Sniffapalooza Spring Fling 2010 Debriefing: Part 1


PRIMARY MISSION: To attend Sniffapalooza Spring Fling 2010 and address key representatives of the fumiverse.

SECONDARY MISSION: To liaise with Nathan Branch and to participate in joint and solo shopping maneuvers.

Fri Apr 9 -- Secondary Mission

Morning: After meeting each other for the first time the previous evening (and falling a little bit in love), Nathan Branch and I assault Madison Avenue. Our recon mission includes Valentino, Solange Azagury Partridge, Devi Kroell, with base camp to be established at Frédéric Malle’s first US stand-alone boutique.

On the march to Malle, Nathan keeps me sharp by firing pop quiz questions on every single handbag we encounter:

“Do you like this one? Yes or no, and why?”

“What is the common link between the houses of Chloé and Celine?”

“What about the leather on this one -- python or stingray?”

My humble Le Sportsac hobo starts to feel a tad outclassed. But once Nathan gets me going, I acquire champagne tastes in no time, confidently fondling $2,000 snakeskin clutches, zipping, clipping and flipping flaps on purses with more secret compartments than Victorian underwear.

We reach base camp Malle, and scamper all over the shop’s way-out smell gadgets. The store looks like a 1930’s version of the future: deco/moderne furnishings and sweetly naïve sci-fi equipment, including the signature Smelling Columns.

Their Mechanical Flower, which looks like a cross between a red plastic Kleenex box and a camera, guffs out your choice of a gorgeous selection of floral or woody scents. And just when I’m cooing over the cleverness of perfumed computer mouse pads, the tolerant SA gently informs me that the mats are Rubber Incense, a high-tech take on granny’s knicker drawer sachets. (The same knicker drawer with all that Victorian underwear.)

Both Nathan and I take turns sticking our heads into the Smelling Columns, resisting the urge to climb into the glass chambers like a couple of scented Clark Kents. Cuz you just know Fred and the Malle-ettes play “How many SAs can we cram in a column?” at the Christmas office party.

Hey! I have a suggestion for the next retro-futuristic Malle smell accessory:

All the fun of a Smelling Column, but portable!

Nathan and I share the frustration that the nine home fragrances (the range includes candles as well as Rubber Incense and the Fleur Mécanique) are not available as perfumes. I would love to anoint myself with Saint des Saints by Carlos Benaïm, a creation based on headspace readings of several Indian temples.

Saint des Saints is incense and warm bodies mingling with sandalwood and spices -- can I get an “Mmmmmm!”, people? Maybe I can just shove the SdS Rubber Incense down my pants and “wear” the fragrance that way. A little lower-tech than intended, but still effective, right?

And Un Gardénia La Nuit, Dominique Ropion’s work based on Braja Mookherjee’s headspace analysis of gardenia, is simply and beautifully...gardenia. Pure, soft, full, tender, troubling. What a dream it would be to have a spritzable version!

Nathan is moved by Coffee Society, Carlos Benaïm’s interpretation of Malle’s memories of the smell in his parents’ living room after fancy parties. A phantom veil of ladies’ fine perfume swirls though an atmosphere of coffee, smoke, desserts, fur coats and hot pulses. Burn the Coffee Society candle at home and tell your friends they just missed running into Truman Capote, Babe Paley, and Bianca Jagger at your salon.

Afternoon: I venture solo to Greenwich Village to meet perfumer Ulrich Lang, author of Anvers, Anvers 2 and Nightscape. He is a delightfully playful German (I know, not the usual adverb/adjective/noun configuration), who smells tantalizingly of Nightscape’s smoky, spicy woods. Uli (yes, it’s “Uli”, now) demands to know my horoscope sign (Cancer) while revealing his (Libra).

Astrologically aligned, we stroll to Aedes de Venustas, New York’s primo indie fragrance hot spot. Uli introduces me to owners and fellow Germans Robert and Karl, and the three of them catch up on the latest Deutsche dirt.

I explore the exotically appointed boudoir of a shop (velvet curtains, stuffed peacocks, curio cabinets filled with perfumes), and try their custom-made L’Artisan Parfumeur fragrance, Aedes de Venustas. Incense luvva that I am, I’ve been panting to try this one, and I’m pleased to discover that it’s more full-bodied that Bertrand Duchaufour’s other L’Artisan incenses, Timbuktu and Dzongkha.

In fact, Aedes de Venustas (the perfume) creeps towards the Amouage Jubilation XXV level of more-ishness, with heapin’ helpin’s of incense, sweet myrrh, patchouli, cedarwood, and rose. My favorite thing about this eau de parfum, and the thing that sets it apart from all the high and dry incense frags, is its dank mossiness.

Its almost-clammy wetness gives it a human-ness not normally associated with arid, intellectual incense. AdV is now officially on my “I’m Coming To Get You” wish list.

I'm distracted from my mossy musings by Uli crying out, “Heyyyyyy, good to see you!” to none other than Keiko Mecheri, creator of my one of my all-time favorite perfumes, Oliban. I actually do a goofy open-mouthed stare/bug-eyed smile combo as she stands before me.

Keiko listens graciously as I burble my love for Oliban and Cuir Cordoba. Then she turns to Uli, Karl, and Robert and states quietly, “She called my Loukhoum Parfum du Soir a ‘drag queen’.”

Ooops, I forgot about that. Guilty as charged.

After a moment of breath-holding tension all around, Keiko cracks a small smile. Whew.

Though if she had called me outside, I think I could’ve taken her in a perfume-honor wrestling match.

Coming up: Sniffa Saturday

Read Nathan Branch’s account of our Manhattan hi-jinks here and here. The verve, wit and intelligence evidenced in Nathan’s writing is amplified beyond all reason in the man himself. We had the funnest time together!

Barefoot in the Park poster; "Girl Astronaut" from Seventeen, Nov 1953


  1. first let me fun you are having. I am envious. next..I actually have that poster in my of my all time favorites. we always said that Mildred Natwick was our stores patron saint. I kind of imagine you as Jane Fonda in SUNDAY IN NEW YORK. thanks for all the great info. keep your wonderful Katie news coming.

  2. We must have done the Madison Avenue crawl in reverse of you (Sunday), although our one and only mission was to storm the Malle boutique.

    I glanced (enviously) at Nathan's blog and did I really read that he bought the Fleur Mecanique? And the Rubber Incense, of which I am also the proud and very pleased owner. But that was my consolation buy, because I was mightily resisting the urge to buy that cool, red, scent-diffusing cube. That expensive cool, red, scent-diffusing cube. Which would enable me to buy little bottles of costly scents on a monthly basis.

    Oh and just curious. Do you ever have the fantasy that if you climb into one of the Smelling Columns, you will be transported, Star Trek-style, to another Malle location in another city? I was thinking Paris.

  3. NYC...Ah, the smell of it.


    The Malle outpost at our Barney's has a smelling column; it's been interesting to watch the SA's navigate the invitation to use it, and watch customers and their various reactions. Actually had a rather serious discussion with an SA once about the way you experience a spritz in there, vs. in the air, vs. on fabric, vs. on skin. A trio of shoppers had paused, and looked at us, and looked like a varation on the See/Hear/Speak monkeys as they took in what we were saying. Funny.

    Speaking of funny..."Don't tell me; I've been in a terrible accident, and I've lost my legs." "No, dear; it's worse. Much, much worse." Is it that movie? Is it, is it? OMG, one of my favorite schlocky SciFi experiences from television weekend horror/creature features in my youth. Great pic, regardless...

  4. onesmalldog - funny that you have the same poster. I connected Jane Fonda and Robert Redford's city-joy to Nathan's and my frisking up and down the avenues.

    melisand61, I've never thought of the Smelling Columns as a transporter, but you have a point. Though I imagine they'd work more like one of those drive-thru bank shoots where you insert the metal capsule. Not the easiest way to get to Paris!

    SS, you bring up a good point - smelling the perfume in thin air (unpolluted by the static of competing odors) is different to how you'd experience it in "real life", melding with your own skin's smell. But it is a useful way to focus in on the perfume's basic personality.

    Ha! The sci-fi flick you're thinking of is "The Brain That Wouldn't Die", and here's a link to the funny trailer:

    However, the pic I used predates the film by 6 years - it's from a Seventeen magazine article about "Girls in Space", including important tips on outer space makeup!

  5. It DOES look like a still from "The Brain That Wouldn't Die" -- and those Frederic Malle smelling chambers had me so confused when I first looked at them. I, too, kept thinking of them as transporter-like and kept wanting to swing open a full door and step in. Much to my expectation's deflation, a half-panel swings open for sticking one's head in.

    And y'all, Katie's famous! She was recognized at both Solange Azagury-Partridge and Frederic Malle. Little did I know I was merrily tripping down the street with a former UK television host that women wanted to be and men wanted to . . . okay, well, enough of that.

    Melisa -- I did, I did, I did pick up one of those awesome red Fleur Mecanique cubes! It was just too cool to let slip through my fingers. I'm hoping to get some photos posted soon of the unboxing and assembling.

    Note to everyone: should you ever get offered the chance to spend an afternoon in the company of The Puckrik, leap on it (the opportunity, not Katie). I'm not sure I've ever had so much fun in NYC.

  6. Fantastic report! - the fumiverse is getting eerily Trekkie...All these mouse mats and such like beat even talking bottle openers, and I didn't think anything would ever top that in the home gadgetry stakes.

    I did stick my head into a smelling column in the rue de Grenelle branch of FM (Carnal Flower it was). Wouldn't mind being transported to NYC, as it sounds such fun! I enjoyed it vicariously through blow-by-blow Twitter updates from the Sniffa organisers, including mouth watering shots of your food!

  7. thanks for the post! I'm stuck here in Ohio, suffering from fever of some sort (or is it just hot flashes?) Well, whatever - glad to read both this and Nathan's posts. BTW, "Brain..." love it! Remember first seeing it when I was babysitting in the mid-70s.

  8. Whoa! Fleur Mecanique. I'll be looking out for sexy red cube pics on your site soon Nathan.

  9. YES!! That's it!!! Ahhhh.

    Such joy... SciFi trivia, AND retro Seventeen magazine illustrations! Which makes me confess...I *just* threw away my collection of Seventeen magazines, which my mother had been harboring for me...she thought they'd be valuable one day. Phoebe Cates...and what's her face with the short hair (OMG, can they do that on the cover of Seventeen)? Shoot! Why'd I throw them away????

    Oh, yeah. I decided to purge. Plus, I need room for perfume. ;)

  10. ScentScelf, perfume takes priority. Always.

    melisand61, which flavor of Rubber Incense did you get?

  11. I heard you doused yourself with the Habinata Parfum at Henri Bendel's, we must be on the same wavelength because I took that beauty home on the first day of Sniffa! Did you like it, because I LOVE IT! It is everything I love about Tabac Blond, but different enough to deserve a place on my shelf, right next to it!

  12. Jake, you sure love yourself some of that old-timey spicy tobacco! And Habanita is superior to Tabac Blond, and the parfum is even more "Habanita-y" than the edt, so I'd say you did the right thing.

    I have the edt, so I when I saw the parfum at HB, hell yeah, there was a little dousing going on. And it turns out that thing lasts, so I could've cooled it on the dousing.

    Did you encounter one of my favorite tobaccos, Santa Maria Novella Acqua di Cuba, during your Sniffa wanderings?

  13. :( no... I must of missed it, because I was casually sniffing through the SMN line, but there were just a ridiculous amount of them, and I couldn't really read the labels. I have to try this now!!

  14. Jake, I know what you mean about SMN - all those identical bottles, all that old-timey writing. I've reviewed Acqua di Cuba on this blog if you want to check it out.

  15. Katie - I know this is off topic here but I havw to tell you that I've been enjoying your 7-part opus on YouTube so much! Thanks for sharing your awesome collection! We have a few bottles in common. You're inspiring me to pluck up some courage and do a response video... :o)

    Your description of the Malle store in Manhattan brought back fond memories. I had such a wonderfully opulent time there a few months ago with my best friend when I made my long-overdue pilgrimage from Toronto. I was inspired by your Une Rose review and fell in love with it at first sniff. I've been wearing it all winter.

    Oh and I was in a vintage store just this weekend rummaging through their perfume bottle collection and there among Balenciaga's Le De, Je Reviens and Woodhue was a full bottle of Tea Rose. You were right - it's beautiful!

    Jelena (ooloi82)

  16. Jelena! So good to hear from you! You first got in touch with me (over a year ago?) when I was first beginning to face the fact that I was a unmitigated lover of roses. We had some good rose chats, and darned if we didn't both end up with uber rose Une Rose. I just put on a bit of my teeney samp of the body butter today. I would love to have a tub of that!

    Glad you saw the loveliness in Tea Rose too. And I'm laughing because my collection opus is only (only!) five parts, but it must seem like seven - it does to me.

    Looking forward to your response vid(s)!

  17. Wow Katie excellent memory! I'm honoured you remembered our chats. That Une Rose cream is heavenly - rose and citrus and wine - the ultimate rose combination.
    Every time I slather on my Carnal Flower cream I think of you saying it made you feel like Elizabeth Taylor in Butterfield 8.

    Haha! I could have sworn there was going to be seven parts - it's like an episode of Sliders where two alternate universes are identical except for one crucial, terrifying detail! I came from the universe of seven parts...and now I'm forever trapped in the universe of five parts...nooOooooO!
    I was/am clearly high on 'fumes. :-)
    Give us a blooper reel at least!

    - Jelena

  18. Ha-ha, Jelena, as far as I'm concerned, my entire collection series is a blooper reel!