This time-traveller of a scent will whisk us back to the Roman empire, when gladiators battled for their lives and freedom.
Bergamot, dried fruits, fruity notes, wine, rose, geranium, cloves, saffron, cedarwood, leather, patchouli, vetiver, incense, musk, helicrysum (curry plant).
Some reviews write themselves, the notes falling on to the page as easily as rain on to pavements in autumn. That wasn’t the case with Rudis by Nobile 1942, which has needed to be dragged, kicking and screaming out into the light, and in an analogy which is actually, once you know the context of this scent, quite appropriate.
The marketing blurb for this fragrance centres around the idea of the gladiatorial arena, updated for modern times when we might not have to fight to the death, but we do have to fight our way through the commute (well, we did pre-Covid anyway). I didn’t know this when I started wearing the fragrance to test it out, but the image that I got stuck on, and couldn’t get passed was leather in sunshine. Was it a saddle? Was it a bag? Was it something else? It was difficult at first to figure it out…
Rudis opens with a complex chord that is multifaceted and changeable – hence why it is hard to write about. Sometimes it’s greener, sometimes smokier, sometimes leathery, sometimes more herbal-aromatic. It’s a strange beast indeed, but after repeated wearings and examinations the overall impression is of a burnt, boozy smokiness, of wine spilled on a wooden table. Behind the smoky smuttiness is a fruity succulence, a little sour citrus. It called to mind an image of a great feast having been laid, half-eaten and then abandoned whilst oil lamps are left burning, their grey smoke leaving shadows on the walls behind them.
The main thrust though of the start of Rudis is that it smells old. If you were told that this was a recreation of the scent of ancient Rome, then you might just believe that. It has this real seam of time-travel authenticity which is quite magical. The leather that we couldn’t quite figure out at the start: the gladiator’s leather sandal, trodden into the sand of the arena floor.
As Rudis wears it becomes greener and sweeter evoking the texture of thick, leathery leaves like laurel, perhaps, or bay – you can almost feel them, thick between imaginary fingers. The scent of clove peeps through and the smoky facet becomes more something akin to charred as opposed to full on smoke itself. The saffron adds a ribbon of richness and is joined by hints of spices like nerves running up and down a woody backbone. And make no mistake, the woody backbone is always there, it comes in and out of focus as the scent wears.
Whilst the start of Rudis is dynamic and changeable, there is a moment of peace and almost tranquility in the heart of the scent. The greenery coupled with this meditative smoked quality give a sense of powerful contemplation, stillness, potential. A beautiful pause that is soothing and calm.
The base of Rudis continues in a similar vein to the heart of the scent with perhaps a little more leather creeping into the mix. Flecks of a lemony citrus also dot the surface of the fragrance, giving little bursts of zing that buoy the scent up and stop it from becoming stodgy.
Just at the edge of the fragrance is a vein of a metallic tang. It could be the blood the gladiator has spilled in the arena, or perhaps it’s the memory of the scent of a weapon. It’s faint but definitely there, not so obtrusive that it throws the fragrance out of whack, but present enough that it is poetic and evocative.
Whilst Rudis has green and metallic elements, it has a rich warmth to it as well which holds the balance of the fragrance very nicely. It paints a whole story, a window into the past that it is hard to not be captivated by.
Rudis is a beautifully conceived, glorious and rich portrait of a moment from history. This romantic retelling of the gladiator’s life is powerful in its execution. It is successful not least in the fact that this is a scent that lines up with the blurb that is written about it, where so many others miss the mark. Nobile 1942 have taken the gladiator, re-written the story for the modern day fragrance wearer, but done it in a way that means it is absolutely crystal clear where the inspiration has come from. It’s a captivating and interesting conjuring.
The other stuff
The longevity of Rudis is very good, lasting around ten hours or longer following an early morning application. The scent projects relatively politely, to a little further than hugging distance perhaps. It’s definitely there but never obnoxiously so. Reviews online do talk about how punchy this stuff is, which wasn’t entirely born out by our experience of wearing it. It is there and it is present but it never felt overbearing or heavy to our noses.
A lot of the blurb around the fragrance makes it sound very masculine-leaning, but this is definitely a scent which can be worn by all genders. The sense of dormant power which it exudes shouldn’t be confined to any one group alone.
There is something about the interplay between the warmer and cooler notes of Rudis that convinced us that it would wear really nicely in summer, when the warmer days would allow it to rise from the body in beautiful wafts. It feels like a scent that should be worn in sunshine, it feels like it has ancient sunshine captured within it too.
Nobile 1942 are an Italian fragrance house currently operated by a husband and wife duo, but with roots going back to 1942 and beyond. The brand want to embody the sense of Italian good taste which they do through high quality in-house production of their packaging and fragrances. They discuss their history in more detail on their website.
We were gifted a no-strings attached sample of this fragrance by a kind friend of The Sniff who has no known association with either the brand or the perfume shops listed above (nor do we for that matter). She purchased the scent at her own cost from a reputable source.