My sniffing and sipping tour of Toronto

First I will caveat that I did not get to visit any perfumeries on this trip. I am aware of one in the Toronto area but it’s a bit far from the heart of downtown where we were staying and we were only there from last Friday evening through Sunday. However, the city still provided a feast for the senses.

The streets offered the obligatory whiff of Maison Francis Kurkdjian Baccarat Rouge 540 from time to time, but I was pleasantly surprised to smell much more Le Labo Santal 33. It felt like going back in time a few years.

While strolling along the well-trafficked Dundas Street, we passed the taproom of Collective Arts Brewing, whose beers and gins are also distributed in the United States. After a brief dilemma, we decided to stop in and try a flight (beer for my other half and gin for me). The gins had some intriguing flavors—plum and blackthorn; lavender and juniper; orange, cocoa, and coffee (holiday gin)—although none of them surpassed the rhubarb and hibiscus for me. The experience was a treat, though, as I was supplied with a pail of garnishes and my choice of tonic to make my own mini G&Ts!

Some of the neighborhoods had a lot of personality, including the vibrant Graffiti Alley and vintage-forward Kensington Market. I browsed many shops in earnest, wearing the sample of Amouage Interlude 53 extrait that I had brought with me, a smoky, leathery, oudy, patchouli concentration (my other half having a nose radar for patchouli, this was the ingredient he immediately called out). In the mainstream shops—not retail chains that we also have in the States, because sales taxes are so high in Canada—I would forget I was wearing it, and then get a large waft as soon as I stepped back outside into the fresh air. In the vintage stores riffling through old leather jackets, I felt I fit right in.

(Three days later, it had transformed on my scarf into something slightly powdery and ambery—nostalgic for me in the way of Dana California. My other half thought it smelled chocolatey… a facet of patchouli?!)

One of the highlights of this trip was BarChef, an amazing cocktail bar where drinks are made like food dishes with complex flavor and tactile components. I was infatuated by the photos of their creations when I looked online and in love the moment I flipped to a “Parfumerie Series” page in the menu book.

How could I resist these descriptions? “Old World”: A Parisian parfumerie in liquid form. Exceptional aromatics of antique wood, herbaceous Davana, soft smoke and untouched attic. The flavour offers beautiful depth with lingering oak and roasted vanilla. I first fell for “Sunset Rose” for its ingredient list of Mezcal, rose-infused Aperol, lime leaf, lillet, thyme, dill bitters, violette; it did not disappoint.

“Sesame Samurai” (yes, you can taste the sesame) and “Sunset Rose” (yes, those are rose petals embedded in white chocolate!)

My other half then decided to try absinthe properly, and the “traditional” setup was even more elaborate than we’d imagined. The water dripped from the “fountain” until the sugar cube had melted.

“L’Absinthe Sordide”

Suddenly, a miniature garden gushing with the fog of dry ice was presented to one of our neighbors, and we realized that the “Modernist Series” menu was where it’s at—these were the multisensory experiences!

“Elderflowers & Fougère” (yes, the ferns and the soil are real)

Following that evening of decadence, the next day was rendered tame—the rain drove us to wander the Eaton Centre (a large shopping mall) instead of walking along the waterfront as we would like to have done. I wanted to see if Nordstrom in Canada was different from Nordstrom in the States; it wasn’t, but one difference was that it had Hermès Terre d’Hermès Eau Givrée on display (no such luck here). The last time I tried it was in Montréal! The citrusy juniper was as charming as I’d remembered, and surprisingly linear throughout the rest of the day that I had it on my wrist. This time, I managed to fill a store-provided decant vial from the tester.

I also got to sniff the perfumes at Allsaints. Having read about Flora Mortis before, I was excited to try it and it drew me in—abstractly rosy, woody, smoky, cool and mysterious… however, it seems to shed its edginess and become something more generic toward the end. Some of the others bore uncanny resemblances, at least from the scent accumulated around the nozzle: Leather Skies to Santal 33 and Sunset Riot to Baccarat Rouge 540.

Ted Baker had some perfumes, too, but I was more fascinated by the visual arrangements of bottles from another era and extraction apparatus.

Until the next time, eh?

View from Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport

4 thoughts on “My sniffing and sipping tour of Toronto

  1. Lovely shots. Looks and sounds like a great trip. I’m yet to sample the latest Amouage scents, but I have tried that Hermes. Somewhat surprisingly I liked it too, as I wasn’t a fan of Christine Nagel’s previous vetiver flanker for Terre.


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