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Byzantium Saffron – No need to pack – July 25, 2014 New Fragrance Listing

Image - Wikipedia - View of Constantinople and the Bosphorus by Aivasovsky

Gwen’s visit to Venice this past spring, and especially her visit to the Museum Palazzo Mocenigo which features a perfume exhibit mounted by the Fonazione Musei Civici and Parfums Mavive, has me dreaming about my own trip to that beautiful city on the Adriatic. The exhibit is dedicated to “the history of perfumes and essences…. stressing its deep links with the city of Venice and aimed at revealing and promoting a thousand-year-old vocation that has Italy, and Venice in particular, as being among the main centres of the world’s perfumery tradition.”

For centuries, Venice was a maritime power and a commercial centre for the rare goods from Asia – the silks, the grains, the spices – that were routed through the Ottoman Empire which controlled the Bosphorus, the gateway between Europe and Asia. The city that controlled the Bosphorus, a cultural and commercial equivalent to Venice, was known as Byzantium when ruled by the Greeks 657-330 B.C, and Constantinople when ruled by the Romans – 330 B.C. – 1453 A.D. When the Ottoman Empire took over from the Romans, Constantinople continued until its name was officially changed to Istanbul in 1930.

All the exotic goodies that flowed into Venice passed through Constantinople first. It was regarded as a cultural and spiritual centre which greatly influenced the Western world with its art and learning. W.B. Yeats, the Irish poet, named one of his poems about aging  ‘Sailing to Byzantium”, the fabled city being the destination of his spiritual journey. His poem starts: “That is no country for old men…”  Wait, isn’t that a movie? Just kidding – read the Yeats poem here.

So it makes perfect sense that The Merchant of Venice perfume line launched in 2013 at the Museum Palazzo Mocenigo should name one of its fragrances from its Murano Collection ‘Byzantium Saffron”. There’s a bona fide connection between Byzantium and Venice. This is the scent that Gwen brought back for me, a golden gem in a gem of a bottle.

Byzantium Saffron smells exotic. The featured notes are saffron, indonesian patchouli leaf, crystal amber and white suede. The opening note of saffron in full glory with its leather and tobacco facets, rich and startling with its acrid bittersweet tones, almost knocks my head back. This is no country for the uninitiated perfume newbie.

As I expect, the strong contrasts soon begin to dissipate and I can smell a soft rosy-suede floral note begin to emerge from the leather, sweetly spiced and enchanting. As this dries down to reveal the heart notes, patchouli leaf offers a green herbal depth, bolstering the musty-dusty spice effect of the saffron, then amber moves into to sweeten and soften this mix in the base.

Byzantium Saffron becomes opulent and smooth as fine suede, rich and polished, exotic but familiar due to the roses, now in full bloom. After two hours, the scent on my arm is still aromatic and the amber is working its sweet-salty skin magic. The golden scent lingers for hours, and I’m amazed at the longevity of the star player, the saffron note, because the next morning, I still get hints of sueded amber on my skin. I sniff, then sniff again, then think that this would smell great on a man, too.

Byzantium Saffron smells exotic, and expensive. It’s a scent from another land and another era when spices were prized acquisitions to one’s household.  It seems I don’t have to make that trip to Venice after all. I only have sniff this bottle my dear friend brought back for me, and I’m there – Venice, spice routes, Byzantium...

Today, we’re adding Byzantium Saffron to the Decant Store. Decants are $4.00.