Today New York is home to the best perfumers, writes Catherine du Peloux Menage.
New Yorkers have always been perfume lovers. The love affair started with French fragrance. Lubin conquered the New World in the 1830s and it was for Jean Patou's American clients that the couturier created Joy in 1930. (The Great Depression made it harder to afford the Atlantic crossing to buy the latest Paris fashions.) Estee Lauder's launch in 1953 of Youth Dew, one of the first American perfumes, was also the launch of US fragrance industry and it hasn't looked back. Now Estee's granddaughter has launched her new brand Aerin. Today the city is home to the best perfumers – roll over Paris and Grasse. Be it celebrity scents (Elizabeth Arden's 1987 Passion started the trend), blockbuster successes from Calvin Klein, Marc Jacobs or Tom Ford, niche brands like Le Labo, Odin NY, Bond No 9 and By Kilian, more specialised natural and indie scent brands such as Strange Invisible Perfumes or DS and Durga, New York does it all.
Niche perfumerie's alternative to mass market one-size-suits-all scents started in France but New York perfumistas were soon wearing Diptyque, L'Artisan Parfumeur and Annick Goutal and the latest niche creations are in the best boutiques. Real perfume journalism (as opposed to perfume PR) was created by Chandler Burr's scent columns in the New York Times in 2006. Perfume blogs flourish in New York and Sniffapalooza, the NYC-based perfumista group runs regular perfume events for scent lovers (sniffapalooza.com). This all makes New York the perfect place to find your dream scent. Beyond the Sephora stores stocking keenly-priced mainstream perfumes are department stores, apothecary-style boutiques and lovingly-curated perfumeries offering myriad olfactory riches. Put on your walking shoes, and take your nose on a tour of the city.
First, head to the West Village where Aedes de Venustas' stocks the best international niche brands for up-market perfume, skincare and scented candles, such as The Different Company, Heeley, Jules et Mad. Ring the bell and step into the second empire bordello-style interior, complete with chandeliers. Ask for guidance. Try New York brands Odin, Ulrich Lang, or Aedes' own scents. I fall for Aedes' latest Oeillet de Bengale, a fierce and spicy carnation rose. (100 ml $260)
9 Christopher St between 6 and 7th Avenue. See aedes.com.
On the border of the Meatpacking district is By Kilian's recently opened art-deco-meets-industrial-architecture boutique with its luxury niche range distinguished by high quality materials and beautiful traditional scents. The assistants are helpful and not pushy. I took home Beyond Love, a luscious tuberose in travel pack. 30 ml/ $168.
804 Washington St between Gansevoort Streety and Horatio Street. See www.bykilian.com.
In Soho, Osswald Parfumerie elegantly displays niche perfumes as well as skin care, beauty, candles and bathroom accessories. As post-flight skin therapy, head to the Beauty Lounge which uses Swiss skin care products. Osswald carries exceptional ranges such as MDCI, Carner Barcelona, YS Uzac. The sweet notes of Huitieme Art's Sucre d'Ebene prove irresistible (50mls/$135). Check Osswald's website for perfume events.
311 West Broadway between Canal and Grand. See www.OsswaldNYC.com.
In NoHo, experience Bond No 9's potent eaux de parfum in distinctive colourful star-shaped ceramic bottles named for different parts of New York. Travel the collections from Riverside Drive (Uptown) via Broadway Nite (Midtown) to Little Italy (Downtown), on to Coney Island (New York beaches) and find your favourite neighbourhood. The green floral High Line and the cool scent of money in Wall Street are evocative but Chinatown's spicy, fruity floral is the one for me. 50 ml/$210.
9 Bond Street. See www.bondno9.com.
MiN New York Atelier is one part carefully curated rare scents perfumerie, one part hair-care, skin, bath, body products, treatments and remedies, one part men's grooming emporium. Bruno Acampora's hard-to-find saffron-amber-wood essence Nero scent cohabits with cinnamon-mint toothpaste, Japanese charcoal facial puffs and even a cut throat razor. Concierge guidance is available from 12pm- 6pm. Be a local at Scent cocktails or dinner events. Check what's on before you fly. Become a member for access to hidden treasures in the Fragrance Vault.
117 Crosby Street, Soho, between Prince and Houston. See www.minnewyork.com.
Perfume obsessives must cross to Brooklyn for CB. I hate perfume's gallery. Christopher Brosius loathes one-scent-fits-all, mass-marketed scents: "Perfume is too often an ethereal corset trapping everyone in the same unnatural shape," believing "perfume is an art that shows us who we can be if we dare." The scents come as water-based perfumes or oil-based perfume absolutes. Their names alone can inspire. Where we are there is no here is a jasmine like no other (water-based 100ml/$145).
Third floor, 318 Maujer Street, Brooklyn, off Waterbury Street. See www.cbihateperfume.com
Experience some of the CB range at brand new Twisted Lily in Boerum Hill which has the widest selection of hand-blended indie US scent brands like DS and Durga, Providence, Atelier de Geste, Slumberhouse. Favourite French niche lines are here too. Try the delicious Cocoa tuberose from Providence. (30 mls/$135)
360 Atlantic Ave (between Hoyt & Bond). See www.twistedlily.com.
In Brooklyn's hip Williamsburg, don't miss Woodley and Bunny. Freshen up your hairstyle in the salon, and browse the mainly organic/artisan, carefully-edited international hair, body and beauty care with a select range of perfumes. Brooklyn brand SW Basics almond/oat/salt facial exfoliant is working wonders already. ($30) Ineke's sensual floral Evening edged in gold drew me in. ($105/75ml).
96 N 10th St, Brooklyn, 718-218-6588. See www.woodleyandbunny.com.