• Tue, Apr 6 2010

Eau Is Me: The Smells of New York

“Eau is Me” is a weekly perfume column, introducing you to new and old scents by pairing them with songs, foods, and even fashion. Colleen Williams has been writing and obsessing about fragrance for years now and wants you to obsess about it too.

In New York, concrete jungle where dreams are made of, people have a specific sort of hometown pride. It is, to say the least, both obnoxious and exhilarating. The tall buildings make you feel so small, the people make you feel like a number, the wealth can makes you obscenely angry, the street smells make you… well, gag. There’s a lot going on in New York, all the time. It isn’t truly the city that never sleeps, as anyone can tell you – it’s just that there are so many people here, one or a hundred of them are bound to be up at any time of the day. And no, it’s not a city of dreams. It’s a tough place to live, and all the bagels in the world can’t make up for that. And no, you don’t necessarily all start at zero here – everyone’s New York experience is different. Some of us get our asses kicked, some of us get a penthouse suite. No one chooses this, it is about like “choosing” your parents.

So, New York can be a stinker. But the fragrances named after this place are surprisingly sweet and gentle, clean and bold. Little wonderful glimpses of a kinder NYC lurk here and there, and perfumers have sussed that tiny bit of hope out.

BOND NO. 9’S HIGH LINE:

Bond No. 9 has been making fragrances based on New York neighborhoods for years now, although lately there has been dedication to New York legacies (Andy Warhol, Saks, Broadway). The latest, High Line, is named so after the park from Gansevoort (Meatpacking) to about West 20th (Chelsea), and draws notes from the plants and flowers from the park’s Section 1. While this is all good to know, what you’re really wondering is if this perfume smells like a sausage factory and some dried canvas. Well, you’re out of luck – it doesn’t!

I opened High Line and was impressed – the fragrance is very light, floral, and green. The top note is overwhelmingly orange flower (mixed with a bit of bergamot and rose), the heart is tulip (which grows along the park), and the base is heavy with teakwood. It is refreshing – a perfect fragrance for a woman looking to get the hell out of winter. I would even suggest this for a man if he was so inclined – it certainly won’t smell like that Eurotrashy-aftershave-funk most men purchase. It’s simply delightful.

Pairings:

Libation: Stoli & Soda, twist of lime

Song: “The Only Living Boy in New York” * Simon & Garfunkel

Peep: Valerie Hegarty’s Autumn on the Hudson Valley with Branches or any of the public art

Bond No. 9 High Line is sold at the four New York boutiques, Saks Fifth Avenue, and at bondno9.com. $220 for 100ml; $145 for 50ml.

THE PLAZA HOTEL’S THE PLAZA FRAGRANCE:

“We looked to The Plaza’s rich history situated on Central Park and Fifth Avenue to seek inspiration,” the press release states (no pun intended). To be fair, I have wandered around the area many times and I’m still in awe of the hulking hotel/apartment building. (I’m fairly certain this is because I grew up watching “Big Business” everyday, learning all Bette Midler’s lines, wishing I too could be plucked from my rural home and issued a free stay at that grand ol’ hotel in New York City. In retrospect, this is sort of what happened, but I digress.)

The fragrance is probably not going to be in worldwide distribution, as it is only being sold at The Plaza Beauty Shop. And while it does seem a bit touristy, the composition of bergamot and verbena balanced with amber, wood, and leather creates a sophisticated and lasting scent. Basically, a mash-up of flowers and furniture – like the Plaza itself – but not particularly youthful or exuberant. I feel as though it is too niche – created by the Russian perfume house Krigler, it seems an antiquated idea to create a perfume to be exclusively sold at The Plaza. I wonder if the Titanic had survived…

Pairings:

Libation: Kir Royal

Song: “Manhattan” * Ella Fitzgerald

Take: A carriage ride, finally.

The Plaza fragrance collection is available for purchase exclusively at The Plaza Beauty on the concourse level of The Shops at The Plaza. $140 for 3.4 oz eau de parfum; $95 for 1.7oz; as well as a candle ($65.00) and soap ($18.00).

CAROLINA HERRERA’S 212:

Elaine and a man are talking.

MAN: You’re probably one of those women who doesn’t like to give out her number.

ELAINE: No, I’m not. Here you go.

MAN: 646?

ELAINE: It’s a new area code.

MAN: What area? New Jersey?

ELAINE: No, no. It’s right here in the city. It’s the same as 212. They just multiplied it by 3, and then they added one to the middle number. It’s the same.

MAN: Do I have to dial a one first?

Elaine nods and the man crumples up her number.

MAN: I’m really kinda seein’ somebody.

ELAINE: Yeah? Well, so am I!

(From Seinfeld / “The Maid”)

Carolina Herrera didn’t call it 646. Or 917. Or 718. Or 347. Or… how many area codes are there now? I don’t even know. I suppose she could use the other area codes as sequels, but that is totally besides the point – the point is she called it 212. And she has been based in New York since 1981, so she most certainly had a 212. She was that cool girl that had the right number, the fancy job in fashion – she is a special New Yorker, and remains one today.

The fragrance itself is constructed a bit like an ‘80s skyscraper with a bodega full of white blooms at the entrance. It is firm and chic with feminine touches of gardenia and camellia. In fact, it pretty much is the embodiment of CH herself (despite latest launches) – her crisp white shirt; infallible, unrockable, classy. The woman who wears this doesn’t sweat and her hair is always off her neck. It is a New York fairytale.

Pairings:

Libation: the original Manhattan cocktail

Song: “Tom’s Diner” * Suzanne Vega

Get: Tickets for The NYC Ballet’s Spring Season

Carolina Herrera 212 is available at sephora.com; $86 for 3.4oz; $65 for 2oz; $47 for 1oz.

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