An ode to the island’s personality. In conversation with Véronique Gautier, Armani Beauty’s General Director, and Alberto Morillas, Master Perfumer and creator of Cyprès Pantelleria
Armani Privé Haute Couture fragrance collection
In 2021, Giorgio Armani is ready to unearth a project of a perfume that pays homage to Pantelleria, an island that he has been cherishing for the last forty years thanks to its personality and remoteness. The name of the fragrance is Cyprès Pantelleria. For the past fifty years the designer has been translating the essence of his haute couture into a collection of perfumes inspired by travel as well as moments of everyday life. Each ingredient in the Armani Privé Haute Couture fragrance collection reveals the specificity of a texture, an image, a place, by pursuing the principle of similarity.
Armani Privé emphasizes the value of heritage, craftsmanship and savoir faire in the creative process of its perfume-making. The selection of raw materials is also a priority for the label. Today the collection comprises twenty-two fragrances grouped into four families. Les Eaux, evoking the nature found in gardens. La Collection, originally developed for his friends as a way to experiment with freedom, in which each perfume reinterprets single ingredients, like amber, iris flower and incense, by centering them. Mille Et Une Nuits, a dream built on elements found in the East, such as oud, leather, musk and myrrh. Terres Précieuses, inspired by the cultures, atmospheres and scents of countries like India and Russia. Each creation recreates the palette of Giorgio Armani, the founder’s life experiences and his passions. Their attitude favors nuance as well as storytelling.
Cyprès Pantelleria perfume
Three years ago Véronique Gautier, Armani Beauty’s General Director, and Alberto Morillas, Master Perfumer, had a chance to experience the roughness and magic of Pantelleria. It was the beginning of the adventure that would later be embodied by Morillas’ creation for the brand. Morillas crafted Cyprès Pantelleria as a way to awaken the intensity of his encounter with the island’s landscape. As the perfumer recounts, wind engulfs you as soon as you step on the island. Together with its wilderness, water and sun.
In the context of Pantelleria’s landscape, such manifestations had been the focus of Morillas’ attention throughout the perfume’s creation. From its invention to its testing. It was during the latter phase that Morillas and Gautier were able to see the cypress and develop the perfume around it, sharing ideas on its accords and making sure it stood out. But to fathom Pantelleria one must first embrace its contrasts, as Gautier remarks.
Cypress, the root of Cyprès Pantelleria
To experience Cyprès Pantelleria means, in fact, to sense the personality of the island. The perfume encapsulates it, together with its spirit, through the accords and the bottle. Its color reminisces the foliage of Mediterranean cypress. «Once you smell the accord, you start to understand this paradise», Morillas says.
Cypress essence constitutes the root of Cyprès Pantelleria. The Mediterranean cypress, Cupressus sempervirens, finds its origin in the eastern area of the Basin, in countries like Libya, Turkey, Cyprus, Egypt, Lebanon, Palestine, Israel and Iran. It is famous for the scent and durability of its wood. In Italy, it is used for the manufacturing of harpsichords. Cypress is the first facet of the marine accord to hit our sense of smell, which unfolds in the first five minutes of the perfume’s breadth. Here, citrus like mandarin, bergamot and citron endow the perfume with the energy, fervor and luminosity found when one meets the island’s breeze and sunlight. They bring a «solar saltiness» – as Gautier defines it – to Cyprès Pantelleria. Once this accord subsides, vetiver and clary sage announce their presence.
Vetiver and clary sage, Cyprès Pantelleria‘s ingredients
Crafted for the brand, the two ingredients are sustainably sourced in a commitment to preserve biodiversity, ensure traceability as well as to promote economic emancipation, as part of Armani’s responsibility toward the environment and each material’s place of origin. The vetiver essence employed here reminisces wood, comfort and warmth. It moves away from the impression of smoke that connotes the element.
Vetiver is a Tamil word that means cut root. Its extract comes from a perennial bunchgrass, Chrysopogon zizanioides. The vetiver plant is related to the sorghum genus. It also shares its morphology with other species used in perfume-making, like lemongrass, citronella and palmarosa. For this creation, Morillas highlighted the personality of the clary sage flower through a steam-based extraction process that could bring its quality to the fore.
Plateau de Valensole
The clary sage, Cyprès Pantelleria’s heart, is harvested in Plateau de Valensole, a eight-hundred square kilometers expanse in Provence known for its lavender fields, its valleys crowded with sunflowers and hilltop villages. The plant used to extract the ingredient, Salvia sclarea, belongs to the genus salvia. It is native to the Mediterranean Basin. Its use as a medicine traces back to the fourth century BCE, when it entered the writings of Theophrastus. The practice of placing a clary seed into one’s eye to medicate it was first noted by Nicholas Culpeper in his Complete Herbal (1653). He then referred to the plant as «clear eye».
Unlike the rest of Les Eaux, Cyprès Pantelleria takes its potency and duration from the amberwood accord and from a selected fraction of the patchouli. Accompanied by the vetiver, such base notes make up the perfume’s signature. They allude to the sensuality of the island. «Perfume is a story of skin», Mr. Armani once told Gautier. A touch of salt, the vibrancy of the gale, earth warmed up by the glow of the Sicilian sun. These are the phenomena and motions that Cyprès Pantelleria contains and translates into the language spoken by perfume.
The island of Pantelleria
The island has a history of serving as a source of inspiration and reflection. It was 1969 when Gabriel García Márquez arrived in Pantelleria. He was visiting Enrico Cicogna, the Italian translator of One Hundred Years of Solitude, written two years prior. Almost twenty years later, in 1992, the writer published Strange Pilgrims. A collection of short stories that questioned, and were connected by, the theme of dislocation when living in a foreign land.
The island of Pantelleria represents the setting of one of the book’s chapters, Miss Forbes’s Summer of Happiness. Sparked by the encounter of a nine-year old boy with a moray eel nailed to a door frame, the story explores the tension that ties the ideal of self-control to the mystery of ocean depths, the repetitiveness of imposed discipline to the wonders of wilderness and the pitfalls of austerity to passions that cannot be told, among deep-sea diving lessons and salvaged amphoras.
Alberto Morillas, Master Perfumer
As the hours pass and day turns into night, Pantelleria’s elements evolve, transform, and fight. Brimming with contrasts, the island never ceases to astonish. Pantelleria exists beyond time. But Morillas perfume-making does not rely on abstraction. To him, in fact, the concept that symbolizes the island’s identity is that of love. His creative process is about developing a connection to reality, memories, emotions as well as lived moments. Pertaining to colors, situations, the arts and his childhood is spent in Seville. In regard to ingredients and accords, the perfumer prefers those that echo his Andalusian origins by bringing freshness and vitality to his fragrances, such as iodine, citrus fruit and flowers from the Mediterranean.
Today Morillas is Master Perfumer at Firmenich, a Swiss fragrance and flavor firm. He started there in 1970 to work on raw materials in the chemistry department. He has been active in the field of perfumery since he was twenty years old. Among his creations are Calvin Klein CK One (1994), Giorgio Armani Acqua di Gio (1996), Kenzo Flower (2000), Marc Jacobs Daisy (2007) and Gucci Bloom (2017). Morillas’ creative process is based on curiosity, discovery and passion. An aptitude that he channels through a technique that couples intellect and feeling.
Mr. Armani’s relationship with Pantelleria
«The authenticity of the island offers an opportunity to be yourself. To find yourself again», Gautier notes as she speaks about Mr. Armani’s relationship with this land. As she remarks, «Pantelleria is not any island». It’s the place where Mr. Armani can ground himself in nature. Being immersed in silence, surrounded by the island’s textures and scents, allows him to restore his freedom and nurture his imagination.
Situated in the Mediterranean Sea, a hundred kilometers south-west of Sicily and sixty kilometers east of Tunisia, the island is the summit of a volcano in the Sicilian Channel rift zone. During the summer season, due to the proximity to the African continent, sirocco winds brush the south-western coast, while the mistral collides on the island’s north shore. Pantelleria’s environmental conditions brought its inhabitants to enhance their wisdom in agriculture and architecture, adapting to the island’s morphology and geology along the course of millennia through the excavation of soil and the accumulation of stone.
To make the most of the variations in humidity, rainfall and temperature, the Phoenicians started to cultivate the Pantelleria sapling in basins that allowed the accumulation of rainwater while protecting the grapes from the wind, creating a microclimate for the plant to thrive. It’s a practice that has been preserved to this day. The technique consists of digging a twenty centimeters deep hollow to plant the vine. Its main stem is pruned to produce six branches, which are harvested by hand each year, at the end of July.
UNESCO also added the cultivation of head-trained bush vines to its Intangible Cultural Heritage List in 2014. Dry-stone construction appears in Pantelleria’s walls and terraces, in its gardens – orchards that encircle a single tree – and in its dammúsi. Born as a response to the island’s orography and climate, the dammúso is a building that typifies the island’s architecture, scattered along its territory in continuity with the land. At the same time a residence and a shelter, it is a juxtaposition of volumes in stone walls, covered by vaults. In 1981 Mr. Armani acquired three dammúsi in Cala Gadir. Its number has since grown to seven, becoming the villa where he still spends his holidays.
A fragrance uniting an invigorating aquatic strength with the aromatic elegance of Cypress, inspired by the raw nature of Pantelleria. The island exhibits the beauty of nature in its rawest form. Pantelleria is, in fact, famous for the contrast between sparkling Mediterranean light and dark volcanic rocks. Its untouched landscape blurs the boundaries between land and sea.