I have incredibly itchy feet! It’s not a fungus or any physiological problem, rather it’s an ever present desire to travel and revel in new experiences. Fortunately, God has blessed me, and I am able to travel frequently. And even when it is for business, I make sure that there is a balanced amount of leisure to go with the work. One of my favourite destinations is Italy, and in particular, Florence. And so, in March last year, my gorgeous wife and I visited the “City of Lilies”. There aren’t many places I have been to that are as powerful and romantic as Florence. This culturally rich city, not only defined the Renaissance era, but, it transformed Europe’s consciousness to the way we think today. Wandering through its beautiful streets, I got goose bumps as my Tuscan genes recalled fleeting moments of my ancestors’ experiences. I am filled with pride when I see the depth of talent and sophistication these enlightened people of Florence possessed. And it was walking hand in hand with my love, on those enchanted cobbles, that I fell in love all over again.
On one of our many special evenings in Florence, and during a delightful business dinner, our very generous host, Paolo Persico, unexpectedly bumped into a colleague and perfumer Sileno Cheloni. We were introduced to him and we spoke briefly about his work. We then promised to visit him, during our stay, at his company “Aquaflor” at number 5 Borgo Santa Croce, Firenze. The next day we did not waste any time and rushed to Sileno’s address. Down a narrow cobbled street, framed by four story buildings was an unpretentious arched wooden door. “Is this the right place?” we asked ourselves. We rang the bell. Soon afterwards the door opened to a beautiful and crisp courtyard with pillars holding up stunning vaulted ceilings. Marble carved reliefs adorn the walls that surround what seems to be a well in the centre of this tranquil retreat. Having been temporarily distracted by this open space in the middle of the building, we walked into a magnificently designed lounge and reception. In the centre, finely crafted leather loungers encircled a gorgeous Persian rug. The walls, covered by exquisite cabinets and cupboards filled with beautiful bottles of fine perfumes and scents. One cannot escape the impression of excellence in Sileno’s work. I was soon irresistibly drawn to a table with raw ingredients attractively placed on it: Oppopanax; Olibanum; Star Anees; Fine wood-chips of Sandalwood and Cedar; and Damascan Rose petals. It was a feast for the senses. I was totally entranced, when a sales lady materialised from behind the table and introduced herself and the company to us. She was remarkably professional and knowledgeable about perfumes and Aquaflor. This was most evident when she led us to a table with many samples of Sileno’s work. We smelled and discussed raw ingredients and Aquaflor’s range of unique and quality perfumes at length. After much deliberation, I finally decided on my favourite of his excellently crafted perfumes: “Beirout”.
This is one of the most elegant and smooth scents I have ever smelled. It is generously full bodied for it to be a masculine scent, and lavishly beautiful for it to be feminine. Its top note is Calabrian Bergamot, however, it is not that obvious citrus note we are all used to. It is very subtle and is blended in so cleverly with Damascan Rose, creating a soft confection aroma. As the fragrance matures, it opens the door to its heart of Patchouli. Patchouli in Beirout is not allowed to be its aggressive self. The Rose beats it down substantially…but it is a Pyrrhic victory for Rose. In its battle, Rose and Patchouli surrender to an accord that is better than both individually. It is distinctive and velvety…. it’s tangible. At the base the perfumer has added Sandalwood and “Gunpowder” giving this fragrance a fuller body. It becomes delicately smoky, like wisps of vapour floating from a Bedouin tent. The Perfumer describes this fragrance as a crossroads between East and West and a perfect balance of beauty and drama. I could not agree more. The Middle East’s, Beirut, is the ancient confluence of smells, sights, sounds and flavours. Ancient cultures and ideas colliding into each other. Fusing to form new ones. Sileno has captured these mystical moments and times of the middle east into a delicate yet powerful fragrance – Beirout!