Scents and Venetian sensibility

Alessandrite I, in travel and full size, is a heady aldehydic floral that's part of Valmont's new “Storie Veneziane” collection. Images courtesy Valmont.

Just as the taste of a luscious, tea-dipped madeleine — the shell-shaped, cake-like cookie — conjures the memory of his aunt for Marcel Proust in his seminal novel “In Search of Lost Time,” so a scent can fill you with nostalgic evocation and longing. 

Perhaps more than sight and sound, a scent can also define a place for you. For Sophie Guillon, CEO of Valmont Group, the Swiss beauty line featured at the Delamar Greenwich Harbor, among other luxe establishments, “La Serenissima” comes alive in its scents — the tang of the sea, the aroma of freshly brewed coffee served steaming as the first vaporetti (waterbuses) set off through the canals. Though a passionate Parisian, Venice has her heart, being the first city she visited with husband, Didier, the company’s artistic director.

For him, sight has been the Venetian conjurer. Visiting the fog-swathed city on a Christmas Day, he thought it the epitome of a J.M.W. Turner seascape. Luchino Visconti’s film of the Thomas Mann novella “Death in Venice” also sprang to his mind.

So it’s no wonder that the city has hosted a Valmont Foundation exhibit as part of the Biennale since 2013. Or that Valmont should turn to Venice for the inspiration for its  Storie Veneziane, which consists of five intoxicating new fragrances. Each is housed in a bottle embellished with leather, a signature Venetian craft, and a jewel-colored mask made of handblown Murano glass — itself a product of the lagoon’s exceptionally fine sand and seaweed ash. The masks — designed by Didier and fashioned by master glassmaker Leonardo Cimonlin — seem to salute still another Venetian art, Carnival.

Each fragrance lets you “wander” through a distinct neighborhood — perfect for a city of flaneurs.

Verde Erba — a subtle, spring-like green floral with notes of woodsy syringa, papyrus and vanilla — invites you to stroll the Pontile Sant’Elena and explore the isle’s 12th-century church and monastery, soccer stadium and
Biennale buildings.

Alessandrite I — a heady aldehydic floral blending jasmine and bergamot in a bottle with a diamantine face — captures L’Arsenale’s mix of the traditional and the modern.

Brilliantly crimson Rosso I — a floral oriental bouquet of pink berries, Damask roses and oud — lets you get away from it all in the cloister of San Francesco Della Vigna.

Gaggia Medio I — an amber scent with notes of cardamom and sweet sandalwood — pays tribute to arty, winding Dorsoduro.

Blu Cobalto I — an oriental gourmand of patchouli, cocoa and opoponax adorned with a sapphire-colored mask — lets you shop with a difference amid the crafts and Baroque splendor of Campo San Moisè.

Pick your passion or let fate decide. You can’t go wrong with any of these scents. Or splurge on all five and find yourself transported to Venice wherever you are — one, in a sense, with Proust.

Le Storie Veneziane is available exclusively at Saks Fifth Avenue’s flagship store in Manhattan through August. It’s available in September at SPA Valmont at Hotel Plaza Athénée in Manhattan and the Hotel Bel-Air Spa in Los Angeles. The price is $420 (100ml). The travel size is also available for $210 (8.5ml). For more, visit and for more on this year’s Biennale, which continues this month with dance, visit

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