I don’t mind the soft projection or poor longevity of Cittá di Kyoto, but what I can’t forgive is its vagueness. It is mostly iris – that rooty, plaster-of-Paris iris material that Santa Maria Novella uses – over a blob of bitter, musky cedar, but it is dry enough for people to imagine they smell Japanese incense, sweet enough for people to think they smell fruit, and softly hawthorn-ish enough to make people think of Daim Blond.
However, nothing ever tilts too firmly in one direction or another, so you get this diaphanous, blown out blur of root and wood and petal refuses to commit to even one of those ideas. It flip flops between one thing and another so quickly that it could get elected to local government at least. Some people find this charming. I find it irritating, just as I do that dreamy, opaque way old Irish people have of answering every question with a half-laughed ‘ah sure, now, you know yourself’ when in fact, no, we don’t know, which is why we asked the question in the first place, you muppet.
I suspect that were it not for the evocative name or the inspiration, nobody would peg it as smelling particularly like Japanese incense or the woody air of an onsen in the forest, and so on and so forth. Indeed, in the hands of any other brand, it might even be called – gasp – unfinished. I bought a bottle, and not even blindly, simply because I had successfully mind-swindled myself into hearing the rustle of silk screens and bamboo mats.
But repeated wear just erodes the fantasy of Cittá di Kyoto a bit more each time. I can squint my eyes all I like but no amount of mental acrobatics is going to turn that damp, bitter blob of cedar into the airy, silvery-green hinoki of my imagination, nor is that dry iris and hint of smoke ever going to transform into a wisp of coreless Shoyeido incense, which itself smells far more characterfully of cloves, benzoin, and aloeswood that anything suggested by this milquetoast of a perfume.
Every spring since 2015, I have dutifully taken the frosted bottle out of the cupboard, dusted it off, and hoped that this would be the moment when it reveals its true beauty to me. And in truth, I don’t hate it. It is not a bad fragrance, objectively. But life is just too short for such low-impact fragrance.
Source of Sample: Oh, don’t I just I’d just bought a sample. I bought a whole bottle of the darned thing.