Ermenegildo Zegna’s sartorial empire is impressive. For more than a century, Zegna has built its reputation on quality and know-how. In addition to having Zegna boutiques around the world, the family-owned business also has a manufacturing arm, which has produced men’s ready-to-wear and suiting for an impressive list of clients that includes Tom Ford, Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent. In 1910, Italian entrepreneur Ermenegildo Zegna opened a wool mill in Trivero, an area in the alpine foothills near Biella. Zegna’s vision was to create “the most beautiful fabrics in the world.” One of the keys to his success was his ability to source the best quality raw materials from around the world. This was no easy feat in the early 20th century before the Internet and the relative ease of importing and exporting that exists today. Fabrics the Lanificio Zegna wool mill produced grew the business’ success. Over time, the company expanded with made-to-measure suiting in the 1970s, boutique openings around the world during the 1980s, and product diversification gave Zegna market share in accessories, shoes and fragrance. The first Zegna fragrance that caught my attention was Z Zegna Extreme. Givaudan perfumer Antoine Lie created Extreme in 2008. Although Zegna’s main line of fragrances takes a conservative approach to risk, Extreme’s overdose of musk, patchouli and spices was comparatively avant-garde for its time. Extreme has since been discontinued so on a side note: If you see a bottle for sale, buy it.
Zegna launched its Essenze Collection of fragrances in 2012. Up until this point Zegna fragrances were distributed broadly through department stores and retailers where the average retail price was slightly north of one hundred dollars. Men that can afford a Zegna suit naturally have the potential to buy premium-priced fragrances and a preference for exclusive products. Many of Zegna’s competitors already had exclusive fragrance lines and the Essenze Collection was Zegna’s logical progression. Using the same company ethos, Zegna set out to create a collection of exclusive fragrances that paid homage to some of perfumery’s finest ingredients. The fragrances included stories of irises in Tuscany, ambrette seed from Peru, Vetiver from Haiti and Patchouli from Java. What unites the entire collection is an Italian bergamot oil the brand is directly involved in growing, harvesting and producing. Italian Bergamot, one of the initial Essenze Collection fragrances is made entirely from a single yield of Zegna’s harvested bergamot oil. Last year the brand added Mediterranean Neroli to it’s Essenze Collection. All of the current Essenze Collection fragrances are the work of Firmenich perfumers and Mediterranean Neroli is the work of perfumer Pierre Negrin, whose impressive body of work includes fragrances for Amouage, Tom Ford and Jo Malone. Like most exclusive fragrance collections, Zegna’s Essenze Collection is only sold in the brand’s own boutiques and a small selection of department stores and perfumeries. Here in Australia the collection is sold in selected David Jones department stores.
Mediterranean Neroli begins with citrus notes of lemon and bergamot rind. This tart opening is razor sharp and almost confronting. It hides the more subtle accents of peppermint and ginger, which are revealed once the wave of citrus passes. There is a natural petitgrain note that smells wet and green, like the freshly cut foliage of a citrus tree. A rhubarb accord adds a sour sherbet-like note to the fragrance as it progresses from the top notes to heart notes of bitter orange flower, jasmine and aromatic botanicals. True to the Essenze name, the fragrance hones in on the essence of the delicate yet invigorating odour of bitter orange blossoms and Pierre Negrin uses wonderful raw materials that showcase the beauty of nature. As the fragrance wears down, a skin accord of Firmenich’s finest patented musks opens up on the skin. This cocktail of musk and a woody ambergris note are what fix the fragrance to skin. The eventual dry down is a clean amber-musk with a faint halo of neroli. The base of the fragrance also contains an interesting woody note coming from cypriol oil, a distillation of aromatic roots from an Indian riverbed plant, a relative of Egyptian papyrus. It is a dense and earthy aroma, which gives Mediterranean Neroli a different geographical location compared to Tom Ford’s Neroli Portofino. Tunisia is the source of very high quality bitter orange trees and many of the world’s most reputable producers of neroli oil source their bitter orange flowers from Tunisian growers. With its exotic woody-amber finish, Mediterranean Neroli evokes the scent of bitter orange flowers and Maghrebi mint tea wafting through this colourful North African city, which sits at the foot of the Mediterranean Sea. The dry down notes help extend the longevity of this eau de cologne-inspired fragrance style, which is notorious for being fleeting.
The non-imposing, clean style of Mediterranean Neroli makes it a good choice for office-wear on weekdays. The invigorating quality of Mediterranean Neroli also translates well as a fragrance to wear during weekends spent outdoors. I’m looking forward to the return of spring and summer because it’s the perfect warm weather scent. I suspect Mediterranean Neroli will draw some comparison to Tom Ford’s Neroli Portofino. The latter is closer to the traditional Eau de Cologne of Central Europe and Anglo countries. Mediterranean Neroli hints at something exotic, of citrus orchards in the southern Mediterranean, and mosaic-tiled courtyards built around a central orange tree, which offers its refreshing floral odour to residents during warm spring nights. With the Middle East being a major contributor to fragrance sales for global brands like Zegna, it makes commercial sense to create a citrus scent that has these undertones of ambery woods and musk, which are so popular with consumers in this market. As far as neroli goes, its popularity is universal; it has been used in aromatherapy, cooking and perfumery from Mexico to the Middle East for centuries.
Perfumer: Pierre Negrin
Creative Director: Trudi Loren
Release Date: 2015
Typology (via Fragrances of the World): Citrus