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Nostalgia – Wood, leather, rubber…. a wistful beauty - April 27, 2015

Alberto Ascari in the Lancia D50 in 1954 public domaine image


Most Monday evenings you’ll find me at Ascari Enoteca on Queen St. E., in Toronto, enjoying a delicious handmade pasta meal chased down by a glass of crisp, sparkling prosecco.

The restaurant is named for Alberto "Ciccio" Ascari, the famed Italian racing driver who won the Formula One World Champion twice. Ascari got his start in motor racing after driving the prestigious Mille Miglia - the open-road endurance race that which took place in Italy twenty-four times from 1927 to 1957 and went from Brescia to Rome and back, in a figure-eight shaped course of a thousand Roman miles.

He is the son of Antonio Ascari, who was a Grand Prix motor racing star in the 1920s. The younger Ascari had an impressive racing career, but what stirs people’s interest in him is the similarities between his and his father’s deaths:

Alberto Ascari died on 26 May 1955, at the age of 36. Antonio Ascari was also 36 when he died, on 26 July 1925 (Alberto was only four days older). Both were killed four days after surviving serious accidents and on the 26th day of the month. Both had crashed fatally at the exit of fast left-hand corners and both left behind a wife and two children.

Kinda makes you wonder…..

Ascari Enoteca, like a Formula One car, is sleek, modern and minimal and pays homage to a motor racing hero. There’s not a whiff of racing nostalgia in the restaurant. For that we have to turn to Nostalgia eau de cologne from Italian niche house Santa Maria Novella.

 Launched in 2002, Nostalgia, according to the SMN website, was designed to suggest the odors associated with Millemiglia race cars. Smells of tires worn out by acceleration and sudden breaking blend with hints of gasoline and leather, both of which are characteristic of antique cars.

It opens with a burst of citrusy bergamot that ushers in gorgeous notes of rubber and gasoline. If these notes sound harsh, they don’t smell that way. Instead, the opening is extremely refined on me – green and a little sweet. As it blooms, it gets woody from cedarwood and dark and resinous from styrax. And then there’s the birchtar – leathery, tarry and smoky, it worms its way through the fragrance, as patchouli comes forward, soft and sweet, its camphorous aspect extending the wintergreen facet of the birchtar to a base sweetened just so by amber and vanilla.

The drydown is woody, smooth and sophisticated with that note of rubber sitting on the surface – a testament to the notes being in perfect balance and harmony so that it has a wistful beauty.

The only thing I find a little bit funny about Nostalgia is that it is from Santa Maria Novella – a house started by herbalist friars in 1612. But, I guess just because you’re a friar doesn’t mean you can’t get nostalgic for the good old days of the Millemiglia.

Oh, and if you are looking for something to do on a Monday night, consider dropping by Ascari Enoteca, when the wine is half price.

Nostalgia is listed in our Decant Store. Decants are $5.00 for 1 ml.