I took a day off work to go sniffing in NYC. This time, I had a better idea of what I liked and tighter purse strings. No more rookie moves of buying based on infatuation with the haze of top notes without testing a perfume’s whole course on my skin.
My first stop (the evening before) was coincidental. I went to The Phluid Project to see the concept of the first gender-free clothing store brought to life. It was a pleasant surprise—though not surprising—to discover that they had several delicious fragrances as well. My favorite that I tried was Sequoia by Abbott: smokey incense, cedarwood, and sandalwood. It was wonderful while it lasted, which unfortunately was not long enough, only a couple of hours on my skin.
At the recommendation of The Perfume Society, I strolled to Dover Street Market to start my day. The building was so nondescript from the outside, I almost missed it. Inside were 8 floors of amazement brought to me, several European tourists, and others by various expensive and extensively creative designers. Here, I almost fell in love… with 2 MAN by Comme des Garçons. The first whiff reminded me of licorice root, which is one of my fondest memories of herbal tea. Then I thought it was ginseng, and I was intrigued. However, having learned my lesson from past impulses, I walked around with it for a while, expanding my mind and fashion sense. Within about an hour, the scent had revealed itself as a “dirty” vetiver… and I fell out of love again.
The rest of the day was spent around SoHo. I visited the flagship store of Bond No. 9, an amazing library of designs on their iconic perfume bottle, each perfume highlighting the essence of a different New York neighborhood. They recently launched Greenwich Village (featuring lychee and jasmine among other notes), displayed alongside their caramel-gardenia bestseller New York Nights.
Space.NK had a nice collection of Byredo perfumes, among others. I walked out with a spritz of Bal d’Afrique on my arm, which screamed pineapple above all else.
Officina Profumo-Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella was a refreshing juxtaposition of a modern space with old-world fragrances, including products for dogs and cats. I enjoyed a brief flirtation with their Tabacco toscano aftershave.
My still-favorite Perfumarie Discovery Studio had rearranged their layout, and this time the tagines for de-identified smelling were at the center instead of along the wall. I found so many scents familiar without being able to quite name them. My take-home selection was a “celebration of sandalwood,” a deeper, darker one than some of my other sandalwood samples.
It was here that I learned, to my great chagrin, that I do not feel the same way about traditional chypres as I do about some modern ones (which can be hit or miss).
I finally managed to get to Osswald, which is worth a visit to see some exquisite bottles and the wall of vintage samples arranged by color.
Atelier Cologne also arranges their perfumes by color, which I found quite attractive and clever. Their enthusiastic staff gave me a tour of their fragrances and a bottle of water. They introduced me to a “dry” sandalwood in Santal Carmin, a lesson in how much variation there can be in this wonderful ingredient. All of their “cologne absolutes” contain citrus, but it is barely detectable in some of them. The ones that are meant to feature orange smell like the best fresh-squeezed orange juice, such that my mouth starts watering and I can’t really think of them as perfume anymore. I was most intrigued by Poivre Electrique, a spicy mix of black pepper, pink pepper, incense, and bitter orange.
Natura Brasil is on the same street, and offers a friendly atmosphere with olfactory treasures from the Amazon. Angelica (tuberose) celebrates Brazilian nightlife, next to sweet Nectar, green and calming Rainforest, and leathery Dom.
Sniffing is serious business—by the end of the day, I was exhausted. Happily. The creativity and attention to detail that go into making a perfume are apparent in all of these places and add to the inspiration of the multisensorial experience: well worth it.