The first time I smelled Fiore di Bellagio I was outdoors in a garden on a warm September afternoon, which was very appropriate; this perfume is an homage to a great fragrance, Bellodgia from Caron, composed by Ernest Daltroff in 1927. Even though Bellodgia is best known as perhaps the greatest carnation fragrance of all time, the perfumer saw it not as a soliflore, but as a flower in a garden setting, surrounded and enhanced by other scents. Perfumer Shelley Waddington of En Voyage Perfumes has achieved exactly that feeling with her new floral fragrance inspired by a great classic.
The hallmark carnation is certainly present in this perfume but true to its vintage predecessor, it's far from being the whole story. It is a shifting palette of shimmering beauty, with drowsy spicy-sweet and tender blooms warmed by the sun, growing in a garden of dreams. I am first and foremost a lover of flowers and their scents, and this perfume is so evocative of an actual flower garden that if I close my eyes I can see it, the idealized setting beloved of painters and poets, and if one is lucky enough to have it, a real garden full of colorful, fragrant blossoms and overflowing with life.
The fragrance opens with the freshness of green leaves and the impossibly soft sweetness of ylang ylang, followed by the romantic floral heart of carnation, Bulgarian rose, jasmine, gardenia and more. On my skin the glorious jasmine and gardenia come to the forefront and compete with the spiciness of the carnation for my attention; if only all battles could be so lovely. The carnation itself is exceptionally true to life, not overly clove-like, hazy and warm and very floral with a touch of vanilla like my favorite old-fashioned garden pinks, which have the most delicious scent of all the carnation family. It truly feels like the finest vintage perfume in the grand style, lush and full-bodied, and though while not abstract, it is a bouquet scent in the best sense, harkening back to classic French perfumery of seamless blending, and if someone told me that this actually was a Caron I had never smelled before it would not surprise me. It has the same style of plush languor so typical of that house's feminine scents, but it's not boneless by any means; the base of sandalwood, resins, orris, musks and civet ensures excellent longevity and serves as the framework for the long-lasting heart notes without intruding on the beauty of the florals; it just makes them softer and richer. This is one of those special perfumes that I will put on and then just sit and slowly inhale as it blooms on my skin, a meditation that takes me into that perfect place, the enchanted garden of my dreams.
Image credit: “Reading In The Garden” by American Impressionist artist Richard Emil Miller (1875-1943) via artistsandart.org
Disclosure: I received a sample of Fiore di Bellagio from En Voyage Perfumes for testing.