This spring I was invited to meet storytellers Marina Sersale and Sebastián Alvarez Murena, the founders of Italian niche perfume house Eau d’Italie. The couple were visiting Australia as guests of Mecca Cosmetica, a long-time supporter of Marina and Sebastián’s work. Mecca’s founder and CEO, Jo Horgan, hosted a dinner in the couple’s honour and guests previewed Marina and Sebastián’s latest project called ALTAIA.
Storytelling is an inextricable part of perfume and Marina and Sebastián’s scented story began with Eau d’Italie in 2004. This first fragrance was made for La Sirenuse, the summer home in Positano, which Marina’s family transformed into a luxury hotel after the Second World War. Sebastián explained the project began with no commercial intention. Eau d’Italie was initially created to be the hotel’s signature scent. In addition to scenting the hotel’s in-room amenities, it could be sold as a souvenir in the hotel gift shop. The global success of the fragrance was never expected and a decade on, Marina and Sebastián have created more than a dozen fragrances inspired by the Amalfi Coast and the couple’s favourite places around Italy.
During the dinner party in Sydney, we were introduced to ALTAIA, a new collection of fragrances based on the couple’s personal narrative. It is the story of Marina and Sebastián and a family connection they discovered years into their relationship. Sebastián imagined that if serendipity exists, it would apply to Marina and him. Their story is based A Long Time Ago In Argentina (ALTAIA). In 1862, Sebastián’s third great grandfather, General Bartolomé Mitre, became Argentina’s first President. One of President Mitre’s first mandates was to connect the newly united country with a railway system. Argentina was bankrupt at the time and needed money to finance the ambitious construction project. President Mitre made the controversial decision to open Argentina to foreign investment. This investment opportunity was too good to pass up for Marina’s third great grandfather, James Morrison. Morrison was an Englishman who came from humble beginnings. He was the son of an innkeeper but by the age of 32 he became England’s richest businessman. Marina and Sebastián felt great joy after discovering their families had this connection more than a century before they met in Positano and fell in love. ALTAIA is Marina and Sebastián’s celebration of serendipity and love.
By Any Other Name
Notes: Bergamot, lychee, rose, peony, osmanthus, cedar and musk.
By Any Other Name is a story from Marina’s side of the family. The title’s reference to Romeo and Juliet cleverly links the fragrance’s rose theme to the story’s setting and what takes place there. Marina explained, “My mother was born in a castle in England called Sudeley Castle. Sudeley Castle is famous for Katherine Parr, Henry VIII’s last wife who is buried in the chapel but also for its gardens, which are very beautiful. At the age of sixteen, my mother was invited by a much older gentleman to take a walk in the rose gardens at Sudeley and he proposed marriage. My grandmother intervened and said, ‘you are far too young. There is no way you can accept. You are only sixteen and he is much older.’ She didn’t accept but she never forgot this story. For her it was the beginning of her romantic life as a young woman. So this fragrance is dedicated to her.”
By Any Other Name is a highly wearable and modern rose perfume that smells clean, fresh and is relatively linear for a flower that, in nature, is a complex odour built from hundreds of fragrant molecules. Although the story of By Any Other Name takes place in the past, the fragrance does not feel nostalgic. Anyone expecting an old-fashioned, powdery English rose perfume will be sorely disappointed. By Any Other Name opens with a lush, watery peony note. This fantasy accord plays on the flower’s dewy and soft petal character and the fruity facet is pushed further with lychee and osmanthus. By Any Other Name places a sweet, honeyed rose over the heart of the fragrance. The dry down is a woody complexity with a hint of cedar and an unobtrusive clean musk note.
Don’t Cry For Me
Notes: Jasmine tea, freesia, cherry flower, heliotrope, vegetal amber, cashmere wood and ambrette seeds.
Set in Buenos Aires during the festive season, the story of Don’t Cry For Me may be easier to appreciate here in Australia because our festive season also takes place in summer. Sebastián was born in Buenos Aires, a city he described as being a “jungle of asphalt and diesel fumes.” From his childhood he remembered the wafting scent of jasmine being sold on the city’s street corners. Small bundles of the white flowers were brought into Buenos Aires from the North to be sold during the Christmas season. Don’t Cry For Me pays homage to Sebastián’s memory of jasmine scent lingering in the summer air.
A play on contrast, Don’t Cry For Me is a well-choreographed balancing act between the warmth of ambrette seeds, cashmere woods and heliotrope and the cooling freshness of freesia, jasmine tea and cherry flower. The perfume opens with jasmine tea, which is floral with a hint of woodiness, and the greenness of freesia. The cherry flower accord evokes the sensation of ripe cherries, which leads seamlessly into the bitter almond note of soft heliotrope. Heliotrope encases the perfume in a powdery glow, which works well with cashmere woods and ambrette seed. The total effect is complex and radiant. It is the perfect summer fragrance.
Notes: Mandarin, green tea, orange blossom absolute, iris, vegetal amber and guaiac wood.
To create a fragrance that represented their partnership, Marina and Sebastián chose a name that referenced a 12th century Chinese poem, which was an ode to the orange fruit as a symbol of love, fidelity, good luck and steadfastness. Southern Italy is known for its beautiful citrus groves. At Marina’s sister’s house in Positano where Marina and Sebastián first met, there is a garden with a single orange tree. Sebastián described Yu Sōn as being symbolic of that meeting, 150 years after their families first met in Argentina.
Yu Sōn has a radiant citrus opening of mandarin, which shows off the fruit’s full range of personality from the sweet juiciness of the flesh to bitter green notes and sparkling wet notes. Combined, this radiant opening creates something so refreshing and convivial. Green tea and iris add sophistication to the fragrance and orange blossom extends the top note of mandarin, allowing it to bathe the heart of the fragrance in tungsten light. This golden hue is enhanced once the cool refreshing top notes subside, and the warm glow of amber takes over.
After meeting Marina and Sebastián, ALTAIA has added a fourth fragrance to the collection. Ombú returns the story to Argentina and is inspired by the vast southern grasslands called Las Pampas.
For more information on Eau d’Italie and ALTAIA, visit: www.eauditalie.com
Eau d’Italie and ALTAIA fragrances are available from Mecca Cosmetica stores in Australia and New Zealand.