5 Favorite “In-Person” Fragrance Moments of 2021

Behind the scenes at Olfactory Art Keller, October 2021

I spent more fragrance-related time online in 2020-2021, attending lectures about perfume or doing my own talking about perfume, than I ever could have predicted. As entertaining or edifying as those online events turned out to be, I really wished I could see fellow scent-obsessives offscreen again.

Fortunately, thanks to the vaccine and some resourceful planning, those opportunities started to emerge. Here, then, are five reminiscences of face-to-face encounters with fragrance comrades over the past year.

Régime des Fleurs x Batsheva display in WSP

In April, just a few days after I received my vaccine shot, I ventured into Manhattan and headed towards the center of Washington Square Park. Alia Raza of Régime des Fleurs and Batsheva Hay of the Batsheva fashion line were going to be there, hosting a small outdoors event, which seemed like the perfect thing to do on a spring afternoon.

Alia and Batsheva and their assistants had decorated a table with fresh flowers, and they passed around plastic cups of wine for us to sip as we sniffed the Régime des Fleurs x Batsheva perfume and chatted. I ended up purchasing a fabric facial mask—finally, a little bit of Batsheva for my wardrobe! And the people-watching, both at this mini-event and in the park around us, was just what I needed.

Aedes de Venustas

I was downtown again in mid-May and I made my way eastward to Aedes de Venustas, the venerable (yet timeless) grand dame of niche perfumery in New York City.

Not only was I able to reacquaint myself with Aedes’s luxuriously appointed interior and smell a dozen or more perfumes I’d never tried before, but I had timed my visit perfectly for a long chat with Karl, one of Aedes’s founders. Karl has been one of the many, many “teachers” in my scent-education, and I’ll always be grateful to him, Robert, and the space they’ve created in Aedes. I’d really missed it in 2020.

Olfactory Art Keller

In October I attended an opening at Olfactory Art Keller, a gallery located in Manhattan’s Chinatown neighborhood. It wasn’t my first visit—I’d been there for two earlier shows, “Perfumers Gone Wild” and Josely Carvalho’s “Suspensio: An Interruption in time.” However, this was the first opening reception I’d attended at Olfactory Art Keller, or anywhere else, in a very long time.

I felt like I’d simultaneously traveled back in time and out of time: meeting more internet-only acquaintances and friends in person (S!!!), having conversations with olfactory artists who had traveled long distances to attend the party, celebrating a new-ish space dedicated entirely to creative projects linked with the sense of smell.

My set-up of No. 5 classics and kitsch at the Brooklyn Brainery

I’ve given my share of online talks over the past year-plus, thanks to several excellent hosts, but I never stopped wishing it were also possible to do an onsite class.

Just a few weeks ago, I was able to give my Chanel No. 5 “scentennial” presentation at the Brooklyn Brainery and I was so happy to walk back into that room and be able to smell a few things along with a deeply engaged group of attendees. I even met two internet-friends in person for the first time that night. (Shout-out, Z and T!)

To close, I’m thinking back to a dinner date with my friend J. that must have taken place back in June, when we were both celebrating our birthdays. We hadn’t seen each other since 2019. We met outside my workplace and walked to a favorite restaurant. We talked about…well, everything, over our negronis and pizzas.

J. and I met through fragrance-blogging and we’ve known each other for more than a decade now, in a certain way that only longtime scent-friends can know each other (although we share many other interests). Just before we ate dinner that night, J. slipped me a little bag of perfume samples from her own workplace. One of those fragrances, Obvious Une Rose, has become a staple in my scent-rotation. Every time I wear it, I think of the friends (past and present) I’ve made through fragrance and I resolve to reconnect with more of them.

Here’s hoping that 2022 will allow us to share even more moments together, whether online or “in real life.”

2 comments

  1. Love this! I was sorry I missed your Chanel Scentennial presentation. I too had some friend and family meet-ups post-vaccine and all was well. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, Ms. Jessica!

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    • I hate being back in a phase of everything getting canceled again…but I’m trying to remember that we’ve made overall progress since early 2020 in terms of vaccines, treatments, understanding of the disease, etc. sigh! Wishing you health and happiness this holiday season!!

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