As the autumn deepens and winter approaches, the mood that I want to create in my house invariably changes. Light floral scents lose their appeal and more robust woods and resins gain favor, as I look for fragrances that are more introspective, warm and inviting. And as the holidays approach, new scents (or repackaged scents) hit the market, all claiming to create that special ambience. Tocca's Cortina (Brazilian Elemi Wood) candle is described on some websites as "a scent that evokes images of a roaring fire and the comfort of a mug of hot mulled wine".
As I tend to dislike overly gourmand home scents, and or anything that smells too identifiably "holiday-esque", that description didn't convince me, but Tocca desribes it somewhat differently: "The crisp, inviting scent of Elemi Wood whisks you away to this famous mountainside getaway where romance and adventure abound." Having never been to Cortina, I can't speak to their accuracy, but I can say that the Cortina candle turned out to be a lovely surprise, and in some ways reminded me most of my own beloved New England autumns.
The first impression of the Cortina scent is spicy and woody, quite sweet and with a wee bit of smoke that is more obvious when the candle is unlit. Once lit, the peppery warmth and spice are tempered by an almost balmy aquatic note — quite unexpected and fairly strong — reminding us that winter has not yet staked its claim and there are still some warm days to be had. It creates the impression (although not entirely the scent) of crisp autumn leaves softened by a gentle Indian summer rain. I was unable to find a detailed description of the notes, and unfortunately am not familiar with elemi wood (Brazilian or otherwise) but two of my aromatherapy books described it as "fresh spicy woody green, festive and full" and "strongly balsamic and hot" respectively. Both of those descriptions seem apt, although I did not get much green from the scent, and if I had to guess I would also proffer the inclusion of well blended touches of cinnamon bark, clove oil, olibanum and possibly a hint of labdanum.
The spices and resins complement the composition without overwhelming it. I also gathered what might be a touch of petitgrain, working with the distinct watery note. Stepping back from the individual notes, the overall composition is sweetly woody and spicy, with that unexpected aquatic lift that surprises me every time I walk into the room. It does also occasionally recall the sweet earthy tones of chewing tobacco, although Tocca has another candle which is centered around sweet tobacco (Agadir).
I find this to be an unusual, classy and lovely take on early autumn — particularly fitting to the rather wet autumn we have had here in New York this year. It is a high quality candle with excellent throw and a very clean burn, and pricewise it compares very favorably to other staples of the high end candle market. I imagine it as an entirely unisex scent, evocative for those who enjoy spending their time outdoors.
The Tocca Cortina candle is $36 for 10.6 oz. For buying information, see the listing for Tocca under Perfume Houses.