Costa Azzura by Tom Ford

A strange concoction from the house of Tom Ford. Described as evocative, salty and sensual – This private blend captures the ‘washed ashore’ mix of fragrant and unorthodox woods from the azure blue shores of Sardinia. Salty water, incredibly fragrant herbs, coniferous evergreens and the musty smell of driftwood blend with subtle kicks of juniper, oak, celery leaf, candied lemon and algae notes. We’re in for a strange ride.

Costa Azzura by Tom Ford

Photo by Tom Ford

Now one of three in the Neroli Portofino collection, Tom Ford truly channels the Italian summertime feel all with a specific geographic location in mind. Whilst Neroli Portofino and the other new release, Mandarino di Amalfi are very cologne-centric, this fragrance is completely different. It feels heavier than a cologne, and when you apply it, it is redolent of a muskier cologne in its middle drydown stage. The lack of ‘fresh’ herbs are replaced with herbs and leaves that are not only naturally more pronounced (artemisia, myrtle, rosemary, juniper and celery notes), but also somewhat touched by the sun. Aged, dried and concentrated – this aromatic woody-citrus fragrance is immediately weighted and concurrently, immediately intriguing (but not for long!).

I do however, have difficulty wearing this fragrance. Whilst I most certainly do get incredibly…no, overly-gourmand notes. A lingering of boiled carrot, a sweet yet sour note and the very prominent note of celery seed reminds me of the Italian holy trinity – soffritto (or the French mirepoix). Do I want to smell like the beginnings of a bolognese sauce (hold the protein)? A difficult question; probably not.

And with my current obsession for the perfect aquatic, [and] by using Acqua Di Gio by Giorgio Armani and Cool Water by Davidoff as reference I can be really finicky with my reviews. Still so far the perfect aquatic still lies with Épice Marine and that for me is still much more redolent of the superlative aquatic – but also happens to be the most picturesque tonic so far too; is there a correlation? If Acqua Di Gio tries to attune themselves to salt water on skin touched by the sun – Costa Azzura is like an anchovy in its presence, and only does a slightly better job in the salt category.

To a great degree, Costa Azzura is just like dirty saltwater. A figurative soup bowl with citrus pith, seaweed, celery leaves, toasted seeds, lavender and lemon mixed around for a bit to produce something ‘nice’, but something that isn’t perfect.  Perhaps this is overly complicated; after all, the note list is quite hectic. The opening is very nice. Very real citrus with salt in the background. The vegetal notes and the wood notes are hidden, whilst the quaintest drop of oud wood makes you smile as a result of a pleasant nasal surprise.

Mildly kitsch, a lavender and vanilla combination tickle the olfactic nerve that reeks of commonality. Lavender in a men’s fragrance, forever evocative of the fougere that your grandpa’s dad’s dad wore – and so on. Thankfully driftwood keeps these notes at bay, which is both good and bad – because I’ve developed a love-hate relationship for driftwood.

The focal note, driftwood is such a strange ingredient. My piquant yet minuscule disdain for it rouses my senses and in some instances makes me scrunch up my nose in the same manner an anchovy may make a child’s face turn into a tensed-up mess and inevitably cry out for water. It encompasses virtually all scent profiles. It has a spiciness, a sugary-feel, it’s animalic and somewhat rotten too. And so, the marine feel becomes overly-marine. Complex and robust (ok, sure), it spells out mentally the hot sand dotted with sprawling dark green vegetation, but is still far too prickly and overly concentrated to be perfect in my eyes. The rough corners have to be smoothed out. In a previous review I even mention how having a very naturalistic smell isn’t always the best smell obtainable – this fragrance embodies that idea.

Digressing on, complexity is this fragrance’s best friend and without it may be a flop. Bouquets of dried herbs from the pantry mingle incredibly with juniper (another favourite of mine), but that is always behind the driftwood. The illusion of kiwi and especially the aroma of its brown skin is conjured with the notes of bay leaf, citrus, mastic and the vegetal smell of ambrette (smell Chanel’s No. 18 for a better idea). This naturally dries down to the dank and mossy smell of driftwood, backed up with sweet frankincense and old oak.

Alternatives: Neroli Portofino by Tom Ford; Acqua Di Gio by Giorgio Armani; and Coolwater by Davidoff.

If Seinfeld’s Cosmo Kramer’s beach cologne became real – here we have it. Overall I find Costa Azzura to be decent, but not great. I feel like a walking celery stick or a wooden table at times. Great opening; too much driftwood later on.

Subjective rating : 2/5

Objective rating: 3/5

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