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Thursday, December 28, 2017

The Snifferati at Hermès

The Christmas season--with its ribbons and wraps, neighborhood parties, homemade eggnog, cookie baking and cookie sheet scrubbing, endless lists, sparkly tank tops, pâté and mini Bûche de Noël, shopping and packing the sleigh for this trip to Maine--delayed this post about the Sniffapalooza & Hermès Parfumerie Holiday Soirée on Saturday, December 16 at Brookfield Place in NYC. 

The only time I had stepped into an Hermès boutique was on an overnight drive to Montreal with my friend Anne, when she surprised her children, Ryan and Emmy, at McGill University. Our visit was whirlwind but not too short for me to pop in and see the Twilly and make mental notes about that younger, narrower version of an Hermès silk scarf in flirty, chic patterns and at a more affordable [yet still caviar] price: $160.

From Pinterest, see the Twilly on a Birkin bag.
Combining classic with modern style.

So how could I resist the Sniffapalooza invite to the Hermès fragrance store? Sis, my Sniffapalooza pal, was in Wisconsin, so I ventured into the Champagne-sipping, note-quoting field alone. It was like joining a group of birdwatchers in a sanctuary, all sporting binoculars around their necks. And it was great fun--especially since Punch was visiting her Mimi for the weekend and I didn't have to stress about child care and its limits and expense. [Dan was working at yet another holiday party.]

My first sniff was of a fragrance that smelled like leather--an ode to beloved Hermès saddles. It was too strong for me, and not pleasing, though I do love the smell of a new leather purse. 

Not to be rude, but who would wear that? Is it for men? I asked as Terence Boyer, sales specialist, spritzed scents and waved fragrance testers.

That would be me, said Lisa, the woman next to me. She said she likes the smell of leather-bound books and that old library aura. 

I loved the eau de rhubarbe ecarlate, just-picked, crisp, red, rejuvenating. Wake-up call. Like rosy rhubarb in a green summer garden. The pretty ruby stalk that snaps when you break it. Couldn’t be fresher.

We paused, Champagne flutes poised in mid-air, to listen to a brief greeting from the boutique's managing director, Shanti Amalanathan.

This is the first Hermès parfumerie in the world, she said. The second opened in Dubai yesterday. It's a new concept for us.

We were happy to hear that, but then resumed sniffing.

We have over 50 fragrances, Terence said. We started making them a long time ago, in the 1930s.

Another woman, a friendly New Yorker who introduced herself as Joan, like Joan of Arc, joined Lisa, Terence and me. She wore bold lipstick, a black fur-trimmed hat and a striking red, blue, gold and white Hermès scarf. 

Soon we were immersed in a cloud of fragrance jargon. They were talking about the drydown [the part of the fragrance that lingers on your skin] and Lisa said that in one fragrance, the rose seemed austere.

Christine, also on staff, said the Twilly fragrance was inspired by young women of today and the way they wear their Twillys--combining them with other clothing and accessories in unexpected ways. The bottle combines the masculinity of a man's bowler hat with a Twilly tie, she noted.

Terence walked over to rejoin us as I held the bottle lovingly. 

That's Terence and Lisa, back right. 

First of all, he asked, are you familiar with the Twilly? 

You bet I was, from that Montreal visit.

Is the fragrance for younger women? I asked. It has a youthful vibe.

Yes, but anyone can wear it, he said. Right answer.

sprayed my left wrist. Then I sprayed it again. The scent was sweet and intoxicating. I wanted to keep burying my nose in my wrist.

I decided then and there that I was getting a bottle for Dan to give me for Christmas! The holidays are a time for indulging. He didn't mind, and he also got me some pretty earrings and candles and rose balm [not from Hermès. but from the Belfast Co-op in Maine].

Free engraving that day. Mine says Ali with a heart.
I detected Terence's slight Southern accent, which was nice. Turns out he grew up in Tennessee.

All I know is, he was raised well and properly and his Tennessee friends and family would be proud.

Oh, the sweet smell of success.  

And, I know exactly what I want for my January birthday: a Twilly scarf.

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