Someone just recently pointed out to me that bergamot doesn't grow in Venice. It doesn't even grow in Northern Italy. A quick search to confirm this fact revealed that most of the Italian bergamot (80%) is grown in Calabria, Southern Italy. Southern France and Turkey also grow some but this is beside the point.
This leaves me with a burning question in my mind: what Venetian beramot is Tom Ford talking about? The official description of the fragrance tells me that the Venetian bergamot is, in fact, "the sun-drenched citrus from Italy's south", which "is transported to the Northern city of grand palazzos..."
Got it! Venetian bergamot is not the bergamot that grows in Venice but the kind that is brought there from the South.
"Venetian Bergamot is like a very high quality designer flannel shirt - it's elegant and soft but not a formal wear."
I sniff my hand and the same question pops into my head: what bergamot is Tom Ford talking about?
His 2015 addition to the Private Blend collection is a masterfully done gardenia fragrance but it has nothing to do with bergamot. Yes, the ingredient is present in the opening but at best it plays a supporting role.
Tom Ford naming this fragrance Venetian Bergamot is the same as Shakespeare naming his play Horatio instead of Hamlet. Yes, Horatio is in the play but he is just a mere sidekick; and yes, bergamot is in Venetian Bergamot but it is merely there as a supporting cast.
Despite the misleading of the fragrance, I am glad Tom Ford built the composition around gardenia. Bergamot is a very popular note in perfumery and building yet another citrus-based juice induces wide yawns in me. Gardenia, however, well, this is different story.
What Venetian Bergamot Smells Like
Venetian Bergamot should have been named Creamy Gardenia. I don't blame Tom Ford for not naming it that because, even though it describes the fragrance accurately, it is utterly lame.
"Venetian Bergamot is like a brownie - it is a comfort perfume for the spring that makes you feel happy."
From the first notes hitting my nose to the very dry-down, I get a beautiful gardenia renditions. It evolves from fresh and juicy (gardenia + bergamot) to cozy and creamy (gardenia + cashmeran). The blend is so superbly made that unless you pay a close attention you won't notice the slight change in character.
In this respect, Venetian Bergamot may appear somewhat linear. The light floral gardenia note is present from the beginning to the end, while various other notes come and go to play with it.
First you have the bergamot freshening up the gardenia by giving it a fresh and juicy character. Then, ylang-ylang appears and spins the gardenia around in a swirl of soft white flowers that stay determinately unisex. Slowly sandal wood and cashmeran take stage and hug the gardenia with a cozy blanket. On my skin, the final act is vanilla and amber taking the gardenia for a quick swirl until everything quiets down and disappears with my evening shower.
Where to Rock It
When I first tried Venetian Bergamot, I thought it would be one of those fragrances that work great in the winter, just to be a total disaster in the summer.
Today, I found out I was wrong. I gave Venetian Bergamot a full-day wear in a 20+ degree weather and it did great. True, a temperature of mid-twenties is usually no challenge for most white florals, however, considering that the gardenia note can easy get cloying, I was impressed by its good behaviour.
Venetian Bergamot opened with a strong projection, which quieted down to an easily detectable skin scent towards the end of the day.
The soft creamy gardenia, which dominates this fragrance makes me look at it as a casual wear. It's like a very high quality designer flannel shirt - it's elegant and soft but not a formal wear.
Venetian Bergamot won't help you communicate assertiveness and authority. It also won't help you convey raw masculinity. It will, however, wrap you around in a light warm blanket and will make you smile at every sniff. Venetian Bergamot is like a brownie - it is a comfort perfume for the spring that makes you feel happy.
All that being said, I'd skip Venetian Bergamot for the board meeting and would put an extra spray for a stroll in the city on a spring morning or a picnic in the park.
What the Frag Heads Say About It
Carlos from Brooklyn Fragrance Lover gives a thumbs up to Venetian Bergamot and so do his coworkers, which he features in his video. The opinions of Carlos's sniffers is divided on whether Venetian Bergamot is more feminine or unisex. Some of the people he interviews say that a man could wear the fragrance but none of them recommend it as strictly masculine.
These comments make sense. Gardenia is traditionally a feminine note and just like other white florals (e.g. jasmine) it has never been strongly associated with men's fragrances.
Despite the diverging opinions, I find Venetian Bergamot to be right in the centre of unisex.
Dave finds it to be a great choice for a casual spring wear but warns against wearing on a date. His experience with the development of Venetian Bergamot is similar to mine. In the first three minutes, Dave gets a sparkling bergamot, which disappears to give way to a dominating floral body.
Dave explains that the gardenia interpretation in Venetian Bergamot is not realistic. It lacks the flower's indolic character. Both Dave and FragBoy Stewie agree that Venetian Bergamot leans more on the feminine side. They both give it a 3-star rating.
Katie from KatieChutzpah.com finds that the "unusualness" of Venetian Bergamot "lies in the fact that one of the favourite turn-to ingredients of many fragrances, bergamot, has been used as a main ingredient and not only to add a bolt of freshness and longevity".
I agree with Katie on the "unusualness" of Venetian Bergamot in the sense that it is not your typical woody-citrus or fruity-floral fragrance. I am not sure, however, whether we are talking about the same fragrance.
Katie seems to be smelling bergamot as the main note, while for me and other reviewers it is the gardenia.
Katie also finds that the bergamot adds longevity to the perfume, which is highly unusual. In general, bergamot is a light note that lasts up to 20 minutes in most compositions. In Venetian Bergamot, it lasts no more than 10 minutes and then it is overtaken by the gardenia.
Despite the unusual take Katie has on Venetian Bergamot, she gives it thumbs up.
The Bottom Line
Venetian Bergamot is a nice, well-blended fragrance that will please the fans of the soft and creamy fragrances. I don't get almost any bergamot from it but I like it as a gardenia fragrance.
Would you buy Venetian Bergamot?
Venetian Bergamot is pleasant but I don't find it interesting enough to spend the minimum of $250 on it. If it came at a price similar to a designer fragrance, I might get a bottle to wear it in spring.
Would I get compliments wearing Venetian Bergamot?
You may get compliments if you are a woman. As a man, you probably will confuse quite a few people who don't expect men to wear a floral scent.
What rating would you give Venetian Bergamot?
I think Venetian Bergamot is a 3-star fragrance. It is well done but it fails to inspire me in any way to make it special for me.
Bergamot, Black Pepper, Pink Pepper, Ginger
Ylang-Ylang, Gardenia, Magnolia, Cedar
Sandalwood, Cashmeran, Vanilla, Tonka Bean