Central Park occupies a very important place in the mental scape of New Yorkers (and cinemagoers); it is the heart and lungs of the city. Bond No 9, a brand I have not had much success with, apparently wished to pay homage to this island of chlorophyll with a fragrance inviting us to ‘commemorate New York’s grand oasis of greenery; a lush sensory landscape that simulates a walk in the park’; a park, as we have seen in countless movies and soaps celebrating the metropolis, with joggers in visors and white shorts running every which way but loose; tennis courts, basketball, dogs a-larking, you name it – this is a place for the lovers of the outdoors.
Lancôme’s Trophée, another celebrator of green (discontinued but easily found online) has a similar, pastime on the lawns theme; with a golfer on the bottle, and a golf ball as a stopper, its sporty, green-grass message couldn’t be more explicit.
Trophée, while not desperately original (a slightly more masculine version of the seminal lemon-leaf eau fraîche, Ô de Lancôme) is a great fragrance you just can’t go wrong with; citrussy, natural, minty notes of lawns, verbena, and a gentle, chypre finish; bright, clean, refreshing. It is liberating: you can imagine a man in newly laundered polo shirt, up bright and early, splashing it on before a day out with his friends on the greens. The citrus notes don’t last so long, but the base is lovely too; a soothing note reminiscent of cold cream that makes me think of the aforementioned tired golfer in bed, later, with his wife; clean white sheets, late afternoon, the hot sun outside kept at bay with breezing white curtains.
Bond No 9’s scent begins with a vivid technicolour panorama of Central Park; vibrant green, grassy notes of verbena and basil, and a neroli note similar to Thierry Mugler’s cologne. Impressive. A momentary, dazzling vista. And worn with Trophée on the other hand you might say it beats it, initially, in the lushness stakes. But Lancôme’s little known trophy has great subtlety. Bond No 9’s creation gets gradually worse, and worse, then even worse, as time passes.
Bond No9’s website informs us that
‘the park has its very own lawn bowling area. Here the terribly civilised pastimes of lawn bowling and croquet can be indulged without fear of colonial intervention.’
Translated into perfume terms, that would mean, then, eschewing the classic (European) template for perfumery which dictates that a perfume, like a person, should fade and die gracefully, yet be anchored with earthy base notes to let it stay as long as possible; not botoxed and plumped to eternity. The final accord in Central Park of ‘water jasmine’, ‘muguet’ and ‘cashmere musk’ sticks to the skin, irremovably, like a tattoo and is vile. If it is Central Park, then it is some obscure, forgotten corner; an oil-covered pigeon, stiff and festering, near some frayed, yellowing astroturf.
GUERLAIN’S HERBA FRESCA : a ball of just discarded spearmint chewing gum; still fresh and ever so minty, left lying, alone, among the long, tall grass.