Santa Maria Novella Nostalgia : Fragrance Review


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

Aquatic and fresh masculine fragrances have never appealed to me beyond a brief period of infatuation in the 1990s when the trend was still novel and distinctive. After the hundreds of Cool Water and Aqua di Giò clones, I no longer feel interested in this genre. On the other hand, fragrances that explore earthy, smoky and leathery notes never fail to catch my attention. In many ways, their appeal lies in their distinctive character, very much different from the crisp, fresh, and ozonic creations that dominate the masculine market right now. While Santa Maria Novella Nostalgia is a perfume that should not be reserved only for men, it is a fragrance I want to smell on men around me.

The idea behind Nostalgia is to capture the scent of a car race, and indeed, its top accord conjures the green and resinous scent of cypress and orange trees, hot asphalt and that intoxicating and overwhelming odor of rubber tires. In my mind is a paved road devoid of smoke and bustle winding through the Tuscan hills. Only the scent left behind by passing cars alludes to their existence in this dream-like landscape.

As Nostalgia dries down, the sharp and rubbery scent of its top notes softens considerably, with the composition attaining an elegant quality. Now it is a vision of cigars dipped in cognac. And yet Nostalgia possesses a daring edge, provided by the tarry and smoky refrain that is very distinct in the woody and musky heart of the fragrance.

Annick Goutal Eau du Fier, Cartier Déclaration, Yohji Yamamoto pour Homme and Prada Ambre Pour Homme are the fragrances that match Nostalgia’s spirit. They possess the same dry woody character; however, while the aforementioned fragrances are marked with a certain freshness, Nostalgia is accented quite strongly with assertive notes of resins and birch tar. Intriguingly, without resorting to the trite idea of freshness, it manages to conjure just that sensation.

Nostalgia has good tenacity and sillage (trail its wearer leaves.) It features notes of woods, vegetable musk, patchouli, citrus wood, tobacco, amber, and vanilla. Santa Maria Novella fragrances are available from Aedes, Lafcony and Brussels-based Senteurs d’Ailleurs.

Photo of Tuscan road from Life in Italy.



  • Katherine Sands: I’m so glad you wrote about this, and as usual, wrote beautifully. I’ve had a decant of this for a while, not for my husband (the usual masculine victim of my fragrant meddling, and so far the king of all things vetiver) but for my eldest son, who for the most part dislikes scented products of all sorts. He finally gave it a try last weekend and not only does it smell very fine on him, but he quite liked it. For a guy who is spending a lot of his time in a machine shop, maybe it smells like home. I thought better of following around to see out it developed, but the oil, leather and rubber in the opening was very clear without being trite or obnoxious. This one is very pared down and unornamented. And there is nothing fussy about it. April 4, 2007 at 12:41am Reply

  • Elle: Great review. This is definitely my favorite scent from SMN and one of my favorite scents, period. April 4, 2007 at 8:14am Reply

  • March: V, thanks for reviewing this! Anything you can do to get men out of Cool Water and into something like this (or Double Black) is wonderful. So, how do you think SMN managed to create something so … peculiar? I have a couple of things I like from their line, but this is so emphatically different and weird. (I like Kyoto a lot, too, which is also unusual. That new Angels one is a total snooze, though.) April 4, 2007 at 8:44am Reply

  • aryse: If I know the name of Nostalgia, I have never smelled this fragrance.
    I like the scents of SMN (excepted Peau d’Espagne, horrible in my opinion), but I regret they have no tenacity and no sillage (they are only “eaux” and not perfumes).

    But, after your comment, I am sure I am going to test Nostalgia very soon.After all, I enjoy very much Cartier Declaration, Yohji Yamamoto pour Homme and Prada Amber Pour Homme (beautiful creations). April 4, 2007 at 9:02am Reply

  • Judith: I love this so much–but, somewhat strangely, I have never tried it on my husband. Well, perhaps not so strangely, since he tends to steal the scents he likes, assuming (so he says) that I bought them for him. He acquired Peau d’espagne in that manner, and I don’t know that I want to add this to his collection (although, considering the reasonable price, I could always buy another bottle). April 4, 2007 at 9:42am Reply

  • Marina: I like Nostalgia very much, but it is a little, just a little, too tame on me. I don’t want it to be any more macho, god forbid, but I wanted some more “body” from it I guess. April 4, 2007 at 8:40am Reply

  • Karin: How does this compare to Bvlgari Black? it has a burnt rubber note too. April 4, 2007 at 12:54pm Reply

  • Robin: Have not tried it, but sounds like I need to. April 4, 2007 at 5:52pm Reply

  • tmp00: I really loved this one, so much so that I almost bought it upon first sniff. Sadly, I am glad that I did not: although lovely, it is heartbreakingly fleeting on me. Perhaps if they release an eau de Parfum? April 4, 2007 at 1:54pm Reply

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