Thursday, November 16, 2006

Pilgrimage- JAR Perfumes at Bergdorf Goodman


Monday Morning has found me worshipping at the altar of the ultimate destination for all things pretty: Bergdorf's Beauty Level. Together with my husband, I visited the inner sanctum: The dimly lit cavern of JAR.


There are many fragrances I've been and still am curious to try. But nothing can compete with a line so exclusive you can only find at two locations in the world: Their Paris boutique and Bergdorf Goodman in NYC. It doesn't sell anywhere else, you can't order it online and there are no samples, other than teeny tiny decants that you can purchase on eBay. So what's left for a fragrance obsessed girl to do?

The answer is to make an appointment for a sniffing ceremony with one of the two nice gentlemen who are in charge of bestowing the JAR goodness on us mere mortals. Not only do they have perfect manners and a friendly personality, these two guys are supposedly the only people in the US who know exactly what's in those sacred bottles.

The seven fragrances are not just exclusive, but also kept as secrets, as far as their notes go. There's no record anywhere of what's inside, and the very few reviews you can find online are only guesses. In some cases, certain notes are pretty obvious- gardenia, carnation, clove, almond. Others are a complete mystery, as is the name of one of them- the jewel in the crown that is only marked by a bolt of lightning on the bottle.


We met with Robert, the JAR guy (the ladies of Perfume Posse have raved about Franz, and Robert himself has told us that his colleague is an incredibly charming and handsome man. I really liked Robert and didn't mind missing the Franz experience). He presented us with seven containers, each holding a piece of satiny cloth infused with a fragrance. The scents are presented in a certain order, from left to right, according to the creator's specific instructions (Joel Arthur Rosenthal, a world renowned jeweler, whose initials are JAR). But after the initial sniffage, if you ask nicely, Robert would let you re-sniff in whatever order you choose.

The following is my impression. It's not a real review, just how the scents felt to me either from smelling the cloth or from those that we tried on. Also of note: the fragrances are quite unisex. Supposedly, even the gardenia one. The idea appealed to me, because lately I've been gravitating towards more masculine perfumes and I love sharing bottles with my husband.

Ferme Tes Yeux: Others have described this as "barnyard" and animalic. I've smelled something on the wrong side of rotten. Bad cheese. Bad something. It wasn't anything you'd classify as perfume, and not something that I felt like checking again. My husband wasn't repulsed by it at all. He didn't get the barnyard reference, and he should know, as he grew up on a dairy farm. Or, maybe that's why he didn't mind the smell.
Edit: How things have changed. Ferme tesYeux has become one of my holiest of grails. I actually bought a bottle about two years after first smelling it. You can read all about it here.

Shadow: It smelled dark and masculine. I think that there was vetiver and probably lavender. It smelled damp and musty in a pleasant way. My husband tried it on and it was sharp and good. Too sharp for his liking, though.
*edit: It took the husband another visit but now he's utterly in love with Shadow. I am, too.

Jarling: My big disappointment. The initial sniffing wowed me. It was rich and sweet, lilac and sunshine, but had a wicked twist to it. I thought it was going to be the one. But upon landing on my skin it was nothing but almond. Not a hint of another note. Sweet almond, like my mother's marzipan at first, but soon enough it became very sharp. It could have been made by Crabtree & Evelyn. Or by Method, and used for cleaning up wood furniture. I'm not making this up. I wish I could exchange my skin for one that would work with Jarling.

The one with the bolt of lightning: I'm definitely regretting not trying it on. It's probably not my thing- too "wet", earthy and green, but it was very complex and interesting, unlike anything else I know (but in a good way, unlike FTY). This is the most expensive one in this very expensive lot, and costs nearly as much as our car payments, combined. The scent and the price tag are not for the faint of heart.
Edit: my full review after quite a bit of testing and wearing

Diamond Water: Sparkling carnations and a hint of clove. Definitely floral, but with some oriental spice. Very beautiful in its delicate sweetness, never cloying. It developed to be very carnation-like, with a soft, creamy musk dry-down that lingered for hours. Interestingly, on my husband it wasn't sparkling or floral. It had the green part of the carnation, and was deeper and creamier. I really liked it on myself, but absolutely adored it on him.
*Edit: Here's my full review of Diamond Water.

Jardenia: They were not kidding with this name. This is a gardenia, the whole plant, including some of the dirt that gets caught up in the roots. And cheese. It makes any other gardenia-like fragrance pale in comparison, and if you are a fan of the scent- this is your holy grail. Sadly, I'm not.

Golconda: Carnations and skin. It was amazing how similar Golconda and Diamond Water smelled on me. Bob was quite surprised at the result on my skin. According to him, it's not supposed to do that. Great. I broke the JAR. All kidding aside, this was really good. It lacked the sparks and glitter of DW, but blended better with my chemistry. To the point that I couldn't smell anything after a while, while Robert and my husband assured me that it's very much there.

It was an amazing experience. I liked the fragrances and was quite enamoured by Golconda and Diamond Water. But I couldn't make a decision on the spot. eventually, after living with the scents for several hours, DW has clearly become my favorite. I like the extra oomph that it has over Golconda, though they are very similar when I'm wearing them. But do I really love it so much that it justifies a purchase? I'm not yet sure. I enjoy perfume very much and I don't wear cheap ones. But considering the collection that I already have- do I really need another one that cost so much but didn't make me feel the Must.Get.It.Now thing that I have for other favorites? On the other hand, I really really liked it, and am certain to wear it a lot. Wouldn't I wear it as often if not more than a pair of boots (that I only wear during fall/winter and is one of several that I own)? More pondering is in order.

**Another edit (September 2008): I revisited the boutique and wrote about it here.

(Picture: Greg Geffner, Diagonal Bolt Hitting Queensboro Bridge)

4 comments:

  1. OH, I'm so glad you had a good time at JAR. I really wasrolling my eyes at first, but as pretentious as it "seemed," it was just perfection for smelling things. Agree on the DW. And i"m still mulling about Golconda. :)

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thank you for being one of the few people who recognize that there is nothing "pretentious" about the experience at the JAR boutique at Bergdorf Goodman. Mr. Rosenthal has obviously gone to great lengths to create a line of wonderful scents and if he chooses to present them with style and a mystique that's his prerogative.

    I've seen the words pretentious and JAR coupled on far too many blogs so let me say, for those less familiar with the lexicon, it would only be "pretentious" if the perfumes smelled like the cheap, common fragrances I'm sure they're used to buying at drug stores and malls and therefore didn't warrant the ceremony. On the contrary, they are quite worth it.

    Anyone who is silly enough to be intimidated by this should probably just jaunt down 5th Avenue to Saks and join the throngs. I have such a problem with people who decry something just because they can't afford it or are so unfamiliar with it that it makes them feel uncomfortable. It's not JAR's fault that some people feel out of sorts unless they're sitting on their Pottery Barn sofa in front of their large-screen "TeeVee", eating pizza.

    That said, Diamond Water is truly divine. I had narrowed my hunt for the perfect winter fragrance down to it and Shadow. The wonderful fellow at JAR was entirely accommodating when I asked to put Shadow on one wrist and Diamond Water (why does everyone want to call it Diamond Waters???) on the other while I went up to 7 to look at some Meissen. After letting them both dry down and evolve my husband and I agreed that Shadow had just the tiniest bit of a viand quality but that Diamond Water was a playful, sultry delight. It's progression was astounding: pomander to carnation to incense. I raced back to the boutique and snapped one up. I'm sure I'll return; Bolt of Lightning was just too wonderful to resist for summer.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I'm curious. How much do these fragrances cost?

    ReplyDelete
  4. Morticia, as of last year the JARs ran from about $380 for Shadow to around $800 for BoL. I wouldn't be surprised if they've gone up a little by now. It seems all the imported stuff did.

    ReplyDelete

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