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.)