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Kouros - Classic Perfumery Lives On

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by , 26th March 2011 at 12:01 AM (1907 Views)

In the summer of 2004 I visited the mountain city of Urbino in the Umbrian region of Italy. I've traveled quite a bit in my relatively short stint here on earth, but that trip wasn't just any old trip - it was one of those perfect sojourns, [I]a journey of a lifetime.[/I] I'll never forget the incredibly sensuous walks I took through the city, or the way Urbino's sun-kissed splendor glowed on golden July days. As I strolled through the Porta Valbona and up Via G. Mazzini toward the main square, the smells of baked terracotta, freshly-picked Marche flowers, and pigeon-dropped fountain water coursed on crisp country air, past five hundred year-old storefronts, and into my lungs. The city was vibrant, full of colors and sounds, but the smells! Mountain sauces and succulent meats, cheeses, wines emanating with the aromas of rich fruit on clean alcohol. Every morning I sat in the Campari Cafe in the Piazza della Republicca and had my coffee, watching the native women strut across cobblestone in sun dresses and 1 000,00 stilettos, their rich, dry-smelling perfumes wafting at a more leisurely pace behind them. Later in the afternoon, during siesta, the square would get quiet, and the loudest sound was the water splashing in the pigeon-lined fountain, which I swear the locals considered to be "self-cleaning." A little hot breeze would rake the urinous and altogether filthy smell of the water past several hundred wildflower-potted windows, transforming it into a perfume of its own. Sometimes during the evening, in the tiny two hour window between the second siesta and closing time, I would step into a little grocery store tucked away near the bottom of Via C. Battisti, and a wall of smells, comprised of cheeses, dried fruits, and the shopkeeper's perfume, all greeted me as I shopped for 2 bottles of the best vino on the face of the earth (it's a little-known fact that the best wines in Italy aren't the 60 bottles, but the ones you can buy for a song). In the evenings, my friends and I would sit on the roofs of our dormitories, drinking wine and listening to guitar music. The moon dispensed its silver across an endless landscape of rolling mountains, until it dipped in white twinkles behind the row of cypress trees that lined the university grounds. Things went on this way for a little over a month.

When I returned to the states, I wondered if there was a mainstream perfume that embodied the scent of Urbino. The memories of ancient dusty clay alleyways shimmering in 43C heat, the mountain wildflowers, the sweet ghosts of feminine perfume mingling with the brine of fountain waters, all coalesced in my imagination as something beyond ordinary - in fact, they melded into a fragrance equivalent of nirvana on earth. Even the tart limoncellos and citrus-flavored gelatos enter the picture, adding a culturally-derived element of cool cleanness to the picture. I poked around Fendi a bit, wondering if there was an Italian interpretation of my impressions, but to no avail. Chanel, in all its Parisian splendor, couldn't even come close. Even K de Krizia, with its raw accords of civet and fruit, didn't hit the mark.

And then, on a whim, I tried Kouros.

There, in that fragrance, is the essence of Urbino, bottled for the average American's everyday wear. The explosion of cool citrus and wildflowers on top, immediately followed by a potently-rendered civet and clove heart over a honeyed base, conjures the spirit of that little city in le Marche. Sniffing it on my arm after several minutes, I'm transported instantly to the Piazza della Republicca, my nose full of the dry heat of baked stone, and festive foods and drinks. The dryness, the sharpness, the tension of nature's filth against its cleanness, all mark the smells of the eternal, and the ancient. Kouros strikes me not as a man's perfume, but as a [I]king's.[/I] There, lost to many centuries of human generations, in the wood and marble halls of the Ducale Palace, walks the spirit of Umbria, its essence imparted in the sweet air that courses through its glassless windows and open courtyards. Once upon a time, there walked a Duke, who wore something very rich and bright and a little dirty. His smell was the forebear to the many rich smells worn by the Italians living there today. The classic tension of Mediterranean luxury, with its fruits and flowers, juxtaposed against the dank pungency of the earth, is no better illustrated than in Kouros. This perfume, though so far removed in its own history from that of Urbino, somehow manages to harness the zeitgeist of a Renaissance city that is all but forgotten. That city, only a few miles from the ivory coastal city of Rimini, lives on in my heart. Long live Urbino.

And long live Kouros.

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