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Fior di Chinotto – white flowers and citrus and luxurious

Image - "Il Nostro Chinotto" - Wikimedia Commons - by romainbehar, Feb.14, 2019

Italians love their chinotto. I'm talking about citrus myrtifolia, of course, a compact tree that is native to southeastern Asia and now grows all over Italy, but primarily in Liguria and the south. The tree is part of the citrus family and bears a sour, bitter fruit that resembles a small orange. The fruit is best known by its Italian name, chinotto (pronounced kee-NO-toe), a diminutive of Cina ("China"), a reference to the fruit's origin.

So, just how much do Italians love chinotto? The trees are planted in gardens and on terraces in pots and containers. Wherever it can be grown, it is. And even though the fruit is eye-wateringly bitter, the flesh fibrous and seedy with little juice, Italians make the most of it. They use chinotto in marmalades, jams, marinades, chutneys and teas. They eat it with bread, cheese, fish, poultry and rice dishes. They candy it whole for a sweet treat at Christmas.

And they drink it. Chinotto is the key ingredient in Amari, those bitter Italian herbal liqueurs, like Cynar and Campari – think Spritz al Campari. But you most likely know chinotto from the popular carbonated Italian soft drink called Chinotto. Known as the Coca-Cola of Italy, Chinotto isn't as sweet and more bitter than Coke, and I wager there isn't an Italian bar, restaurant, trat or store anywhere in the world that doesn't offer Chinotto.

You can grow chinotto, you can eat chinotto and you can drink chinotto. Still, my favourite way to experience it is when I wear Fior di Chinotto parfum, from Italian niche line Abaton, a family perfumery located in Savona, Liguria, in northern Italy.

The Abaton website tells their story: 'Over 300 years ago, the Chinotto plant was brought to Savona from China by a Savonese sailor. The unique climate created by the proximity of the mountains to the sea made Savona the perfect environment for this plant to thrive, and this charming Italian town became its new home. The bitter citrus of the plant came to be highly regarded among navigators, who believed it was an amulet that protected them from diseases and danger on the high seas.'

Marco Abaton, a perfumer, has created three fragrances centred on chinotto essential oil from fruit grown on his family's farms. For me, the best of the three is Fior di Chinotto.

It begins with a bright, effervescent note of bitter orange, softened with a note of sweet juicy tangerine making the opening pretty and feminine. I settle right into it. Soon, a note of Damask rose wafts up to my nose. It's lush and a little powdery. I fall further into it and pick up the scent orange flowers – rich, heady and jasmine-tinged. Fruity notes support the flowers, giving them more depth and dimension. The heart blooms with more white flowers: indolic, opulent jasmine and heady, voluptuous tuberose flanked by a note of chinotto flowers that are citrusy, sweet and aromatic - they round out the white flowers beautifully. Patchouli contributes a green earthiness, while cedarwood gives it a soft woodiness. A kiss of honey adds just a lick of sweetness that leads to a note of sweet, warm amber. White musk adds a touch of warmth and sensuality that takes the fragrance from feminine to womanly, while precious woods give Fior di Chinotto a beautiful finish.

The drydown is refined and sensual, with those white flowers staying right to the end, with nothing to eclipse them. It's the intermingling of the creamy and luxurious flowers, especially in the parfum concentration, that made me realize this is the white floral I've always wanted but didn't know it until I smelled Fior di Chinotto.

Fior di Chinotto is listed in our Decant Store. Decants are $7.00 for 1 ml.