The Weekend of Extreme Sniffing - The (Extremely Long) Report
Last weekend Ina of Aromascope came to visit, and the two of us hit New York. Hard. We sniffed our way from Midtown to Soho and back to Midtown. Despite what the image on the left, created by Mr Colombina, might imply (“their husbands’ credit cards”, as if!) we did not do that much monetary damage. Ina and I came to a sad conclusion that we became jaded. We sniffed it all and we know it all and there are just no surprises out there and nothing excites us anymore. It’s tragic really. The scents we liked and bought were the ones that we already knew and planned to buy anyway, whereas we hoped for something new to sweep us off our feet. Unfortunately that did not happen, but we had lots of fun anyway.
We started at Sephora on the 5th, simply because not much else was open. It might of course be that our hearts were still full of excitement and our noses completely fresh, but we were surprised at how many perfumes we liked. Ina suggested that I try Giorgio Armani Glam, and she was right, it is a lovely scent. I was underwhelmed by a rather pale-smelling Guerlain Angelique Lilas but liked Mandarine Basilic; the contrast of the herb and the fruits was very appealing. But the best part was the men’s section. I re-discovered the beautiful figs of Marc Jacobs for Men, the amazing, brooding incense of Gucci and loved the unexpected softness of Gucci II. I was also impressed by Fleurs du Mâle. It smelled so…feminine and lush. I haven’t bought anything there hoping to find great deals on these scents online... Mr Colombina’s collection is about to grow, whether he wants it to or not.
Our next stop was Saks, which sported an impressive array of scents and already had testers of some upcoming releases. I sprayed Acqua di Parma’s limited Edizione Riviera, which was refreshing and summery but not what I imagined or wanted. For some reason I hoped it would be softer and sweeter than the original, but it was even drier and quite sharp. There was also a tester of Prada Infusion d’Iris, which we both thought was very well done. It had an incensey, woody undertone, which we found appealing, but it was not really a “dark” or heavy scent at all. There was pleasant transparency in it, which was very elegant. We tried dozen other scents at the same time, so our impressions can't be too reliable, but our preliminary verdict was "thumbs up". The lady at the Chanel counter tried to get me excited about Chance Eau Fraîche. I did my best to look excited. Saks seems to still have a stock of Gardenia in small bottles, so if you are looking for one, try giving them a call. I also re-visited Joy and 24 Faubourg, both of which made me smell as if I had a couple hundred millions in the bank and a chihuahua in my Birkin bag. I promised myself that I will buy both…at an online discounter.
Wafting rich and powerful sillage we strolled on to Takashimaya. I’ve heard great things about its perfume section, but as far as I understand, it was transferred to a different floor and redesigned. I found it underwhelming, as it consisted of a wall and a quarter of shelves with not much of a selection. I finally tried Truly by Stephen Burlingham. It was pretty but not nearly unique enough for its price. The Fragonards, new and old, were as uninterested in smelling exciting on my skin as ever, as were Santa Maria Novellas and the three new 06130 scents. I did discover a new (for me) line, Detaille, and liked their Alizee, which smelled like a blend of luscious flowers (jasmine? ylang?) and soft woods. Ina fell in love with Yerbamate by Lorenzo Villoresi. It smelled fabulous on her, fresh but also warm and piquant. I can’t believe she did not buy it. The best part of Takashimaya visit was…its café. Ina treated me to a pot of Tak’s legendary rose tea (which totally lived up to its reputation) and grilled gruyère sandwiches. Next time I am in Tak, I am skipping perfume and going straight for the food.
With our stomachs happy and our noses not so much, we crossed the street and went to Henry Bendel…where Etat Libre d’Orange perfumes stood lonely in all their deceptively elegant glory. I gathered my courage and tried Don't Get Me Wrong Baby, I Don't Swallow, which turned out to be an inoffensive and frankly boring lily of the valley scent. The new Teo Cabanel, Alahine, smelled rich and ambery. Ina thinks it smells along the lines of Ambre Sultan, and I agree. It is Ambre Sultania, as it seems distinctly feminine to me. I re-visited the Aftelier scents and loved Cepes & Tuberose, which was dark, earthy and velvety. It has to be noted that Bendels had quite some perfume books on display and available to buy, including The Emperor of Scent, The Secret of Scent and some beautiful “table-books” on perfume. We chatted to the lovely Caroline at the L’Artisan counter and off we went to…
Bergdorf Goodman. There Miss Guerlain, Ina, dragged me straight to the Guerlain corner. I made a mistake of spraying myself liberally with Chamade parfum. Despite its dazzling beauty, it turned out to be overwhelming in the heat. The oils were…inexplicable. Garden Sensuel had no smell at all, and Oud Sensuel smelled incredibly faint of nothing in particular. Given the price point, I am hard-pressed to understand the idea behind these oils and their purpose. Guerlain also had the newly reissued Pucci scent, Vivara, on display. Now, I have not, to my shame, smelled the original Vivara, but I can venture a guess that it was not a generic fruity-floral, like the new version. Surprisingly, the best new thing that we got to smell at Bergdorfs, was Estee Lauder’s new Private Collection Tuberose Gardenia. It was very elegant, smooth, really not nearly as overwhelming as the title notes are capable of being. I would like to give it a good long try, but I do have a feeling that it is going to be love. The mysteriously-dark JAR section was empty, so we did not get to experience the magic ritual, and so, slightly depressed by the lack of anything truly exciting to smell, we made our way to…
Barneys. The first thing I smelled there was Bois 1920 Sultra Ylang, which smelled old-fashioned… and by old-fashioned I actually mean out-dated. I spotted Strange Invisible Perfumes and was going to spray Galatea, which I have been meaning to try for a while, but smelled the nozzle, thought of my sad experience with Chamade and the sadder one with Sultra Ylang and decided to postpone the testing of the heavy-smelling potion till autumn or even winter. At this point Ina and I were pretty much desperate To Buy Something. Luckily, the Frederic Malle section was right there in front of us and so we did buy something. I got Iris Poudre, which was actually the one scent that I knew I was going to buy in NYC, Ina got Vetiver Extraordinaire. The lovely gentleman loaded us with samples, including those of body creams. Une Fleur de Cassie in cream smells incredibly luscious. I must have it soon. We chatted to Laurence at the L’Artisan counter and looked in on Le Labo corner, where we were promptly asked whether we know about the line. Wondering whether we don’t look like we know Everything, we said that yes, of course we do. The sales people everywhere must be trained to be able to spot a perfumista and a blogger … by the crazy gleam in their eyes and by the I’ve Smelled It All expression on their faces (the way Jason at Guerlain counter is capable of doing, but about that later). I almost bought Ambrette 9 but decided to leave it for now.
Finally sporting shopping bags of our own, we headed to Caron “boutique”. “Boutique” is truly an over-statement of the century, as the beautiful fountains are tucked away in a corner of some sort of a spa or a salon. There were no sales people there who knew much or cared about the line (just a guy at the reception), and there certainly were no customers. What a shame.
On Madison Avenue, our first stop was L’Artisan boutique, where we chatted with the beautiful Celine (by the way, there must be a policy at L’Artisan, according to which only the good-looking people may be hired, as they all are very cute, including Laurence, and – hello!- Ina). With somewhat of a trepidation we braved the Tom Ford boutique. We heard about the butlers and the haughty attitude. The butler was there but the attitude was not. The gorgeous red-head girl in the perfume room could not be sweeter. I sighed over Velvet Gardenia, and off we went through the darkly-elegant interior, passing on our way a very handsome man who was trying on a white shirt and…where was I? Oh, right. Perfume!
Hermes was next. Compared to Ford’s boutique, the service was sadly lacking. We waited for what seemed like ages at their perfume counter for someone to come and tell us whether they have a tester of Kelly Caleche …only for a salesperson to appear for a second, tell us that of course they don’t have Kelly Caleche yet (you silly girls without Hermes bags!) and disappear. The humongous bottles of 24 Faubourg, Caleche, etc. were there; I don’t think I have seen bottles that big before.
Sonya Rykiel store had practically no scents at all, not even the classic one in the orange “t-shirt” bottle and certainly not Belle en Rykiel. At Bond No 9, where we hoped to get a sniff of the new fragrance made for Saks, we were told that the fragrance will be in fact only available at Saks, which, I suppose, makes sense. After that, exhausted and somewhat disappointed with the overall choice or lack thereof we returned home, where the perfect husband, Mr Colombina, lovingly prepared us dinner and wisely had drinks ready to raise our tired spirits.
On Sunday we descended upon SoHo. First, we found the newly-opened Space NK, which had a relaxing, minimalistic atmosphere and a lot of the same stuff that any Sephora has (which made us wonder whether the store would do well at all). They did have Stoned, Diptyque, and their own signature scents (which I forgot as soon as I smelled them). Agent Provocateur shelf featured a candle called Strip. I believe that there will be a fragrance of the same name coming soon. If it smells anything like the softly-floral, slightly-spicy candle, I am buying it.
Lafco’s dark interior was the night to the day of the creamy Space NK. They had lots of Villoresi scents (Ina loved Musk, which smelled of roses on her skin). I played for a while with the home essence kit, sniffing various aromas. The Santa Maria Novella section confirmed for me once and for all that a) SMN and I just don’t seem to “click”; b) their Tuberose is lovely but their Gardenia is not ; c) their Vaniglia is the best vanilla scent ever and the most wearable scent in the line; d) Nostalgia and to a lesser degree Peau d’Espagne are head and shoulders above the other –rather simplistic- scents in the collection. Lafco impressed me with the way it had samples of Eau d’Italie scents lying around in big baskets. We could not resist taking some, and I realized once again how much I like Paestum Rose. I will be back to buy it soon.
Le Labo boutique was as lab-like and industrial-looking as I imagined, only more so. We were again asked if we know about the line. To be fair, I imagine that a lot of people who wonder in from the street really do not know about the line and its peculiarities. We played with the Olfactionary, I again almost bought Ambrette 9 and off we went to have mimosas and salmon bisque at some French restaurant.
Fortified and not at all tipsy, we went to Aedes, which turned out to be one of the highlights of our weekend. Firstly, the interior is…I want to have a boudoir just like that. The lovely Karl spent a lot of time with us, patiently showing us pretty much everything they have in stock. He made us samples of the new 06130 scents and urged us to try them at leisure, saying that he was also underwhelmed at first but then came to adore them. I still have my doubts, but I will give them another try. I tried Goutal’s Neroli which smelled dainty and humble next to Lutens’ Fleurs d’Oranger. Karl let us apply some of the super-expensive Yu scent. I hate to report that I liked it a lot, especially in the beginning, when it reminded me of Nuit Napolitane from Mugler’s Coffret. I doused myself in Aoud Roses Petals and had a hard time choosing whether to buy that or A Maze. In the end A Maze won, but I still hurt at the thought of not having bought Petals. There are some exciting things coming to Aedes soon, but We Are Not At Liberty To Say.
We decided that unfortunately we just could not face a ride to Brooklyn to visit CB I Hate Perfume store and went back to 5th Ave., not expecting anything interesting to happen to us at the stores that we already visited yesterday. We were wrong. The perfume gods decided to reward us for all the sniffing. At the Malle section at Barneys, Luis was presiding. If you have not met Luis yet, you have to! He is full of little insider stories and is friendly and yes, handsome, and could sell snow to penguins. Luis told us about the inspiration behind L’Eau dHiver: apparently Jean-Claude Ellena wanted it to smell like a cloud…seemingly solid, but when you touch it…it’s not there...Editions de Parfums is expanding its presence in the US, and there are some exciting things about to happen soon, but We Are Not At Liberty To Say.
Our final stop was Bergdorf Goodman, where luckily Miss Guerlain, Ina, dragged me again to the Guerlain corner, and there we hit pay dirt. Jason was there and he immediately identified us as “perfume people”. He had small testers of the three scents coming to the boutique in autumn, including Cologne No 68 (which isn’t really a new scent per se, but it’s nice to have it sold here at last), Vetiver Pour Elle so beloved by many (which will join the Les Parisiennes line, and will cost $190 for a lovely bee bottle), and the really new scent- Spiritueuse Double Vanille. It smelled subtly-sweet, soft and fluffy, slightly boozy. It reminded me of something…I can’t put my finger on it. Jason generously made us samples out of his small bottle and I will review Vanille soon. Spiritueuse Double Vanille will be housed in a 75ml bottle that looks like the L’Art et la Matière bottles, but has a different label, and will cost $200. Quand Vient La Pluie is officially launching on the day of my birthday in August, but I have a feeling that, judging by the notes, I am not destined to love it. It will cost $2600 for a 9.5ml in a strange-looking bottle and $400 for a 9.5ml refill. The JAR corner was still empty and so we did not get to smell the cloths.
Hugging our purchases and digesting all the gossip, we decided that we will try to do it all again in October, when lots of new releases will be out and perhaps one of them will finally sweep us off our jaded feet.
Please visit Aromascope to read Ina's take on the weekend of extreme sniffing.