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Saturday, April 10, 2010

The Secret Garden of Scents

Why a photo of Grace Kelly in a post about fragrance? Because today at Sniffapalooza in New York City, we sniffed intoxicating Chateau Krigler 12, the hand-mixed potion the beautiful actress wore.

"This became a kind of lucky charm for her," said fifth-generation perfumer Ben Krigler. The House of Krigler celebrated its 105th anniversary in 2009; its fragrances are sold only in Monte Carlo and at the Plaza Hotel [and, I've just found, you can check]. We Sniffa members were invited for a special sampling [and 10 percent discount].

At 5:15, we sipped crisp white wine and nibbled demure olive-paste hors d'oeuvres in an elegant room at the Plaza. We sat on high-backed, dusky-blue velvet chairs under a ceiling of octagonal paintings featuring cherubs, flower urns, birds and plump fruit, while Mr. Krigler told us about collaborating on the newest scent, Extraordinaire Camelia 209, with his mother. I felt so pampered, so royal in that setting--like a princess, a queen, perhaps even a courtesan.

"We had some fights," he said. "She's a tough woman. I'm also a tough boy. But my mom and I collaborated to celebrate our one hundred and fifth anniversary."

Juice Jargon
Sis and I have been going for several years to Sniffapalooza weekend events in the fall and spring. [She had to get her train home before the Plaza event today, but we were sniffing since 10 A.M.] You pay a reasonable fee [$80 this year, counting lunch] and get loaded up with samples and goodies on what really amounts to a fragrance buying trip, with stops at Bergdorf's, Bendel's and other hot spots. You're generally met with treats on a silver platter and GWPs [gifts with purchase]. I first learned about the group when I interviewed the founder for a beauty article.

In the beginning, I was amazed at the knowledge of these women and men, who come from all over America to attend. They'd sniff each other's wrists over lunch, commenting on notes of this and finishes of that. They'd talk about the group's fragrance trips to Europe. They'd wave the little paper testers like the insiders they were. I'll never forget the woman from California who told me, outside the bathroom on Bergdorf Goodman's Beauty Level, that she wears several different fragrances a day, depending on what she's doing.

By now, Sis and I have almost caught up with them, via osmosis. A sampling of what we heard today:

1. "It makes me think of a wooded glen, with nymphs," said fashionable Tom Crutchfield, a great perfume guru. He works in the pretty BG corner alcove dedicated to Annick Goutal fragrances from Paris, and he was waxing poetic about the new Ninfeo mio scent, which several of us snapped up.

2. "Stop talking about the notes," said Chandler Burr, one of the luncheon speakers. Mr. Burr is the New York Times fragrance critic and author. "We're looking at the work. You should look at the perfume as a whole. A picture. A portrait. The work is what you react to." His comment was met with controversy in a roomful of people who love talking about notes of rose, fig, leather, lime, iris, jasmine, clementine, ginger, vanilla, cognac and many, many other fragrant ingredients.

3. "That's starting to smell like candle on your skin," said the helpful woman I met from Long Island. I wasn't planning to buy anything else, but the Krigler scents at the Plaza were so exclusive and so beautiful, I got caught up in the frenzy. I was wavering between the Subtle Orchid 10, heavy on the vanilla [a formula created in 1910 and starting to smell like candle on my wrist] and the Lovely Patchouly 55 [dating to 1955], which smelled as good on my skin as it did on the little cardboard tester. Thanks to the friendly Long Island lady, a nice guy who used to sell perfume at Bloomingdale's, and Denise from California, I learned that I should spray the scents on my skin to check the "dry finish."

4. "Perfume is the last accessory you put on before you walk out the door," said Teresa Findlay, general manager of and also a luncheon speaker. No wonder I've started to like it so much. I've loved feminine accessories as long as I can remember, starting with my Barbie's little straw handbag and continuing through my First Communion bouquet [I can still smell those pink carnations now] and my first matching bra and panty set, with pink and purple ladybugs on it.

5. "Fumies--people who love perfume--are the new foodies. It's available to everybody," noted Katie Puckrik, star of "Katie Puckrik Smells" on YouTube. She now has 10,000 subscribers, most of them teens. "YouTube is by, for and about the teenager," Ms. Puckrik said.

Gotta go. Have some serious dresser dusting to do to make room for my beautiful new bottles. Thank you to my darling sister for treating me to today's ticket to a beauty world I loved immersing myself in.

SPRITZ TALK: What's your favorite fragrance? I'd love to know.


  1. very envious that you were able to attend Sniffapalooza. It sounds like a great event and I'd love to go one day.

  2. Hi..I really hope you can go one day soon....I love the idea of your blog and plan to check it out.......are you in England? what's the scent scene like there? do you like Burberry fragrances? just curious....alice

  3. Sounds just like you Alice, reminds me of you appreciating all the scents of our youth. Irene

  4. Hi Irene...thanks for the note! As a girl, I really dug Love's Baby Soft....didn't you like 4711? I hope all is well. love alice

  5. Hi Alice, it's Karen, Irene's sister.
    By the way, love your blog and I too, would love to one day do the Sniffapalooza thing.
    I would die if I lost my sense of smell, nothing beats smelling a scent that brings you back to a certain memory. By the way say Happy Birthday to your dad!!! Maybe we can see each other again sometime soon :)
    take care, Karen

  6. Hi Karen. I'm so happy to hear from you! Blogging has brought back so many sweet memories for me--I still remember meeting you and Irene for the very first time at Bedford Park, and in my diary, I think I noted when your baby sister was born :). Erika was always so adorable! That's cool that you value your sense of smell so much. I wonder what fragrances your mother wore? And I remember that Ditmar used to say he loved stinky cheeses :) I hope all is well with you and your family. It would be so great to see each other again sometime. And thanks again for writing--had to get up at this ungodly hour in the dark to drive D. to the airport, so seeing your note really softened the blow! love alice