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Smelling perfume in New York City….

So… it’s been a few days since my return from the beautiful city of New York and I’ve had a bit of time to digest the experience.  First, I must say, it was a fantastic trip.  The places I saw-  ranging from Times Square to Grand Central Station, from the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) to Ground Zero; to Bergdorf’s, Tiffany’s and of course, many gorgeous perfume boutiques- I was completely smitten.

Uptown is massive old gorgeous Art Deco buildings squeezed in between modern glass skyscrapers.  Downtown is old ochre coloured tenement buildings with fire escapes and red brick….it’s beautiful everywhere I saw.  And there is so much more to see!!  Next time! Many more museums of course, plus Harlem and Brooklyn and Chelsea and I want to rent a rowboat on the lake in Central Park (with someone romantic!) and paddle across to where the Locust trees hang over the water and exude their sweet perfume when they are in bloom.  (this was a recommendation from the lovely man from Jo Malone whom I spent a good hour chatting with in Bergdorf’s).

For the 5 nights in the city, I rented a little apartment in the Lower East Side of Manhattan through an online site that I highly recommend as an alternative to expensive hotels.  From the moment I arrived, I was taken by the feeling of the city- the warmth, the movement, the life that never seems to stop. And by the friendliness of every person I met.

On Saturday, my 3rd day in the city- we began the Sniffapalooza event with an early morning breakfast in Bergdorf’s in a little room just off the perfume department.  Everyone was in fine spirits as we sipped orange juice and coffee and listened to various presenters promote some of the newest luscious products that are carried in the store.  (Bergdorf Goodman, by the way is an old high-end department store/institution… you can read more of the history here.)

Following breakfast, we had several hours to explore the perfume department and sniff to our hearts content.  Lunch followed at another location with more speakers…. Chandler Burr from the NY Times being one.  He confused everyone by saying that we should stop using the term ‘notes’ to describe perfume (with the associated made up ingredients), and experience perfumes as their whole entity.  I rather get what he was trying to say, since he comes from the school of breaking down the mystery of perfume and looking at what’s really inside them (the actual chemical components), rather than making up ‘notes’ that are imaginary, primarily for marketing, and that may limit a person’s individual experience.  But for the crowd to whom he was speaking- the message was lost and he left everyone feeling like they’d been yelled at for doing something wrong, but not quite sure what it was.  One person later referred to him as ‘that guy who got up and yelled like an angry street person’.  Which I thought was quite funny.

Next was a beautiful store called Takashimaya, but unfortunately, I wasn’t able to look at perfumes much since the store was so absolutely crowded with people.  I did have the pleasure however of meeting Yosh of Yosh perfumes and spent the whole time exploring her delicate creations that she packages beautifully. Afterward, we spent a long time in Henri Bendels (where I completely fell in love with a perfume from Etat Libre d’Orange (a risqué Parisien company), called Rossy de Palma.

Highlights of Day 2- Bond NY at #9 Bond Street- in Soho.  Gorgeous boutique- favourite fragrance so far (I still have a stack of samples to go through)- Little Italy- for the top notes- (although the drydown on my skin is lemon dishsoap) and not surprisingly- Eau de New York with it’s touch of salty metallic skin.

Next was Le Labo- a shop I have wanted to visit for years.  They are completely inspired by the traditional perfume industry of Grasse  (completely after my own heart of course!)- and I found their perfumes delicate, well-balanced and pleasing.  My favourite- Ambrette 9- a perfume for babies based on the natural musk seed ambrette. Although it seemed almost like a soft fluffy ylang ylang creation.  Not what I expected, but a perfect perfume to wear to bed.

Next on the list was Min New York, a beautifully designed perfume boutique all in dark wood and with an apothecary feel.  Here tucked against one of the shelves, I spotted Miller Harris.  Lyn Harris, the perfumer behind this brand is a huge inspiration of mine.  I began speaking with the man in charge of the display and quite quickly learned that he was Christophe, Lyn’s husband!  What an honour to meet him.  I also had a little chat with Christopher of CB I Hate Perfume, who is an artist who treats fragrance as an interpretive experience where anything is possible,  rather than as an accessory.  Some of his perfumes are not like any other- such as Under the Arbor, which smells exactly like damp vegetation and freshly dug soil in spring, or I Am a Dandelion– which he created for the love of his favorite flower.  And, yes, it smells exactly like the real thing, with some crushed dandelion leaves thrown in.

Of course, for me, the über highlight of the day- was the presentation at lunch.  I arrived late and a bit flustered after getting lost, and found the restaurant large and airy with open walls to a courtyard full of flowering cherry trees.  I was last on the list of presenters, and due to the lack of a microphone for our speeches (???!!!!), I was obliged to shorten my well-rehearsed speech dramatically and deliver just the important bits, at the top of my lungs.  And it was a success. I was reeling a little after from my blood pressure skyrocketing from stress and yelling to be heard- but everyone was coming up and congratulating me and saying how much they loved the perfume!  So after all that build up and hope that I was doing the right thing by leaping in and going to New York, I realized in that moment, that all was perfect.

The last stop was the best and my favourite- Aedes du Venustas.  A shop that I have dreamed about for years and years… since I first began to create perfumes 8 years ago.  It is a small shop, on a quiet tree-lined street in the Greenich Village area.  It has dark carpets, and huge crystal chandeliers and the most amazing collection of niche (true niche) brands I have seen.  Collections like Maison Francis Kurkdjian, Parfums de Rosine,  Nez a Nez,  Comme des Garcons, Parfums d’Empire, The Different Company,  The Beautiful Mind Series, etc etc.

I was kindly introduced to the man who created  the store 15 years ago- Karl, and of course, showed him Réglisse Noire… and he tried it then and there.  We had a great little chat and he too loved the perfume and thought it was a unique and original idea, fun and delicious.

After that?  I was completely exhausted.  Eventually we found our way to a little French restaurant in the area, and filled our bellies.  We then walked not too far to Magnolia’s- the cupcake bakery favoured by Carrie Bradshaw from Sex and the City.  Later I unfortunately left my little box of cakes in the grocery store on my way home… so I never got to try them.

And that was New York.

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