Christian Dior Escale a Portofino : Perfume Review


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

In sartorial terms, an effervescent citrus cologne is as versatile and timeless as a tailored suit or a little black dress. It is immediately appealing and effortlessly chic, while still having a striking presence. Yet, eventually all little black dresses start to look similar, and all colognes exhibit that familiar fresh burst followed by floral sweetness or woody dryness. As one knows all too well, familiarity breeds contempt. In this light, I have put the newest cologne offering, Christian Dior Escale à Portofino, to the test.

I would note that Escale à Portofino should be differentiated from classical colognes like Eau de Rochas and Ô de Lancôme. Traditional colognes, which constitute one of the oldest perfume families, have an aromatic, fresh structure reinforced by the dryness of woods. They unfold in layers of camphorous and bright herbal notes, while their citrus facets tend to be in the lemon-bergamot family accented with the floralcy of neroli. On the other hand, modern colognes are softer, being wrapped in warm veils of musk, rather than in sharp pencil shavings of cedarwood. They feature jasmine notes and orange blossom in a manner that makes them rather gentle and radiant, hinting at sun warmed skin rather than shower clean freshness. Yet, what they still offer is the elegance of a little black dress.

Yes, Escale à Portofino is indeed citrusy and bright. Its orange blossom is classically clean and sweet, with just slight haunting indolic note. It is very refined and elegant, with no imperfection in sight to make it dramatically different from other orange blossom colognes. Still, in its genre—which is supposed to be elegant, light and rejuvenating, Escale à Portofino is one of the best. In comparison to the dark and somber orange flowers of Tom Ford Neroli Portofino, it is luminous, airy and yet remarkably tenacious. It is more floral and playful than the austerely chic Chanel Eau de Cologne. Finally, it provides a glimpse of a perfect summer fantasy—sun dappled beach, white-washed stones of the Mediterranean and endless expanse of blue sky. I imagine that in the winter such a magic carpet ride would be particularly pleasant.

Escale à Portofino includes notes of Calabrian bergamot, Italian citron, Sicilian petitgrain, bitter almond, orange blossom, juniper berry, cold spices, cypress, cedar, white musk, caraway and galbanum. Available from Dior boutiques and other select locations.

Definitions: neroli – steam distillation of bitter orange flowers. Please do not hesitate to ask in the comments if any other terms are unfamiliar to you.



  • Arwen: Thanks for the review. If I was intrigued before, now I really have to smell Escale a Portofino. I am glad that it will be available at the Dior boutiques, I have seen it in the Harrods website, but it is too much money to order unsniffed.

    If it compares favorably to the Chanel Eau de Cologne, then it must smell very good. How is the lasting power? I know that in general EdeC do not have very much lasting power, but is it better than the Chanel? June 24, 2008 at 5:27pm Reply

  • Boisdejasmin: Arwen, the lasting power of Escale a Portofino is quite good, and it is super diffusive, so people notice and always comment positively. Probably as a fragrance to start a new collection it is too tame, but overall it is very nicely done. If you like orange blossom, then definitely try to sample it. June 24, 2008 at 6:18pm Reply

  • Andrea: Hi Victoria:
    Thanks for the review. I just ordered it from Brown Thomas here, unsniffed. It has been released on the 23rd and I must pick it up. Your review just reassured me.
    I was also thinking abour grabbing Chanel’s Cologne, since I loved it. Do you think (just your opinion, he he!) I should hold on that for now and just get Escale? Maybe it would be too much,buying those 2? Well, both are good value for money, I would say, but at the same time, they have the same style and may end up similar… Please let me know your thoughts, OK?
    As for Ford’s NP, I really, really loved it, but here in Ireland it retails for €130.00 the 50ml bottle. I thought it was a bit too much for this kind of fragrance.
    Once again, thanks a mill for the review, eloquent as always and have a great day!
    a. June 24, 2008 at 11:11pm Reply

  • SweetSue: Hi. Is this perfume anything like Chanel’s Cristalle? I really like that for the summertime but, I believe, it’s discontinued.
    Anyway love the ad; very Suzy Parker. June 25, 2008 at 6:25am Reply

  • Sveta: I think I would like it because I discovered that I like orange blossoms in perfume. What about L’Artisan orange blossom? Is it similar? June 25, 2008 at 11:33am Reply

  • lavinia: Hi! Thanks for the review. I sprayed it on my hand in one local shop today. Six hours later it still lasts. The beginning was lemons and lemons – just like lemons in that thing I use for cleaning the dishes everyday.:-) But with time it is sweeter, elegant and right now even sweet with some bitter note. It is a nice scent, but not my cup of tea. It is not arresting.
    I sprayed Burberry London for men on my other hand – and London is much better – no matter it is for men. June 25, 2008 at 11:54am Reply

  • lavinia: SweetSue, Cristalle is ten times better IMO! June 25, 2008 at 11:56am Reply

  • SweetSue: Thanks, lavinia. What a pretty name! Wish there were a few more Lavinias and a lot fewer Brittanys and Madisons. Apologies if I’ve stepped on anybody’s toes. June 25, 2008 at 3:48pm Reply

  • Tara: SweetSue, Cristalle is still available. I saw it at Saks just the other day. I also love it in the summer. June 25, 2008 at 4:59pm Reply

  • Marina: Want! And want to be the girl in that ad, sitting in that landscape 🙂 June 25, 2008 at 2:19pm Reply

  • SweetSue: Thanks, Tara, I’ll be on the lookout. June 26, 2008 at 12:27am Reply

  • lavinia: SweetSue, thank you!
    In my opinion the difference between Cristalle and Escale is that Escale is full of lemons and becomes sweeter. You will smell lemons from the beginning till the end. Cristalle is like a champaigne and not sweet. June 27, 2008 at 11:17am Reply

  • hvs: They also have it in Duty Free in Europe… June 30, 2008 at 3:01am Reply

  • Isabeli: Hello V,

    Thanks for a beautiful blog! It’s always so exciting to visit your website, hoping to find some new review!:)
    I’m curious about Escale à Portofino. I like the concept of fragrances that base on combination of orange flower mixed with some soft, sweet accords. Escale ‘ description sounds clean, airy and romantic. I wonder if the almond note’s evident here or it’s rather an extra..
    Rgds. July 10, 2008 at 8:51am Reply

  • chevrefeuille: Hi, I have been reading this blog quite some time now- without commenting though.
    I LOVE your reviews. And now I have an urgent question: I have tested EaP today and I liked the the base notes. But there is one particular note that starts during the end of the top notes, gets stronger during the drydown and never fully fades, that irritates me a lot. It smells exactly like the perfume “Joop Nightflight”(for Men) and is just too overwhelming. Could you tell me what this is? It is this particular citrusy-aquatic scent that makes the Joop so distinctive and (for me) unbearable and I’d like to avoid this notes in the future (almost bought EaP unsniffed, because it REALLY sounded so good from the description). Thank You! July 16, 2008 at 8:32am Reply

  • oblitteratti: Hola Victoria,

    After reading your review I was longing to try this one. I finally got to try this one at the Duty Free shop in San Francisco. It was the stand-out winner of the duty-free exclusives, refined, tenacious and reasonably priced. I am kicking myself for not grabbing a bottle on the spot.

    Cologne is like a good pop song, there is only so much you can do with major fifths, so it’s not about breaking new ground as much as creating delight within the framework. July 16, 2008 at 4:01pm Reply

  • donna: I read your blog constantly. You reviewed Carnal Flower as so many did and I became intrigued. I obtained some samples from Barney’s and I love it but I cannot really smell it once it is on me. Only if I actually sniff at my arm. Do you think this is strange? Have you ever had a fragrance like that before? Also, no has commented on it although it is a quite a departure from my usual perfume. I love it, I love the name, not crazy about the packaging but now I’m not sure whether to make the investment or not. Victoria, do you have any comments about a fragrance that one loves to smell but cannot smell on oneself? August 7, 2008 at 9:25pm Reply

  • Lelia: Does anyone know when and where(whether it be the internet or or a store i.e. Saks) Escale A Portofino by Dior shall be released in the US? Any information would be greatly appreciated. Great blog.

    Cheers and Thank you,
    Lelia August 13, 2008 at 11:21am Reply

  • DLC: Surprisingly, you can find this perfume at Walt Disney World in Florida. I just learned tha Escale A Portofino by Dior will be sold at Epcot, in the French pavilion. I got some samples, but didn’t purchase and now am regretting it! The next time I go back, I will invest in a bottle for sure! August 20, 2008 at 3:57pm Reply

  • mais que perfume: Don’t we just love Italy?
    But all perfumes should have their top notes all alike? August 21, 2008 at 3:20pm Reply

  • Ida Oestergaard: in Escale a Portofino created by Francois Demarchy it seems to me that the house of Dior is reawakening its heritage from Eau Sauvage and Diorella created in the 60`s by Edmond Roudnitska- as EaP starts out with a fanfare: citrus-bergamot accord so do Eau Sauvage as well as Diorella- intended to make a bright wake-up call and active inspiration.
    I think we should appreciate Diors courage to create a new interesting scent with hommage a tradtion – and to let Eau Sauvage and Diorella stay available and unchanged .
    Do I need to say that all of them are favourites of mine –

    Bois de Jasmine/Victoria what is your opinion?

    IDA cph. August 23, 2008 at 5:00am Reply

  • M. v. Doorn: I’m now getting ready to buy my second bottle of this scent. It is lovely, feminine, classic and just plain delicious! I get compliments each time I wear it. Good for daytime and good for evening. my guy loves it!

    In NL it is available only at Dior counters in The Bijenkorf and at Dior boutiques.

    It really is worth the effort to seek it out! September 17, 2008 at 11:54pm Reply

  • martina: i think you should try the original version of this. a small scale product which is sold in italy and in selected locations abroad, it’s named Acqua di Portofino. they also have a website describing it. September 18, 2008 at 11:25am Reply

  • martin: I think you should try the original version of this. a small scale product which is sold in italy and in selected locations abroad, it’s named Acqua di Portofino. they also have a website describing it. September 18, 2008 at 11:26am Reply

  • Natalia: I loved finding your site Victoria! Im amazed at your posts and loving it all. Thank you.
    About this perfume, I bought it cos I adored it but it doesnt last at all on the skin, it simply disappears after half an hour.
    Now I bought Roses by Chloe and im so happy with it I want to cry. September 18, 2014 at 9:25am Reply

    • Victoria: Welcome to Bois de Jasmin, Natalia! So happy that you’ve already found something you absolutely love. As for Escale a Portofino, it’s a light cologne, but if it disappears that quickly, it’s not worth the trouble. There are longer lasting colognes out there. September 18, 2014 at 10:12am Reply

  • Margaret Stephenson: This perfume is to die for ive used 4 bottles and im lost without it..its heaven in a bottle reminds me of Italy ..highly recommended July 22, 2016 at 6:41pm Reply

    • Victoria: It’s such a very good cologne, summer or winter. July 23, 2016 at 6:46am Reply

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