August 26th: Snifforama with NYC Perfumistas

In a charming Italian restaurant in Greenwich Village, the three of us met for brunch – Nancy Arnott, Susan Winters and I. Time flew by fast as we discussed almost anything possible from perfumes to traveling, family, world peace and community supported agriculture (CSA). Susan smelled deliciously of Parfum Delrae Eau Iluminee while Nancy had a scent-free skin, all set up for a big perfume-testing day.

We set off for Aedes with left over from the generous lunch that mysteriously found its way to the table without invitation, all in high hopes for finding a hungry homeless dying to have that gourmet pizza. The doggy-bag ended up accompanying us to the finest perfume stores in Greenwich Village and beyond…

Aedes was nothing I had expected. It may be great to be able to recognize a meeting point by a photo on the internet, but when it came to Aedes, I was happy that I did not have any visual idea about the store, except for its name and its old fashioned logo (and a vague yet intriguing idea of some of the lines carried there). At the door, a gentleman named Robert was joyously smoking his afternoon cigarette and of course it wasn’t necessary for Ms. Winters and Ms. Arnott top introduce myself, and I was just the anonymous lady dragging along with the avid perfumistas (trying to keep a low profile, which lasted for quite a while)… The atmosphere inside the dim-lit and highly fragrant store space was very European – from the furniture and the decoration and the manner in which the perfume lines are exquisitely displayed in their antique cabinets, to the accent of the other gentleman, Karl, who greeted us warmly as soon as we entered the space.

I saw perfumes that have never smelled before – Mona di Orio line, wich I found most exquisite; Rosine’s line, which showcases the versatility of rose; Montale’s rich, Arabesque concoctions; Escentric Molecules’ sweet and short, abstract olfactory line (Nancy tried their Molecule No. 1 , which to me smelled as soft skin-musk, and Nancy experienced as celery seed); Jalaine’s oils in fancy cut-glass bottles; Luten’s legendary line, including the newest Chypre Rouge (it was celery again! Not what I was looking for in a Chypre…) and Vetiver Oriental;

Montale’s Oud Queen Rose was the only one I have tried on my wrist at Aedes. It was a bit like an exaggerated impression of Agent Provocateur, with higher doses of saffron, and of course a killer dose of oud. It was persistent for quite a long time until it started to soften and phase out.

We also got a sneak-sniff into the new l’Artisan harvest limited edition coming up, based on narcissus. To our sheer astonishment, it smelled very little of fresh narcissus, but strongly of dark coffee, and than a quiet, powdery and dark narcissus note has emerged from the bottom.

If it wasn’t for the charming Ms. Winters, I could have kept my anonymity throughout the visit and manage to go through the entire Rosine line and maybe even picking a new scent... But thanks to her enthusiasm, I had the opportunity for a brief olfactory seduction with scents such as Espionage and Zohar.

Nancy and I than set off to a couple of old pharmacies – New London and Bigelow’s – and explored their extensive collections of both bourique and classic fragrances. Bigelow’s collection was incredible – Miller Harris, Comptoir Sud Pacifique - they carried almost anything classic imaginable, from Diorissimo and Vent Vert to Patricia de Nicolai, Lorenzo Villoresi, Le Parfums de Rosine and more. Quite a departure from the usual Brittney Spears and Coty’s Wild Musk collection that more down-to-earth pharmacies offer. They also carried indie self-made houses such as AromaM Geisha line, and others.

New London Pharmacy carried a similar variety of lines, namely Miller Harris, Sage Mechado, Dyptique, Comptoir Sud Pacifique, Aqua di Parma and Carthusia. If only we weren’t in a bit of a hurry to get to Barney’s store uptown on Madison Avenue before closure time, I would have readily spent more time (and probably money too…) in the rich perfume isles of these two old-fashioned pharmacies. They truly deserve their very own blog entry, and a bit of history
about the interesting relationship between the apothecary, pharmacy and perfumery. I will save this for my next trip to New York.

It was Le Parfum de Therese that was calling my name all the way from Madison Avenue to the Village, and I had to go and meet her before the Barney’s closure time. The subway in New York is impressively fast and effective - it got us there in less than 30 minutes, and we had time not only to finally get a steady supply of this masterpiece (which have become my summer staple fragrance), but also befriend the two sales people – a kind and knowledgeable lady and an enthusiastic gentleman named Khash. We were fortunate enough to sniff We got more sniffs of l’Artisan, Serge Lutens and Frederick Malle scents that I haven’t had the chance to smell before. I tried Bigarade Concentree for the first time, and loved it more than I can ever expect from a citrus. There were also a few lines that I haven’t seen in any of the other fragrance boutiques I visited in NYC yet – such as Strange Invisible Perfumes and Yosh, and even the more known Costume National (thanks to Khash, I am now quite intrigued by their Scent Intense – a skin-musk type of scent in the black bottle). After Khash’s comment about our knowledge and understanding of fragrance, the kind Ms. Arnott couldn’t help it but follow Susan’s tradition of identity-revelation, and I had the pleasure of giving Khash a little tour of my fragrances as well, particularly the skin-like and the musky ones (Razala, Espionage). He likened Ayalitta, strangely enough, to an exotic Indian and Pakistani breath freshener, wrapped in leaves and served at the end of weddings and festivities.

It was a fabulous day, with two fine ladies, in a fine city full of gorgeous perfumes and curious celery fragrances. It wasn’t until I got off the train in Brooklyn that I finally found the grateful homeless man to eat that gourmet pizza, and it seemed well worth carrying around, along with all the fragrant souvenirs from a gigantic metropolitan – the capital of the world.

August 25th: The Little Girl and the Big Apple

OK, it’s a shame to say it, but I will just say it: This was my first time in Manhattan, and it’s mind boggling huge!

It’s one thing to see it in Woody Allan movies nodding my head in an embarrassing amount of approval for the city life, as opposed to actually visiting here; When I saw the hundreds of stories building towering over my head, even the highest of heels seemed belittled…

Walking the Upper East Side, I did everything a city girl would do when visiting a larger-than-life metropolitan. I walked up the 5th, Park and Madison Avenues and was trying to swallow as much mileage out of my only-two-more days in the Big Apple, feeling like a figure stripped out of a fashion magazine walking between pages of high-end ads…

I walked tirelessly, as there was so much to see, and stopped on the way only for a snack from the smoky pretzel-stands, or to smell the “roses” in Bendel’s, Bergdorf Goodman, Saks and Takashimaya.

At Saks, I got a sniff-a-boo at the Bond No. 9 scents, but tried not to get too attached, as I already had my mind set on Chinatown. This line is a lot more interesting than I had expected, and I am looking forward to try more when I get the opportunity.

I also smelled Eau de Reglisse for the first time, and marveled at the Caron Urns, falling in love all over again with the mysterious and dark scents that this house manages to release into the air so reliably. I was swept off by the pepper, nutmeg, musk and vetiver ordeal of Poivre, intrigued by the dark, WWII sentimentality of N’Aimez Que Moi – dusky yet dewy roses and violets; but my real surprise hit me when I reached Bendel’s, and fell head over heels with Farensiana: instead of the light, cheerful green note of cassie, I found there a deep mimosa and tuberose, underlined with vanilla and heliotrope. I think I will have to dedicate a whole trip just to the Caron Urns next time when I am in New York. There is nothing not to love there.

At Bendel’s I also smelled the dark George Sand for the first time, and instantly liked Kisu: a musky-clean vetiver scent with modest doses of white florals and rosewood – very similar to the concept of Narciso Rodriguez. Bendel’s also had the nicest l’Artisan Parfumeur counter, and Brandon was most enthusiastic to show off as many as 10 scents per minute (so after 3.5 minutes the entire line was covered…). I sampled many, but the ones that I will be wearing in the dog days of my trip to Israel are sure to be Bois Farine, Ananas Fizz and Premier Figuier Extreme.

I did not expect to find the Guerlain’s boutique scents at the bottom of Bergdorf Goodman, but I did, carelessly. As soon as I got in I was offered a spritz of Insolence (which I had to deny gracefully, by sniffing the salesperson’s hand repeatedly). It smelled gorgeous on him, but awful and obtrusive on the scented ribbon. I asked for a sample to get out of the situation, and he lead me right into a Guerlain heaven (which turned to be somewhat of a torture, since I was already covered with Caron scents, so I had no room to try anything really) – Rose Barbare, Cuir Beluga and Angelique Noir had to remain on golden satin ribbons. Rose Barbare was beautiful, and I gave up and tried it on one of my fingers (!), which I have never done before. I also had a bit of room for Jicky parfum on the back of my hand, which is one of the loveliest lavenders I ever smelled. They also had Vega, Liu, Derby and another beautiful scent which I can’t remember it’s name at all, but seemed like one of those perfect Chypres… It started with N I believe, but that’s all I can remember…

They also had three of the Ineke scents, which smell exactly the way there were described. My favourite was the lilac scent - After My Own Heart.

Takashimaya was already dark as a secretive tea house when I got there. I sniffed a few unknown-to-me scents, and than walked until I reached Central Park and stopped to eat an apple and an orange, while the scent of carriage-horse manure permeated the air to no end; it was already dusk, and the ducks were floating in the pond in search for left over crumbs of salty pretzels. A sound of old-fashioned Jazz music from a courtyard drew me to peak into a strange looking courtyard: a large King-Kong was surrounded by floating Japanese lanterns. I peaked in and than set off to the other corner of the park, to find a Broadway night…

Brooklyn, August 24th 2006

It was a new moon, and this sign was displayed on the elevator at 770 Eastern Parkway at Kingston, otherwise known simply as “770”. The history of the place can be googled without further instruction, and if you can see through the flowers, you can even read about it on this blog.

- A place where one cannot even recognize his own brother, yet feels among family;

a place where the chill of Jerusalemite catacombs and the happiness of poverty reigns;

a place that resides somewhere between the Ghettos of yesteryear and Agnus Day of tomorrow;

A place that giveth and taketh away;

A place that magnetizes as much as it repels;

A place of light and of great darkness, where myriads of bagels vanish in a cloud of horseradish and Talmud lessons.

A place that is about the people not as much as it’s about the place; or maybe it’s just another place.

Love, Truth and Knowledge...?
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