In his most recent podcast, Joe Borrelli spoke briefly about some of the scents of classic wet shaving products. I thought I would write a little more on the subject.
There are few things more evocative than scent. And when it comes to classic scents, Italy is in a league of its own. From the bright, citrusy fragrances of the Amalfi Coast to the earthy, musky aromas of Tuscany, each region of Italy has its own signature scent. Here are some of the most iconic Italian smells and how they relate to wet shaving.
A note about “Example Products.” I’ve listed some shaving products from Italian companies but these scents are also available in other products as well. Italian Barber in Canada is especially noteworthy for offering shaving and grooming products in the Italian tradition.
Note that geni.us links are affiliate.
The almond scent is the classic scent of the Italian barbershop (quite different from that of their US counterparts). This is no doubt due to the preference of the popular shave soaps that were (and still are) available.
The scent of almonds is often described as sweet, warm and nutty. almond extract is one of the most commonly used extracts in baking, and it is also used in many perfumes and cosmetics. And then there are hints of floral and citrus notes that can make almond an incredibly complex and unique scent.
Almond is one of the most popular nuts in the world. In Italy it is grown in the southern part of the country (and in Sicily).
- Antica Barbieria Colla Almond Oil Shave Soap
- Cella Shave Soap
- Mondial 1908 Almond Shaving Cream Soap
- Tcheon Fung Sing “Ciotola Rossa”
I like to think of Eucalyptus as the “modern classic” Italian scent, primarily due to the popularity of Proraso shave products beginning around 1950. Eucalyptus plantations are found in the Italian island of Sardinia.
When it comes to defining the scent of eucalyptus, there is no one answer. Depending on the type of eucalyptus, the location it grows in, and even the time of year, the smell of eucalyptus can vary greatly. However, there are some common threads that run through all descriptions of the eucalyptus scent. Most people say that eucalyptus has a fresh, minty smell with hints of citrus. Some also describe a woody or camphor-like aroma.
- Proraso “Refreshing And Toning”
- The Goodfellas’ Smile Traditional Pino Alpestre Shave Soap
- Saponificio Bignoli Shaving Cream – Lavanda Balsamica
Citrus (Primarily Orange And Lemon)
In Italy, citrus trees are grown in many different regions. The climate and soil of the country allow for a variety of citrus fruits to be grown. Some of the most popular citrus fruits grown in Italy include lemons, oranges, and grapefruits.
Lemons are thought to have originated in India or China, but they have been grown in Italy for centuries. Lemons were first mentioned in Italian literature in the 12th century. Oranges were also first mentioned in Italian literature during the same time period. At first, only bitter/sour oranges were grown in Italy. Sweet oranges were not introduced to the country until the 16th century.
- Saponificio Varesino “Cosmo” shave soap
- Mondial 1908 Mandarin & Spices shave soap
- The Goodfellas’ Smile Orange Empire Traditional Shaving Soap
- Saponificio Bignoli Agrumi del Mediterraneo Shaving Cream
Sub-Variants: Bergamot And Neroli (AKA Bitter Orange)
Bergamot is a citrus fruit that is used to make perfume and cologne. The scent of bergamot is very strong and can be detected in many products. Bergamot has a unique smell that is both sweet and sour, similar to lemon. It is one of the most popular scents used in perfumes and colognes.
Neroli, also known as Bitter Orange, is a citrusy scent that is used in many perfumes and colognes. The smell of Neroli is said to be bitter and sweet at the same time, with a hint of floral.
Neroli oil is an essential oil produced from the blossom of the bitter orange tree. Orange blossom is also extracted from the same blossom and both extracts are extensively used in perfumery.
While sandalwood is not native to Italy, it is very popular in scented products from Italy.
“Genuine” Sandalwood is Santalum album, a threatened species indigenous mainly in southern India. Although most genuine Sandalwood trees have a government-controlled harvest due to over-harvesting for years, many trees are illegally cut down for their oil. Traders often accept oil from closely related species, as well as from unrelated plants with similarly-scented wood or oil.
Sandalwood’s scent is masculine and “can vary from an earthy dampness to piney to a kind of spice.”
For much more detailed information on Sandalwood click/tap here to read “What Is Sandalwood And Why Is It In My Shaving Stuff.”
- Proraso “Nourishing” shave cream
- Mondial 1908 Sandalwood Shave Cream Soap
- Saponificio Bignoli Sandalo Indiano shaving cream
- Saponificio Varesino “Mirto di Sardegna” shave soap
In conclusion, classic scents of Italy are evocative and timeless. They transport us to a place of history, culture, and romance. These scents are worth seeking out and savoring. They remind us of what is truly important in life.