As much as I ask for independent perfumers to take risks. I also will damn them with the faint praise of them being “hit or miss”. If you’re truly going to take risks, you must be willing to miss so that you eventually hit. Perfumer Rasei Fort is one of those artists whom I have said this about in the past. A year ago he had his biggest artistic hit with a perfume called Kolonya. An intricately complex re-imagining of the classic fragrance genre. It was one of the best perfumes of last year. He is back with Rasei Fort Cielito Lindo to take another swing.
If Kolonya took on the oldest fragrance genre, Cielito Lindo works in the newest genre, gourmand. Mr. Fort wanted to make a perfume which would evoke Mexico. He used a story of tragic lovers Maria Gonzalez and Juan Hernandez. Juan was from the wrong side of town, but he would sing to Maria when she was at church praying. She could hear Juan crooning “Cielito Lindo”. When she was forced into an arranged marriage Juan tried to convince her to run away with him. Only to find she had killed herself before he could get to her. He sings “Cielito Lindo” one last time.
From that Mr. Fort uses the classic Mexican dessert, dulce de leche, as the heart of his gourmand. This is a confection found throughout Latin America. Every country has its variation. In Mexico it comes with a bit of cinnamon on top. Along with the dessert he adds in some tequila. Perhaps as the figurative way Juan tries to forget his love.
It opens with that caramel dusted with cinnamon. This is rich caramel but as a custard-like version not the treacly ooze it often is in perfume. This is achieved by a precise amount of tonka bean to thin it out. It still has power except the cinnamon adds the sizzle of spice across it. It takes a while for the other ingredients to pierce this. Each new addition adds to the pleasure. The tequila accompanied by vetiver and labdanum arrive as the heart accord. Tequila has that bitter alcoholic sweetness the vetiver acts as the olfactory lime to go with the shot. The green of it reminds me that it comes from agave. Throughout this time a swirl of spices continues to increase in intensity. A bit of Szechuan pepper adds the fire of the Mexican cuisine. The base is a lover’s requiem of rose and ambergris. The salt of tears on a spicy rose.
Cielito Lindo has 18-24 hour longevity and average sillage.
I adored Cielito Lindo from the first time I smelled it. This is the potential of what gourmand fragrances can be. They don’t have to weighed down in sugary waves. They can soar to unforeseen heights if only a perfumer is willing to risk a miss. Mr. Fort hits a gourmand home run with Cielito Lindo.
Disclosure: this review is based on a sample I purchased.