Xerjoff 1861 is the proverbial redheaded stepchild of the Xerjoff line. It sits in the shadow of its older brother, Xerjoff’s magnificent Nio, which cannot help but steal the show. 1861 is much more affordable than the fragrances from the Shooting Stars collection (Nio included), and though it is cheaper, the bottle is twice the size. Extrapolating from the price, it would be easy to dismiss 1861 as the lowest quality offering, but this could not be further from the truth.
Nio is wonderful, however 1861 was the one that I chose to add to my personal collection, and not at all because of the price. While Nio combines very authentic notes of bergamot and neroli with vetiver in the base, it comes across as photorealistic – almost too realistic for those of us that have experienced walking through a grove filled with citrus trees. But where Nio is a realistic painting of a garden, 1861 adopts two differing artistic styles.
On the one hand its base and mid embrace surrealism and its own character as a perfume; abstract musks and florals blended to perfection identify 1861 as a fragrance, not an attempt at capturing nature in a bottle. However, on the other hand there are two elements of hyperrealism that are identifiable in this fragrance. The combination of citruses and petitgrain in the top give the impression of a juicy yet slightly acidic lemon (peel and all), fresh from the refrigerator, and perhaps embedded in a bucket full of ice.
Paired with the lemon is the most photorealistic mint that I have ever had the pleasure of smelling in any perfume. Here the mint is not the excessively mentholated impressionist idea of mint, but rather captures the natural smell and texture of a freshly picked mint leaf. I mean texture literally – if you close your eyes and inhale this wonderful fragrance, you can imagine a texture that feels equivalent to rubbing a mint leaf in between your thumb and forefinger.
The fragrance overall gives the impression of a dense (not light and airy) coolness, perhaps the same sort of feeling that one might get from inhaling the air above of a mojito. 1861 smells quintessentially Italian and is the perfect fragrance for those living in warmer climates, as it is refreshing, but not in a conventional way; the fragrance does not feel at all aquatic and it is certainly not bloated with citrus, so for many this will be a unique option.
As much as this perfume would be an excellent selection for those living in warmer climates, it would feel terribly foreign in the cold. Rather than offering a sanctuary from the violent rays of a merciless sun, as it does in the heat, 1861 would appear brisk, aloof, and irredeemably sharp in cold weather. Like the mojito, 1861 is best enjoyed during the heat of the summer.
In every category the performance of this fragrance is simply unimpeachable. Lasting power? Endless – the base is often detectable 18-22 hours after application. Projection? Beastly, and yet the character of this fragrance does not render it suffocating or overpowering to bystanders. And the sillage? It flows like a powerful stream for a respectable distance behind the wearer. Ironically given the price, and perhaps due to its heavy base, 1861 performs much better on my skin than Nio.
As much as Nio pays tribute to the citrus grove, 1861 offers homage to the sun. It is the smell of summer, of growth, of light and life. The perfectly framed scents of lemon and icy mint remind the wearer of those oppressively hot summer days and the absurdly immense enjoyment that is derived from standing in the shade, surrounded by friends, the clinking of glasses and persistent shuffling of ice an ever-present reminder of the little pleasures that make life worth living.