Scents and sensitivities

Have you ever wondered what omnipotent religious figures smell like? Probably not. Let’s try it this way instead: ever wondered what it would take to smell like an omnipotent spiritual leader?

For those whose answer is “yes”, the answer has finally arrived, because Pope Benedict XVI has commissioned a bespoke perfume for himself.

Created by Silvana Casoli, a boutique perfumer based in the city of Reggio Emilia in the north of Italy, who has also fashioned bespoke blends for Madonna, Sting and King Juan Carlos of Spain, the fragrance contains notes of lime tree, verbena and grass.

Casoli, who has been making perfumes since 1988, first came to the attention of the Vatican elders when she blended two perfumes for Catholic pilgrims to Santiago de Compostela, called Water of Faith and Water of Hope. The priests liked them so much they presented them to the Pope.

Although Casoli is sworn to secrecy about her Papal perfuming, she reveals that she has never met Benedict himself. “I put months into the creation and it was not easy to be able to make this one,” is all she will add.

There are 50-odd perfumes in Casoli’s regular range, all fairly diverse, and she has no real olfactory signature, unlike, say, brands such as Jo Malone (evanescent and translucent), or Serge Lutens (opaque and resinous). “They are all mixable together,” she explains. “I like catching the essence of every moment and exploiting the great opportunities offered by nature and life. My perfumery style is spontaneous, free, independent and a little wild.” Still, some of her perfumes do have notably spiritual inspirations.

“Fede is an elixir to calm you when you are wandering and meeting people during life’s journey,” she says. “And Speranza is very full of the aroma of energy; it’s a hymn for life. Both have an essence of Doctor Bach.”

Casoli, who is a Catholic “but not assiduously practising”, is married with two daughters, Barbara and Andrea, and initially trained as a herbalist at the University of Urbino. She later studied aromatherapy and cosmetology.

Her brand, Il Profumo, was launched 20 years ago in her home city, and she has a charming shop on Piazza Fontanesi, a bit like Santa Maria Novella in Florence: the sort of secret boutique you stumble upon inadvertently when on holiday and remember ever-after – especially concoctions such as the self-explanatory Chocolate; Aria Di Mare (oceanic); Amour (mandarin, peach, lily and iris); and Cannabis. Safe to say, the latter scent did not figure much for the Pope.

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