A Secret Santa swap introduced me to Krizia’s Teatro Alla Scala. On first sniff, I knew it was right up my alley; lush, heavy, spicy, rosy, with a dark base. I started reading up on it and looking for a bottle.
Everybody was comparing it to Chanel’s Coco. Luca Turin even said in the new Guide that, although no one has improved on Coco, “Krizia’s Teatro alla Scala came close.” This made me wonder about Coco, too. I have a bit of vintage EDT, nearly twenty years old, and the Secret Santa (thank you Sandra!) thoughtfully included a generous amount of Coco in my package, too. Then, Brian of “Now Smell This” mentioned Cinnabar, in a comment, and I remembered that I had a sample of it. So you know where this is going, right?
Although I’m not sure that the Coco included in my swap package was brand-new, one sniff tells me it’s not as old as mine. In fact, these could be two different scents. My old bottle has degraded a bit -- yes, it’s true, I used to keep perfume out on the dresser -- and the first sniff is “old aldehyde,” but this vintage asserts itself in a way that the new one simply doesn’t -- or can’t.
Not that the new one is bad. It’s not. (I’m thinking about the time I actually got corralled into talking to a Bloomingdale’s SA about No. 22; when I mentioned my very incense-heavy vintage version, she gave the air a delicate sniff and declared, “that is how they used to make perfume.” Well, yeah, I get it, I’m old, okay.) The new Coco is all about flowers and a little spice; nothing wrong with that, but the old one had much more gravitas. Looking at the notes from Basenotes, I see some dead giveaways: clove, sandalwood, civet, amber. That’s got to be the old formula. This one has more jasmine, more orange blossom, more vanilla. My bottle is too old to be Coco, and certainly not young enough to be Coco Madamoiselle. In other words, it, and I, am out of the demo.
I don’t know how old my sample of Cinnabar is, but, on first sniff I thought “Youth-Dew Lite.” If Youth-Dew was vintage Coco, this would be modern Coco. That basalmic thang is there right away, and it doesn’t change much, except to get drier, cooler, with a little more patchouli. Supposedly, Cinnabar was concocted before the launch of Opium (and don’t even get me started on Opium unless you want to be bored to death with yet another reformulation rant) but released after it, thereby doomed to forever be Opium’s mousy younger sister. Not fair, but hey, what is?
So now we get to Teatro Alla Scala. It’s one of those mink-coat fragrances, well-named, from the 80’s of course, and discontinued. But it’s available all over the place -- most of the online discounters have it and fleabay has lots, and this made me wonder: how can this be? Turns out Krizia has been licensed out at least twice. Morris Profumi, who owned the license for a while, is now the property of the Italian investment group Investindustrial, a mid-sized group doing business mostly in Europe, which also owns the licenses for Ducati motorcycles, Ruffino wines, La Perla fragraces, and Selective Beauty, a cosmetics and fragrance distributor (aha!) Looking at their annual report, I see that they’ve been divesting themselves of nonperforming divisions lately. This fact alone makes me think seriously about ordering another bottle.
And...oh yeah, I almost forgot: it’s reasonable. Very reasonable.
When you get to the final drydown, the Teatro and the vintage Coco do have a lot in common -- the spices and the unmistakable animalic base -- while the modern Coco is still throwing that bridal bouquet, and the Cinnabar hasn’t changed much except for revealing the patch. (The vintage Coco, truth be told, lasted longer.)
When I got my bottle of Teatro from fleabay, printed on the back of the box was the Holy Trinity of modern perfume shopping: (ethyl) alcohol, (Teatro Alla Scala) fragrance, (purified) water. Adjectives aside, this is an occasion for rejoicing; pre-reformulation! And oooh, does it smell good -- if lush and spicy rose is what you like. (A hint: if you’re not comfortable in evening clothes, you probably won’t like it.)
Want to try some? Leave me a comment; I’ll pick two of you at random and send you each a sample. Deadline is Monday, Jan. 18th, midnight US Eastern time.
Perfumers: Coco: Jacques Polge. Cinnabar is listed everywhere I could find as “Estee Lauder.” I have not been able to find out who the perfumer was for Teatro Alla Scala.
Notes for Teatro Alla Scala include aldehydes, coriander, fruity notes and bergamot; carnation, tuberose, orris root, jasmine, beeswax, ylang-ylang, rose and geranium; patchouli, musk, benzoin, civet, oakmoss, vetiver and incense (from Fragrantica).
Notes for Coco (old formula, I believe) include are mandarin, coriander, peach, orange blossom, mimosa, clove, rose, sandalwood, vanilla, civet and amber (from Basenotes/Ozmoz).
Notes for Cinnabar include orange, mandarin, aldehydes, bergamot, clove, rose, cinnamon, carnation, jasmine, ylang-ylang, patchouli, incense, sandalwood, vanilla and vetiver (from Basenotes/Osmoz).