Every time I pick a vacation spot, I brace myself; I can count on friends, acquaintances, or strangers who overhear me discussing my trip, telling me what’s wrong with my choice: too dangerous, too expensive, too hot/too cold, too dirty, too far away — ‘You’re going that far for only two weeks!?’ When I announced my decision to visit Venice for the first time, a cautionary chorus began to chant: “It’s smelly!” “You should have seen it 20 years ago….” “Ah…the canals are full of floating trash!” “It floods!” and, my favorite: “It’s sinking!” (said as if Venice, and yours truly, might disappear into the Venetian lagoon during my trip). I’m an open-minded traveler but I’ll admit when I boarded the plane to Venice, I was apprehensive — could Venice live up to my high expectations?
After reading many lukewarm reviews of Eau d’Italie’s new Baume du Doge, I braced myself for disappointment as I opened my sample vial of the perfume. Would Bertrand Duchaufour and Baume du Doge’s enticing mix of ingredients (sweet orange, bergamot, fennel, myrrh, frankincense, cinnamon, coriander, saffron, clove, cardamom, black pepper, benzoin, vanilla, vetiver, cedar) let me down?
The romantically named Baume du Doge (Doge’s Balm) opens with rich citrus: fresh bergamot and a deep, almost syrupy, orange aroma. As the citrus burns off, a “cedar chest” opens and I begin to smell a cavalcade of some of my favorite fragrance notes — sweet-scented cedar, frankincense, dry cinnamon, and myrrh. Baume du Doge is evocative of winter and closed spaces: spice cabinets, wooden trunks, and shuttered rooms (where the scents of perfumes, well-used fireplaces and wood paneling and floors mingle); there is no hint of Venice’s canals or sea breezes in the fragrance. Baume du Doge’s notes of clove, cardamom, pepper and coriander are well blended and this mix of spices adds an opulent feel to the fragrance. As Baume du Doge dries down, a cedar-vetiver accord gives way to vanillic notes: a vanilla liqueur aroma turns into benzoin dust. Baume du Doge is a well-balanced fragrance with distinct phases of development: juicy citrus trickles over sticky resins, dry spices cling to moist vanilla, and benzoin incense crumbles to ash.
My first glimpse of Venice was not a disappointment. The Grand Canal’s turquoise-blue waters seemed lit from below and the sinking, late-afternoon sun colored the stone palaces pink and purple; cool gusts of wind blew in my face and made me forget my 15-hour flight. Venice was as glorious in person as I imagined it would be. I was so thrilled with the city I felt I was more likely to walk on its waters than sink into them. I wanted to like Baume du Doge because of its Venice “connection;” it can’t compare to the beauty of Venice but while sniffing the handsome Baume du Doge, I can easily imagine a mighty doge — or Venetian trader — savoring the aromas of its exotic ingredients.
Baume du Doge fits nicely into Eau d’Italie’s line-up of rich and interesting perfumes (excepting the bland summer 2008 offering: Magnolia Romana — Rome deserves better!) In Baume du Doge, fans of Duchaufour will recognize bits and pieces, echoes, of some of his earlier fragrances: Amouage Jubilation XXV, Comme des Garçons Sequoia, and L’Artisan Dzongkha. Baume du Doge has good lasting power and respectable (non-intrusive) sillage; it’s available in 100 ml Eau de Toilette ($130).
For buying information, see the listing for Eau d’Italie under Perfume Houses.