One of the world’s oldest, working pharmacies lies just off the bustling streets of Santa Maria Novella plaza in Florence and the quieter Santa Maria Novella church square. It is one of the world’s oldest perfume brands, and arguably the real creator of what we know today as a “cologne.” It’s called Officina Profumo-Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella (“Santa Maria Novella” or “SMN” for short), and it was at the top of my list of places to visit on my recent trip to Florence.
The holiday season is upon us and many of you have already started shopping for gifts. I thought I’d present a few ideas, whether it’s for the fragrance lover in your life, or merely an office coworker for whom you have to get a “secret Santa” gift. A few of my suggestions are suited for those who don’t even have a serious interest in perfume. For example, a book of poetry by 100 contemporary American poets who were each sent a different vial of unnamed perfume (ranging from Jo Malone to Tom Ford, Creed, Kilian or others), and then wrote a poem in response to the unknown scent.
As you will see, very few of my ideas have to do with buying actual perfume. I think it’s a truly terrible idea to gift someone fragrance unless you know them and their tastes extremely well or, ideally, have a precise shopping list of the exact perfumes that they want. Otherwise, it’s a potential disaster and, quite possibly, a huge waste of money. Given the vagaries of skin chemistry, you simply can’t know how a perfume bought blindly will actually turn out on their skin and if they’ll like it.
So, it’s far better to leave the choice up to them. For example, you can send an e-card, even on the day of Christmas if you’re a procrastinator who is truly behind schedule. Some people may see gift certificates as a sign of laziness or lack of thought but, for a perfumista, they’re the best thing ever! Even small amounts give one the freedom to sample new things, each a potential passage to olfactory Nirvana. Non-perfumistas might also enjoy certificates to places that sell luxury candles, men’s beauty products, or home fragrances. Or, you can go another route, and opt for fragrance-related things like books, foodie essences, or perfume-making kits. Here are a few suggestions.
I wanted to let my international readers know about a new option that they have when they want to sample or buy a fragrance. Twisted Lily is a boutique in Brooklyn, New York that you may not be aware of and which carries a wonderful selection of niche fragrances that they ship world-wide. A good number of Twisted Lily’s offerings are perfume houses not carried by Luckyscent, so I thought I’d give you a quick overview of the store and why some readers (especially those outside of Europe) might want to explore the website for themselves.
Their range is truly impressive. They have the big or popular houses like Amouage, Xerjoff, Etat Libre d’Orange, Nasomatto, Mona di Orio, Montale, and Serge Lutens (including the brand new L’Orpheline that I just reviewed). However, they also carry mid-sized houses like Carner Barcelona, Arquiste, Andy Tauer, or the luxurious Grossmith, along with a lot of small American, European, or indie brands that you would never find at Luckyscent. For example, Slumberhouse, Charenton Macerations (whose Christopher Street I reviewed recently), Maria Candida Gentile, or Imaginary Authors. Continue reading
Sometimes, you just have to experience something, and forget about all practical considerations. That was the thought that drove me to the very exclusive environs of JAR Parfums in Paris. JAR is a perfume brand that is often spoken about in hushed tones, and which reeks of inaccessibility. The perfumes are the creation of one of the world’s most expensive, famous, secretive, and idiosyncratic jewellers, Joel Arthur Rosenthal, who simply goes by his initials as JAR. To really understand what the JAR perfume experience is like, you have to understand who JAR, the man, is first.