I couldn’t find a picture, but I thought this failed Google search was a little cute.
I must start off by thanking my wonderful New York City host, Kevin Guyer, for treating me to a sniffing of the JAR fragrances at Bergdorf Goodman. Kevin had actually refrained from sitting down to sniff these, waiting for a moment such as the one we had, when he could share it with a friend. So when I happened to be in New York, and when he offered to take me on a guided tour of the uptown fragrance scene, he made sure that the high point of my visit was one that he had reserved as his own special occasion.
I have heard about JAR – mostly about the gardenia scent “Jardenia” – from some noses who I respect very greatly. That would include two gardenia lovers (and in my humble opinion, experts) – Sugandaraja, and Mimi Gardenia, both of Basenotes and Il Mondo di Odore. In Mimi’s opinion, Jardenia is great, and in Suga’s opinion, it’s 5-star. Now that I’ve smelled it, I have to agree – it’s great stuff. Although that’s not really what this post is about. And first, some explanation anyway…
To sniff the JAR fragrances, Kevin and I were offered seats in an alcove adjoining the main fragrance floor, near the in-store Guerlain boutique. The experience is much like one has when being shown finer jewelry. And that’s not surprising. JAR is one of the finer of the fine jewelers, if not the finest. JAR – and by that I refer to both the artist Joel Arthur Rosenthal and his company – thrive on exclusivity. Both in jewelry, and in fragrance.
We’re not talking mere exclusivity here. We’re talking something more. Just as jewelry can be a cut above, so can fragrance.
I won’t bore you with the details of the rather unique presentation of the JAR fragrances, which has been described elsewhere. It is quite a worthwhile experience in that regard. I just want to stick to my scent impressions.
These fragrances are highly polished. There is attention to detail. Tremendous attention to detail. Most of them are crafted to the point of having the quality of déjà vu – you know they smell like something good, but you simply cannot recall what it is. They are je ne sais quoi in a bottle. And it’s not like the gentlemanly JAR representative is going to help you, because Joel does not believe in notes. He doesn’t believe in leading the customer on. He wants his customers to make their own connection to his scents.
Bravo. Honestly, that was a delight to hear. Dissecting fragrances really does detract from their beauty. When I am done getting medieval on fragrances, I have to consciously pull back from them and put myself into a more “global” state of appreciation, so that I can enjoy them as intended, and get a feeling for their overall beauty. Becoming a slave to deconstruction has put many sensitive noses into a permanent tailspin of disappointment, and I do not wish to join them. As they say in different parts of New York, “fuggedaboudit already”.
Anyway, most of the seven or eight fragrances that we smelled were somewhat novel. Not garishly avante-garde – just different in a slight, but beautiful and unmistakable way. Pure fashion – the way it’s supposed to be. Different enough to stand out – and in a timeless way that somehow prevents imitators from ever quite duplicating it. All are polished to a mirror shine, without exception. The gardenia scent is wonderful in its restraint. Pitch perfect. It has the living quality of Michael Storer’s great gardenia scent Stephanie, but it lacks the earthy, loamy character, or at least has reduced it to the point that one gets the pure impression of sniffing a flower and not smelling the potting.
Good stuff. Good, good stuff. Actually, excellent stuff.
However, the fragrance that really captivated me, and had me sniffing my wrist like a bloody idiot, was the new one, Bed of Roses. Eau. My. G_d.
I have smelled some awesome rose absolute in my time, and on this very trip, over at MiN NY, I smelled the Amouage rose attar that always blows everybody out of the water. If you can imagine the French equivalent of an Amouage rose attar, that would be this fragrance. It is utterly heady stuff, but it achieves this state without the boldness of an attar. Instead, it has the sexiness of French fashion at its absolute best. This is the fragrance of the unobtainable woman. The gut-wrenchingly beautiful woman that men dream of in their virile youth, only to wake up with their sheets soaked with feverish sweat. The woman with no name – who seems like a memory but is impossible to recollect – who simply remains a mystery for life.
I don’t really want to spoil Joel’s noteless thing by ratting out what I’m smelling, but I do need to say SOMETHING about it, just to give you a bigger picture. So here goes. If you want to remove all possible spoilers, just skip over the next paragraph. K?
It’s not pure rose, but the blending is so perfect, that Bed of Roses is still unmistakably a fully committed rose fragrance. It has the texture of a perfect, shiny, dark red satin pillow. Not merely without wrinkles or folds – I mean laying down on the bed perfectly. And it’s not just the automatic planarity of synthetics, either. It’s polished complexity, not flat simplicity. None of this fakey-fake, boo-koo phenylethanol syntharose, either – this stuff loses the initial projection and sillage within a fairly short time, because it clearly has a high natural content. But with all this dynamism, there are never to be found any off notes or the slightest lessening of quality. As the heart kicks in, you will start seeing why the working title of this thing was something about “Winter” or “Wintertime”. I don’t remember which, and it’s not important. If I have to say anything bad about this fragrance, it’s that the Decemberish holiday aspect veered dangerously close to cliché, as the heart died down. Not quite, but it had me worried for a minute. Fortunately, as it became more of a skin scent, the rose took over again, and I was back to being a wrist-sniffin’ fool. And the wintery thing does keep it interesting, so don’t worry unless you’re Scrooge. And even if you are, then maybe you need this fragrance. Ya know?
So – is it worth the money? Oh, hell yes. It’s a ridiculous bargain, in my opinion. I almost feel like JAR is doing a charity here, just to show you how good he is at whatever he sets his mind to doing. You want to worry about price? Worry about his jewelry.
You could spend three to four times as much on a big bottle of Creed’s 250-year anniversary fragrance, which is not bad stuff, but that one is really more of a salute to Creed than a showstopper fragrance. It’s clearly for keeping your clothes on during your dinner party. Show off your bucks with that one, if you have to.
You could spend half as much on a new Guerlain feminine gourmand, and that’s money well spent, too, in my opinion, if you are looking for something that says sexy, rich and fashionable. I think those modern Guerlain feminines are just dead sexy, and I encourage all ladies to own at least one. And men who know how to pull it off, too.
But this fragrance? Good grief.
Men are prone to associating fragrances with the women who leave them behind. However, there are very few scents which could get a gentleman to lower himself to the ghastly practice of wheedling a new flame into adopting the fragrance of an ex.
This fragrance, I’m afraid, is one of them.