One Thousand Scents

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Helluva Town

Aaaaaaand I'm back from New York. It was pretty effing hot the first day we were there, last Friday; the weekend was nice, rainless and temperate, and then it just started getting hotter and hotter, until yesterday, our last day, it was in the neighbourhood of 30-feels-like-40, and today, right now, it is 34-feels-like-44, which is just wrong, and thank god we're not there is all I can say, because we would be spending the whole day in the hotel room sitting about six inches away from one of the air conditioners.

Oh! The hotel room! You have to see this, because we didn't quite believe it when we walked in. We always stay at the Salisbury Hotel (123 W 57th Street), because it is one of the few privately-owned hotels in the entire city, reasonably priced, not what you'd call luxurious, but nice enough, and located ideally — less than a block from two different subway stops, within easy walking distance (if it is not 44 degrees out) of restaurants and theatres and drugstores and many, many other things, and I am giving them some free publicity because they are awesome. When we arrived on Friday just after noon, the hotel was pretty full up, so they didn't have a room for us; we went away and came back a few hours later and the two men behind the desk had a little confab and presumably there still weren't many empty rooms because they decided that they would give us room 1010, which you can find in the picture below (click to embigulate, if need be):

See that big red dot? That's where we were. Our room. IT WAS HALF A CITY BLOCK LONG. For two people. The bedroom was at one end, the inner-edge-of-58th-Street end, so it was nice and quiet; in the middle was the bathroom and the dining room; and at the other end was the living room, with a TV and a sofa-bed and some armchairs and a desk and some other things, probably. There was an air conditioner at each end, and also a TV. We always get lots of exercise when we travel because we walk pretty much everywhere that's close enough to not need public transit, but on this trip we got a fair portion of our exercise just walking from the living room to the bedroom and back.

On Saturday we took the subway to Brooklyn and walked back into Manhattan along the Brooklyn Bridge, which was an excellent way to spend a morning, and then Jim went back to the room for a bit while I went shopping. Of course I did! For a trip more than 24 hours but less than 7 days, a Canadian can bring goods worth up to $400 into the country, and I made a valiant effort to use up my entire allotment within 24 hours of arriving. I failed, but not for lack of trying.

First I went to Henri Bendel, which is the place in the city that sells Etat Libre D'Orange; I figured, hell, I could mail-order it but I'm here, Bendel's is a couple of blocks from the hotel, I might as well get Je Suis Un Homme, which is my favourite of the line so far (of the ones I've tried). And I walked in and was attacked by a very friendly, very determined, possibly Polish but certainly Eastern European saleswoman who had definite ideas about what I was going to walk out of the store with.

The first thing I snapped up was a set of Ineke samples, $25 for the first seven in the line, and I haven't smelled any of them yet, but the packaging is so ludicrously beautiful and thought-through that I couldn't resist. After I expressed my interest in the Etat line and made it clear, as ever, that categories such as "masculine" and "feminine" have no meaning for me, that I wear whatever smells good, the saleswoman had me try Like This, which is pretty spectacular (carroty spiced pumpkin, citrus and immortelle), but she didn't have a sample and I'm not going to buy it based on a quick sniff. I told her about my idea that Je Suis Un Homme is as close as I'll ever come to the limited-edition Fraicheur Cuir, and she decided that therefore I loved leather and started hunting down all the leather-based scents they had, and spraying like a madwoman. I tried at least a dozen things, including three of the SoOud line, all of them beautiful (one, though I can't remember which, particularly smoky and delicious), and one of the Jacomo Art Collection line, No. 2 ($89, I think, for 100 mL), which is meant to smell like leather and modelling clay, and it is really outstanding. And here was the odd part; I noticed that Bendel had the Etat coffret, 16 10-mL bottles, for $150, and since I had passed it up in Paris last year I decided to get that instead of Je Suis un Homme ($80 or so, if I recall correctly), and the saleswoman tried to talk me out of it. Tried really hard! "But it's only 10 mL of the one you wanted, and you will run out of it! And what if you don't like most of them? What will you do with them? And if you want to spend the money, you could buy the one you want and the Jacomo for hardly more than the cost of the set, and have two things you really like!" I'll never use up 50 mL of anything any more, I said, and if I don't like any of the little Etats, I'll just give it away. And that satisfied her, and she rang me through. She tied up the Etat box, which was not wrapped or sealed in any way, in a great length of wide brown ribbon decked with white polka dots, found me a sample of the Jacomo and a couple of Je Suis Un Homme ("because you like it so much, and so you will be able to carry them with you"), and tucked everything into a big heavy Bendel shopping bag of dark-brown-and-white stripes.

My next and last stop was Bergdorf Goodman, where I had bought my first-ever Serge Lutens a year and a half ago, and where I was, as I have mentioned, going to sample and presumably buy Jeux de Peau. I asked the salesman standing guard at the Lutens zone (it isn't a counter, just two imposing glass shelving units against a wall) if they had it; he sprayed a blotter and handed it to me, and my first reaction was "Hmmm, interesting OH MY GOD." (We will delve into that next week.)

I told the salesman about my ridiculous Lutens collection (nine and counting), and he tried to get me to sample a few more things that he thought might be to my taste, but I was already a step ahead of him; he proffered the Cèdre bottle, and I said, "That's the one with the tuberose, right?" "Well, yes, but it's not just tuberose," he said, reaching for a blotter to spray. "No, really. I've tried it. Tuberose and I are not friends," I said, and he relented. He made a gesture towards L'Eau Serge Lutens, I disdained it, and he said, "Well, Lutens made it as a joke." Then he picked up the new Bas de Soie, and I said, "That's the one with all the iris, right?" "Yes," he said, perhaps a bit warily. "Iris and I are not friends. But I'll try it anyway." He sprayed, I hated: face-powder florals, iris, uck.

I did, though, buy the Jeux de Peau. Of course I did! And now it's ten and counting, and if I ever smell Vitriol d'Oeillet, god help me.



  • It was such a kick to read this post! My first time in NYC was a few weeks ago at Sniffapalooza so when you described your forays through Bendels and BG I had the picture clearly in my mind.

    The hotel I stayed at was ok, but I'll probably look into your hotel for my next trip.

    I'm glad you liked the Jeux de Peau. I thought it smelled good, but not enough to purchase. Like you, I love anything carnation and have high hopes for the soon-to-be released SL.

    By Blogger Cymbaline, at 8:53 PM  

  • Jeux de Peau and the "carnation" are the two that I would love to buy....and they would be my first purchases....Great read and review.

    By Blogger Nancy, at 1:04 PM  

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