New Perfume Review Mendittorosa Talismans Osang- The Shape of Ashes

A few years ago, I went to the museum to see one of the more macabre exhibitions I have attended. From the moment archeologists began to excavate the city of Pompeii covered under the ash of the volcano Vesuvius’ explosion in 79 AD they discovered the bodies were preserved in a protective shell of ash. If they cautiously poured plaster inside that delicate framework they could create something solid from the ashes. To see the results of this work gathered in exhibition is to see a snapshot of death. Besides that, there was much to discover from these plaster casts which continues to the present day. Just a couple years ago they used 3-D techniques to determine the people of Pompeii were remarkably healthy some of them with “perfect teeth”. I remember having it inhabit my thoughts for days afterward thinking how death becomes an historical document through the shape of ashes. I was reminded of these thoughts by Mendittorosa Talismans Osang.

The creative director Stefania Squeglia grew up in Naples with Vesuvius able to be seen on the horizon. The name Osang comes from the annual San Gennaro festival in the city during which the dried blood of the saint is presented to the public. If it liquifies all will be well but if it stays dried….well Vesuvius is waiting. This is in keeping with the Talismans collection where the perfumes are inspired by artifacts which ward off the bad things in life.

Stefania Squeglia

Sig.ra Squeglia has created a very personal fragrance to the point that she does not reveal the perfumer she worked with on it. Osang is what she promises it to be except instead of it liquefying into the blood of San Gennaro Osang comes closer to representing the ashes portended by the blood staying dried. It leads to some very odd choices of ingredients which successfully accomplish the effect of a sky full of ashes.

The keynote to Osang is a fenugreek extraction being used in overdose. It appears right away and in the first moments it is sort of a watery vegetal effect which strengthens rapidly into a urine-like pungency. That effect is enhanced by using honey which also can feel urinous. The other note in the early going which provides the breath of fire is Szechuan pepper. This ingredient has been used a lot over the last couple of years but the use here comes closest to mimicking the real thing. It imparts a heat while also adding a kind of choking mustiness. This all transitions into a set of resins and balms in the base accord. Benzoin, styrax, incense, and peru balsam combine to form its own sort of ashy burn. Sandalwood seemingly provides some comfort, until oud joins it, charring even that short respite.

Osang has 12-14 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

I admire Sig.ra Squeglia’s dedication to her vision. Osang is an expertly constructed piece of perfumed art which achieves its stated goals. On that level it succeeds. On the level of “do I smell good?” it is more problematic. Because of the nature of the perfume I found it wasn’t comforting but that it put me on edge the days I wore it. Even smelling it on a strip to remind myself of it while writing this I can feel it provoking some of those feelings again. Which leads to a greater question about the art of perfumery. I think Osang is as good as it gets in realizing its artistic ambitions. It is just not something I would want to wear often. It is similar to my visit to the exhibition of the Pompeii plaster casts; the shape of ashes are disturbing but you can’t look away. Osang is great art within a delicate shell of ashes and death.

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Medittorosa.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Mendittorosa Nettuno- Fun House Mirrors

Mirrors are reflections of reality. Spend too much time lost in them and you will become a narcissist. Then there are those mirrors found in the fun house at the carnival. These surfaces distort reality. The distortion allows for new perspectives on that which you have seen in a normal way. I am more likely to have to be dragged out of the fun house than I am from the dresser. I like distorted reality. I like the way it causes me to think about non-reality. In perfumery it can be dangerous to create fragrances which distort reality too severely. It is a task for only the clearest eyed of creative directors. One of those is Stefania Squeglia of Mendittorosa.

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Stefania Squeglia

Sig.ra Squeglia has shown her adventurous nature throughout the collection but it is in the three perfumes which make up the Talismans series where it reaches its apotheosis. On the website it describes the fragrances which make up Talismans as, “a concept of scents with strong message and vision”. Sig.ra Squeglia has done that. The most recent addition to the Talismans, Nettuno, is another example.

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Amelie Bourgeois

Sig.ra Squeglia continues working with perfumer Amelie Bourgeois with whom she has collaborated on all of the Mendittorosa fragrances to date. I imagine for Mme Bourgeois this partnership is freeing in its own way allowing her to push her own boundaries.

Nettuno is inspired by Marco Pesatori’s poem Il Volo di Nettuno (Neptune’s Flight). There is a part of the larger poem that I think captures the stylism behind Mendittorosa as a brand:

Through age-old planets

And stars

I fly

With an idea

That has no more ideas

It is that which Nettuno captures the sense of vast interplanetary distances filled with the chill of deep space.

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Model Tresor Prijs

Nettuno opens with a cold water accord of cyclamen providing the aqueous underpinning for pink pepper and blue ginger. Blue ginger has a very pronounced pine needle scent profile. The pink pepper brings out the subtler peppery facets within this ingredient. Mme Bourgeois then creates what she calls a “complex rose accord”. I would call it a very metallic rose. I have always liked this kind of distorted reflection of rose as it feels trapped within a mirror. A very soft powdery iris provides the figurative tail of a comet as we zoom through it to find a leather accord on the other side. In Sogno Reale Mme Bourgeois’ leather accord was made more primitive. In Nettuno it is made more transparent. It feels like it is an illusion of outer space. Finally, Mme Bourgeois tunes an array of white musks into a version of icy Neptune as we have arrived in orbit; the chill settling in.

Nettuno has 16-18 hour longevity and average suillage.

I am, so far, a fan of the kind of perfume Sig.ra Squeglia is producing. These are made for the adventurous perfume lover. One who, like me, revels in seeing the world slightly distorted like a fun house mirror. Mendittorosa is slowly and surely filling up a perfumed fun house full of delightfully quirky visions. Nettuno is the latest installation.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample of Nettuno from Mendittorosa at Esxence 2016.

Mark Behnke