One Thousand Scents

Friday, May 01, 2009

Been There, Done That: 10 Corso Como

The only downside to being a complete fanatic about an art form, apart from the fact that you spend all your money on it, is that you get maybe a little jaded over time. If you love opera and you're going to your first live performance of Tosca, you'll be thrilled. If you've seen and heard fifty different performances and recordings, then you know more about it, your standards are higher, and you're likely to be more critical. You'll know when you're in the presence of greatness, but you'll also see and hear things that a less experienced person would miss. Others without your history may think you're just nitpicking, when the fact is that you know good from bad from mediocre and aren't shy about saying so.

And the same is true of perfumery. Back when I first started seriously wearing scents, in the early 1980s, I didn't know anything, certainly not enough to form a strong opinion beyond "I like this" and "I don't like this", and everything was new. Now I smell something and I immediately know if it's novel or something I've smelled a hundred times before. Last week I got into a discussion--not quite an argument--with a young co-worker about the perfumes she wears: D&G Light Blue, Ed Hardy, the sort of thing aimed at young women who want to smell nice and also like everyone else. I tried to convince her to broaden her horizons, but she remained unmoved: she knew what scents she liked, and they suited her fine. (I let her smell samples of a couple of somewhat more advanced and rather unisex scents: she hated them. She likes young-pretty-girly scents.) Maybe in ten years she'll develop more interesting taste, but I suppose it's more likely that she'll never be a fanatic: that she'll have a few bottles of things that she thinks smell good, and that will be fine for her.

10 Corso Como has a cult following, and I'm damned if I can see why. It's nice and all, but to be the object of adoration? I don't get it. It's not exactly like anything else on the market, admittedly; but it also isn't better than everything else of its general style, either.

The opening is the most interesting part of the scent, strikingly bitter, mostly geranium and oudh (otherwise known as agarwood) with a suggestion of gasoline. This mostly proceeds to burn away in about ten minutes, and what we're left with is...

Sandalwood. Nice sandalwood, probably synthetic (since we've hunted the real thing nearly to extinction) but nice all the same: sharp-edged, warm but tinder-dry. And yet it's really just sandalwood (with some of that bitter oudh and a bare hint of incense that becomes stronger at the drydown), and there's nothing wrong with that, but it can't hold my interest when there there are a lot of other sandalwood scents out there that have more to offer: ambery Jacques Fath Pour L'Homme, winey Le Boisé, and boozy Idole de Lubin, to name just three of my favourites. All three have much more character than 10 Corso Como, which for most of its life just kind of sits there.

The incense slowly becomes dominant at the end stage of the scent, though even then it isn't strong, and the whole thing just gradually peters out. It takes a good while, though: eight hours, for sure, maybe more.

If I had a bottle of 10 Corso Como, I'd wear it from time to time. It's pleasant enough, well-made, lots of fun at the beginning. But there's no thrill to it. It's a placeholder, a scent to wear because you want to have a scent on your skin. In art, the great is sought after, emulated, and adored, and there's always a place for the flagrantly bad (if only as kitsch, or a bad example); but average, staid, middle-of-the-road? Who can fall in madly love with that?


  • I gave my bottle to my 23-year old a daughter who was completely smitten with it! She receives compliment after compliment (all men, mind you.). She thinks it's terribly sexy. Did not work for me as a go-to fragrance, but I'm so glad Lindsay Dunbar loves it. She's already asking where she can find it!

    By Blogger Unknown, at 1:13 AM  

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