While in New York City, we went to Bergdorf and sniffed the JAR Perfume line. If you´re in New York, go. You´ll never smell anything like them. JAR is the initials of Joel Arthur Rosenthal, the luxury jeweler, who is apparently the actual nose behind these scents (rather than a hired gun.) Patty and I did a joint post on this, with Patty’s notes dropped in where she wanted to comment — and where we differed in feeling.
The presentation is this: you´re seated at a table in a small, dimly lit room in the beauty basement (the old Guerlain niche, redecorated). The JAR Perfume SA (the charming Franz, if you´re lucky, who is gorgeous, charming and did we mention gorgeous?) presents each of the seven fragrances to you, one at a time, thusly … he lifts the lid on a glass bowl containing a chamois soaked in the scent, and holds it for you to sniff as long as you want to. You are not told the name of the JAR Perfume ahead of time, and you are never told the notes. You are to draw your own conclusions, free of the burden of others´ impressions. You do not touch the JAR Perfume bottle, although they are there, lined up down the right-hand side of the desk. After you have sniffed all the scents (Franz tells you the name after you´ve smelled it), you can elect to have him apply one or more or all of them, I guess. It´s up to you. Does this sound irritating? It wasn´t, actually. It´s just The Way It Is, and you might as well run with it.
Franz was incredibly friendly and played along with us -and there were five of us aged 18 to early 70s, and fairly raucous. And maybe it´s just his superb salesmanship, but he seemed to be having fun along with us.
Here are our impressions of the JAR perfume line, in no particular order. See the end of the post for general notes.
JAR Golconda – the original JAR perfume and probably the most wearable, along with JAR Diamond Water (I believe those two are the most popular.) JAR Golconda is primarily carnation, luxe carnation, with a spicy, clove-like note, along with whatever else. I did not get the malevolent note this time -it smelled luxurious, sweet, deep and rich. (I swear I smelled stewed tomatoes in there in the drydown on my sister — Patty)
JAR Diamond Water – this one has a strong incense smell, deep and dark, with leather. It smelled amazing on Patty. (Patty: I wore this one all day, and it shifted about some, but just kept getting prettier and deeper as the day went on, for about four hours, and then it started to dissipate some, or my nose got used to what it was smelling.)
JAR Jardenia – get it? Get it? Gardenia – with a nice, heavy dollop of leather and bleu cheese. Nope, not kidding about the bleu cheese. I was completely repulsed; I kept turning away in disgust, unable to get past that particular note to the (admittedly stunning) gardenia. However, the other four members of the group found the cheese note to be varying degrees of interesting and appealing. (Patty: At the end of the day, on my niece, the bleu cheese note disappeared, and what was left was just stunning. I’m not sure I could wait the 8 hours it took to get there, as it wrinkled up my nose something awful all day, though I still found it charmingly interesting — like that crazy uncle you love that pees in your closet while he’s alive, but leaves you a bundle in his will, and you are quite sure you’d rather have him alive and peeing in your closet than his money. A slice of heaven at the end.)
JAR Bolt of Lightning – this one knocked me (March) on my fanny — a winner! Although I don’t think Patty was loving it on me. Not ozonic/ionic in the sense of, say, Demeter Thunderstorm — more a rich, green, hair-raisingly sharp smell that made me think of bamboo. One of two I chose to apply (along with Jarling.) I should note here: none of these had what I think of as “development” in the traditional sense – top, middle, base. It was all there from the start, more or less, in each scent, and/or the fragrances shifted subtly. They are all quite strong, and with the possible exception of JAR Golconda I would not describe any of them as remotely conventional. (Patty: I wasn’t all about this one, but it was definitely sharp, and I smelled wood, and my notes are silent on anything else.)
JAR Shadow – Wow. This one is virtual reality. The others found this comforting, like a childhood memory. A scent memory of some sort for all of us. Deep, rich tobacco. (Patty: I got vetiver and plenty of it. I don’t know what it reminded me of, maybe the cellar we used to go in that was full of canned things and potatoes and urns of cabbage being turned into sauerkraut or the smell of my dad or the sweet musty smell that you’d find in unexpected places. The longer I wore this one, the more I loved it. The sharpness on the open dried out, and it was just soft, like a favorite pillowcase with your beloved’s smell on it. Of all of them, this is the one I am most likely to buy and throw on my husband and then ravish him.)
JAR Jarling – the only one you could describe as remotely gourmand (excepting the cheese note in JAR Jardenia.) A floral/berry, almond-y scent with a wine-rich base. Ultimately it turned a bit boozy on me. (Patty: it turned a little too almondy cherry for me, or maybe it didn’t turn that way, the cherry just never really left and just kept it too linear.)
Ferme Tes Yeux “close your eyes” in French) – animalic in a strongly barnyard direction, according to my compatriots, who should know, having grown up on a farm. The actual smell they named is unprintable here, but that still didn´t prompt anyone to run to the ladies´ room in search of soap to wash it off – it was actually rather compelling. I am guessing this is their least popular fragrance, but what do I know? It wouldn´t smell like anything else in your wardrobe, that´s for sure. (Patty: by the end of the day, this was just barnyard on my mom. She was so brave to put it on when no one else would.)
General notes on the JAR perfume line: It was dark in there, and JAR Perfume people are so secretive I can´t find the fragrances listed anywhere online, including their website, so forgive any typos in the spelling. There is no price list either, but JAR Jarling was $470 per 30ml, and the JAR Bolt of Lightning is, I think, their most expensive at $765/30ml. I am guessing the rest are more or less in the middle. Folks who would know by smell have judged the JAR perfume absolutes among the finest money can buy. Lasting power is excellent.
Would I buy a JAR perfume? Well… let me answer this way. The outer limits of price are being tested in the luxury market all the time – my current issue of Elle features something called Sparrow essence by FreeCity (“in line with the brand’s haute-boho philosophy”), what I can only assume is high-end hippie love oil at $850 for a smallish bottle (huh, do you think they use organic sparrow essence?). Anyway, based on the assumptions about the JAR Perfume ingredient costs (Christopher Brosius found himself doing mental calculations based on his sniffage and coming up with some wildly expensive estimates) who´s to say these aren´t quite reasonably priced? Or not — I still don´t consider $500 or $800 to be an outrageous sum of money for fragrance, if it is something you really, truly love. Having said all that – I was prepared to fall in love and buy one, and I didn´t. I think a second visit would prompt another try of JAR Bolt of Lightning, along with JAR Shadow, and possibly a purchase. I think Patty is considering a JAR Perfume purchase – or even two.
(Patty: I am thinking about it, and I do wish this were easier to sample. I’d like to live with JAR Shadow and JAR Diamond Water and JAR Golconda for a few days before I plunge. As March commented, the price tag on these, after smelling them, didn’t even phase me. I think it’s a ton of money, but these reek of costly, rich ingredients, and I can’t think of one thing they smell like. You know how we all play that “What does it smell like?” game? I can’t think of anything, not one other perfume — I can only go back to scent memories, even when I can’t name them. If I were to fall in love with one, I would buy it without thinking twice. They last all day and stay very true to what they were in the beginning, although there is some movement in the drydown to keep it interesting. JAR Shadow, JAR Diamond Water and JAR Golconda are the three that are most likely to move into the Patty Household. Y’all’s job is to convince me I need them, so get busy.)
Where to buy JAR Perfume – you can get a JAR Perfume sample at Surrender to Chance