Thursday, October 06, 2005

The JAR Experience

A recent perfume-sniffing trip to NYC began at Bergdorf-Goodman. I love walking around the B-G beauty and fragrance department. It's spacious, beautiful, has an incredibly array of fragrances and the Sales Associates are friendly and knowledgeable.

I walked over to talk to my friend Tom of Etro (I love Tom. And Etro.), and was a little surprised to see the area that had been Guerlain turned into a rather intimidating and sparsely furnished velvety deep purple room, the entrance flanked by two tall beautiful men in gorgeous suits. As I talked to Tom, I kept glancing over at the room , as if somehow it was planning to swallow me up. I had no intention of going in. Tom said "Have you been in to JAR?" I said no, it scares me. He laughed at me and said "You should go in, it's fun!" Mr. cjblue said it reminded him of the high stakes Baccarat room at Caesar's Palace in Vegas. I said, yeah that works. Tom made us go in.

Franz with the Mona Lisa smile took us over to his table. I entered a kind of dreamlike trance state as I looked around me. The chandeliers, the velvety purple walls, the plush carpeting, the ceiling - oh, the ceiling! It was a crazy marbley purplegrey with a massive lightning bolt striking right above our heads. The table was set with seven lovely little rounded laydown bottles on one end, sitting on what looked to be suede pouches. In front of us was a display of seven clear glass rounded boxes, each one containing what looked to be an artfully crumpled piece of silk or chamois.

Franz began the presentation, his soothing voice entrancing me so that I had to force myself to concentrate and even then I only heard about every third word. Joel Arthur Rosenthal the Paris jeweler is the creator of the JAR scents. He almost never grants interviews, blah blah, images of Howard Hughes or some other millionaire recluse flashing through my mind. Before Franz opened the first glass box, we were instructed to let the scent come to us and not actively sniff it or reach for it.

This is when everything really went soft-porn deam to me. Here's Franz (in the dream I guess I'm naked but he's still in his impeccable suit) holding out each glass box with the heavily scented crumpled chamois, undulating it under my nose so the scent can waft up to me. I say to him "Is that pepper?" or "I smell cinnamon" and his mysterious smile holds firm. He informs me that they do not discuss notes, rather they prefer to allow each person to experience each fragrance for him or herself. So we continue on, with the wafting and the undulating and the trance, much smiling and nodding and little soft "ahh"s. I might have been a bit uncomfortable if I weren't in a dream, but I'm rarely uncomfortable in my soft porn dreams.

I tried and tried to get a handle on the fragrances, but I could have sat there all day sniffing. It was 10 am and already I had sniffed about 20 fragrances. I was well on my way to sensory overload and then to present my somewhat taxed olfactory system with these heady, huge and complex scents was really, well, there was no making sense of any of it. The only exclamation point in this was when the unnamed fragrance (its name is a symbol: the JAR lightning bolt) was undulated gently under my nose and I reeled back in shock. I think I almost fell off my chair. It certainly wasn't the worst thing I have ever smelled, but it was a shock for sure and slammed be back into the present. I would like to sniff it again (I think) but it will have to be my first sniffing experience of the day and possibly my only. Love to get a handle on that one.

We made it to the end of this somewhat ridiculous, affected presentation. I decided to try Diamond Waters. I will say that it sat on my skin for HOURS, morphing its variations on a theme. It was interesting but not necessarily compelling. And certainly not enough to make me want to part with over $400 for an ounce. Fortunately I am not a fan of carnation, because Golconda, which was the first JAR fragrance and is certainly the most well known, is truly a stunning carnation creation. Anybody who loves carnation should try this one.

The seven fragrances range in price from the high$300s to the high $700s for an ounce of parfum extrait. That ounce would last me a very very long time and this is certainly a unique and interesting line, but I didn't find one that I loved enough to even wish I had the money. And in retrospect, the dream was a little disturbing.

Today's fragrance: Caron French Cancan. These days, it is rare that a fragrance really sparks my imagination and captivates me. The last two have both been Carons. First Caron Narcisse Noir and now French Cancan. I'm completely in love and can't stop sniffing myself. Head over heels. Think they'd accept my firstborn as payment? Notes: jasmine, lilac, violet, lily of the valley, rose, orange blossom, patchouli, iris, sandalwood, amber, oakmoss (thank you to Bois de Jasmin for this information)

From the Caron website: FRENCH CANCAN, THE STORY
In 1936, Parisian life is at its peak: it’s the time that cabaret divas steal the limelight from the elegant and beautiful women of the Champs Elysées. Being on the pulse of Parisian chic, CARON was not insensitive to Gai Paris’ pleasures, and created French Cancan, translating that devilish dance where women dare bare more than there ankles into a bouquet of voluptuous flowers… But well aware that her clients on the Place Vendôme might not find the allusion to their taste, Félicie Wanpouille originally destined this perfume for distribution in the US alone. Its success on that side of the Atlantic, and the easing up of social mores, guaranteed it continued success in post-war Europe.


Blogger WinterWheat said...

Oooh, exciting! Where is the JAR boutique? I've got about 2 hours free in NYC in November at the end of a conference, before I must catch a flight. I figured I'd stop at Barney's as usual and maybe take the subway to Aedes. It would be cool to visit the JAR boutique too.

7:23 PM, October 06, 2005  
Blogger WinterWheat said...

Er... duh... Is the JAR section actually IN Bergdorf Goodman? So Tom was in the Etro section of BG and took you over to the JAR section of BG? (I read your post at first as meaning that Tom was at an Etro boutique near a JAR boutique, both outside of BG. Forgive me, I'm pregnant and slow.)

7:25 PM, October 06, 2005  
Blogger mireille said...

"We Do Not Discuss Notes" *snif* and I hope you learned your lesson. This is great: perfumesampling as soft porn. Only you, R, only you. xoxo

1:03 PM, October 07, 2005  
Blogger cjblue said...

K- LOL! Maybe my writing is not that clear. But I do remember pregnancy addling my brain a bit. Yes, the JAR boutique is right exactly next to the Etro counter at BG. It's definitely an experience. Ask for Franz ;-)

M- ♥

1:14 PM, October 07, 2005  
Blogger Trina said...

I'm so glad you posted this! Franz was/is definitely a nice piece of man-candy, but that superior attitude (which I had read about before) is SO off-putting! Don't tell me you won't discuss notes! And don't tell me how to sniff either, punks! If I want to inhale like I'll never be allowed oxygen again, that's MY business!

I had pretty much decided that JAR wasn't worth my time or $$, but this seals it. Not that I won't venture in and have a "consultation" with the oh-so-dreamy Franz... Yum! But my nose and money will be going elsewhere.

7:22 AM, October 09, 2005  
Blogger WriterChick said...

Wow. It's like this whole secret scentsory underworld I haven't been privy to. And I'm thinking it better be a soft-porn experience if I'm going to drop 7 c-notes on an ounce! I'd love to go sniffing with you CJ!

10:20 PM, October 13, 2005  
Anonymous Tatiana said...

Well, I certainly agree JAR perfumes are pricey, but I must say, after years of looking for "my" perfume (i.e. not mass production) I was pleasantly surprised today when I wandered into the tiny JAR boutique in the center of Paris. The perfumes are VERY unusual, disturbing even, and thank God there are only 7 of them to choose from! I must say I fell in love with "Ferme tes yeux" ("Shut your eyes" in French). It's a very opulent, heady, voluptious scent, intoxicating and intirguing. It is the kind of perfume that makes you do a double take when you catch a whiff on a street. I LOVE it.

3:56 PM, December 10, 2005  

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