The latest fragrance release from Santa Maria Novella is Toscano and, like its two most recent predecessors, Città di Kyoto and Angels of Florence, it is much lighter than the rich, syrupy, “fuel-like” Santa Maria Novella scents I love: Fieno (Hay), Sandalwood, Peau d’Espagne and the dry-as-bone (and mace-y) Marescialla Cologne (La Maréchale or Marshal’s Wife). Change is in the air at Santa Maria Novella; there seems to be a Modernizing Trend at work — the new creations are not in the piquant, artisanal style I associate with the company.
Though Toscano bears an evocative name (its creation was inspired by the famed Toscano cigars of Lucca, Italy) and comes in the old-fashioned Santa Maria Novella bottles, it smells more “American” than Tuscan to me (it is very accessible and ‘easy’ to wear). Toscano is not an attempt to recreate the literal aroma of sigari italiani; Toscano is a more abstract cigar/tobacco cologne. Toscano contains bergamot, jasmine, tobacco, birch leaf, vanilla, burnt malt and amber and is being marketed to men and women. The first two times I wore Toscano, I thought it was boring and was upset to smell a similarity between it and recent (bland) vanilla fragrances, but when I sprayed on a generous amount of Toscano, I liked it more and the tobacco note (which I enjoy) was amplified.
Toscano starts off with an astringent, somewhat floral, and slight tobacco note that slowly intensifies. The cologne’s opening reminds me of the smell of brand-new cardboard cigar boxes that have JUST been emptied of their cigar contents. (I know this aroma well; as a child I always asked for the colorful, empty cigar boxes from a neighborhood grocer and used the fragrant boxes to store my pencils and pens, feathers, stones, bones, shells, dried seed pods and all manner of insect carcasses.) As Toscano develops, I smell faint smoke, a ‘toasted’ (almost foody) vanilla note and an aroma that I’ll describe as amber-y liqueur.
If my description of Toscano leads you to believe it is in ANY way a “strange” or “weird” perfume (I’m always drawn to those), I must warn you that it is not such a scent; Toscano is well blended, develops rather quickly and highlights only a few perfume notes: namely sheer tobacco and sweet vanilla. Toscano is a perfect scent for cool weather and it appealed to many people I know who usually HATE tobacco fragrances. Toscano has good lasting power and minimal sillage.
I understand companies MUST change with the times to stay “relevant” and perhaps Santa Maria Novella needs to release more accessible, mainstream fragrances to continue the production of its older formulas, so I won’t complain about the likeable Toscano as long as the pungent, nose-tingling, ‘antique’ Santa Maria Novella fragrances are available.
In the US, Toscano is $110 for 100 ml. It is available now at lafcony, and will presumably be more widely distributed eventually (see the listing for Santa Maria Novella under Perfume Houses for more retailers). I highly recommend you request the spray apparatus when you buy any Santa Maria Novella cologne; there is usually an additional $3 charge for the atomizer (which, in my opinion, should be a “standard feature” at the prices Santa Maria Novella charges for its colognes).