The Joy of Smelling Italian
Maria Candida Gentile 
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By Marika Vecchiattini

Profile and Mini-Interview

Co-Founder, creator and artist of A Dozen Roses, Sandy Cataldo, signing bottles
Italian perfumer Maria Candida Gentile has just launched her new line of scents, called “the Exclusives”, which will soon join her regular offer in stores. The Exclusives  (“Luberon”, “Lady Day”, “Burlesque” and “Gentile”) are like scented polaroids, portaying places and people she feels a special connection to.

Maria Candida's works disclose her love for classical perfumes of great impact, to which she adds artesanal care in searching for vibrating raw materials, plus her personal “Italian touch”.

Marika: Maria Candida, how do you feel your “Italianity”?

“In the passion with which I approach the composition process! I'm Italian to the marrow: I'm a very instinctive and passionate person. And then, I love raw materials growing here: florentine orris, basil, and my beloved citrus fruits, which I adore”.

The most impressive offering in the new line is “Luberon”, named after the French region in which lavender grows wild, soffusing the air with its vibrating, calm-inducing scent. Luberon is build around an accord of lavender essential oil and absolute, with mate reinforcing its soft and most caressing facets, with an amazingly warm hay-like effect. The oakmoss in the base accord provides a stable base, a pedestal allowing the composition stability and balance. The result is a golden glow of incredible power and delicacy, where lavender absolute's most enveloping aspects seem to last forewer, embracing the wearer's and whispering words of comfort and self confidence. A fragrance saturated with gentleness, refinement and maturity, marvelous on feminine skin, delirious on masculine.

But the one which is currently getting higher interest among Italian perfume lovers is “Lady Day”, a declaration of love to Billie Holiday, whose voice  Maria Candida has a veneration for. She never got on stage without gardenias in her hair, thus Lady Day is a work just around this flower.

“I've always loved gardenias: I used to pick them fresh from my grandparents' garden, and since I love Billie's voice, too, it was inevitable for me to create a gardenia-based scent. It took me two years to come up with a gardenia to be completely satisfied of, but I think it was well worth the effort, this is my homage to her”.

As it's impossible to process the flower to get the oil, all gardenia-based scents are accords build to evoke it. Maria Candida chose Java vetiver, galbanum, osmanthus and Peru balsam to highlight all facets of the living flower: intensely green, creamy, fruity, flowery with great “push”. An impressively natural, convincing gardenia, not completely bloomed, with petals gently touched by morning dew.

If Lady Day feels somehow as a spiritual homage, “Burlesque” is a lot more earthy and provocative: it portrays a  burlesque starlette making up and getting (un)dressed for the show. Orange, rose, incense (Maria Candida's signature material), orris, patchouli and Peru balsam  evoke the image of her dressing room: a box of candies laying on the sofa, the creamy scent of her lipstick on the toilette table, the orris powder she PUFFS on her skin to enhance shine under the spotlights... The accord rose/orris/incense, though non entirely new, yet shows a modern, eveloping allure, an idea of sophisticate though explicit seduction. Patchouli and Peru balsam add a playful glamourous aspect to the composition: if burlesque artists don't get real fun themselves, the show won't work! 

“Gentile” is the most meditative of the new line. Its name is essentialy a play on words: the word “gentile” means “kind-hearted” in Italian, but is also Maria Candida's surname.  She admits she composed it to pay homage to a “Gentile” young man;“Maybe it's your son, you're defining Gentile?” I asked; she smiled and didn't confirm, but her eyes glowed vividly with a maternal love I recognized. The central accord is dry and intensely green  with Italian basil, geranium and osmanthus reinforced by a gentle touch of vetiver.

All four scents are in extrait form, thus intense and long-lasting on skin and even more clothes, though they diffuse gently, with no.

The Exclusive line shows a somehow different feel, your focus seems to have moved from incense, resins and  ambery accords, towards a more natural, fresher feel.

“Yes, I realized I always bend towards notes I love, though assembled in different ways to convey different images. Working at the Exclusive line I chose to break my “confort-scented bubble” and start experimenting with notes I'd previously left aside, green, outdoor-sy notes in particular. Thus the new “green” feel: less incense, less sumptuousness, and more incisiveness. At the end, I find exploration far more interesting, both for the composer and for the wearer!”

And I cannot but appreciate this decision: her new offerings show great maturity in mastering raw materials, a well estabilished craftmanship which I'm sure will be the best stage to perform new wonders in the future.

Maria Candida

Marika Vecchiattini; Italian Correspondent

Image courtesy of Max Montingelli SGP
Burlesque image of Lois Fuller from Big Canvas
April 22, 2012