Friday, September 19, 2008

Oh, the things we have smelled!

Or: The Scent Twins Take Manhattan (and make SAs cry)

One of the best things about a sniffing expedition with your scent twin is that it instantly doubles the available skin space (and if he is a very tall and long-limbed guy, all the more skin to use). When said scent twin is such a wonderful companion as mine is, the pleasure is more than doubled. And he makes me laugh.

Tom came from L.A. and we spent Thursday afternoon relentlessly spraying, sniffing each other, and pondering the wonders of skin chemistry. We started at Saks, which could have been a much more pleasant place without the piranha-like sales assistants. There were too many of them at every counter and they were aggressive and cloying at the same time, shoving scented cards under our noses and trying to spray us with whatever they were hawking, telling us how it's the most popular thing and we really must try. No, thank you.

They were strongly promoting the not-so-new DSquared2 He Wood and She Wood. While it looks quite official that woods are making a comeback to mainstream perfume, I was not impressed and my prediction is that these scents would end up at most discounters in no time. More interesting was the discovery of a fully stocked Guerlain counter, offering the L’Art et la Matiere line as well as some of the more interesting bottles of the house. We both discovered the wonders of Derby and I just loved seeing Tom's face as he tried Sous Le Vent. I had the same look when I first tried it in Paris.

Tom introduced me to one of the more interesting Saks exclusives, Miller Harris Fleurs de Sel, which lasted for most of the day on my hand, making me realize that I absolutely need a bottle. I'm not an airy-beachy girl, but this salty, herbal wonder is unlike anything else I have and it evokes the kind of shore experience that has nothing to do with Jersey's boardwalks and everything to do with an emotional place.

The other Saks exclusive we were curious about was Chanel Beige (only at the NYC flagship for now). It's pretty in a floral Chanel way, lady-like and understated, but as far as I'm concerned it lacks an edge, and it's not that original, either. I liked smelling it, but have no desire to wear it. As I said to Tom, it simply doesn't go with my hair.

From there, we continued up 5th Avenue to Henri Bendel, which was a huge relief in terms of SAs. You can freely browse, spray and try things without a SA breathing down your neck. What a concept! We were waiting to see some poor unsuspecting soul spraying itself silly with Secretion, but it didn't happen. Tom and I seemed to be the only ones interested in the Etat Libre d'Orange bottles, which do seem a bit out of place there. Try as we did, we couldn't find one that really felt full bottle worthy in that line. We're just not that into them (though I still like Encens et Bubblegum).

A block or so down the road was the temporary Colette mini-store at The Gap. It's the weirdest thing and quite disappointing. They had some (not very interesting) t-shirts and a whole lot of ugly plastic knickknacks that looked like crap the Paris store was looking to unload somewhere instead of throwing it into the Seine. They did have the Paris-exclusive Le Labo Vanille 44, which I now hear is (temporarily) sold out. What we didn't know is that the price is more reasonable than in Paris ("only" $150 for 1.7 oz, compared to the ~$300, depending how bad the dollar is on a given day Le Labo seem to have some pricing issues and have re-adjusted the price to $260 for 1.7 oz). I'm still not sure it warrants more than a decant, but I do like its fuzzy muskiness and warm labdanum body.

Other fragrances you can find at that store are a few of the Comme des Garcons in silly packaging with gold tails and muzzles (not kidding), and there was something else I can no longer recall. But the most ridiculous thing at that place were the Kiehl's products. Yes, you read it right. I don't know who was the genius who though that what NYC needs is repackaging of a local product with a French seal of approval. They had the popular body creme in the regular bottle that had "Colette" printed on it (yay! or something), and sets of travel size products. Why? And who buys it?

We pondered these questions on our way to Bergdorf. We stopped at the Serge Lutens stand, where the (very nice, if a bit scared of us) SA showed us some interesting layering combinations (apparently that's what they do with the Serge savvy customers). Who knew that Douce Amere and Ambre Sultan go amazingly well together? I'm going to try it tomorrow night. The other thing I learned is that I probably do need Bois de Violet after all.

Next came the JAR experience, which was Tom's first time. This is going to be a separate post, because I have a lot to say about it, but I'll give you a teaser: We tried Ferme tes Yeux. And lived to tell the tale.

We left Bergdorf feeling drunk. We needed a break, because trying anything after the JARs seemed a bit futile (the poor Jo Malone SA had no chance with us). Besides, we were starving, so a very late lunch was in order before we could proceed to our last stop of the day: Barneys.

Barneys has a lot of good stuff. From some exclusive Serge to Nasomatto and Le Labo. But as far as I'm concerned, the main attraction (and the nicest SA) is Fredric Malle Editions de Parfums. They didn't have the new one, Dans Tes Bras by Maurice Roucel (though the tester is expected within weeks and there's going to be a grand launch event, including an appearance by Roucel himself. No word about the state of his moustache), but the rest of the line is always wonderful to smell and try. I accomplished my mission for the day by purchasing my beloved Musc Ravageur. Tom got me to sniff L'Eau d'Hiver, which might just be the Jean-Claude Ellena creation I won't be able to resist, proving that if you put enough musk and heliotrope in a bottle, I'm going to love it. It still does not absolve him the sin of the melon, but it comes close.

That was the last of the day's adventure. While I didn't beat rush hour traffic out of Manhattan, I smelled so good that I couldn't work up a decent road rage.



  1. I'd be soooo jealous of trip, and company, if I hadn't just had a similar opportunity with Chicocoa...

    ...nonetheless, I'm still a tad green. :)

    Thanks for the thorough reporting; vicarious living has its benefits. I am unhealthily curious about those JARs.

  2. Sound wonderful indeed! For more Lutens layering fun, try Douce Amere, Un Lys, or Un Bois Vanille in any combination of two. They are lovely - my favourite is Douce Amere with either of the other two. I'm curious if it is worth exploring layering with the Chanel Exclifs?

  3. Your reports from the "battlefield" are always fun to read, i'm waiting for more.
    So Derby has not been discontinued
    (I think I read something about it in some blog, but i'm not sure); and I want to smell Sous Le Vent, but I'll have to wait until January when I'll go to Paris.

  4. aw, I blush!

    I still am not convinced that I don't need that bottle of Derby...

  5. Scentscelf- I hear the Chicocoa was great (minus getting the Oprah treatment at Hermes, that is).
    It is, indeed, unhealthy to be curious about the JARs. It may result in financial damage (but you'll be so happy... /enabling).

  6. Anon- Un Bois Vanille layers wonderfully with many scents. I even layer it with Eau d'Hadrien (just don't tell Uncle Serge). I'll definite;ly try your suggestions.
    As for the Chanel Exclusifs, that's an interesting idea. I refuse to fall in love with them until they release a parfum version in much smaller bottles.

  7. Edwardian- I think they just made Derby an ultra exclusive that's only available at select locations.
    I miss Paris...

  8. Tom, I think we both might need Derby. A split, maybe?

  9. Layering Serge! Gasp! I'm actually quite surprised that's something a SA would suggest, but I admit the thought scares me a bit.

    I have an old bottle of Derby. While I know it's beautiful, it's not something I ever wear.


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