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It began on a cool spring morning at 7:30AM at the corner of 5th Avenue and 57th street in midtown Manhattan. I was watching the runners enjoy the mostly empty streets and wondering how to get into Bergdorf-Goodman's for the first event of the 2010 Sniffapalooza Spring Fling. I was told I needed to be early but maybe I was too early. A cab pulled up and out got a stylishly dressed lady and she approached me and asked if I was here for the “sniff event”. When I nodded she took me in through the side door and we walked through the deserted first floor of the store, it felt like I was entering a speakeasy. We took the elevator down and just like entering a Prohibition speakeasy here was where the party was. There were a line of people waiting to get in and I met a fellow Basenoter right away and we began talking perfume. This would happen again and again for the next 36 hours. Sniffapalooza the event put on, by Karen Adams and Karen Dubin, twice a year in New York City is the perfume version of San Diego Comic-Con. Perfumers and stores have the opportunity to showcase their wares in a positive light to a receptive crowd and this perfect storm makes for an amazing event. I'm going to give you my impressions of the 2010 Spring Fling and to help me out I'm going to use “Like A Virgin” as my theme because this was my first Sniffapalooza and I did feel like a virgin in many ways.

“My fear is fading fast”

I was worried that I was going to have a difficult time meeting people but one of the best things about Sniffapalooza is the people. Right from the start I met “decker”, a fellow Basenoter. Karen Dubin followed soon after and told me how happy she was I was here. At my table for breakfast I was sitting with Symine Salimpour of Hors LaMonde she asked me what I was wearing because she loved it, By Kilian Rose Oud I replied. We began to talk about the merits of Shiloh and Lady Shiloh and perfumery in general. Our table was full of fans and we enthusiastically shared our impressions of the fragrances that were presented to us. After breakfast as we strolled through the Bergdorf-Goodman beauty department the constant refrains were “What do you think about….?” “Do you like this?” “You have to come with me and check this out!” It was surreal to walk up to Chandler Burr, of the NY Times, and ask him about Annick Goutal's Ninfeo Mio and have a discussion about green perfumes. Then Katie Puckrick, of Katie Puckrick Smells, comes up and interviews Mr. Burr. It was so very interesting to see these people, for whom I have enjoyed their interpretation of perfumery, and have the opportunity to talk with them about our shared passion. I really got lucky and had Mr. Burr as my companion at lunch and had even more time to talk about the biology of smell and whether wine can be considered art, we disagree on the latter.

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All through the two days I spent in New York it was one person after the other who I talked with. Sunday, Dawn Spencer Hurwitz spent the whole day walking with me and to have a perfumer's point of view along for the ride was a beautiful viewpoint to have. At every stop we discussed aspects of what goes into making perfumes and how that ends up in the bottle. Ms. Hurwitz was suffering from a slightly tweaked ankle and I had offered to give her a piggy back ride if she needed it, she didn't but we ended up taking a picture of her on my shoulders anyway. I think I have taken the phrase “wearing a perfumer” one step too far. From lonely street corner to having Ms. Hurwitz on my shoulders you can see that this event helps create an amazing sense of instant community and there was a real sense of joy throughout the weekend.

“When you hold me, and your heart beats, and you love me”

Of course the real stars of Sniffapalooza are the fragrances and there were many new ones we tried. I can't possibly mention all of them so I'm really going to pick out the ones that made my “heart beat”. Atelier Cologne really impressed me with their line of five colognes they are really not colognes if you use the concentration guidelines. If you use an aesthetic guideline I believe they are as they all have a wonderful lightness that the best colognes have and have a superior longevity due to the higher concentration. My favorites were Orange Sanguine, juicy orange; and Oolong Infini, ethereal smoky tea.

The idea of cologne seemed to be a trend as Guerlain showed off their brand new Cologne Du Parfumeur this might be Thierry Wasser's best creation for Guerlain; as you can tell I really like it. It feels like a seamless progression from the last cologne from Guerlain, Eau de Guerlain. One of the two newest entries in the Penhaligon's Anthology series is Eau de Cologne and it has a very retro feel to it and that retro feel appealed to me. The idea of retro was also evident from Krigler Perfumes as we sampled all of their line and Ben Krigler really has taken his family's historical perfume stewardship and brought it into the 21st century. Easily the most interesting fragrance I smelled all weekend was Established Cognac it has a smooth cognac accord and a funny hint of banana that some found distracting but I found reminiscent of a hint of the dessert Bananas Foster. It was instantly memorable for me. The whole Krigler line was really good, in my opinion. Another standout for me was Yosh's Sottile in EDP concentration. Sottile had existed in an oil form previously and Ms. Han debuted her EDP formulation and in this lighter formulation the tea rose and lily of the valley come vividly alive and sparkle on the skin a true garden walk. Our last lunch was a showcase for emerging natural perfumers and my favorite from this presentation was Jessica Buchanan's Reglisse Noire for her 1000 Flowers label. Reglisse Noire is a deep dark black jujube of a licorice flavored fragrance. It is a beautiful piece of composition on my skin and it shows all of the potential that can be had in an all natural approach to perfume making.

Also part of Sniffapalooza is getting first sniffs and a little gossip ahead of new releases upcoming. The most exciting for me was receiving a small vial of L'Artisan's newest by Bertrand Duchaufour, Nuit de Tuberose. Duchaufour has been on a torrid roll as of late and I don't think Nuit de Tuberose will be one to disappoint those who are waiting for it. I think it just might be the gateway to tuberose for many who have resisted a tuberose fragrance in the past. Ineke revealed the title and inspiration for the next fragrance to come for her. G will be Gilded Lily and she calls it “Manga meets Shakespeare” It sounds like a fusion I am looking forward to trying. Bond No. 9 debuted the newest addition to the Andy Warhol line Andy Warhol Montauk. It comes in beautiful sunset bottles and will be available early in the summer. There was some sadness as this would be the last visit to Takashimaya as they announced they will be closing in June and their very Zen-like perfume space will go away. The one nice thing was that as one door closes perhaps another opens as we visited a new perfume space in SoHo called MiN New York and the space has a very downtown hipster vibe to it. It carries a number of fragrance lines and it has a feel like a drawing room for fragrance. Chad and Levi the co-owners delighted in showing off the space and I am hopeful that they can be that space for some of the small brands that Takashimaya championed to still have a retail presence in New York.

“Make me strong, yeah you make me bold”

Two of the speakers on the weekend made bold provocative statements that were picked up by the attendees and it was great to listen to the different responses these assertions prompted. The first came from Chandler Burr at lunch on Saturday as he said that we should stop focusing so much on notes and instead appreciating the whole. As an example he used Eau D'Italie's Sienne L'Hiver by Bertrand Duchaufour. He opined that Sienne L'Hiver needs to be experienced as a whole and if you spend time focusing on notes you in essence miss the forest for the trees. I would have many conversations about this especially when we got to Lafco on Sunday and many of the attendees could actually sniff Sienne L'Hiver for the first time. This was the essence of what this weekend was about as we could discuss something without such a definitive answer and I think there was a full spectrum of people who felt many different ways about it.

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Raphaella Barkley the publisher of Sniffapalooza Magazine decried the tone of some negative reviews and in particular the need to reach for a snarky cutting one liner to describe your reaction to a fragrance. She and her chief reviewer Mark David Boberick both reiterated that they would prefer to focus on the positive responses they have to perfume and leave the negative to other outlets that are also readily available to anyone who prefers that kind of criticism. This led to discussions that a negative review is perhaps a good thing but it isn't necessary to add a derisive tone to examining the flaws in a perfume that does not work for you.

This was like a Basenotes forum come alive and Mr. Burr and Ms. Barkley were bold enough to begin the discussion and it added another texture to an already wonderful weekend.

“Didn't know how lost I was until I found you”

So that was my first Sniffapalooza and it was a blast. This was an incredible experience and as Madonna so presciently sang I didn't know what I was missing until I experienced it for “the very first time”.


About the Author

Mark Behnke is a writer for Basenotes and Men's Style editor for FashionTribes. Mark is a regular poster on the Basenotes forums as Somerville Metro Man and on Twitter as @SomMetroMan.