Chinatown by Bond No. 9

I’ve been holding back on Chinatown because I don’t know how to capture it. Unlike any of the other perfumes I’ve reviewed, I find it really hard to separate the components. Artistically it’s more like a color (a muted but trendy secondary color) than a perfume in that sense.

Chinatown could attach itself to any season. It smells muggy, musty, and foodlike in the summer, but it could smell autumnal in the fall, like dried leaves. It’s heavy and enveloping, so that would work for the winter, and it’s definitely fruity enough for the spring.

The one component I can definitely attribute to it is dry. Chinatown smells like every kind of fruit that could be found in a jam or a pack of Welch’s fruit snacks. The most notable ones are a heavy peach, which means I can liken it faintly to Badgley Mischka, and grape juice. It also smells a bit like potpourri. There’s amber in here, which is clear from the top notes to the bottom. Although everything I said would lead you to believe otherwise, Chinatown is a very sweet perfume too. It’s so abstract that I barely feel justified saying as much as I did about the notes, but Now Smell This in its very compelling and very different review, lists the notes as peach blossom, bergamot, peony, gardenia, tuberose, orange blossom, patchouli, cardamom, vanilla, cedar, guaiac wood, and sandalwood.

I wouldn’t say Chinatown changes that much throughout. It lasts an indefinite amount of time. One time I put it on I swore it wore off in ten minutes. Another time I smelled it strongly on my gym clothes a week after wearing it.

I imagine, although I have no way of proving this, that Chinatown smells very different to different people. Hopefully to everyone else it’s as devoid of the tired floral and aquatic notes as it is to me. To me it smells almost natural, although what it did was dessicate everything found in nature and make it into a loud, proud, and unapologetically avant-garde eau de parfum.

Chinatown is meant to be a loose interpretation of Canal Street in New York City, a place that has the same bustling lack of organization as the perfume. This is Bond No. 9s parallel to Kandinsky. And such a project will inevitably turn into either a masterpiece or a disaster. There is no middle ground.

It’s a masterpiece.

Perfumer: Aurelien Guichard
Price Range: Very Expensive
Recommended Occasion: Not around stuffy people
Release Year: 2005
My Rating: 9

This entry was posted in Amber, Bergamot, Dry, Fruity, Grape, Peach, Sandalwood, Woody and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Chinatown by Bond No. 9

  1. Ines says:

    It really is a masterpiece. :)
    I never reviewed because I just can’t wrap my mind around it. I like reading other people’s thoughts though and seeing what do they come up with but I just let myself enjoy it and even when I force myself to look for notes, I can’t. It won’t let me. :)

  2. formaggio says:

    The perfumer took the commission seriously. Very much a Chinatown smell. I get the flower incense, tea, and bakery smells, but beyond that I’d have to spend time in a Chinatown again. Execution of ideas is something we may expect perfumers to be able to do routinely. I’m not aware of many examples that, like Chinatown, don’t just reference an idea, but interpret its world.

  3. formaggio says:

    Yes. With the understanding that perfumes are abstractions, and sometimes abstract in the sense that they smell like nothing other than themselves, Chinatown is wonderfully representative and evocative of its name.

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