This past Sunday we had yet another wonderful perfumista event in NYC - the main attraction was the second Creed Master Class presented by Roberto Ferreira at Saks Fifth Avenue for Sniffapalooza. One of the best parts was the review of Creed's history as explained through his offering us direct sampling of each one of their important signature scents, from the initial 1781 Royal English Leather through to the newest Virgin Island Water. Roberto was so kind as to acknowledge that he was intrigued by my question on leather scent last time and had set out to research answers as to the origin of the fragrance element known as "leather" and how it came to be devised. The tanning of leather is one of the most ancient of technologies, smelly and unpleasant materials are used, so after tanning and preparation, leather is further treated by being soaked, rubbed in oils and smoked, and thereby infused with scents. Russians realized that new leather boots worn walking in the birch forests became weatherproof and fragrant with a very pleasant characteristic odor and began to use birch smoke for tanning and infusion with birch essence and tar to increase suppleness and fragrance. Birch from Russian forests is considered to be the most aromatic and Creed uses it to treat leather by wrapping it tightly several times around the wood, infusing it with its sweet and balsamic scent, which is then capturing by a steam distillation process.
Interesting that leather and tobacco became the first scents to be commercially successful in Western perfumery. Creed's Cuir de Russie Private Collection (1854) and Royal English Leather (1781) are still being made exactly the same way, with the same formulation. Their strength and aroma gives a direct experience of the rich sensual world of the past. There was much more (on ambergris in particular) but I will save it for another post. Saks has the most complete collection of Creed fragrances available in NYC.
Then we went to New London Pharmacy on Eighth Avenue between 21st and 22nd Streets. They have a big selection, as much if not more, in the way of niche fragrance and beauty products as many department stores. There was the added benefit (for me) of providing lots of testers on a self serve basis. It is a no pressure environment, without any hovering, which I find lets me really think and experience without distraction and so be able to concentrate. Hilde Soliani presented her new niche fragrances based on what she imagined certain flowers with no scent, such as the tulip and daisy, would be like if they were fragrant. La Mia Daisy had a sheer, green mixed floral top and body with woody-amber bottom notes, like a very transparent carnation, very summery and casual. New London is open seven days a week, and late evenings on the weeknights, thank heavens. We all had lunch together in Chelsea; partook of more samples from Floris and Get Glow (hair products) and then those left standing headed over to NYU for a special screening of a film by Sara Rashkin, in which the tribe of Sniffapalooza made an appearance...unfortunately I missed it (perfume overdose!)
The two Karens graciously made sure we were all taken care of; organizing everything for maximum enjoyment.
Here's a detailed informative article on Russian leather boots - maybe more than you can take in all at once, though it really may answer to footwear interests as well as the perfume addiction research aspects...noting that the really special Russian leather was soaked in kvass.
Birch itself has many virtues, here is an article on some of its practical and fragrant uses over time...