Thursday, November 13, 2008

Review: ORTIGIA Zagara

Hard to resist something that looks like this.

By way of some probably dubious associative alchemy, this stylized tableau of palm, orange tree, and leopard manages to conjure up in me vaguely 'moorish' images of dry, hot sun, startling jewel-like oasis flora in dust and scorched rock, and lattice-shaded, tile-lined baths. The romance of that is suspect, as is any exoticization in my view, and I suppose the iconography is pretty heavy-handed, but clearly, Ortigia uses it all with good effect, indexing the North African influence on the eponymous island and on Sicily, generally, with Tunisia just a stone's throw away. Though it seems to me, as far as this toiletries/perfume line is concerned, the influence is more about historical imagination than fact -- which is probably why it is so seductive.

So, basically, even before I tried anything Ortigia, they had me in the bag. Luckily the scents and the products themselves happen to be really nice, too.

Zagara is a dry, aromatic rendering of orange blossom, more herbal than floral, and in fact more like neroli than orange blossom*. Neroli usually gives me a headache from its aggressive sharpness and orange blossom, especially as a featured note, sometimes makes me gag from its indoles, but not here. Nothing indolic and nothing too pointy, and weighted by a good dose of woody petitgrain that dries out the entire composition, giving it a very pleasant bitterness over the citrusy floral notes. Fairly linear as a fragrance but nice to wear as a light, casual scent -- I'm surprised how much I like it, really. And I think even more as a scent for bath toiletries. Feels both rejuvenating and calming to sit in a Zagara-scented bath.

The bath oil is especially nice. A little viscous but disperses completely in water, foaming slightly; lightly moisturizing; and scented enough to linger a bit on the skin after-bath, though the salts seem a little stronger. Overall, lovely products and worth giving in to.

And I really capitulated: the first time I used this bath oil, I put on The English Patient soundtrack. Even more questionable association-magick... but a measure of Ortigia's success.

*'Neroli' refers to steam-distilled extract of bitter orange; 'orange blossom absolute' refers to solvent-extracted bitter orange.

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