Bond No. 9 Lexington Avenue

First: a word about art and money. Mediocre works with outrageous price tags are going to get (deservingly) harsher criticism. (Looking at you, Soup Can Man!) Arrogantly priced houses should be held to a higher standard. One as expensive as Bond No. 9 ($205 for 100mL) had better be bottled transcendence. I’ve tried a dozen or so of theirs, most of which weren’t anything special, and precious few could justify their price tag. That being said, I’d fork over the cash for this masterpiece in a New York minute.

It’s been compared to Serge Luten’s aggressively spiced Feminite du Bois, but Lexington Avenue strikes a balance between invigorating and comforting. Resinous blue cypress paired with fennel, similar to anise or licorice, for a bracing foundation. They balanced it with cozy gourmand notes of toasted almond and “crème brulée” over creamy sandalwood. Neither side of this spectrum would work alone, but together the result is incredible! A little olfactive alchemy and you’ve got creamy spiced woods woven with traces of peony. Perfectly wearable with a fascinating something that surprises you, catches your interest, and keeps you coming back.

Notes fluctuate but none of them take over or fade away completely. Generally the more resinous elements stand out in the opening, and softer gourmand side sets the tone hours later. Bond No.9’s eau de parfum formulations are even richer than the average edp, so the longevity’s wonderful, lasts 8 to 10 hours easily. Sillage is moderate on cooler days, but in warm weather that spice can fill the whole room. It’s hard to test due to Bond No.9’s limited distribution, but if you find Lexington Avenue, just close your eyes, pretend you didn’t see the hideously kitsch shoes all over the bottle, spritz, and experience … transcendence.

Dirty English: Me Versus The World

It was fairly early into my exploration of fragrance that I realized I particularly enjoyed a few notes, more than others.   At the top of the list was cedar, and I’ve come to enjoy it in all it’s shades and nuances.  Perfumery mainly uses two species, the Virginia Cedar, which is the sharp, resinous, woody scent that most people associate with hamster bedding or pencil shavings.  There’s also Atlas Cedar, which is a more distinguished, camphorous smell, beautiful in it’s own right for entirely different reasons, and used in entirely different applications.   Rarer are the perfumes that use cypress, which is a nice balance of the qualities of both and was used, along with Atlas cedar, in Juicy Couture Dirty English.  I have said for a long time now that this is the most underrated fragrance of 2008, missing the ballot altogether for Best New Fragrance in the 8th Basenotes Awards entirely, replaced instead with things like Diesel Fuel For Life and Lancôme Hypnôse.

But enough reminiscing.  Dirty English opens in a very unusual way, in that it blends sweet citrus notes with spicy cypress and caraway seed.  Let me take a step back and say how much I enjoy the addition of spice notes to fragrances, and what a difference they can make.  The black pepper note in Ralph Lauren Romance Silver saves it, it gives character and strength to Burberry London, it turns the entire composition on it’s ear in Cereus No. 7, it…well, you see where I’m going.  The maneuver is a good one, and it’s a very distinct spicy opening.  The edges of the sweetness and spice fade, and the drydown is much like the opening, but with the growing presence of moss and leather to esconce it firmly in the masculine category.  Where it really shines for me, though, is body interaction.  The hotter the temperature, and the more I sweat, the better and better this thing gets.  It is my go-to summer scent, despite not strictly meeting the criteria.  It’s entirely because of skin interaction; Gucci Pour Homme is a close cousin to Dirty English but I rarely wear it in the hot months because it doesn’t do anything interesting on my skin.  I seem to share, overall, the most interesting dynamic with Dirty English out of anything in my collection. Projection is above average, longevity varies with temperature, lasting longer in warmer weather on me.

One other thing I enjoy about Dirty English is that it acts as a crossroads on a journey of cedar exploration.  It’s well rounded and centered, and examples of extremes can be found in every direction, towards Virginia Cedar in Gucci Pour Homme (or, Pencil Shavings Pour Homme), towards Atlas Cedar in L’Occitane Notre Flore Cedre, towards cypress in CdG Monocle Scent One: Hinoki, and other close cousins can be found in creatures like Parfums 06130 Cedre and CdG Series 2 Sequoia.  They’re all distinct and different, and it really demonstrates how much utility one note can have.  Hopefully some of you that passed up Dirty English because of the Juicy Couture name will remember this and give it a wearing the next time you see it on display.  To skip it is to miss a very unique cedar creation, and the most underrated fragrance of 2008.