My fancy sniffing tour of New York City—Part 1 (Upper East Side)

It’s been a while since I’ve embarked on a perfume sniffing tour in a major city, for obvious reasons. Last weekend was our chance to venture into Manhattan again. We stayed near Times Square and found it almost as chaotic as ever, with perhaps fewer costumed characters on the streets and fewer tourists. To our surprise, many stores did not require customers or staff to wear masks. We were glad to discover that several restaurants asked for proof of vaccination before allowing patrons to dine inside.

I tried not to repeat stops that I’d made on previous visits to New York City (in February and April of 2019), but I wanted my other half to experience Dover Street Market, so that was our first destination on Saturday. As always, it was dominated by Comme des Garçons on multiple floors. We smelled their new Marseille eau de toilette, a pleasant floral (neroli) just like a soap.

Next efforts were concentrated on the Upper East Side, starting at Zitomer on 76th Street and working our way south along Madison Avenue. Unfortunately, the fragrance section of this pharmacy and beauty store was closed off, possibly as renovations are still wrapping up.

Fueguia 1833 Madison looked gorgeous and intimidating at the same time, with their impeccable arrangement of flasks and larger decanters. I took pictures from outside and then couldn’t get the door to open, so I thought they were closed, but it turned out they weren’t and I should have tried harder. Don’t worry, I made amends at their SoHo store the next day.

Then we arrived at the first Editions de Parfums Frédéric Malle boutique in New York, which I hadn’t been to before. Of course it had a window dedicated to Synthetic Jungle, which many others have reviewed in lively detail. I enjoyed its lushness, with very green tomato leaf and grassy notes—nothing synthetic-smelling at all, which I believe is the point.

Moving on, we entered the Etro boutique, not knowing quite what to expect. The fragrance selection was relatively small, and the SA started with their first and most popular, Vicolo Fiori. It’s a summery, watery floral, which another customer vocally complimented. Seeing me take another sniff of the smelling strip, she added, “But I don’t think I’m going to the same party as you, so I wouldn’t worry about it.” I asked what the notes were and the SA brought out a laminated sheet with descriptions for all the perfumes. Rather than proactively give me a “tour” of the collection, he waited for me to ask to smell each next one, so I ended up choosing a couple to try based on the notes that I was reading upside-down from the sheet. ManRose looked interesting, and was indeed a bright, peppery rose-patchouli that stayed on the crisp side. Io Myself was a woody rose. None were particularly infatuating, and the dynamic was getting awkward, so we said thank you and left.

Hermès was a much more pleasant experience. I finally got to smell Galop d’Hermès and Osmanthe Yunnan, two perfumes I had been wanting to meet for a long time. The latter, though lovely, left me with no FOMO in terms of osmanthus fragrances—again, more watery than I’d like. Galop charmed me at first sniff: an elegant, light rose (I didn’t detect the off-note that some people have described) on a very fine suede. And the sleek stirrup bottle! This became my only full-bottle purchase on this trip, and I got to choose a red leather strap for it. The box was beautifully tied with ribbon and the SA also gifted me with generous samples (which soothed a bit of the pain from 8.875% sales tax). These included Rose Ikebana, which is also a gorgeous watercolor rose—barely perceptible, but lingers on skin far longer than expected.

Side note: This was at the smaller “men’s store” across the street from the flagship store. The larger store has original Hermès wallpaper on the top floor and a spiral staircase—the “home” department sells a range of unexpected items from a jukebox to mini skateboards.

Hermès jukebox

Stimulated from the visual feast and equipped with an orange bag that might mark me as a serious shopper, we stopped next at the Plaza Hotel on Fifth Avenue to seek out Krigler. With many cabinets showcasing the history of the house in the lobby, I still managed to guide us to the wrong side of the hotel before being blocked by a security guard and pointed in the right direction.

For such a prestigious house, the space is quite small, almost like a kiosk in a hidden corner of the Plaza. I approached expecting a degree of snobbery, but the SA was warm and knowledgeable and I immediately felt at ease. The perfumes are exquisite—I was first shown Chateau Krigler 12 and almost fell in love with the musky rose and mimosa. English Promenade 19 was a good contrast to this, with white florals and white musk presenting a lighter kind of romantic tone. Palm Dream 219 is a fruity leather, not unlike Tom Ford Tuscan Leather to my nose. Mont Suisse 67 is airy and features edelweiss, although I could recognize only that it was a lemony floral. I specifically asked to smell Lieber Gustav 14 because Undina had recommended it as a top lavender perfume, and the SA’s face lit up at my request. It is indeed an intriguing fragrance, relatively dark with black tea, leather, and tonka in the mix, as well as geranium—it just turns out that lavender and geranium are not notes to which I gravitate.

The prices are, as my other half puts it, “eye watering,” which is why this time I settled for a $20 sample vial of Chateau Krigler. It has officially displaced a Le Labo city exclusive as the most expensive sample I have ever purchased.

Finally for Saturday, Bergdorf Goodman. I had never visited this department store before, and I think my prediction was correct, that it would be a bit like Harrod’s in London with less glitz. We went straight to the fragrance section and smelled some Amouage (including Material, which started as such a heavy patchouli that I couldn’t perceive much else), some Shalini (including Iris Lumière, with emphasis on lumière), lots of Guerlain… by this time I was frankly overwhelmed and overheated, and it was time to freshen up before dinner. I would love to make this a first stop another time and get to know some smaller brands better, like Cultus Artem and The Harmonist.

A successful day.

Fornasetti at Bergdorf Goodman

5 thoughts on “My fancy sniffing tour of New York City—Part 1 (Upper East Side)

  1. I need to visit NY again! It has been too long…

    I still can’t believe Krigler charges that much for samples ($20 isn’t the most expensive 2 ml sample they have) without offering that as a discount against future purchases. I think they finally opened a store in San Francisco, so I hope to get there and “do some damage” :).

    Like

  2. That sounds like so much fun! Bergdorf is definitely a Mecca for a wide range of fragrances, including some less common lines. If/when you get there again, you might enjoy trying Atelier des Ors’ line, which they now carry and which I like a lot.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s