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Milano Caffè – A kiss on each cheek – March 27, 2015 New Fragrance Listing

Image - Wikipedia - Tazzinna di caffè a Ventigmilia, Liguria, Italia - May 1, 2008 by Limone 

Our downtown Toronto neighbourhood has seen a lot of change in the past ten years. Most of the older residents have moved or passed away, their houses bought by young families and renovated to the hilt, just like we did when we moved here thirty years ago. Most of the small stores have changed or disappeared too, but some are still here, and one of them is the Italian grocery store.

The little store with the green awning was opened by a young immigrant and his wife in 1958, and they became an important part of what was for almost fifty years a mostly Italian neighbourhood. It’s now owned by his three sons, who took over when Pa had a stroke a few years ago - right away they renovated and upgraded, and quickly brought the family business into the new millennium. The boys know good food, they understand quality and service, they’re all about good taste in every sense of the word - they’re Italian to the core – and now it’s once again my favourite store to shop for food.

I love the smell of the place – cured meats, olives and stinky cheeses, fresh crusty breads, ripe luscious fruits, lots of veggies and herbs, and coffee. They carry so many types of coffee beans, coffee cups, and coffee makers – in fact, an entire wall of them faces the checkout, because Italians love their coffee. Dark bitter espresso with a slightly acidic finish served in a little white cup on a saucer. No cream, no sugar, a small piece of dark chocolate on the side. The perfect start for an after-dinner conversation, the perfect end to a perfect meal.

Abdes Salaam Attar is a French national who’s lived in Italy for the past twenty-six years and considers Italy his home. He is a formidable natural perfumer and is the owner and creator of the artisanal niche line La Via del Profumo,  I’ve written about Balsamo della Mecca (Mecca Balsam), which I think is one of the most unusually beautiful and spiritual incense fragrances, a perfume made for the soul.  

When I read his description of one of his newest fragrances, Milano Caffè from his new Italian series project – Five Italian cities = Five fragrances - I felt like I was in familiar territory, and I couldn’t wait to try it.

“This perfume, named for Milan, is centered on the omnipresent and most characteristic smell of the city, the aroma of coffee. It pervades the streets and workplaces; it is part of every event and encounter, professional or leisurely; and is present in every social occasion. I have blended coffee with chocolate because that is the Milanese way: the residents of that marvelous city add Cacao powder to cappuccinos, and place a single square piece of chocolate next to your cup of coffee.”

Milano Caffè opens with deliciously rich and dissonant aromas of bitter coffee and darkest chocolate wrapped in an earthy patchouli leaf.  Within a couple of minutes light spices start to waft up, ginger, clove and cardamom, which add a slightly sweet tobacco note to the dark accord, giving it a very light dried fruit aspect. The earthy herbal note segues into a greener floral vetiver with a touch of  jasmine and lemon, which soften the darker notes.

This elegant effect becomes warmer and comforting as it moves into the heart, where the main accord becomes dryer, more resinous and slightly sweeter from opoponax (sweet myrrh) and tonka bean, with its unmistakable mix of vanilla and chocolate. A light amber note makes Milano Caffè feel smooth, but at the same time throughout the dry-down, I detect subtle balsamic wafts of woods and smoke, leather and incense, the familiar signature note of this talented perfumer.

Coffee plays a unique and complex role in our globalized world. It’s a tantalizing smell, a rich colour, a distinctive flavor, a strong stimulant around which many cultures through the centuries have built social rituals. None do it quite like the Italians, for whom coffee is part of the daily social fabric, is shared with loved ones and friends, and is usually accompanied by a touch of the hand or a kiss on each cheek. It’s much more than a simple drink in a cup, it’s a pleasurable experience that’s part of their day.

This is the feeling I get from Milano Caffè. Throughout its graceful development, coffee is the key note, dark and dry and aromatic, elegantly accented with chocolate, caramel, and vanilla - a very subdued natural sweetness – as well as grasses and flowers and woods – a green and floral balance. It’s a quiet fragrance with a waft that is soft and sensual but which stays close, perfectly suited for morning or night on women and men.

Milano Caffè isn’t really about the coffee note in a perfume or the smell of coffee, it’s much more about the pleasurable experience of living with beautiful scent.  Wear it, experience it, share it, enjoy it, and love it. Be Milanese, be Italian.

Milano Caffè is listed in our Decant Store. Decants are $6.00 for 1 ml.