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Chinatown – Foreign and familiar (October 17, 2011 New Fragance Listing)

Photo-Wikipedia - Chinatown, Manhattan, NYC 2009 - Pell St. by chensiyuan

Toronto is a great multi-cultural city and growing up here I got to know the pockets of the city where different nationalities got established – like Little Italy along St. Clair Ave. west of Oakwood, the Jewish area up around Bathurst and Lawrence and my favourite, Chinatown on Spadina Ave. around Dundas St.

As I child my family would go to a restaurant in Chinatown for celebratory dinners. I loved the restaurant because everything was different – the hostess in her cheongsam, the calligraphy on the menu, and the rich colours and textures all seemed so strange and exotic. And the food! It looked different – I never saw those baby corn on the cobs anywhere else – and it smelled different, rich and complex. It was like visiting a distant land while never leaving your hometown – foreign and familiar at the same time.

When I first heard about the Bond No. 9 fragrances from New York years ago I was a bit apprehensive about the line, especially when I read on their web site that “For the first time in fragrance history, a major, full-blown fragrance collection was launched as an homage to a great city." Interesting idea, I thought. But then there was this:  ”Each fragrance represents a specific downtown, midtown, or uptown locale or a city-wide sensibility.” Sounded a bit contrived and forced and just put me off, until I went to 9 Bond Street in NoHo New York. I sniffed, I whiffed, I sampled I swooned and I fell in love with Chinatown, and I wasn’t happy until I owned a bottle.

It opens with crisp, citrusy bergamot juxtaposed with tender sweet peach. As it moves to the heart, the sweetness fades but lingers enough to temper the big sexy tuberose and seductive gardenia that come forward so they don’t get too loud or too showy. And oh, oh, oh how these two notes shimmer and dance together, enhanced by peony and more peach blossom, making the fragrance creamy and erotic. There’s a spiciness here too, from cardamom that weaves through the florals, warming them up so that they hum with gentle heat. It all rests on a woody base of cedar and sandalwood. Here, patchouli adds an earthiness, while guaiac gives it a hint of smokiness and a sweetness that is amplified by exotic vanilla.

Chinatown is a stand-out scent – refined, nuanced and exotic – it is foreign yet familiar at the same time. It’s a pleasure to wear and it will make you smell of far away places without ever having to leave home.

In his book, ‘Perfumes the A-Z Guide” Luca Turin gives Chinatown five stars. I don’t always agree with Mr. Turin, so I’ve taken out a pen and put five more stars beside his in his listing for Chinatown, just as a reminder of how wonderful it is.

Chinatown tis listed in our Decant Store. Decants are $4.00 for 1 ml.