Friday, May 14, 2010

Castile to Hampstead, via Milano

The trend towards reviving Eau de Cologne shows no sign of abating, which is a good thing for a classic cologne fogey such as myself. I was graciously gifted with a bottle of Washington Tremlett's Hampstead Water recently (officially a fougere, but to me it's a high-longevity EdC), which I had been most eager to try, as that brand's Black Tie is one of my perennial favorites. Both scents happen to be creations of Shirley Brody's, a key figure in contemporary British perfumery. She was involved in the rebirth of Penhaligon's in the late 70s as well as the conception of Czech & Speake's aromatics line, which, before the recent relaunch of inferior reformulations, constituted the pinnacle of English-style fragrance craft (ironically, Made in Italy). One of her more recent endeavors is the little known XPEC line which manages to combine an excellent perfume with the most horridly misguided branding (both the name and the packaging are incompatible with the classic contents that would seem to appeal to traditionalist, straight-razor-shaving, Savile-Row-clad fragrance aficionados). But she has also been a major force behind the Tremlett brand, thus continuing the cooperation that once existed between Czech and Speake and the fragrance firm of Forester in Milan, who were responsible for such masterpieces as C&S No. 88, Domenico Caraceni and the aforementioned Black Tie, as well as the hard-to-find Gianni Campagna series with gems such as Vento Canale. Perhaps, then it was the through the Brody connection that Hampstead Water immediately reminded me of Penhaligon's Castile. Not that the former is a clone or anything and I doubt Brody was involved with Penhaligon's anymore when Castile was released in 1998. The similarities likely result from the simple fact that both are Eau de Cologne style fragrances, HW featuring bergamot, orange, lavender, water mint, leather and musk, while Castile is built around neroli, petitgrain, bergmot, orange blossom, rose, woods and musk. As the notes suggest, the tops are quite similar, but Hampstead is a good deal fresher via the mint, while Castile is defined by the warm orange and rose interplay. Still, it somehow makes sense to me to see Brody's spirit hovering above all these waters like a fairy godmother of English perfumery. I guess I have a crush on her...Anyway, in the geography of Eau de Cologne, Castile is closer to Hampstead Heath than you may think - just travel via Milan.

Image: "The Writer" at Hampstead Heath with a bottle of Castile

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