Exploring scent with Hoteliers and Perfumers Sebastián Alvarez Murena and Marina Sersale.

Foto by Dawn Clark, AIA

Imagine the idea of creating a scent that captures the spirit of your hotel. Or of your life.

Your hotel: decades old – lying, heated in the brilliant coastal sun, facing the azure sea, just off the winds of Napoli.

And envision that, rather than the typically superficial waft of conventional hotel fragrances (quick and barely intelligent to the sensing sniff), your scents are deep wellsprings of skilled imaginings, coupled with the advising counsel of one of the great perfume alchemists, Betrand Duchauford

It starts here:

The propositions begin with Marina’s family – Sersale, actually a family hotel, (www.historytraveller.com/) long running, since the 50s, that was founded on the Old Palazzo of the Marchese Sersale — country home in Positano, escaping the bombings in Naples, during World War II. (www.fragrantica.com/).

Of course, I can’t write about everything, all of the details — that were referenced in our lovely chat — but I can write about what I recall, and what resonates.

Like these framings:

Eau d’Italie: this is the first fragrance that was created in celebration of launching the idea of scent — a fragrance — for the hotel (above). “What we thought was to gather the scent of experience at the hotel — the heating of the terracotta, a scent of pottery warmed by the sun” and their nose was Duchaufour, formerly from Symrise, utilizing new molecules – creating the top notes in sequence, followed to the base notes in concordance — cedar, patchouli, musk and a grouping of other scented expressions that build that create a remarkable splay, a memory.

Some other comments from this couple, inventive and deeply committed to the depth of scent experience:

MS: “We had to create something that would be inspired by the place, it’s not about duplicating the hotel, the styling of it — but it’s a new statement; it’s something different; about experiences that are there — differentiating and unique — a strategy that was intentionally so considered.”

SAM:I like what I smell, I like what I make — but I don’t know how to compare them to anything else — I’m not an expert on vintage experiences — I simply know what I know, and love”.

“There is a lot of freedom, in the making of the new scents for this group for Bertrand Duchauford — he’s still working for L’Artisan, as a nose, but he is too building amazingly rich explorations — or excavations — into sensual space.”

MS: “Please, never on paper — savor our scents on your skin; they are designed for the skin, not papered stock — they live on, evolve on the skin.”

SAM: “How we savor the notes — and their revealing — is about the realm of the summer mist — that level of saturation, that carries the scent across the wind.”

SAM | MS: “The incense fragrances that we’ve used — not in this opening fragrance, are about gathering. And Marina found this “ball” of pitchy incense from the region of the deep earthen carved churches of Ethiopia. “Pitch based incense there is sold by children, on the road that is near these churches, burning, as well, incessantly in coffee houses in the neighborhood.”

“Like an oil painting, once the strokes are laid down, they are just that — finished, you can see them irrevocably.”

I ask them: what of the packaging? And how does that relate to the hotel?

I loosely paraphrase, the passionate phrasing of both of the creators:

Gae Aulenti (www.gaeaulenti.it/ ) — a designer, an architect — working on the opening of the hotel, revising the interiors — but reflecting some slightly modernist slant. Nothing baroque, a fresher slant to our truth. We considered a similar slice, in our packaging imagery — moving away from the baroque, to something that moved to a more clean, modernist shelf space — cleanly and more modernist. Our packaging, our imagery, is about this simple honesty — clear, clean, direct.

As a designer, my take — I’d only push for this — that if it is truly a luxury, then how about customizing that sense of typographic application in a manner that attends to the same details of development that they are showing in the months of deep visioning. I get the discipline that they portray, but not the craft that is necessary in the power of their messaging — the package, itself.

Sebastián, the co-founder of the celebration of their scents – is effusively enthusiastic. Both of them are — they love what they are exploring. And given the profound density, it’s nearly measureless, scenting into the wellspring of their imaginations — in fragrance.

Fresh blood — as a scented note? Sienna in Winter, a Men’s Grooming award winner for 2008, imports the “metallic salt of blood, on frozen iron”.

The sequencing:

  • Egyptian violet — like a tongue-in-cheek cologne from the 30s.
  • Geranium
  • Fern
  • A blood accord
  • Iris
  • Ori
  • Mimosa
  • White truffle accord
  • Black olive
  • Paraguayan
  • Egyptian Papyrus
  • Virginian Cedar
  • Benzoin —

I’m sure there’s more.

What, to men, to women? There are new sexuality and fragrance — sensitivity / skin rules for brands — and what this will mean is that you’ve got to shift the scenting structure on the presumption that men will shave — therefore, how to balance the scent, the components, to the right measure?

Impossible, I’d proffer.

Still, these two are on an adventure. And to have shared that moment, like the scent, it’s something never to be forgotten.

tsg | positano | IT