Italian niche perfumery Bois 1920 makes several perfumes I enjoy (Vetiver Ambrato, Sandalo e Thé, Sutra Ylang), but the company isn’t known for outré or highly original fragrances. Bois 1920 makes well-formulated, high-quality, good-smelling scents. Recently, Bois 1920 launched a limited edition marine fragrance for men: Oltremare (so limited they didn’t even bother to update their website with any info on the fragrance); Oltremare was made to conjure “the sea breeze,” “the smell of waves” and “the winter sea.”
Usually I don’t pay much attention to aquatic-fragrance launches, but curiosity (how will Bois 1920 tackle an aquatic cologne?) and the recommendations of people I trust made me want to try it. A Now Smell This reader kindly sent me a sample of Oltremare from Santa Barbara, California…an appropriately oceanic locale.
Oltremare includes fragrance notes of lemon, lime, sweet orange, bergamot, tea, red tea, Paraguayan tea, geranium, violet, hyacinth, rhubarb, juniper berries, sandalwood, ambergris, white musk and patchouli. Oltremare begins with citrus-y tea (cool lime-bergamot combined with red tea and yerba mate) and then, in mid-development, becomes a “whirlpool” of quickly arriving, quickly disappearing notes: juniper, geranium leaf, and perhaps ‘rhubarb’ (which, if that’s what I’m smelling, provides some “crispness” and tartness).
As Oltremare dries, it becomes more floral with smooth, sweet ‘aquatic’ hyacinth dominating some residual citrus and “red tea”/yerba mate (tea notes with a “sea” vibe…just sniff a freshly brewed cup of strong rooibos or mate and you’ll smell what I mean). In the extreme dry-down, white musk kicks in and sweetens the flowery aspect even further.
For those of you who have tried many aquatic colognes, Oltremare will smell familiar (on first sniff, it reminded me of Bond no. 9 Montauk, and phases of Oltremare's development brought to mind Bleu de Chanel, too); Oltremare is the type of aquatic fragrance whose “water” element is supplied by flower notes (often lotus, water lily, lilac, or in this case, hyacinth). Oltremare doesn’t smell too much like the ocean except in the perfume sense of the word “ocean.” Oltremare isn’t a cool, briny, ‘mineral’ ocean fragrance but more of a freshwater lake scent — clean and summery.
I’m not a fan of floral aquatics, and this scent didn’t change my mind, but Oltremare is one of the better aquatic colognes I’ve smelled (my favorite being Olivier Durbano Turquoise). Oltremare’s ingredients are top notch and rich-smelling (without being heavy). If you love aquatics, try Oltremare before it disappears (“only” 1,920 bottles were made, “1920”…get it?)
Oltremare Eau de Toilette has good lasting power and mild sillage, and is available in 100 ml Eau de Toilette ($220). For buying information, see the listing for Bois 1920 under Perfume Houses.
Note: top image (of hyacinth) via Wikimedia Commons.