I love floral perfumes, and I love fruity perfumes. I especially love gardenia and peach notes in perfume, which is what is at the heart of Bond No9 Chinatown, a cult favourite from the line, loved by women and men for it’s audacious combination of notes. I say audacious because unlike most perfumes I’m drawn to, this one is a powerhouse, and not only for the Def Con levels of peachy flowers. The base of patchouli and cardamon takes the flowers on a spicy ride, and one would normally imagine they might over power the normally delicate notes of peach and gardenia, but one would be dead wrong. Bond No9’s site does not mention tuberose, but I know it’s there, and if any flower could stand next to patchouli as an equal, it would be the hypnotic tuberose. The notes I read most online are:
Top notes: peach blossoms and bergamot
Middle/heart notes: gardenia, honey, tuberose, peony and orange blossom
Base notes: patchouli, cedar, vanilla, sandalwood, cardamom, and Guiac wood
Bond No9 Chinatown is characterized as an Oriental Floral. I smell honeyed flowers, and I smell spicy woods, but the reality is that it’s quite hard to pick out individual notes in this beauty. I have to share the review from Luca Turin & Tania Sanchez’s definitive perfume encyclopedia, Perfumes: The Guide, because it’s so wonderful. If you don’t have this book and you are into perfume, get it! Even though I have read it cover to cover, I still love to use it for reference. *Perfume nerd alert* I even have it in e-version on my phone so I can reference it whenever, wherever. The quote:
“Composed by the young Aurelien Guichard (son of the great Jean of Roure, now Givaudan), it is one of those fragrances that smells so immediately, compellingly, irresistibly great that the only sane response is love at first sniff. Chinatown is at once oddly familiar and very surprising, as if the lyrics in a favorite love song had been rearranged to make a new poem, just as affecting but unplanned by the original author. On the one hand, Chinatown harks back to classic, haughty green chypres like Cabochard, Givenchy III, and the first Scherrer. On the other hand, it has an odd, almost medicinal note reminiscent of the mouthwatering dried-fruit smell of Prunol, a base original composed by Edmond Roudnitska for the defunct firm of De Laire. The combination strikes a precarious but totally convincing balance between remoteness and affability that suggests a personality at once full of charm and dangerous to know. Some people find it too sweet. To my nose it smells liked a corner of a small French grocery in summer, in the exact spot where the smell of floor wax meets that of ripe peaches. A treasure in a beautiful bottle.”
I agree with the “oddly familiar and very surprising” assessment. I keep thinking it reminds me of something (Opium? Kenzo L’Elephant?) but I think that’s the cardamon or the patchouli. Because then I sniff my wrist again and think noooo it’s so floral is that Fracas I smell? Well no, because to my nose Fracas is cool and almost metallic and Chinatown is warm and peachy. And peppery. Is there incense in there? Maybe…maybe that is the woodsy notes one might smell in a Buddhist temple. On one hand it’s warm, peppery and spicy, and on the other, it’s calming and almost meditative, like I’m standing under a peach blossom tree, or on a cedar deck after the rain, with peach blossoms falling around me while I have a cup of chai tea.
My nose picks up stuff that is not mentioned anywhere but is likely a amalgam of notes: gingerbread, smoke, bubblegum, with a creamy coconut note that almost reminds me of the ghost of the 80s monster Giorgio Beverly Hills. But in a good way. This perfume works all year round, but I particularly love it in cool weather. The base notes sing, and make the flowers wrap themselves around me like a warm scarf. It’s unabashedly sexy and the spicy notes make this floral perfectly suitable for boys and girls.
Bond No9 New York perfumes are sold at perfume counters in luxury boutiques and department stores, as well as on their website. Chinatown is $220 USD for a 50ml bottle, and $310 USD for a 100ml.