Glaring sun on miles of dusty oranges, browns and blues layered as far as the eye can see. Dry thick air whipping past your face, bringing the heat up through your nose and down your throat. There’s the inimitable honeyed rock of Zeppelin crushing in your ears as you drive at breakneck speed down an empty highway. Where you’re going, you don’t know. When you’ll get you, you don’t care.
This is the Californian desert at its best. This is summer in Mojave Desert.
This extraordinary mood captured by Led IV, a fantastic summer scent dreamed up by Dana El Masri in her niche perfume line, Jazmin Saraï.
Although it was inspired by “Going to California” in particular, this fragrance is evocative of the whole glorious sonic range of the greatest classic rock band ever. This woodsy incense fragrance has the gentleness of Zeppelin’s acoustic tunes like “Tangerine” but the top notes strike as brightly as Bonham’s high hats, the guiac and labdanum provide the soulful rhythm, and the railing energy of Robert Plant’s vocals in a barely sweet bergamot-grapefruit-davana accord.
This fragrance draws so many favorites together into a fantasy roadtrip that never ends. It should be in heavy rotation at Coachella.
Though it’s impossible to replace the real live experience of sniffing out scents in a boutique, digital tools can make that process more fun, and perhaps even more efficient. There have been so many new developments in olfactive e-commerce, most obviously, robust sampling programs offered by individual brands or fragrance boutiques. Check out an old list of some brand-specific sampling programs. Here ‘s a breakdown of what we’ve seen so far.
Nose – boutique and website based in Paris
Monday – Saturday: 10:30AM to 7:30PM
20 rue Bachaumont, 75002
M° Sentier or Etienne Marcel
Nose stands out because of their wide range of niche fragrance brands and discovery tool. The site and shop use a diagnostic that analyzes fragrances you already wear to identify your favorite scent families and suggest similar scents. Unfortunately, at the moment, the tool only allows for up to 5 scents to analyze. For someone with a larger scent library, it’s not as helpful as it could be.
Luckyscent – scent bar and online boutique
7405 Beverly Blvd
Los Angeles CA 90036
Luckyscent has by far the widest range of niche fragrance brands and are constantly introducing new products. Their scent descriptions are thorough and they have lots of reviews, although, over the years, I’ve noticed many of them disappearing. Perhaps this is part of shifting stock. That’s one trouble here. Luck Scent has great stock, but you can’t smell everything in store with the limited space in their tiny boutique. They send great email updates and have a fun sampling program. For $3-5 per scent, you can select and buy samples to be shipped to you. At Scent Bar, you can peruse solo, with friends, or get expert help from the staff.
Part of Selfridges’ Beauty Project, until June 27, 2014, the lab offers a unique ipad diagnostic and exploration experience that includes a bottle of perfume for £65. Selfridges perfume collection is focused more on commercial than niche fragrances. When you buy a ticket, you are fitted with the perfect original scent for you. For the fun of conversing with lab coats in a fog-filled room, until and 50ml bottle of a signature smell, it seems worth it. Buy a ticket here.
Jury’s Still Out
Over the past few years, other notable boutiques have joined the perfume party, such as Bergamot, Pinrose, and Scentsa. Several apps have also appeared but need considerable more development to be truly user-friendly.
Iperfumer is an app that simply does not work. What’s more, their perfume database is predictably limited to the fragrances they create.
Perfumance looks really good right off the bat, but they have a strange database of a couple of scents per brand. For example, Frédéric Malle, Byredo, and Heeley are represented by a few seemingly random scents in the larger collection.
Sephora has an in-store app, Scentsa, but alas, is also focused on commercial fragrance.
Pinrose follows a subscription sales model with their own original collection. The program enables shopper to learn about their own unique fragrances through a synesthetic tool – seeing or tasting smells – to explore the best fragrance for her or her.
Bergamot is another company that follows a subscription model, sending you 3 different scents each month to discover. It’s a great concept, focused on niche fragrances. It’s perfect for those getting into niche fragrance for the first time. More experienced fragrance hunters will likely want to see the collection expand dramatically.
Scentbird takes inspiration from the success of Warby Parker. You get fragrances in the actual bottle, try for a few days, and keep it if you like it, return it if you don’t. Neat concept, and a fun, personality-cased discovery method. At present, the company’s offering is limited to commercial fragrances.
An olfactive documentary on iconoclastic perfumer Alessandro Gualtieri’s quest for novel scents is making the art house cinema rounds. Fragrance aficienados will know Gualatieri by his niche line Nassomato whose bottle resemble mid-century furniture and are sold at Luckyscent.
Newcomer to the world of niche fragrance, Dana El Masri is lighting up with her mutlisensory creations. Her line Jazmin Saraï translates music into olfactory compositions. Each fragrance invites you to smell the music that inspired it.
Imagine a scent that captures the beauty and spunk of of MIA. Jazmin Saraï‘s Neon Graffiti (2004) shimmies and slides along the nostrils in time with Sunshowers. It pops top notes of electric citrus and mango, moving slowly through an herbaceous, tropical green before eliding into a soft beach bonfire made up of cedar incense. Where the opening notes are effortlessly youthful, the dry down has the gentle woodsiness of Miller et Bertaux‘s bobo chic fragrance, A Quiet Morning. Once you get your hands on this bright scent, perfect for summertime, you’ll want to blast MIA on repeat.
If you find yourself in the Los Angeles area, check out the exhibit “Timeless Scents,” curated by Chandler Burr. The exhibit celebrates a range of famous fragrances from the 14th to today. The interactive exhibit aims to engage your senses while taking you deeper into the annals of perfume history through the stories behind the scents.
“Timeless Scents” is free to the public now till December 22nd
Lovelace Studio Theater at The Wallis
9390 N. Santa Monica Blvd. (310) 746-4000
German perfumer Kim Weisswange has delivered on the age-old longing to bottle time. Her recent scent calendar proposes to capture each day in a different scent based on the mixture of scents that represent a specific month and day to make unique accords for all 365 days of the year.