Paestum, for which Paestum Rose is named, is a small town on Italy’s Amalfi Coast, near Naples. It was an ancient Greek city, later conquered by Romans, and it still has the columned temples as evidence. I’ve read that the ruins were kept untouched for a thousand years because of the malarial mosquitoes that plagued the site; it was apparently “rediscovered” in the mid-1700s, becoming a popular attraction for European tourists. It’s also known for its roses, and this was the inspiration for Eau d’Italie’s fragrance.
The Eau d’Italie brand was created by Marina Sersale and Sebastían Alvarez Murena, as an offshoot of the Sersale family’s luxury hotel, Le Sirenuse, in the Amalfi Coast town of Positano. Paestum Rose was their second fragrance, launched in 2006. It, and most of the other Eau d’Italie scents, were created by perfumer Bertrand Duchaufour, who currently works on l’Artisan Perfumeur and Penhaligon’s.
It’s often listed as a unisex fragrance, but Sebastían Alvarez Murena told me once that the idea behind it was to create a rose scent for men. He described it as “a dry, resinous, contemporary rose.” Perfume critic Chandler Burr, who gave it five stars and called it “transcendental” in a 2008 review in the New York Times T Magazine, explained that it wasn’t anything like a traditional floral.
It’s easy to compare Paestum Rose to Le Labo’s Rose 31 for the simple fact that both are man-friendly rose scents, but they are quite different. Paestum Rose isn’t as bright; its floral notes are less syrupy sweet, and more grounded in what the company lists as incense notes. Rose 31, which debuted about the same time, has the animalic notes cumin and oud, among others. Both have pepper in the top notes, but Paestum Rose’s are less spicy. Paestum Rose is more in the chypre family and Rose 31 might be more of an oriental. I adore them both.
About three hours after I applied my sample of Paestum Rose, I realize that I could have been more generous. This is a soft (but surprisingly for a floral, not stereotypically feminine) scent, and I’m wanting more of it. I think it’s the myrrh and cedar in the basenotes that makes it more than just a rose.