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National Fragrance Day

Today is National Fragrance Day, which is just another one of those not-really-a-holiday holidays. Nonetheless, as has been hinted here before, I’m a serious fragrance lover myself. I am the crazy person that, in a state of perfume-induced inebriation, wanders out of Aedes de Venustas to the streets of New York City, like a drunk straight from the bar. My endless fascination with the sense of smell, the evocations of fragrance, and how perfume works with an individual’s body chemistry, have resulted in a collection that could adequetely perfume a few lifetimes. I thought it might be fun to introduce you to a couple of my favorites that are well-suited to this time of year, and also look good on the shelf (this is The General Aesthete, after all).


The Infidels by AGONIST

AGONIST is one of my favorite fragrance houses; based in Sweden, their scents are inspired by the Nordic climate and culture, and their raw but nuanced approach to perfume and tone is really in its own league.

The Infidels is an unusual and strangely faceted perfume that I consider on the masculine side of unisex. At first spray, you get a strong, surprisingly fresh smell, which, with a little time, develops into something rich and mysterious, but still quietly underlined by sharpness. The concentrated jammy base, combined with a good dose of cumin, evokes something carnal but not overbearing. During its dark phase, The Infidels offers woody florals, aforementioned cumin that progresses through its own chapters, and an interesting powder note, something I’d typically shy away from, but that is not off-putting or flat. The Infidels is not so unusual as to be distracting, but its references to brooding anger and sex are interesting to experience as it develops on your skin. Strangely, it seems that after this low-on-the-skin heaviness passes, the perfume returns to a palatable (albeit very discreet) freshness, almost like it never happened in the first place, making The Infidels one of those perfumes that is even more for the wearer than for those you encounter. As AGONIST describes the fragrance as “inspired by the exact moment when the bud is about to burst,” The Infidels is perfect for those still-cold spring nights.




Geranium pour Monsieur by Frédéric Malle

On a fresher note, Geranium pour Monsieur by Frédéric Malle is a genius composition by perfumer Dominique Ropion. On paper, the clean sharpness of this fragrance would make for something I’d be hesitant to even consider, but it turns out Geranium pour Monsieur is a bit of a perfume Trojan horse. The bitter mint and menthol opening is structured in a way that isn’t comparable to the mint quality you might be used to in other men’s fragrance (read: chewing gum), but it isn’t really wearable at that pitch. Luckily, in short time, it develops into a perfectly elegant, very clean, but distinctive scent. The inclusion of interesting synthetic additives (an across-the-industry norm, but something the Malle house seems to excel in) provides odd notes of anise and floral that you can’t quite pinpoint, but don’t have a chemical tone, making for the perfect dry down, where a discreet note of incense also makes an appearance. Simple, but thoughtfully composed without even a single floral note, Geranium pour Monsieur is a fragrance that is decidedly spring.

More at: AGONIST, Frédéric Malle

“Odors have a power of persuasion stronger than that of words, appearances, emotions, or will. The persuasive power of an odor cannot be fended off, it enters into us like breath into our lungs, it fills us up, imbues us totally. There is no remedy for it.”
― Patrick Süskind, Perfume

Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

1. Papabubble Hard Candy, $15; 2. René Redzepi: A Work in Progress, $60; 3. Massimo Vignelli Clear Mug, $12; 4. Pat Kim’s Soap on a Rope, $16; 5. Binchotan Charcoal Toothbrush, $7

6. Acne Studios Pajama Shirt, $320; 7. A Lab on Fire Perfume, $110; 8. Gabriela Artigas Tusk Ring, $195;
9. Lite+Cycle Vetiver Pillar Candle, $36; 10.Takahiro Kurashima: Poemotion 1, $25

Perfume Architecture by Comme des Garçons

As a limited edition collection, Comme des Garçons has made-over three of their house fragrances: Wonderwood, CDG2, and Amazingreen. At the hands of Frédéric Couderc, master carpenter and one of the minds behind Comme des Garçons’ spaces, and artist Lindy Foss-Quillet, the iconic pebble-shaped bottle remains, but for this incarnation, is suspended in an industrial-style setting of metal and plexiglass.

$140, available online at Dover Street Market.

Nightscape by Ulrich Lang

When Ulrich Lang set out to create Nightscape, his direction was clear: the strength of patchouli, but not the patchouli you know and are afraid of. Nightscape is not a fragrance that could be classified as “hippy,” or even very earthy, for that matter; the potency works in another direction, one that reads as herbal and heavy-hitting, but not in-your-face.

Many fail to realize that though a common, recognizable, and often discounted note, patchouli, done correctly, can be extremely elegant. One example is Chanel’s Coromandel, by Jacques Polge and Christopher Sheldrake: an incensey oriental that opens with bitter orange and develops into a sensual, rich warmth. And those who have had the pleasure of being in a room fragranced by Diptyque’s patchouli candle know that the smell is familiar, but new in all the right ways.

The thing Lang does beautifully with Nightscape’s composition is avoid the expected. The formula does not deliver a vanillic, overly sweet, or even terribly warm message. It has a crisp, green opening, that then clouds up and lands in a carnal and suggestive place, a sort of comfortable minimalism. A heart note of jasmine lends grace, while geranium and leather balance the unisex wearability. Though the sillage is not incredible, Nightscape’s message is best left close to the skin, all the better to hypnotize with.

When interpreting his fragrance visually, Lang asked photographer Matt Licari to hit the streets of New York, carrying a small lab sample of Nightscape for inspiration. The result, featured on the bottle’s box, is a glittering image of the city that is both modern and decidedly classic: a smart representation of Nightscape’s narrative.

$110, available directly from Ulrich Lang, or at Barneys New York