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Thursday, April 29, 2010

Reinvention: Henri Bendel Grapefruit & Vetiver, Incense & Musk, and Rose & Oud Eax de Parfum

By Tom

Henri Bendel is a store that's been around forever and in it's last incarnation had an image that became a bit staid. The West 57th street store was lovely in a "ladies who lunch" kind of way. The Limited people bought the place in the late 80's, moved it to it's new location on Fifth Avenue in 1990 and apparently as of 2009 decided to no longer carry apparel and focus on accessories and beauty items. They've also opened several small satellite stores that only carry Bendel-branded items, one of which opened in the Beverly Center mall a short walk from my gracious hovel.

One of the things they carry in addition to the (admittedly adorable and pretty reasonable considering) branded items is a line of their own perfumes: there are six of them, the three I tried and a gardenia, lime and an orange blossom one. Sniffing the bottles I though they were pleasant, if not anything to write home about. Testing the other three on skin led to these impressions: nothing to write home about.

They aren't bad mind you.

Rose & Oud is a pretty little thing that makes me understand why By Killian is so expensive. The rose is nice and the oud is so whisperingly self-effacing that I frankly don't see why they bothered. I didn't expect a Montale-style Oud smackdown but really kids, it could have had something.

Grapefruit & Vetiver started off with pink grapefruit that I enjoyed but my friend said reminded her of "The Scarsdale Diet which was not a happy memory"; an albeit valid comment I thought it not only dated her but had more to do with her issues than the quality of the scent. Cross that one off the list for her birthday. Again, not much in the way of vetiver, so I am guessing that the secondary note is either in infinitesimal concentration or a fond wish.

Incense & Musk was confounding in that I got neither. It was nice, but it wasn't incense that I was smelling. After a few hours is sort of collapsed into a slightly salty skin scent with a hint of white flower.

Granted, I an sooooo not the target market for this. I assume that these would be big hits with the "Gossip Girl" generation types I saw in the store trying on candy colored wellies and fiddling with the so-cute-you-want-to-slap-them handbags. They're cute and fun and safe in a way that most of the stuff that I like as an admittedly middle-aged man cares to smell on himself or others. I guess I have to get over my ideas of what the pre-Limited Henri Bendel was (the store that introduced Chanel to America) and enjoy what it has become; Babe Paley has given way to Blake Lively and that's just the way it is.

But then again my Godchild has been wearing Bandit since she was 16 and Norell since she was 17 so there's hope for todays youth...

Available for $65 for 50ML online or at their various store locations. I sniffed mine at their LA outpost in the Beverly Center.

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Anonymous Marian said...

The last time I was in Bendel's I had to look for their branded items to remind myself that I wasn't in The Limited :-( I used to stop in periodically to check out the perfumes on the second floor but always felt nostalgic and alienated. Even my curiosity about Mandy Aftel's Tango hasn't been strong enough for me to want to overcome my reluctance to venture into such foreign territory. I'm glad your review of Bendel's perfumes doesn't make me feel that I'll be missing out on something if I pass up a shiff! Thank you, Tom!

12:52 AM EDT  
Blogger tmp00 said...


The Bendel's in New York (I'm assuming you're referring to that one) is a totally different animal as written of in My Scent Twin's post about Ninfeo Mio and our trip there.

My friend pointed out that several of the body products were formerly at The Limited and were now just branded Bendel..

1:10 AM EDT  
Blogger Flora said...

I wonder why they discontinued the older line of scents, they were really nice. I still have a little bit of their Rose Petals bath & shower gel, which is excellent. You can still find them on Fleabay in stores that specialize in discontinued items, but of course the "flavors" I like best are the rarest; I also love their Jasmine Tuberose, which is quickly snapped up in whatever form it's in.

Indeed, why do a Rose & Oud if you are not going to do it right? Go big or go home with that stuff!

1:40 AM EDT  
Blogger Flora said...

P.S. - If I were a Wellie-wearing person, I would totally want those! :-D

1:41 AM EDT  
Blogger ScentScelf said...

Hey, I've got one of those older sampler flights from Bendel's, in a brown polka dotted box. It's got that Jasmine Tuberose, an orange, a mimosa, a fig...hunh.

I'd give this collection the same summary you did of the new ones; maybe they are doing a coffret for each decade, all of a style.

Ditto on the wellies. Those are groovin'.

8:16 AM EDT  
Blogger StyleSpy said...

LOL at the Scardale diet comment. That really made me laugh.

9:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Marko said...

Tom -

Did you happen to notice if they had a Bendel's Etat Libre d’Orange fragrance? I remember sniffing an intensely sweet, sugar-coated cherry Tootsie-Pop, teen-queen inspired fragrance created by Etat Libre d’Orange exclusively for Bendel's last time I was at South Coast Plaza.....Bendelirious is the name (or was it Bendelicious?).

12:50 PM EDT  
Anonymous March said...

Also, the last time I was in NYC for Sniffa, they've wedged their ENTIRE fragrance area, which used to take much of the second floor, into a teeny alcove in the corner. It's like putting all the contents of your house into the garage. Very disappointing and hard to see anything. Grrr....

2:56 PM EDT  
Blogger Katie Puckrik said...

Tom, I always love your witty observations! I've also seen that HB store at the Beverly Center, but aside from cocking my head at it like a bemused dog, I wasn't motivated to step inside.

And if it really is trying to target "Gossip Girls" girls, then it's odd for HB to feature oud and incense scents, n'est-ce pas?

6:42 PM EDT  
Blogger tmp00 said...


I think they had them in some of the scent sets available in the store, but these 6 were heavily featured on a table in the center of the store, so I gravitated towards these

7:39 PM EDT  
Blogger tmp00 said...


I would too, even though they're about as pertinent to my life in SoCal as a bustle...uncel

7:40 PM EDT  
Blogger tmp00 said...

(Sorry, I typed my word verification in the comment like a fool)


I think that's still in the stores..

7:41 PM EDT  
Blogger tmp00 said...


Thank you!

7:42 PM EDT  
Blogger tmp00 said...


I didn't notice that one in there but I wasn't really looking either. I might have to go back, although it sound like something that I might not like..

7:43 PM EDT  
Blogger tmp00 said...


I've read that. Grrr indeed. Silly too- it's not like they were making room for clothes..

7:44 PM EDT  
Blogger tmp00 said...


You should go in, there's some cute stuff in there.

I think it's incense for someone who's never been in a church..

7:46 PM EDT  
Anonymous hotlanta linda said...

When your good influence has saved your Godchild from turning into a current version of a floozy, you`ve done ALOT of good!!! Take a deep whiff of a scent you can`t live w/out, and SMILE that you are, in a small way, save-ing our perfumista`s good culture!!

11:47 AM EDT  
Blogger tmp00 said...


she's becoming a big time perfumista!

2:13 PM EDT  
Blogger Cynthia said...

The fragrances seem a tad expensive for what they are - so not interested there. But I'm tempted to buy the wellies - those are awesome. Of course, I think that I can get some that are just as cute at Target for under $20.

Just so you don't get the wrong idea - I'm not normally the type to tromp about in rubber boots, but I have to load children into cars when it's raining out sometimes and I hate to ruin good shoes by getting them wet.

11:04 PM EDT  
Blogger Funkyscents said...

People all around the word loves to use these herbal incenses. I will also definitely try this. How's the lasting power?

Pure Herbal Incense

12:20 AM EDT  

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