Italian designer brand Costume National has made a name for themselves in the fragrance world with their unique, sometimes avant-garde creations. Releases like Costume National Homme (the parfum version of which I reviewed here), 21, Soul, and Cyber Garden are widely acclaimed by fragrance aficionados for their niche quality and daring scent profiles.
Scent Intense, a 2002 release from the brand, is less spoken of, and perhaps less well regarded. Nevertheless, the fragrance has managed to stay in production for twenty years. Does it deserve to have flown under the radar?
Costume National Scent Intense is a spicy, floral amber fragrance featuring hibiscus, tea, rose, vanilla, and patchouli. Offering a unique scent profile, strong performance, and good value for money, Scent Intense is a solid option for those searching for an amber fragrance off the beaten path.
Want to know more? Let’s take a closer look in my Costume National Scent Intense review.
Top Notes: bergamot, cardamom, green tea
Middle Notes: hibiscus, jasmine, rose
Base Notes: ambergris, vanilla, leather, sandalwood, patchouli
Scent Intense is one of the more unique amber fragrances that I’ve tried in my fragrance journey. Most of the time, amber fragrances go one of a few ways: either the more old-school, powdery route, the new-school spicy, smoky, oud-y route, or a more vanilla-heavy gourmand route.
This one doesn’t fit neatly into any of those categories, while still being identifiably an amber scent. Instead, Scent Intense could best be described as a floral, spicy, leathery amber with a medicinal touch and a botanical vibe by dint of the tea.
The fragrance opens heavily spicy, floral, and somewhat herbal. I immediately pick up on hibiscus, which has a very distinct scent, and combined with the green tea note, Scent Intense smells very much like a hibiscus tea bag steeping in a cup. The freshness of the bergamot is also at play, as well as the spicy cardamom, which remains present throughout the life of the fragrance, and almost takes on a cumin-like dirtiness after a while (in a good way).
Additionally, the opening to mid of the fragrance has a medicinal vibe that makes this scent truly addictive. I’m not sure where it’s coming from (maybe the interaction of the hibiscus with the amber?) but it makes this scent truly addictive. I’m definitely one of those weirdos that enjoys medicinal fragrances, though, so it might not be to everyone’s taste. However, I think that medicinal vibe is what elevates this fragrance to the next level.
As time goes on, the hibiscus and spice remain in play, though I don’t get much jasmine or rose. Soon, though, the heavy base emerges. All of the base notes are very well blended, though it’s easy to pick out warm, smooth sandalwood, amber (or ambergris in this case), slight sweetness from vanilla, and a leathery vibe that mixes beautifully with the spice and florals.
Beyond that, the fragrance doesn’t really evolve or change much, and that’s just fine by me, because the scent you get here is warm, smooth, inviting, and quite elegant. It’s a very relaxing, almost spa-like scent (something I often get from tea-infused fragrances), that reminds me of going to hot springs in the tropical south of Taiwan.
I imagine drinking freshly steeped hibiscus tea, lounging in a bathrobe, breathing in the warm, humid air full of steam and distant incense smokes, hearing the twittering of birds-of-paradise in the boughs of tropical trees, and the rolling thunder of a distant storm. It’s a wonderful, atmospheric scent that I absolutely love wearing.
If I were to describe Scent Intense in a few words, they would be: floral, spicy, medicinal, leathery, woody, and relaxing.
The box for Costume National Scent Intense is pretty bog-standard and utilitarian. You get your basic black rectangular cardboard box, with the name of the house and the fragrance on the front in white font. There’s a white stripe down the front, representing the white label on the bottle, which is a nice little touch. Otherwise, you don’t get any extra bells and whistles with the box, which is fine by me.
The bottle, on the other hand, is quite nice, as are all Costume National bottles. Inspired by Costume National founder Ennio Capasa’s designs, the bottle is sleek and aerodynamic and colored a glossy black. The glass is weighty, and the whole thing feels very nice in the hand. A white label with the name of the house and the fragrance is positioned on the front of the bottle.
The cap is the typical Costume National cap, which fits very snugly onto the atomizer and is a lot smaller than typical fragrance bottle caps.
Overall, it’s an iconic bottle design which is immediately recognizable as a Costume National fragrance. Personally, I really like it.
The performance of Costume National Scent Intense is solid, not too strong but not too weak either.
The longevity of Scent Intense is quite good.
Three to four sprays on skin and fabric give me around eight to ten hours of solid longevity, and more on fabric.
This is the kind of fragrance that lingers on skin for quite a while. Even when the projection dies down to a whisper, you’ll still be able to get soft reminders of the scent every here and there simply because the fragrance adheres to skin so well. I can smell the scent on my skin and on my clothes all throughout the workday, and the scent can also last through a shower.
That’s more than respectable longevity for me.
Projection & Sillage
The projection and sillage of Scent Intense are moderate.
Three to four sprays gives me about two hours of soft projection and about an hour of quiet, half an arm’s length sillage.
This is more of a personal, intimate fragrance, and is quite far from beast mode. Nevertheless, it is quietly present throughout the wearing experience, and even eight hours after application I get occasional whiffs of the fragrance, even through my mask. However, it’s not overly loud or anything that will announce your presence at forty paces, and I wouldn’t want it to besides.
Personally, I think the relatively muted performance actually works in its favor, giving it an irresistible, “come hither” kind of quality that would make it ideal for dates or close encounter scenarios.
Value For Money
In my view, Costume National Scent Intense has pretty good value for money.
A 3.4 oz (100ml) of Scent Intense retails for around $124, a 1.7 oz (50ml) bottle for $91, and a 1 oz (30ml) for $63. That’s $1.24/ml, $1.82/ml, and $2.10/ml respectively, inline with modern designer fragrance standards.
Costume National is not the cheapest designer brand, rather pricing their fragrances along the same lines as Chanel and Dior. Even at retail, Scent Intense is a worthwhile scent, providing niche quality and performance at designer prices.
However, Scent Intense is widely available on discount fragrance websites like FragranceNet, FragranceX, and Notino at a dramatically reduced price. Presently, it’s going for around $75 for the 100ml bottle on FragranceX, which is a great deal considering the level of quality here. I myself bought my bottle for about $60, so there are definitely opportunities for deals on this fragrance if you shop around.
Who Would Like It
I think that Scent Intense is a very appealing fragrance on a personal level, but I don’t think that it would work for everyone.
People who favor warm, spicy fragrances and amber scents, rather than fresh or “sporty” fragrances, will likely find a lot to love here. However, I think that this could also be a great “gateway drug” into niche fragrances for people who aren’t that experienced with them, since it has a niche vibe without the high price that comes with most niche fragrances, as well as just a pinch of that smooth designer sensibility.
This is not a common fragrance and will definitely not be for the Dior Sauvage or Flowerbomb crowd. I envision hippy, intellectual, and artsy types really appreciating this kind of fragrance, which I think is probably Costume National’s intended audience. As I am kind of a hippy/artsy sort of person myself, I feel that the scent accords quite well with me.
As far as gender/age are considered, I find this to be an entirely unisex and ageless fragrance. I think it would smell particularly sexy on female skin, though I wear it myself without issue. And though it doesn’t strike me as a mature scent, it would smell a little bit weird on a teenager; twenty and up is probably the best bet.
When To Wear It
For an amber fragrance (which are usually cold-weather exclusive), Scent Intense is actually pretty versatile.
I have worn it in pretty much all types of weather except for hot and humid summer days and it has worked like a charm. It smells equally at home in the cold as it does in warm (not hot) weather. I think that you could pull this off in spring, autumn, winter, and on summer nights, so long as it’s not too hot. It would be ideal to wear, however, in spring and autumn.
As far as occasions go, you could wear this basically anytime, anywhere, though maybe not to the club. Work, dates, casual hangouts, semi-formal or formal occasions, all would be ideal situations in which to wear Scent Intense.
Scent Intense is a pretty unique fragrance, and I have never really smelled anything like it.
The most similar fragrance to Scent Intense would probably be Scent, also by Costume National and also released in 2002. Scent Intense is of course a flanker of the original scent, so they are alike in that they both feature amber, tea, hibiscus, jasmine, and wood. Scent Intense, of course, adds vanilla, leather, and spice to the mix. There was also, for a time, a Scent Intense Parfum, which added myrrh, but it seems that it is no longer available.
Finally, though I have not smelled it myself, Scent Intense is widely compared to a fragrance by the French niche brand Isabey called L’Ambre de Carthage. That fragrance also features tea, amber, jasmine, sandalwood, and patchouli, but changes things up with the addition of osmanthus and olibanum. Again, I myself haven’t smelled that fragrance, so I can’t comment too much on the similarities between it and Scent Intense, but allegedly they are quite similar.
Otherwise, I can’t think of many fragrances that are similar to Scent Intense.
Pros & Cons
- Unique and appealing scent profile.
- Good performance.
- Great value for money.
- Not everyone will appreciate the medicinal accords in the fragrance.
- Availability is more limited than other designer fragrances.
- Does not have the strongest longevity or sillage, a con for some.
The Final Word
Overall, Costume National Scent Intense is a unique take on the amber genre that is far from typical. I think the combination of hibiscus and tea with warm amber and leather was a genius idea, and the result is a fragrance with few direct competitors.
Additionally, the performance, price, and presentation make this one almost a no brainer. If you are looking for a unique amber fragrance for a decent price, look no further – you’ve found it.
I give Costume National Scent Intense:
★★★★☆ 4 stars out of 5