I know it's hackneyed, but Messe de Minuit is phenomenal. I've written it before, but I'll write it again: There are no stoney cathedrals or mystical incense in this scent. I get nothing so lofty. I get chlorinated pool water; the cold, mildewy gust from an air conditioner; the new dust from drywall. It's a very suburban scent in many ways. Or, more specifically, adding the fresh dust, chilled damp air, and chlorinated water together, it smells like the inside of the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disneyland. I love it. It's so evocative of something so wonderfully magical on such a mundane level. It's the most postmodern fragrance ever made.
While some scents are better than others, I don't think Etro has made a bad scent yet. (I do wish the longevity of most of their product was better.)
Ambra is a wonderful rendition of amber, golden and clear and simple, but as if it were aged, like pure, vintage amber. There is a delicious, foody quality to Heliotrope - a light almond quality that lilts off the skin - but it is crystal clear and never heavy or powdery, a remarkable feat. Royal Pavilion is a traditional green-white floral scent with a wonderful Victorian style, but the leafy notes seem to be giant, like enormous elephant ears and philodendrons from a Rousseau painting, while the white florals have a dessicated, dried floral quality. Perhaps the best, though, is Shaal Nur. Of all the scents to riff on the great Shalimar, this is perhaps the most successful. Shaal Nur takes a twenty-first century approach to the exoticism the old Guerlain proposes, stripping away the Western excesses, substituting exotic florals for jasmine, adding a curl of incense, and cutting the crude orientalist notion of an animal note. It is truly lovely.
Etro has many old fin de siècle loving cups and trophies decorating their boutiques, and this old, Victorian style crashes with a wild, gender-bending, colorful love of old natural oils and tinctures, just like hippies and mods would wear in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and both time periods still greatly inspire the house's fashion and pattern designs. Etro's fragrances are an example of a scent line in near-perfect synchronization with their fashion aesthetic.