The Colognes Of Santa Maria Novella

Out of the 44 from the Florentine apothecary brand, 15 bestsellers are now available here. And each essential oil-based cologne is still made the 1300s way.

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Out of the 44 from the Florentine apothecary brand, 15 bestsellers are now available here. And each essential oil-based cologne is still made the 1300s way.

Angeli di Firenze
Sweet-fruity with soft and fresh florals.  
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Pot Pourri
Crisp greens + dried flowers.
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Acqua di Sicilia
Fresh citrus with Sicilian bergamot.   
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Masculine woody-spicy + black pepper + lemon.

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Muschio Ora
Customers say this smells like the first Chanel No. 5.  
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Clean floral + green tea + amber.  
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Single-note everyday perfume with freesia 
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Another single fresh floral with gardenias.   
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Cala Rossa
Wild lavender + mint + eucalyptus.
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"It means pomegranate in Italia"

Tart + powdery + forest-y.
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A true powdery rose scent made from the May rose.
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A “men’s cologne” of intense citrus floral + musk.  
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Tabacco Toscano
Inspired by Manifattura di Lucca’s Tuscan cigar.
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Acqua di S. M. Novella
The first cologne, and still the bestseller.
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Sweet citrus + carnation + geranium. 

Santa Maria Novella doesn’t just have a rich history (it started in 1221); the Italian apothecary, still owned by Dominican friars, was also one of the most innovative and enterprising.

When the Black Death hit Europe in 1347, the friars of Santa Maria Novella distributed Acqua di Rose, a rose water disinfectant, to the public to help fight the plague. When it was called upon to make a fragrance for Catherine de Medici in 1533 as a wedding gift when she married the soon-to-be King of France, the friars were the first to use alcohol as a base instead of olive oil or vinegar – the latter were the norm then, but both left rancid odours over time.

That first fragrance, Acqua di S.M. Novella, a bitter-crisp Calabrian bergamot with other fresh citrus notes, is still the numero uno of the brand’s present-day range of 44 colognes.

What makes Santa Maria Novella’s colognes exceptional in an already crowded market of perfumes? Well, they are made the same way as they were almost five centuries ago – with nature’s best ingredients from Florence and alcohol as a base. Few antioxidants are used as preservatives, to keep the fragrances smelling as similar to their fresh elements as possible. Then the colognes undergo an “ageing process” where the notes become more intense, and the colours of the liquids change.

“The changes are not defects by any means,” says the brand’s Japanese manager, Mayuko Vermeulen. “They are chemical reactions that take place as the essential oils in the colognes adjust naturally to their environment. It’s like you’re using an evolving perfume all the time.”

Another thing that sets them apart: their back stories. Angeli di Firenze, a fruity floral, was created recently (in 2010) to mark the 40th anniversary of the 1966 Flood of Florence, which killed 101 people and destroyed rare art and books. The scent was dedicated to the Mud Angels, youths who came from all over the world to help save lives, rare books and fine art.

“Customers not only get to wear the scent, but also the story that inspired it. It’s romantic.” – CT

The colognes are from $210 each. At Colony Clothing, #01-37 UE Square.