New York Skanks, Part Two


Wall o’ minis, Osswald NYC.

Last weekend I popped up to NYC to meet Patty for some quick sniffage and cheesecake. It wasn’t clear she was going, and it wasn’t at all clear I was going (I had to wangle someone to stay with the kids) until the last second, when I hopped on the Vamoose bus and joined her. There was a perfume tour; there was also a cheesecake tour, which I’m going to write about at the bottom. The weather could have been so much warmer and less windy, but it was great fun.

We visited the newish Annick Goutal boutique in the West Village, which I’ve wanted to do since it opened – I’m pretty sure it’s the first/only AG store in the states. Alexandra was welcoming and the boutique is as charming as you’d expect, if not quite as foofy as the one in Paris. It smelled amazing in there, let me tell you. I tried the new tea frag, L’Ile au Thé, and the sweetpea one, Vent de Folie.   It’s very pretty and not at all insipid or overly sweet; I liked it more than I thought I would based on reviews elsewhere, although it reads a bit young for me personally. If you’re an AG fan looking for a nice fragrance gift for a young person, anywhere from sweet 16 to a graduation gift, Vent de Folie’s a possibility. I’ll write about both of these later on; L’Ile au Thé moved right to the top of my to-buy list. Alexandra pointed out its layering possibilities, and it’s perfect for summer.

Brief shout-out to the very kind gentleman at JAR in Bergdorf, who is chatty and knowledgeable and never applies any pressure to buy; he always seems as happy to be there as I am – and I am happy, believe me, in part because every time I drop by I’m worried it’s going to be gone. Patty and I are still mourning the closing of Takashimaya, which was always an oasis of calm in the crazy. I loved getting tea in their basement and then wandering upstairs to watch the artfully solemn assembly of some floral arrangement that probably cost more than my car.

It was my first visit to Osswald – man, I want to move into that store. They have so much stuff – things I’ve never seen anywhere else, check out their website. Josie turned out to be a Posse fan and provided us with all sorts of directions and dessert suggestions (did I mention the cheesecake?)  I’ve never understood the adage that New Yorkers are unfriendly; they’re busy, and in a hurry, but in general they’re hugely helpful, even if I’m just standing on a street corner with my map, looking like a yokel while I try to figure out which way’s uptown. Patty says there’s a compass on my iPhone if I look for it.

I tried eleventy-seven things at Osswald and it was a bit of an embarrassment of riches, particularly since I was trying some pretty hefty scents. By the time we left we were wafting some serious sillage. I’d sprayed on my shirt as well, and I almost hated to wash it. We played in the Amouages and the Stéphane Humbert Lucas — which were phenomenal. Patty fell in love with Khol de Bahrein, and I loved the spicy-incense-animalic Oud 777.   So I started building today’s post in my head right there in the store – five scents for the skank bank, if you will.

Roja Parfums Risque (called Creation-R in the US due to copyright issues). Notes via Osswald website: Top notes: Bergamot Heart notes: Chamomile, Hyacinth, Jasmine, Rose, Ylang Ylang Base notes: Cedarwood, Oakmoss, Patchouli, Vetiver, Civet, Labdanum. They have …. like … 36 Rojas? squeeeeeee Anyway, Risque is allegedly reminiscent of the famed, long-gone L’Arte di Gucci, which I’ve never tried, in part because it’s a rose. If L’Arte di Gucci smelled like this, yeah, I feel your pain. Risque is fantastic – kind of a sleeper skank. It’s got a lot of bubbly shimmer at the top, very classic-chypre elan… and then some rose … and then whammo! Dirty bits! I drenched my right arm and spent the afternoon walking around burying my face in it like some weirdo – but it’s cool, it’s New York, right?

Jubilation 25 Extrait – I can’t find it on the website, pretty sure it was extrait? That’s what my sample says… I own a bottle of the EDP, it’s the only Amouage I splashed out for. Top notes: tarragon, rose, lemon, ylang-ylang. Heart notes: davana, labdanum ciste, rose, frankincense. Base notes: amber, musk, vetiver, myrrh, patchouli. “A fresh fruity chypre with an arabic twist” – the twist being that healthy dose of armpit I can’t ever get enough of. It’s fresh armpit, though – like your lover’s sweaty tee shirt that you steal for the walk home, and then don’t wash. If we played that game of Which Ten Perfumes would you take to Mars, this would be on the list.

JAR Ferme tes Yeux – (detour back to Bergdorf). It smelled like a barnyard the first time I met it, years ago, and now…. it still smells like a barnyard. As far as I know Joel Rosenthal doesn’t do “notes” or scent pyramids or whatever. Our friendly JAR rep said the perfumer’s intent (paraphrasing here) was to capture moments of scent-memory that by definition had naturalistic elements and provoked emotional response. So there’s ozone, green vegetation, carnation, gardenia, etc. However you feel about JAR (and my initial reaction was “…w…t…f”) if you’re remotely curious and ever find yourself in Bergdorf, please screw up your courage and go in that room and smell them, because there is simply nothing like them, and trust me, the man’s not expecting you to whip out your Amex black.   Ferme tes Yeux (“close your eyes”) has grown on me – it’s more horse stall than county fair – and after 36 hours (!) on my wrist it smelled like honey. Honey made by gold-winged bees in a fairy tale.

Stéphane Humbert Lucas 777 – Oud 777 The bottles for these are gorgeous, and situated on a wall at Osswald between the MDCIs and Amouage…. really, I was concentrating on not drooling all over the merch. Anyhoodle. I’d never heard of these, although it was clear without looking that they were super-expensive, and there’s a lot of oud going on. Can we chuckle about the oud thing for a hot second? That oud’s still having a moment? That oud’s the yuzu/pink pepper/peony of the perfumed darlings? I’m not Luca Turin (clearly) and other than being able to recognize the general smell, mostly what I know about oud scents is: after I smell one or three I’m done, I can’t smell anything else. I asked Josie to walk me through these and she described this one as spicy, so I went for it.  Oud, resin, spices (cinnamon/cardamom?), leather, and a whiff of taint. I want this so bad I could cry, and it’s not happening, but a girl can dream.

Absolue Pour le Soir Maison Francis Kurkdjian.  Hehe. Kurkdjian’s masterful rebuttal to the argument that he only makes airy-fairy colognes and luxe laundry detergent.   APLS is a great test to see if your nose is working. Apologies to your delicate sensibilities, but the impression is of a laundry basket of unwashed panties, and all that entails. I feel like there’s a French term for this, but googling only produced the kind of hits that land one on an FBI watch list, so I gave up. APLS makes me think of the apocryphal missive from Napoleon to Josephine, saying, in effect, home in three days. Don’t wash.

 PS Cheesecake – I feel about cheesecake the way some people feel about chocolate or sex – even bad, it’s pretty good, yes?  My go-to is from Zaro, because its shops in Grand Central and Penn Station are waiting for me as soon as I get to the city. Junior’s in Grand Central is…just okay? I know, shame on me, pissing on the icon. (I also know there’s also plenty of great Italian cheesecake in the city, but that’s totally different.) Elaine’s is well-known and they come in small, round portions. I like plain; Patty had hers with various flavorings/fruits. Elaine’s plain was darn good; their chocolate was even better; their salted caramel was outstanding (yes, we had all three at one sitting, why?) Magnolia Bakery’s version is a hair too sweet, and I could do without the whipped topping, but it’s tasty…. I might as well cut to the chase and tell you that Two Little Red Hens on the Upper East Side is my cheesecake ideal, and I’m clearly not the only person who feels that way, judging by the constant line. Perfect crust, nicely browned, firm and tart. If I lived nearby I’d have to get around with one of those anti-gravity suspensors like Baron Harkonnen in Dune.

When I fell in love with perfume, the fact that someday I’d run around like a fool sampling it with other people was an unanticipated bonus. Really – a day or two of playing with perfume, in rooms of perfume, aided by folks like Josie at Osswald, Alexandra at AG, and Dinara at Malle, who really like perfume and will talk about it forever – well, it just doesn’t get any better than that. If you’re a shy lurker, or new, or just haven’t done something like Sniffa – sharing the joy of perfume sampling with like-minded people adds a wonderful dimension to something that’s already pretty darn wonderful. Perfume people are the best.


  • Tara C says:

    BTW, inspired by this post, I decided to try my sample of Khol de Bahrein. I have not had a scrubber in a long time but this was it – it smelled like a Mexican taco on me! Yikes. Scrubbed it off as well as I could then bathed in Tea for Two to kill the remnants. Wow!

  • Bobbie says:

    Really enjoyed both reviews of the New York trip! I’m taking notes and can’t wait to do my own trip. Definitely going to Osswald and Annick Goutal. It would be nice to have a partner in crime but so far that hasn’t happened. I’m grateful for the on-line perfume community.

  • Peppermoon says:

    I developed my perfume hobby (cough…addiction) the summer after visiting NY. Now I kick myself every time I see all of the amazing perfume stuff available there. If only I had developed this interest earlier!!!

  • Tara C says:

    Sounds like a great trip! Pity they have discontinued Absolue Pour le Soir, from what I’ve heard it was a poor seller, only us perfumistas liked it.

  • Queen Cupcake says:

    Hi March, I was in NYC a few weeks ago, and YES–New Yorkers are generally friendly. We were offered assistance a few times with directions–once in the subway! I met up with my sister for a weekend and we tramped all along the High Line, up and down Madison and 5th Ave. Super friendly man at the perfume counter in Barney’s.Wish I’d gotten his name, he was lovely. I wanted to stay longer but my sister is “allergic” to perfumes (also makeup, lots of foods, etc.). I will go back there one day; they were super nice and had a great assortment of perfume lines. And next time, I will go to Osswald too! Got snagged at the Guerlain counter at Saks 5th Ave and bought $150 worth of makeup I could probably live without–but I did look good after Habib made me up so… Oh, cheesecake: ours came from the Carnegie Deli. Not bad!!

    • March says:

      Awww. I remember Tom at Annick Goutal in Bergdorf. Patty was there with her family and Tom all but gave them his cell phone. My real intro to NYC.

  • Alison says:

    I LOVE the Vamoose bus! When my sister lived there I would take it to Penn Station all the time. Still remember my first visit to Aedes, probably 15 years ago.

  • Kathryn says:

    What fun to read about this!

    A few years ago at a Sniffa my daughter and I walked down the sidewalk about twenty feet behind you and Patty. Anita had just finished a hilarious but thoughtful lunchtime talk on perfume, punctuated by a package of mints flying through the air. (How did that happen??!!) Afterward, you and Patty were completely gleeful, sometimes whispering to one another, sometimes whooping with laughter, and walking together with such bounce in your steps that it looked like you both had springs in your shoes. My daughter commented, “Those two sure know how to have a good time.” You sure do.

    So right now I’m inspired to eat a very yummy piece of cheesecake for dessert, appreciating the notes of sweet cream and vanilla on a base of honey, wheat and maybe a little cinnamon. (I’ve learned from my periodic trips to NYC that cheesecake and bagels both freeze quite well.) The perfumes all sound really interesting, too. I’m looking forward to sniffing a few.

    • March says:

      oh my god. *hides face* they dared me to do it and I did, it’s all their fault. I did apologize to the Karens. I had so much fun!

  • sunnlitt says:

    Thanks so much for sharing your scent-filled adventures!!

    I agree–“going sniffing’ with Perfume Friends adds another level of pleasure to the experience.
    I think of myself as a shy person, but driving up to San Francisco years ago to join in on a Sniffa there was a marvelous time for me. Everyone was SO welcoming.
    Tama was our fearless leader, organizing and herding us around, from Barney’s to Gump’s to Diptyque. I think things are a bit fragmented since she passed away, but the people are still the best.
    And, I am so glad to have found and joined the wonderful community, both online and in person.

    • March says:

      Tama. A bit verklempt here. She was an amazing person. Yes, the online community leads to in-person interactions. Perfume doesn’t get the “respect” wine collectors or purse hags do. I want to change that.

  • Shirley Munoz says:

    You should make some time to visit Aedes, it is a delightful jewel of a store. I enjoyed going there to sample the many scents. They also have purse size scents which are quite affordable from their full size perfumes.

    • March says:

      I’m now going to shoot myself in the foot/ass and say Aedes is a store I felt completely unwelcome in. Twice. Their testers were empty and they acted like we had ebola.

  • Mals86 says:

    SOMEday there’s gonna be a Sniffa/something similar that is A) close enough I can attend, and B) not scheduled for a weekend when I have to throw a kid birthday party. Someday.

    I got a really great laugh out of the Absolue pour le Soir laundry basket/Josephine review there… Joy smells like that to me. Well, the panties plus the flowers, but still. There’s that shock of recognition when you realize that yes, you are wafting ladybits to the general public.

    Cheesecake, mmmmm. But I’m hearing you on the Baron Harkonnen suspensors too…

    Hope the family is well.

    • March says:

      Joy is unbelievable. I remember the first time I smelled it, I thought, are you serious?! Joy is RIPE. My kids are doing great, thanks for asking..

  • Ann says:

    Wowza, dear March! What a fabulous time you guys had! Thanks so much for sharing. And I must add a hearty amen to your “Perfume people are the best” — indeed, they are!!! My latest example: I popped into Bloomingdale’s a while back (which I rarely do), and there in the perfume dept. was a guy I had met years ago working fragrance in Saks in San Francisco — and he remembered me. We chatted for a while and he very kindly loaded me up with samples. How cool (and kind) was that?

    • March says:

      Yes! There you were with a kindred spirit… how can we bring that to everyone on the Posse? If I worked in perfume I’d give away samples all day long.

  • Dina C. says:

    March, I love hearing your take on the scents you sniffed during your NYC weekend. 🙂 I appreciated your distinction about clean sweat and remember talking to you once about the cardamom note in Cartier Declaration — how it gives a clean sweat note that’s really enticing. I think of that whenever I wear it. 🙂

    I’m chaperoning a group of teenage theater kids up to NYC for just a day trip in about a month. It’s a cruel trick because I’ll be there but have no time or freedom to do any fume sniffage. Alas. Something to look forward to in the future…

    • March says:

      Vika (Bois de Jasmin) wrote a post about the parallels between citrus and sweat — which is why citrus colognes are deployed to cover the smell. I’ve not stopped thinking about that since I read her piece. Chaperoning kids in NYC? You get the gold star.

  • thegoddessrena says:

    I went sniffing at Osswald this weekend with some of my sniffing friends and I’ll be at Bergdorf’s tomorrow with some others and then in a couple of weeks I move back to Boston and will probably only swing by once a month or so. Guess I should get in my Twisted Lily time as well

    • March says:

      Twisted Lily was on the to-do list, but we ran out of time. tbh we both wanted to do things like walk the High Line. Hey, there’s next time, right?

  • poodle says:

    I’ve smelled all of those except the Oud 777. If its that’s fabulous it’s probably better I not know about it. I just got a bottle of the Absolue pour le Soir. I get more sweetness and floral from it than you do it seems. It’s still skanky but my skin tones it down a bit I guess.
    Cheesecake. My mom makes a fabulous cheesecake. I’ve been known to eat a slice for breakfast when I have it. I figure there’s protein and sometimes fruit and there’s gotta be calcium so it’s almost healthy.

    • March says:

      Cheesecake is TOTALLY breakfast food. And trust– I’m not ragging on Absolue. I swooned over it at Sniffa after it came out. It sounds like you cut the skank a bit!

    • Pixel says:

      I recently tried APLS for the first time, and my instant reaction was OMG something just PEED on my ARM. 🙂

  • Patsi says:

    How wonderful does your trip sound? Fab! I need to get back to NY again badly!!! So many scents, so little time. I, like you, run around like a crazy thing sniffing bits of me after being in a perfume shop. … and absolutely, perfume people are the best.

  • Eloquaint says:

    I’m going to be in NY in July, free to wander around by myself for a few days while my husband is at a convention. Is Osswald somewhere mere mortals can go?

    • poodle says:

      Yes, mortals can go. It’s not scary at all other than trying to figure out where to start sniffing. Josie is fabulous too just like March and Patty said. When I was there she had me smelling like a sexy candy bar by the time I left. The store is bright and it doesn’t feel like you’ve wandered into some place you really shouldn’t be. There’s great sniffing to be had at Aedes de Venustas too. Plus they have two fluffy little dogs there.

      • Joey says:

        Josie here – Poodle, you are my favorite sexy candy bar and you don’t visit me enough.

        Eloquaint – I’d be more than happy to play with you here at Osswald. I only bite if you let me, or if you come in wearing vintage Polo for men. I will bite VERY HARD if you smell like Polo.

        • Eloquaint says:

          Interesting. I smell like men’s frags a lot, but I know nothing of this Polo of which you speak. I do have some Ungaro ll that I love…

      • carlos319 says:

        Sadly, Romy passed away on his birthday April 18th 🙁

    • March says:

      Yes!!!! I feel like I need to address this in some more universal way… they’d be thrilled to have you. Nobody’s expecting you to buy that second They’ll ask you what you like (if you like) and help guide… or leave you alone if you want. My ONLY caveat, because I was absolutely blown away by their inventory, is if I were going back I’d do some advance research on the website and jot down things I really wanted to try. For as small as the store is, they have a huge inventory.

    • Winterlude says:

      I’ve never gone sniffing, I would probably be too intimidated to go by myself. I have appreciation, but lack the knowledge and the pocketbook to feel like I’m doing anything but wasting someone’s time.
      That being said, I am learning SOO much from you guys and laughing a lot along the way! After I’ve gained a bit more confidence can anyone suggest places in Boston?

      • March says:

        Winterlude, the “too intimidated” I am constantly fighting against. Honey, they are sales people. They want to show you around. They won’t ding you if you won’t buy. Boston I don’t know about….

      • Joey says:

        Winterlude, please don’t be intimidated.

        As for Boston, the Saks in Back Bay is amazing. Ellen, who works for Kilian, is a gem.

  • Nemo says:

    I agree, perfume people are the best! I also loved your reference to Napoleon’s letter to Josephine and I very much appreciate the distinction between fresh armpit and not so fresh armpit! These all sound incredibly interesting, and I want to try them all even if I don’t know if I will like them 🙂 Thanks for sharing!

    • March says:

      Trying them regardless of whether they sound like you is at least half the fun. We Americans have … such a weird relationship with sweaty scents. Every time I run across one, I feel like it’s a quiet strike on behalf of the team that doesn’t expect us to smell like strawberries and Tide.