March Smells Some Stuff!

Folks, don’t drop to the floor in shock, but today I have … something resembling a fragrance review. Yes. It’s true.

It’s been bitterly cold and snowy here, but the weather finally broke – we climbed up to the mid-forties with a stiff breeze that made it feel like the mid-thirties, but I’ll take what I can get.  I took a long stroll downtown.  Lots of people were out, including a few tourists in shorts and flip-flops freezing their butts off (pro-tip: check the weather of your destination), with a Native American dance happening on one side of the Plaza and a new-age-flute busker on the other side.  It was delightful.

Then I went into La Fonda, which is right off the Plaza, it’s a great old hotel if you like them with a lot of character – you know what I mean.  It’s not the fanciest anymore, or the most luxe or spa-like, but if you want to feel the genuine Old West vibes, it’s the place, here’s a link to its history if you’re curious.  Anyway, they have this shop in there called Things Finer – two shops, actually, one on the front with high-end trinkets and one inside toward the back with some stunning jewelry, both with an interesting array of fragrances, along with luxury candles like Fornasetti and lots of other not-remotely-Santa-Fe stuff, which I appreciate as a non-tourist.

I was already in a good mood and decided to do some sniffage.  I’ll post a big ol’ disclaimer here that I still can’t smell a lot of them with my off-kilter nose, so you’re getting my impression rather than some objective reality.  Things Finer puts a sticker with the notes on the back of each bottle, which is great, and there were some that sounded like absolute powerhouses with tuberose or oud that I basically couldn’t smell – one of them smelled like talcum powder to me, and I know that’s not right, so. Consider yourself warned.

Nishane Wulóng Chá — Interestingly, after several other random frag attempts, this was the first one I sniffed that seemed like I was actually registering it to a large degree, which is funny, because as a tea frag it’s probably not that strong? Notes:  bergamot, orange, lychee, mandarin, oolong tea, nutmeg, musk, fig.  I don’t get a lot of development once the sour-green of bergamot fades – it is what it is, more or less from the start, but what it is is fantastic.  It’s a fruity tea, slightly milky (probably the fig) rather than one with smoke or spice or leather, which all too often is what I tend to be left with on the drydown of tea scents.  Ooolong tea (the beverage) is somewhere between black and green, but to me, this one’s black tea alllllll the way down.  Damn, it’s good. It really hung around too, I got whiffs of it from the back of my hand hours later.

I moved on to the Lubins, sniffed several and drew a hazy blank, sniffed Idole (which I adore) and got … most of it.  Then I tried Sinbad, and wowzah, what a lovely fragrance.  An aside here that I’m weirdly self-conscious in my semi-anosmic state about wafting a lot of sillage, since I myself can’t necessarily smell it.  In the Before Times when my nose was working, I didn’t give a second thought to leaving a scented wake behind me the size and strength of Godzilla, as long as I was on a department-store sniffing binge and not heading to a restaurant or something.  So on this particular day I avoided the things that sounded particularly outrageous.

Sinbad was launched in 2019, top notes are tangerine, pink pepper and bergamot; middle notes are cinnamon, damask rose, orange blossom and incense; base notes are ambergris, benzoin, vanilla and sandalwood.

In one word I’d describe it as warm.  It’s round and rich without veering into gourmand territory.  I got that peppery top note which didn’t hang around long; then it just opened and bloomed into this wonderfully smooth, golden orb of scent, with no particular notes sticking out.  It’s not too sweet; I wondered if it was marketed as a “masculine” (it’s not), there was a point in the middle that made me think of pipe tobacco and honey. In fact, I get a lot of honey, even though it’s not in there, an indolic, furry ripeness. Maybe it’s a combination of the orange blossom and ambergris.  And boy, does it stick around on me; I could smell it on the back of my hand the next morning.

Afterward I popped into the French Pastry Shop next door for a latte and some biscochitos* – that’s how you know you’re in Santa Fe, the French bakery sells biscochitos so good I wonder if they get them from someone’s abuelita.  Then I sat on the Plaza, basking in the late afternoon sun with my coffee and cookies, watching the world go by.

  • Biscochitos are New Mexico’s official state cookie – they’re a kind of shortbread with cinnamon, sugar and anise; they’re not fancy-looking but they are delicious, here’s a link to a recipe (they’re traditionally made with lard, but you can use butter if that’s an issue; I like to add a spoonful of cold bacon grease myself, because I’m a fiend.)


  • Maggiecat says:

    This sounds like a pretty darn near perfect day – and Sinbad sounds amazing!

    • March says:

      I’d definitely encourage you to try Sinbad if you like the sound of it. Browsing online it seems like others like it as well.

  • Maya says:

    Yay! I’m so glad that some of your sense of smell is coming back. It’s a good sign. The hotel sounds lovely and I did check out Sinbad. That also sounds good. Right now my favorite Lubin is Kismet.

    • March says:

      They had Kismet, which I … don’t think I’ve smelled? I quit after finding 2 I could smell, but I will definitely be back!

  • Jennifer S says:

    Oooh. Sinbad. I think I’ll have to check that out as well! Nice you’re sense of smell seems to be coming back….slowly but surely…and I hope it just keeps improving for you!

    • March says:

      Me too, thanks! I also think my nose spray is helping with seasonal allergies, tree pollen is rough here this time of year…

  • Musette says:

    Oooh! I love that hotel! And I always keep lard in my freezer!!!!! Glad you could smell at least a bit of something!!! ‘Sinbad’ sounds as if it was made for you!!! Xoxo

  • cinnamon says:

    Absolutely awesome you were able to smell things. Sinbad sounds quite lovely. Might have to have a look for it here.

    • March says:

      Sinbad was lovely. I was tempted to buy it, but it seemed silly given all my frags I’d like to rediscover. Fingers crossed!

  • Dina C. says:

    March, So delighted you were able to do some sniffing!! Yay! That Wulong Cha sounded pretty darn amazing. Love a good tea scent. Things Finer sounds like a great place to have a browse. The French pastry shop sounds enviable, too!

    • March says:

      I really want both of these, but as I said below I have a whole giant cooler full of frags I’d like to be able to smell again lol, so I’m keeping my powder dry … the pastry shop in the hotel has been there forever and was (for a long time) the only place you could get French-style things like baguettes and eclairs and crepes and whatnot, so I have a soft spot for it.

  • Alityke says:

    Most important question first. Does the bacon grease make them salty sweet?
    What great news that you sense of smell is returning, even slowly, it’s good to know there’s an improvement.
    Does the dry air of Santa Fe make scents less radiant? I know, I’m showing my ignorance here but I wondered if the aridity might be affecting how everything smells.

    • March says:

      Hehe, it gives them a slightly smoky touch? I love sweet and savory. But it’s not overwhelming, I don’t think you’d eat one and go, hey, is that bacon? And the dry air might, good question! The smells in the air here naturally are plenty strong, but maybe it would have affected my perfume perception anyway. (I’m thinking of the way smells in more humid climes seem stronger.)

  • Tom says:

    Lard? Bacon grease? Oh, you can come be a fiend with me anytime.

    • Tom says:

      And of course glad to read about you being able to sniff, hope it keeps up!

      I’d love to spend a few nights at that hotel- I think I could take a year off and stay at hotels like them: The Stanley, the AZ Biltmore, the Ahwahni, so many..

      • March says:

        G-d wouldn’t that be a great road trip?! Look up all the old hotels and stay there? Musette and I wound up in one in Chicago, facing the lake, it was fabulous (I’d bought the room on one of those discount-bid places and had NO idea.)

    • March says:

      I keep a jar in the fridge, and bacon grease adds a touch of flavor to all sorts of things I cook, lol.

  • Tara C says:

    Santa Fe is sounding better and better! Niche perfumes and French pastries? Sign me up. That Sinbad sounds wonderful, so does Wulong Cha. Yay for you actually being able to smell stuff!!

    • March says:

      Both those fragrances were fantastic — for a hot sec I thought about buying one but it seems silly, given that I have a ton of frags already which I’m hoping to smell again someday lol. But I feel like progress is being made.

  • Tiara says:

    So many goodies in here! You were able to smell things! So happy for you! Even a little is better than none.
    LaFonda was always one of my mother-in-law’s favorite places to visit. Thinking they used to have afternoon tea there but perhaps I have the wrong place in mind. (Which reminds me….is LaPlacita with the trees inside still open? Had dinner there one magical Christmas Eve. Came out to luminarias glowing, snow flurries, Christmas carols. Storybook night.) I always enjoyed music on the plaza along with the sellers selling their handmade pieces. Biscochitos–yum, although I’d go for sopapillas with honey if given a choice. Off to check out Sinbad because it sounds amazing.

    • March says:

      They do have afternoon tea, or at least they used to. There’s a big central dining room with skylights, which I love. La Placita is in Albuquerque (if we’re thinking of the same place) and unfortunately has closed, I’d never been there. The Native Americans selling jewelry under the portal are still there, and whenever I go to a restaurant like Tomasita’s I get sopaipillas, yummmmm. LOVED Sinbad.

  • Portia says:

    March! I’m so happy you got some quality sniff time and could even smell some things. This is progress.
    That hotel sounds wonderful, please remind me when we come to visit so Jin and I can stay there.
    HA! BACON GREASE! You are a fiend.
    Portia xx

    • March says:

      You would LOVE that hotel! It’s got this courtly 1940s idea of luxury (although it’s much older than that), with tons of southwestern touches. I go in there just to enjoy the ambience.