Last week on Scent Saturdays, we kicked off by talking about the bizarre ‘negative space’ approach to aquatic perfumes. Because water doesn’t have a smell, perfumers looking to craft a scent that evokes the substance must look to scents that summon water via association.
A subcategory of aquatic scents takes that idea into dangerous territory by seizing onto the salty smell of the ocean. Why dangerous? you might ask. The danger stems from the existence of a very thin line: one that divides a shimmering ocean from a fishy one.
The most daring masterpiece in this category rides the line almost too well. James Heeley’s Sel Marin approaches the marine genre with bracing naturalism that by turns evokes a deserted island paradise and a dank grotto. At one sniff, the fragrance is starkly beautiful, and by the next, it has become lived-in. This transience is an incredible feat of perfumery, but I’d be hesitant to recommend the fragrance to even a daring nose.
The overlooked Costa Azzurra takes the core of Sel Marin and dresses it in enough gorgeous spices to win over the most sea-averse sniffer. Costa Azzurra is still first and foremost a marine fragrance with salty citrus and woods, and the reason that it remains intact after such additions is the undeniable naturalness of its ingredients. The lemon and orange that top the note pyramid are dazzling and the array of musky and woody scents at the base retain a vivid depth despite everything else surrounding them.
Like the best of Tom Ford’s Private Line, Costa Azzurra is a work of immaculate excess. Its citrus-marine opening leads the perfume with a glorious bombast that’s as gorgeous as any aquatic on the market. Just as crucially, its base is astoundingly well-rounded for an aquatic fragrance. This balance allows Costa Azzurra a privileged position as a well-performing summer scent that’s likely to grab attention without smothering innocent bystanders.
The dense structure and quality ingredients of Costa Azzurra translate into the signature high prices of Tom Ford’s Private Collection. A 50 mL bottle goes for an astounding $240 on most retail beauty sites. However, Tom Ford has recently released mini sizes for the more popular Private Collection offerings, meaning that a 10 mL bottle could be yours for $60. It’s still a lot to pay per milliliter. If you’re looking for a fragrance that captures both the most delicious and naturalistic aspects of the sea and are unwilling to settle for second best, it just might be worth the dive.
The Fandomentals “Fragdomentals” team base our reviews off of fragrances that we have personally, independently sourced. Any reviews based off of house-provided materials will be explicitly stated.