Chestnuts roasting on an open fire: CASTANA by ATELIER CLOON KEEN (2012)






Chestnuts, or ‘kuri’ in Japanese, are a winter staple in Japan. In Tokyo, and in most cities and towns in fact, there are chestnut vendors who trawl the streets at night with their tinny transistors wailing the traditional Edo period ‘chestnut song’ among the cold, steaming red neon: the nuts, in their shells, fragrant, unpeeled, and roasting hot as you grab a quick late night snack before the last train home.



Marrons glacés, Mont-Blancs (with which I now have something of an obsession, when combined with a piping hot cup of caffe latte on a cold rainy day in winter) and anything chestnutty in fact, are very popular here( they are also traditionally eaten pickled): the tiny, shrivelled, squirrel brains both nutritious and unique in texture, and aroma, and flavour.


But although I was always familiar with the famous Christmas time song by Nat King Cole, as a person who grew up in England,  I am almost embarrassed to say that I had never tasted one before I came to this country. In my family at least, they were never part of our lives. I think the only chestnuts I ever knew were those we used for playing ‘conkers’ at school; the gorgeous, friendly plonk as those spiky green bonnets fell to the grass with their moist, white, inner encasings…. I used to love collecting them, and shining them, and in fact probably just kept them more as treasures on my bedside table than I did smashing other kids’, but I am sure I never ate one (though I did have a strange thing for acorns, but I’ll save that for another time..)




Castaña (Spanish for chestnut), is one of the few perfumes that have a distinctly nutty aroma, and the first I know of to feature the chestnut. Cloon Keen is a perfumer and candlemaker based in Galway, and though it is rather clichéd of me to say so, to me there is, undeniably, a distinctly ‘Irish eyes are smiling’ aspect to the scent. It is warm, benevolent; optimistic in-woolly jumper (and generous figure): a person you trust and like, flitting and fussing about the kitchen, taking care of you with a loving smile and a twinkle.


Beginning with a creamy, rich and edible chestnut over sweetened, cherished vetiver, the perfume progresses to milkier, more sandalwoody tones. While the top accord features a lemon-floral note (cassia and jasmine), the scent remains buttery (yet clean and appealing) throughout its duration on the skin. I find it quite a simple scent, probably too much so in some ways ( and I have never been a fan of the ambroxan-like note embedded in the white musk base), but despite these slight misgivings that is only a question of personal taste: I know many people enjoy those warm, musky strokes and I would very happily smell it on another person, as Castaña is just one of those scents that is uncomplicated and lovely, very easy to wear on a daily basis without even noticing it until it becomes your smell. It is also quite inexpensive, which is a boon in the niche market of today where buying a scent really can really put you out of pocket.



Castaña is slightly reminiscent of another scent, actually, another vetiver/nut combination,  almost as though Hermès Vetiver Tonka (with its gorgeous heart note of hazelnut – see my review), had, in his second year at Cambridge, come back for the Christmas and New Year holiday; all geared up, flighty and full of literary pretensions, to  then be brought gently back down to earth by his loving; less educated; but more more emotionally open, mother.





Filed under Chestnut, Perfume Reviews, Woods

30 responses to “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire: CASTANA by ATELIER CLOON KEEN (2012)

  1. brie

    One of my fondest memories growing up in NYC is late winter afternoons walking the streets of Manhattan snow falling the air wafting of roasted chestnuts from the outside street vendors selling them. I happen to like a bit of “nut” in my perfume…had a FB of PG Praline et Santal but it was confiscated by my father (he asks for so little I could not refuse)

    • ginzaintherain


      I love it. Pops wearing Praline….

      • brie

        Oh yes,Pops LOVES his cologne…even sprays his socks and undies with the essential oils/vodka blends I make for him (no wonder I turned out the way I did!)

      • ginzaintherain

        Oh yes I remember you telling me now, but PRALINE: what does it smell like on him? ( I am usually a bit ambivalent about PG creations..)

  2. Ana

    I bought Castana for my mother, because she’s exactly that type of person that this fragrance conjures in your mind. One whiff and I knew it will suit her.She’s warm , and loving and a fantastic cook, she always makes you feel at home and takes care of you.I love my mom and I love this perfume on her.

    • ginzaintherain

      Wow! I love the idea that perfume, though invisible, has these conjuring possibilities, that it can be ‘objectively cuddly’

  3. Oh this sounds wonderful! I’m not familiar with the line at all and now I am consumed with the idea of wanting to smell like chestnuts!

    Maybe that’s a weird sentence . . . um, you know what I mean 🙂

    When I lived in Paris, I used to treat myself to a little bag of roasted chestnuts on the way home from the Right to the Left Bank. I also love that marron glacé purée that comes in a tube or a tub. So good!

    • ginzaintherain

      Marrons Glace kill me as well; utter pleasure.
      This little perfume doesn’t capture that gorgeousness, and the nuttiness is short-lived, and I would not say it was WONDERFUL exactly, more like highly pleasant and snuggly.

  4. brie

    Since you asked Praline on Pops starts off “uber-sweet” but dries down to a nutty sandalwood. Unfortunately it is not long lasting and needs frequent application! Pops would wear anything and,like you, often crosses the gender barrier with regard to fragrance (he also mixes fragrances quite frequently-two sprays of this along with three sprays of that in his hands and then applies to the neck!).

  5. I did the EXACT same thing when I was little too – collect chestnuts and just put them on my bedside table 🙂 I’m curious though what a Japanese Christmas is like now that I read this…

  6. We don’t have chestnut roasters in New Mexico, but when we have traveled to cities that do, I have insisted on huffing up the aroma and then buying some, to my husband’s bewilderment. He points out that I never eat more than 2 or 3, which is true. But I think of buying a bag of them as “the chestnut tax,” i.e. what we have to pay to have the scent on the street. When I lived in NYC, it was the harbinger of cold weather just as roasting chile is here (although I do eat that, and in large quantities.)
    Like Liam, I would love to hear more about Christmas in Japan.

  7. I love your description of this. 🙂 Sounds like I would pretty much enjoy Castana.
    I’m not a huge fan of eating chestnuts (they are sold here as well at this time of year) but I do love the smell.

  8. I’ve never heard of this brand, but am intrigued to see what a “chestnut” perfume would smell like. I think of chestnuts roasting on the street in NYC, but can’t imagine wanting to smell like them. But mixed over a layer of vetiver sounds promising. Thanks for the introduction!

  9. OnWingsofSaffron

    My marrons glacés perfume is Caron’s Nuit de Noël (vintage): Both the eau de cologne and the eau de toilette smell distinctively and richly of chestnuts. Only the extrait veers off into vaguely floral territory (rose). Combining edc/edt and extrait is quite heavenly. All of them last for ever and ever: I can smell the scent very clearly after 12 hours plus. Nuit de Noël is quite clearly one of my all time favourites!

    • We think as one. I have actually soaked the right sleeve of my sweater with my Nuit De Noel cologne today to make it last even longer ( I think this is the best strength of this scent ) : perhaps this unconsciously made me repost this thing on Castana.
      I LOVE marrons glances….” SO sweet. SO crystallized in sugar and utterly delicious.

      • OnWingsofSaffron

        I just remembered: I even have this very old, very large rectangular bottle called – what is it? I’m not at home over Christmas – I think it’s called “lotion”. Nuit de Noël Lotion. No idea what it was used to be sold as: perhaps something for the hairdresser?? Anyway, it too is super strong and concentrated. By today’s standards it would be an eau de parfum probably. Well, tempi passati.

  10. Quite sentimentally lovely. Just a perfect, dare I say heart-warming read. Some days, it’s just the friendly balm a girl needs before girding herself for the daily battle. I love the last paragraph.

    Not all fragrances need to be intellectually or emotionally challenging, for sure. Comfort scents, right? I’m trying to think of another gentle nutty thing. Mechant Loup comes to mind. It is the smell of autumn, at the end of a warm, sunny day, in a hazelnut orchard. Too dilute by half — I’m not l’Artisan’s biggest fan for several reasons, this being one — and oddly comforting. I knew a guy who wore it all the time, one of those people who can make geek look chic, and it suited him very well.

    Thank you, Neil.

    • Mechant Loup: I could never entirely get with that one, but on a particular person (a man especially) I can imagine it being a scent that could really draw you in.

      I’m intrigued by your reasons for being Anti Artisan. I used to love them.

      • Oh this guy, Mechant Loup was just a really approachable, lightly warm skin scent, understated perfection, easy to be close to.

        Not exactly anti-Artisan, but I’m usually underwhelmed. Performance is often mediocre and I don’t share Duchafour’s aesthetic most of the time. Some of them are a bit of a mess, to my nose. Case in point was something I just sniffed this morning, Onde Sensuelle. It was the usual all-but-the-pizza-chef bunch of mishmashed toppings, everything but the anchovies, and this time really LOUD. Maybe on the right person it could sort itself out, but I dunno. I wore Skin on Skin awhile ago and Ric recoiled. I mean, things should at least smell good. Although I don’t mind that one, actually. And there you have it. As for your used-to-love-them status? How come, N.?

      • Bertrand, same as you. The Jackson Pollock of perfumery. Can’t STAND his overcomplicated signature. Pre-his work, I loved many (but they have all been ‘tweaked’ in some way: Mimosa Pour Moi (a weird one, I admit, all cucumber and slightly nauseating mimosa but I loved it anyway), Premier Figuier, Voleur De Roses, I wore many). And LOVE all the really older ones they used to have in the London boutique in the nineties like La Haie Fleurie. Plus L’Eau Du Navigateur, which is utterly beautiful. Do you know it?

  11. A

    Not a perfume comment. But also enamoured of chestnuts. A beloved friend recently introduced us to Chestnut Panettone. Bliss! Xx

  12. Yes, I do know it, and I think it illustrates perfectly the contrast of Before and After BD. The Jackson Pollock of perfumery. Ha! And they’re all so front-loaded; the drydowns are too frequently DOA.

  13. Thought of you this morning, having just gotten my hands on a bottle of Métal in very good nick. You’ve written about it and I share your enthusiasm. Now THAT is artistry.

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