Speaking with Antonio Alessandria in Milan

08th August, 2014

During the last edition of Esxence (the perfume exhibition held last March in Milan) the much-anticipated new Italian brand "Antonio Alessandria" was presented. The anticipation derived primarily from the fact that Antonio Alessandria owns one of the most prestigious stores specializing in artistic perfumes in Italy, opened in Catania nine years ago to spread his passion for fragrances. A passion that goes far beyond sales: Antonio attended training courses perfume creation in France (Cinquieme Sens) and Italy (Mouillettes & Co.), and all this made the line he was presenting in Milan irresistibly attractive...

Those who could test it were not disappointed: the three scents are as sophisticated as art deco jewelry, dominated by a tension between opposite feelings such as light and shade, delicacy and wilderness, softness and roughness; all these appealing facets unfolding slowly as hours pass.

"Nuit Rouge" for example features an immediate freshness due to a dry and elegant

citrus/aromatic accord (bergamot , lemon, grapefruit, rhubarb , blackcurrant buds, geranium, incense), and just when you think you've figured out how it will evolve, the warmer side emerges, adding a welcoming sensuality with saffron, black pepper, nutmeg, orris , coffee, warm leather, cedarwood, patchouli, sandalwood, vanilla, tonka bean.

"Nacre Blanche", too, revolves around an idea of polarity, in this case between chastity and sensuality: a legend goes that in the period when tuberose are in bloom, young ladies were not allowed to leave their houses for fear they could be seduced by men, excited by the tuberose smell. This is the reason why tuberose dominating this scent is unusually chaste, jasmine, ylang ylang and osmanthus enhance its greener, crystalline facets while the base (benzoin, vanilla, leather, patchouli, sandalwood, musk) works as a velvety cushion, on which she shines like a precious amethyst. The result reminded me of Nicole Kidman playing Mrs. Coulter in "The Golden Compass", subjecting anyone to her will with her proud beauty and a mere glance of her eyes.

In "Noir Obscur" davana and rum absolute give life to a floral/fruity accord soaked in liqueur, introducing an extra-dry and almost burnt base dominated by leather, patchouli, vetiver, cedarwood, incense, amber, musk, styrax. A floral heart of Bulgarian rose, jasmine, orris and osmanthus blows gently over the composition, smoothing out any stiffness.

At first Antonio was not going to create a line of fragrances: he began composing Nacre Blanche (which was then called La Lune Blanche dans le miroir) while still studying at CS, to explore a tuberose theme; then he started working on a perfume for himself which would contain most of the raw materials he was fond of. And the word “Noir” immediately came to his mind... However, each time he happened to wear his perfumes during meetings and parties, they were invariably noticed and complimented: "At that point I realized that I would've liked to smell them on other people's skin" he says. From there, production was only a natural step.”

The creative process has been full of unexpected turns and quite long: in the past three years, every time we met, Antonio put his drafts under my nose, explaining the differences with previous versions.

So my first question could only be:

"Finally you have them finished! Are you satisfied with the result?"

"Satisfied? Absolutely not! I regard them unfinished even now!” he looks at me in despair and then adds: “You know, I'm one of those people obsessed with constant improvement. It's a torture for me, not being allowed to touch them anymore! Seriously, at some point I realized that I had to put an end to it, otherwise I would have continued to work forever".

"Which of the three was the most challenging?"

"Nuit Rouge. This perfume was inspired by the activity of the volcano Etna. For those born in Catania like me, the sight of the lava flowing from the walls of the volcano is not unusual, but it was quite difficult to turn the mixed emotions of fascination and fear, cold and heat, darkness and light, into a scent!"

Antonio loves precious raw materials and uses them unsparingly, their beauty shines nicely over the compositions adding roundness and a plush texture; the animalic ones featured in the drydowns remind me of some lost beauties of few decades ago, so I cannot but ask him:

"What scent of the past would you have liked to author?"

"Tough question, there are so many! N.19 (Chanel) for its proudness, Miss Dior for the elegant green note immersed in chypre opulence and Femme (Rochas) for its sensuality: shameless without any vulgarity”. Opposites.... again!

Evidently, Antonio's character is full of fascinating contrasts, too; in this sense, maybe, each one of his three scents mirrors some of these in an unique way.

Antonio Alessandria's three scents are edp, in 50ml bottles. Available from Jovoy.


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About the author: Marika Vecchiattini

Marika Vecchiattini is based in Italy and writes the popular Italian (bi-lingual) blog Bergamotto e Benzoino

Website: http://bergamottoebenzoino.blogspot.com/

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    • gandhajala | 14th August 2014 10:55

      I'm working my way slowly through Antonio's scents after discovering them at Jovoy.

      Noir Obscur is aptly named. The davana-rum-plum-citrus arrangement in the top actually reminds me of Atelier Cologne's Gold Leather. There's a nice peachy-osmanthus type note in the heart and a very dark base of patchouli and resins, with a suggestion of castoreum.

      I have trouble classifying it as a 'perfume' in the traditional sense, but all the myriad ingredients seem to work in harmony.

      I'd be interested to see how this line develops.