorate, and scent, everything. It is this natural perfume which will always find me having a real tree in my house. The smell of a fir tree simply means Christmas to me. For twenty years I have owned a perfume that is the perfect Christmas tree fragrance, Pino Silvestre.

I discovered Pino Silvestre soon after I moved to Boston in 1994. I had heard of this little bandbox of a perfume shop in Harvard Square called Colonial Drug. Furthermore it had European perfumes you couldn’t find anywhere else. I was very early in my days of becoming a Colognoisseur and so I approached the doorway with a bit of trepidation. Similar to going to a fancy French restaurant and being handed a menu in French I was worried I would look like a rube. At Colonial Drug I needn’t have worried because as I crossed the threshold I was greeted by the proprietor Cathy. After some discussion with me she handed me a pine cone shaped perfume bottle and said, “I think you’ll like this one.” The pine tree perfume was Pino Silvestre and it was my personal entry to European perfume brands I had never heard of. Cathy made a wise choice and it also made me a lifelong customer for all the years I lived in Boston. There were a lot of days where I was in the store and I saw her hand the little glass pine cone to another new customer only to see a sale being made minutes later. It showed the versatility of the green glass pine cone.

pino silvestre

For those of you who grew up in Europe Pino Silvestre is similar to Old Spice or English Leather in the US. What that means is your father probably wore it. Pino Silvestre was released in 1955 and was composed by perfumer Lino Vidal. For most of the next 25 years Pino Silvestre and its ancillary products like shampoo and bubble bath would be a part of a typical household. The fresh pine scent would evoke memories of home to that generation. As I said, for me, it has always reminded me of Christmas trees.

The opening moments of Pino Silvestre are a drive-by of bergamot and citrus. They are there so fleetingly it is almost disingenuous to mention them. The more you spray on the more likely you are to notice them. The business of Pino Silvestre is pine and that’s what comes next. Sig. Vidal cloaks it in herbal notes of sage and thyme. A pinch of tart juniper berry and the richness of clove all combine to round out the synthetic source of pine and make it feel almost supernatural in its photoreality. It all ends with clean cedar and amber.

Pino Silvestre has 6-8 hour longevity and moderate sillage, although you probably project a little more than is apparent to you while wearing it.

I wanted Pino Silvestre to be the first Discount Diamond because the quality for the price is really incredible but I also wanted to wait for Christmas, too. You can find it any number of places for $20 for a 125mL bottle. You will not find a better bargain perfume. It is also a great example of mid-20th century Italian perfumery. For something almost 60 years old it never seems dated to me. Like a classic Christmas tree is deserves to be brought at least once a year.

Disclosure: this review was based on a bottle I purchased.

Mark Behnke

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