New Italian niche project: Angela Ciampagna (2015)

So, here's the last nice discovery I made while visiting Milan's tradeshow Esxence a couple of weeks ago. Angela Ciampagna is an exquisite line of perfumes composed, produced and marketed by Label, which is a small family-run artisanal laboratory producing fragrances and candles located in Atri, a fantastic small village in the South-East of Italy. You may expect then a "traditional" artisanal line of fragrances with good raw materials... you wouldn't be entirely wrong, but that's only one of the features of Ciampagna's line. There is much more you wouldn't expect at first. First of all, these fragrances smell incredibly contemporary, even avantgarde to some extents. And they show an incredibly clear fil rouge, a perfect stylistic consistency, a really clear recurring inspiration which creates a solid background for this line. I would summarize this inspiration with "post-modern Mediterranean gothic". Not sure if that makes sense but that's how I picture Ciampagna's world: there is a feel of "darkness" tightly connected to nature and to countryside, making you think of paganism, spooky traditions, the elusive and austere quiet of desolated ancient villages. But there's also a clear feel of modernity: the compositions are creative and clever, the textures are sharp, breezy, polished, unpredictable, non-classic for sure. Definitely contemporary, but with a recognisable and clear "South-Italian heritage" footprint. Finally, the fragrances smell at the same time incredibly refined and appealing. And the guys are kind, passionate, humble. And look at those packagings!

They offer a really fairly-priced sample set on their website. Grab that! For the meantime, here's my favourite three from the line (you'll find the rest of my reviews on Fragrantica - and Basenotes, once they will add them to the directory).



Holy grail stuff for any licorice-hay lover. Liquo opens with an extremely vibrant, realistic, darkish smell of licorice sticks, wet hay under a cloudy sky (think of the hay note in Heeley’s Cuir Pleine Fleur... just in 3-D full power), anise, a ton of dusty and sharp cumin, woody notes, with a gentle touch of lavender and powdery flowers. Mediterranean to the bone, a thick blend transporting you right into a small village’s fair, blending the smell of home-made, non-sweet – rather salty on the contrary – licorice and anise candies with earthy whiffs of barn smells from farms and fields – hay, woods, herbs. That’s it, and it’s terribly good for me. The notes smell raw and realistic, but the blend is extremely refined, crisp, “polished” in a good way; so don’t expect anything overly “hippie and artisanal”. It surely smells natural and almost organic to some extent, and surely shows an artisanal touch – especially that fantastic note of hay – but overall it’s all tamed down and mastered enough to appear as a proper work of high class perfumery. A win-win compromise, shortly: wild and sophisticated. Also, don’t expect any gourmand scent: too earthy and realistic for that. Quite dark too, or better say with a palpable sort of “rainy” feel... ever been to the countryside after a storm? That’s the smell. Peaceful, but almost unsettling, with a soothing, drier and dusty-smoky drydown. A velvety somber perfume managing to smell extremely elegant and enjoyable yet “uncivilised” and moody, with some “gothic” vibe underneath – a “rural” kind of gothic deeply rooted in the elusive quiet of the Mediterranean countryside. Great materials as far as I can tell. Solid and evocative.




As the rest of Ciampagna’s line, the “visual” inspiration and the ambiance are quite clear since the very first sniff: a sort of dark, provincial “austerity” somehow sitting between a feel of desolation and a raw, archaic, vibrant naturality. In “olfactive” language: dryness, thickness, earthiness, a palpable “artisanal” feel, an overall dark and meditative mood, but at the same a peaceful sense of quiet thanks to balsamic and aromatic spicy-herbal-floral notes - I guess evoking the “soothing power” of nature. Ducalis is particularly, elegantly dark and dry at first, yet with a warm heart, mostly focusing on a thick woody-floral blend with dark shades and spicy hints; as minutes pass though, it progressively unravels its beautifully intricate texture, which is quite more than you would expect at first. Sweet, velvety, slightly metallic flowers on warm, balmy but also dry and really austere woods: two main “axes” each comprising several facets that you get throughout the evolution. Flowers range to the threatening obscurity of rose and jasmine, to “whiter shades” of lily and cyclamen; the same for woods, which comprise nuances ranging from sandalwood (“juicy”, sweet, bright and cozy) to drier, shadier and “woodier” notes of rosewood and cedar, with some added weight thanks to cloves, leather, and nutmeg. A touch of amber and vanilla provide some sweet and warm “roundness”. Overall Ducalis may appeal fans of oud scents as well, as it shows some similar sort of “dark silky thickness”, just more complex and aromatic – not due to a single note (but indeed, woods, jasmine, nutmeg and leather do create a similar aroma). On the other hand, flowers are worked in a really peculiar way here, which kind of just uses “some” nuances of them; so despite you see many of them listed in the composition, I wouldn’t define this a “floral scent” – rather a woody scent with many interesting and complex nuances, this including flowers. Artisanal to the bone, totally fascinating and sophisticated but at the same time kind of raw and dark. Utterly enjoyable. Bravi!




Hatria opens with a really compelling and thick rose-oud combo which smells finally slightly different from the usual clichés of these notes, so don’t think of Montale rose-ouds or similar stuff. Of course that’s the family, but Ciampagna made some efforts to do it in a slightly more personal way. It’s dark, classy and “juicy” as one may expect, but has also a salty, balsamic-herbal quality which definitely brings the blend closer to a Mediterreanean inspiration – something more unusual for such notes in my opinion. The notes are quite simple to get, they smell quality to me and are perfectly blended: rose, herbs, oud, a balmy-ambery sweet base accord with a great sandalwood note, and an overall warm breeze echoing vintage fougères (cloves, patchouli, musk...). The “caramel” note, luckily I almost don’t get it; more than an individual note, I think “caramel” here (whatever they used to build that) provides just a sort of dark, warm, slightly sticky thickness that perfectly gives “weight” to the composition. Another note which I don’t get is saffron, although I do feel a sort of dusty, spicy, “culinary” and Mediterranean feel. Most of all anyway Hatria is about rose, oud, patchouli, sweet-balsamic warmth. A sure “yes” for me overall: it smells deep and quality, and the composition – which is quite linear, though – is crafted in a way that it conveys a fascinating feel of warm abandon as you may experience in a sleepy desolated village in the deep South of Italy – kind of dusty, sweet, earthy, with a balmy feel of “suspension”. Lights and shades. Refined but with a nice “rural” feel.


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