Santa Maria Novella Angels of Florence : Perfume Review

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Angels_of_florence_perfume

Star rating: 5 stars–outstanding/potential classic, 4 stars–very good, 3 stars–adequate, 2 stars–disappointing, 1 star–poor.

Had I not seen the label on the bottle, I would have assumed that Angels of Florence was a new flanker for Estée Lauder Beyond Paradise—the bright, fresh white floral. While Beyond Paradise is a fine fragrance on its own terms, it was disconcerting to discover the similarities with Santa Maria Novella’s newest fragrance (albeit, without the characteristic radiance of Beyond Paradise.) In my opinion, the very essence of niche should be its departure from the mainstream, but it seems that to a greater and greater extent many niche releases are merely copying best-sellers from department stores. By way of example, if you enjoyed the warm and voluptuous Armani Code for Her but felt compelled to spend more money, your wish could be fulfilled by NellyRodi Scentfactory Fleur d’Oranger and Le Labo Jasmin 17. Bond No 9 Nuit de Noho offers a niche version of Thierry Mugler Angel. Even an avant-garde line like Comme des Garçons has toned down its daring act of late. …

Angels of Florence opens up on a bright and fresh note, accented with lemony jasmine (hedione). As it dries down, the composition becomes essentially a simple, linear green floral resting on a very commercial musky base that one can find in both functional and fine perfumery. There is nothing about the fragrance that is especially memorable, save for the lovely, antique label on the flacon.

Launched to honor the 40th anniversary of the 1966 flood that destroyed a million books in Florence’s Biblioteca Nazionale and to offer the proceeds to the Angels of Florence, a non-profit organization seeking to restore these lost cultural treasures, Angels of Florence unfortunately does nothing to restore my faith in the ability of many niche perfumeries to offer a true breakthrough. At the very least, we still have Frédéric Malle, Serge Lutens and a handful of other renegades…

Angels of Florence has good tenacity and a decent sillage, despite its relative lightness. It features notes of jasmine, lilac, rose, gardenia, ylang-ylang, geranium, orange blossom, bergamot, peach, prune, melon, violet leaves, cinnamon rind, vanilla, sandalwood, white musk, and ambergris. Santa Maria Novella fragrances are available from Aedes, Lafcony and Brussels-based Senteurs d’Ailleurs.

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31 Comments

  • fantheflame: I used to consider Santa Maria Novella (Creed as well) a true classic (italian) perfume house, very saddened its new release is nothing more exciting than the hype niche scents of Bond No9, Mecheri, Le Labo…

    As you mentioned we still can count on more authentic niche perfumers like Frederic Malle, Serge Lutens…
    I haven ‘t gotten over the discontinuation of Gobin Daude; poetry and artistic sensibilities alone are not always enough to make it as an independant perfumer, Santa Maria Novella and Creed probably feel they need to be more commercial to survive. March 12, 2007 at 5:02am Reply

  • flacon007: Excellent review! The new release was intriguing and that’s good to know that there is no hurry to get to a sample of it. It contains also a very useful link to info on hedione.
    Thank you, Victoria!
    Speaking about SMN, it would be interesting to know our opinion on Kyoto, another fragrance that is of interest for me. March 12, 2007 at 6:05am Reply

  • Judith: Lovely bottle–too bad the fragrance doesn’t live up to its promise. Oh, well–money saved, although I take your point about many niche perfumes. Thanks for the review! March 12, 2007 at 8:01am Reply

  • March: Yikes. What an interesting observation about the niche copycats … hadn’t thought of that. I’m not too proud, though. I like plain ol’ Armani Code for Her 😉

    Can I ask you a question? I am pretty sure Beyond Paradise was the scent Luca Turin raved about once, although I can’t remember precisely what he wrote. I was stunned. I have smelled it several times since, and *cannot* understand what thrills him. Can you please give me your impressions of the fragrance? Is there something about it you find particularly well done? If anyone can explain, you can. After all, you got me over to White Linen… March 12, 2007 at 8:10am Reply

  • Marina: Ack! It seems like the lovely name is wasted on a blah juice. I’ve never thought of it that way, but you are so very right about niche copying mainstream. It should be the other way round!! 🙂 March 12, 2007 at 8:16am Reply

  • chayaruchama: Very thought provoking, and welcome..
    Nice to see you back !
    So sad that this is a disappointment.
    Maybe, it’s just a temporary lapse of sanity, lol !
    I try to maintain hope that creativity isn’t dead, it’s merely somnolent…SIGH.
    Wouldn’t it be gorgeous to be pleasantly stunned, though ?

    Be well ! March 12, 2007 at 8:22am Reply

  • Elle: How depressing. I’ve never really even thought of Bond as niche (no logical reason there, just haven’t), so I never am disappointed w/ them and Le Labo is so new that I don’t have any soul attachment to them one way or the other, but CdG and SMN are lines I definitely have expectations for and really do hate to see go in a more sanitized, homogenized direction. Although I adore CdG scents, SMN is not actually a line I like many scents from at all, but I have a deep respect and affection for them as somehow unique. I hope this is just a one off money making venture for them. March 12, 2007 at 8:22am Reply

  • Kelley: Yes! Very insightful review. I too am concerned with the trends of many niche houses. Does this mean niche houses are worried? Are sales way down? Have all the cutting edge fragrance designers left the industry? I guess the answer to most of these questions is NO…(see Serge Lutens, multi-billionaire).

    I live in a very small town in Mexico, and the only niche product available is Santa Maria Novella! I will have to go check this out! Thanks again. March 12, 2007 at 11:32am Reply

  • violetnoir: Oh well…I loved the notes so I ordered it from aedes…I guess I should have saved my pennies, huh? I should have known better.

    I can’t wait for you review of the MDCI line, V.

    Hugs! March 12, 2007 at 12:11pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Ftf, I like the character of SMN–one note floral compositions, the medieval spice of Potpourri, the warmth of Peau d’Espagne, etc. However, Angels of Florence was simply not as interesting. In fact, it reminded me of Creed’s Love in White, which I thought was rather predictable and unoriginal. I hope that their next release will deviate from this bland trend. March 12, 2007 at 12:18pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Dmitry, thank you! I was very much looking forward to trying it (and the cause is excellent!). Citta di Kyoto was more unexpected, a combination of florals and woods. Even if a little bit too unbalanced, it is memorable. Still, Peau d’Espagne and Opoponax are my favourites from Santa Maria Novella. March 12, 2007 at 12:21pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: J, I suspect that it may not be up your alley. Still, I am curious to hear your thoughts. March 12, 2007 at 12:22pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: March, I like Armani Code for Her too. It is very warm, gentle and enveloping. I just do not feel compelled to smell it in several other renditions (and at luxury prices in addition).

    As for Beyond Paradise, it, like other Calice Becker’s florals, is simply radiant and soaring. Nothing is out of place, it is like a perfect, polished pearl. It is not easy to do a harmonious floral composition that still catches one’s attention (and holds it). Yet, many of her fragrances succeed in this. J’Adore is another good example.

    That green, sheer floral (perhaps set into the tea base) that you can smell in many feminine releases is really the idea that her Tommy Girl developed. Perhaps, for this reason, if you smell it now, it just does not seem as revolutionary as it did when it first came out. Becker’s fragrances are truly trendsetting. So, even without feeling a personal affinity with Beyond Paradise, I can admire it for its masterful composition. March 12, 2007 at 12:29pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Marina, I agree! Such a great cause deserves a better fragrance. March 12, 2007 at 12:29pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Chaya, thank you! Being stunned is a rare occurrence. However, lately I have been stunned by Chanel 31, rue Cambon (and by my rediscovery of some vintage fragrances), and it is enough to last me through the year. 🙂 March 12, 2007 at 12:31pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Elle, I absolutely agree! I have tremendous respect for Santa Maria Novella and its renovation, hence my intense disappointment. I understand the big houses playing it safe, but when the niche lines go down that route, it is very sad. March 12, 2007 at 12:33pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Kelley, I think that there are many hurdles that the niche companies face in creating a truly outstanding perfume, which is why those that are successful deserve to be recognized. For one thing, if the founder of a niche line is working with a perfumer (rather than being the perfumer himself as is the case with Parfums d’Empire, for instance), that perfumer is probably employed by one of the big supplier houses (IFF, Givaudan, Firmenich, etc.) Given the insane rate of releases, the perfumers are working on very tight schedules, which means that there is hardly much time that they can devote to the niche projects. Even one of the larger ones like Serge Lutens really does not produce the kind of financial figures that a fragrance for Giorgio Armani would.

    Another issue is that the role of creative direction cannot be underestimated. Frederic Malle is often seen as giving complete freedom to the perfumers, which cannot be further from the truth. He has a great taste and an interesting vision, which is why every single fragrance from his line is exceptional. However, another thing is that he is much more financially solid than most of the niche line founders, which is an important consideration.

    This is not to say that the niche cannot offer fascinating and exciting alternatives, but this is much more difficult. I have tremendous respect for niche perfumeries who follow their own vision. March 12, 2007 at 12:45pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: R, definitely try it yourself! Perhaps, you might be pleasantly surprised. 🙂 March 12, 2007 at 12:45pm Reply

  • Robin: Well, drat. I really liked Kyoto, and this bottle is so pretty, and the backstory is worthy. Ah well, I’m going to try it anyway 🙂 March 12, 2007 at 1:57pm Reply

  • Fleur.de.Lys: Wow. First, a round of applause for pointing out that niche is just as guilty as the mainstream, for borrowing “fragrance themes” so to speak. Since there is no BMI or ASCAP for fragrance (these organizatons protect copyrighted song material), we readers, who work hard for the money we plunk down at counter, are dependent on non-partial writers who really know what they’re talking about. When you criticize, you do not throw daggers, like others who want the whole world to know what they think vs. the truth. Your passion for the art of perfumery is glorious. May the Internet be your megaphone for more conscientious (or should I say conscious)fragrance creation. March 12, 2007 at 3:45pm Reply

  • minette: good to know… was looking forward to this one… i think the label and the name got me interested.

    citta di kyoto smells so much like eau de cartier on me, i didn’t need it, too. March 12, 2007 at 8:30pm Reply

  • Anya: Dear V, thank you for opening our eyes to this trend. I must admit I do not sniff department store perfumes, I do not keep up with trends in general, and many of the niche samples I have were generously bestowed by you and other dear bloggers. Unlike my friend Ayala, who keeps tabs on new releases, but who has not, to my knowledge noticed this trend, I, as a perfumer am quite in the dark as to what is what out there.

    Does it help or hinder me? I don’t know! I created my perfumes in such a void, and found then they are unlike others. Riverside was deemed too “blah” by many, so I discontinued it.

    No one has me accused of creating any sort of flanker-doppelganger for a well-known scent, but now your post has me a bit scared. Should I continue with my ignorant bliss about what’s out there, or keep up with what’s hitting the stores?

    Quite a quandry!

    A thought — is there any chance, do you believe that the perfumer for SMN had no idea of EL’s perfume? Or am I being naive? March 12, 2007 at 8:58pm Reply

  • k-amber: Dear Victoria,

    Entering a SMN shop, I was attracted by the adorable flacon, and betrayed by its mediocre scent the other day. Reading your review helps me to realize the entire market is saturated in terms of not only its quantity but also its quality. Thank you as always.

    Kaori March 12, 2007 at 9:48pm Reply

  • March: V, thank you! That was pretty much everything I could have hoped for in an explanation, and the next time I’m in reach, I’m going to try it again … actually, maybe I’ll hit Nordstrom, where they’ll make me a sample, and I can play with it for several days.

    J’Adore is another fragrance I keep meaning to blog about — had no idea who created it. I’d never noticed it, really. Then on my trip to Vienna I literally stalked a group of French tourists through several galleries, sidling up to them casually, trying to discover who was wearing the extraordinary fragrance. I finally found my target (my sister-in-law was embarrassed by the whole thing) and asked her, apologetically and in English, if she could please tell me what she was wearing? It was J’Adore. I have to admit I don’t think it smells as good on me as it did that day, but maybe the problem is I don’t have the Klimts, splendor and polished wood of the Belvedere as a backdrop… March 12, 2007 at 9:49pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: R, the backstory is just excellent. I think that it is a worthy cause. March 12, 2007 at 9:51pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Fleur de Lys, thank you very much. It is a very flattering comment. March 12, 2007 at 9:52pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Minette, I do not recall the similarities to my beloved Eau de Cartier, but now I will have to try Citta di Kyoto again. It was definitely better than Angels of Florence, at any rate. March 12, 2007 at 9:54pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Anya, I do not think that Santa Maria Novella was trying to copy Beyond Paradise. It is just that Angels of Florence smells like so many things I have smelled many times before. Beyond Paradise was the first association, because it was a big launch, but I could also name a dozen of others. I think that it definitely helps to understand the marketplace and the trends, but as a creator, you should do whatever is more comfortable for you. I do not imagine that any of your fragrances given their structures and materials copy anything that is done currently in the prestige market. March 12, 2007 at 9:57pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Kaori, it is an unfortunate discovery. I wish that the rate of new releases would slow down and that the houses would pay attention to the quality of the fragrances they produce. Nowadays, the price of the fragrance is only a small fraction of the price to launch a new perfume. March 12, 2007 at 9:59pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: March, I am very glad! Please let me know what new samplings might demonstrate. 🙂

    J’Adore is remarkable in terms of its sillage and balance. It is in fact the most copied fragrance. I have a bottle, and whenever I put it on, I feel that all of those dull, limpid copycats do not even come close to its radiance and harmony. March 12, 2007 at 10:01pm Reply

  • Fleur.de.Lys: There is a distinction between things that smell the same because they are in the same fragrance family, and things that smell like they were created after competiting brands were analyzed by electronic noses and decoded. The viability of the idea that a consumer will buy something if it smells like something else everyone likes is a short term strategy–and frankly, stinks. In kindergarden, there was a great word for someone who wanted to do what you did; copycat. I think that you should use a cat insignia (a hissing cat, perhaps)for a new award; copycat(s) of the year–the anti-award! March 13, 2007 at 12:22pm Reply

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