West Side is the latest perfume launch by Bond No.9, an upscale niche perfume house dedicated to interpreting in fragrances the different neighborhoods of New York City. This time it is the West Side, home to the Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall, Birdland and the Copacabana, which is honored in relation to its musical heritage. West Side is the house's 27th fragrance.
The fragrance was composed by nose Michel Almairac of Robertet who previously created for the same house The Scent of Peace and Fire Island. Some of his other works include the wonderful Burberry Burberry for Women, L'Artisan Voleur de Roses, Grès Cabaret and my personal favorite hands down Gucci Pour Homme, a truly exceptional jus.
West Side features top notes of rose, ylang-ylang, and peony; heart notes of sandalwood and amber; the drydown is redolent of vanilla and musk.
As West Side is meant to embody the musical beat of New York City it is described by Bond No.9 as "...an ultra-melodious eau de parfum that finds the scent equivalent for the sounds of music in its full-bodied, mellow composition, its undulating rhythms, its harmonies, its pitch--and yes, its notes. Whether they're high or low, dark or light, sweet or sharp--notes are what music and fragrance are both about". Perfume and music are made to be even more consciously associated than is usual in perfumery with the evocation of an explicit musical imagery to guide the interpretation of the fragrance. The bold treble keys drawn on the flacons with vivid colors illustrate this artistic theme. All listening are invited to offer their own interpretations as "Fragrance, like music, is open to interpretation. Everyone who sniffs it will hear--and smell--a different melody of their own". So, what is the sound of West Side on this day and as heard by this listener?...
West Side can be described as a soft gourmand-floral fragrance with light aquatic and very subtle marine overtones. The perfume is mellow and warm and slightly sweet. The musical theme is best reflected for me in the melodious impression that the perfume gives of being seamlessly blended and smooth; it literally croones in terms of olfaction. It also makes me think of a great cut that falls just right.
But most of all it evokes for me the music of Virginia Woolf's words in the opening of Mrs Dalloway as the character prepares herself to go out to run her errands in that moment when she and every one of us have anticipated the rhythm of the city with its bustling humanity, and have perceived its rumor behind our closed doors. It suggests her iconic early morning walk - and our own brisk-paced strolls in the streets of a big city as the beast is slowly awakening to the day, unleashing its first characteristic smells in the crisp and chill air. Mrs Dalloway's words are playing their own melody,
"Mrs Dalloway said she would buy the flowers themselves. For Lucy had her work cut out for her. The doors would be taken off their hinges; Rumpelmayer's men were coming. And then, thought Clarissa Dalloway, what a morning - fresh as if issued to children on a beach."
Flowers, woods, children's sweet tastes, and the sea are all contained in West Side.
As the perfume unfolds, different olfactory universes meet and cross as if encountered fleetingly during a stroll taken on a bright early morning in the streets of a city full of opportunities, chance meetings, and softened Babel stories. Just as it could have been Mrs Dalloway's account of her olfactory impressions, aromas cross our consciousnesses as we pass along a sweet pastry shop, a tea room with its doors flung wide open letting out the smell of its well-frequented leather seats, an old tobacconist with its glass jars of tobaccos sighing honey tobacco breath each time the lid is taken off, and a flower shop whose owner has just taken out fresh precious flowers from the fridge to display on the sidewalk. The wind brings in some iodine from the edges of the port city. It is a gentle morning that seems to be colored an apricot color, that of the perfume West Side.
This complexity is more internal than immediately apparent as the perfume's main motif seems to be that of a subtle and warm honeyed water perfumed with rose, and a host of other ingredients that are felt rather than seen. In this way and despite the overall impression of simplicity it gives, the perfume offers more than meets the nose at first. Each time I would test West Side, different facets would appear.
The perfume starts with a mellow honey accord with subtle undertones of resinous pine and beeswax. There are also light leathery and tobacco accents. At other times, I smell hay and light woods. An aquatic and floral note appears in the background, a very round peony - and I want to say also lotus as I am irresistibly reminded of sipping a cup of fragrant lotus tea. At yet other times, the beginning of the perfume makes me think of a crêpe flambée cooked with some fragrant alcohol, maybe Grand Marnier.
The gourmand aspect is further and more persistently evoked by a rose note mixing with the honeyed water which evokes to me an antique Egyptian pastry scented with rose and drenched in honey, or its heir, a North-African pastry. There are also marine overtones which I attribute to the amber which is probably ambergris as there is a slight piscean smell to it; it adds a little touch a savoriness and creates more complex animalic references.
The perfume later becomes slightly powdery and vanillic. The scent deepens offering a richer tropical flower feel. Later, as this accord subsides, a wonderful fresh and invigorating muguet or lily note to my nose enters bringing some lift to the composition. It smells like fresh flowers just taken out of the florist's cooler and resting on a sensual bed of honey, vanilla and ylang-ylang: the universes of the new-world clean flower shop and the old-world sensual harem meet. The perfume then becomes sharper and the ylang more distinct. Now a fresh bouquet of dewy flowers stays in the background. It is springtime.
Perfumes that becomes fresher as the scent evolves are always surprising and interesting for me as most of the time, it is the other way around. I find this type of more unconventional development very uplifting and optimistic. It probably makes one think of the very real presence of spring in the midst of winter.
The sandalwood presence I feel more in the later stages of the development and mainly as a sharpening accent; its powdery and piquant texture is not very apparent. The amber brings about mellowness and creates an inner glow to the fragrance. A vanillic powderiness comes back in the drydown presenting almondey facets with a suggestion of heliotrope. The waterey notes are all along subtly integrated into the composition, as if you were smelling quivering liquid. The muskey drydown is discreetly present.
My rêverie must end here with the lasting impression of a promenade that one could take over and over again. It brings back to my mind again that moment of shared anticipation that Mrs. Dalloway creates as she reminisces about the past, and before she throws herself into the day ahead of her, "How fresh, how calm, stiller than this of course, the air was in the early morning, like the flap of the wave; the kiss of a wave; chill and sharp..." West Side will help guide your steps in the cities of your dreams and imagination.