Anybody who’s ever spent time in New York knows it has one of the best subway systems in the world. Yes, it’s one of the oldest – and hoofing it up and down steps first poured in the late 19th Century can chap a gal’s cheese, especially during rush hour, when said gal’s wonky knee says ‘are you kidding me? MORE steps?” – but hey, getting from the Upper East Side to Brooklyn for $2.25 has its charms. And emerging from the subway, into the (now) charming area that houses CBIHatePerfume (and 7 Billion Hearts), was worth every step. March and Patty have long tried to convince me that this line was one to really explore but I was skeptical – why on earth would I want to sniff a perfume that smelled like burning leaves when I have an OCD neighbor who, every Saturday, sets everything afire but himself and his house….tomato leaf? I have a garden full of ’em. Meh.
A short walk to the CBIHatePerfume ‘gallery’ has shifted that opinion. After meeting Christopher Brosius on the way (“March? Is that you?” – I mean, c’mon, what are the odds?) he promised to return within the hour so we could all chat – in the meantime Russell, his charming gallery manager, was kind enough to shepherd me through several of the scents…I finally ‘get’ Burning Leaves – it’s not that it smells like burning leaves that makes it so evocative. It’s that when you smell it, you are transported back to the time when life was simpler and autumn was full of excitement and anticipation…and bonfires and burning leaves were the rite of the season, rather than an illegal act. Black March smells like dirt – but it’s not what it causes me to ‘feel’ like I’m smelling. One whiff and I’m inhaling the scent of the first hyacinth buds, after a particularly brutal winter. The dirt is wet, tinged with the promise of life renewed.
Which brings me to 7 Billion Hearts. A lovely chat with Christopher who, in that way that happens, gets even more attractive the older he gets, dammit, gave me the 411 on his smoky vanilla scent. I told him that I really don’t like vanilla perfumes overmuch and he told ME that it was probably because I’ve been sniffing some ugly-assed synthetic vanillas (okay, he didn’t say ‘ugly-assed’ but I’m sure, from the look on his face, that ‘ugly-assed’ was exactly what he meant) – anyway, he dabbed a bit of the 7Billion Hearts absolute on my wrist. I inhaled. I nearly wept. Real vanilla…well. Real vanilla is not sweet. I know this from baking (and it’s why, besides the cost, a lot of bakers use artificial vanilla flavoring, to amp both the vanilla ‘scent’ and the implied sweetness). Real Madagascar and Tahitian vanilla, smelled through a haze of woody, resin-y smoke, is as far from cupcake-sweet as a velociraptor is from a puppy. And it’s a seamless composition. I spent a long time with this one and there is no line, no time, no ‘place’ where the vanilla leaves off and the smoke comes in or anything else. It Just Is. In fact, this one totally explains the whole CBIHP ethos to me (whether I’m right or not is irrelevant). When I smell this, I smell humanity. Life. Love. Longing. Connection. Perhaps to the 7 Billion other souls on the planet. Or perhaps to just one.
This is a warm, enticing, sensual skin-scent. YourSkinButWAYBetter. All the way back to Manhattan I kept huffing my wrist, thinking “If I could smell like this naturally I wouldn’t ever need to wear perfume”, which is probably precisely the point. But I can say that if everybody on the R Train smelled like this, the subway – and the world – would be a way better place.
Note: fuggedaboutit. They don’t give them. Vanilla + smoke = human, hearth, comfort, love. That’s all you need to know.
Price (which you do need to know) : 15 ml Perfume Absolute ($225) or 100 ml Water Perfume ($200) through the CBIHatePerfume gallery. I smelled both. They are both gorgeous.
You can sample both at Surrender to Chance.
Images: foodtangclan.com, kevineats.com