Saturday, March 19, 2016

The Beginning: Bond No. 9 Chinatown

Chinatown by Bond No. 9 was the perfume that  catapulted me into the world of fragrance obsession about ten years ago. I had always loved scent but one day I somehow stumbled onto the fragrance discussion group on Makeup Alley. Everyone was talking about this new scent, Chinatown, which had been released by a niche company I had never heard of called Bond No. 9. The expressive passionate language that this fragrance provoked as people tried to explain its allure had me intrigued. From here I discovered perfume blogs and in those days there were few. The authority was NowSmellThis, back when it moored at blogharbor. At that time you could still buy decants on ebay and I quickly ordered a five ml sample. I can still remember the revelation of that first spray. 

I have lived between Singapore and Texas for the past twelve years, and Chinatown, the scent, is a very apt representation of a stroll through Singapore's Chinatown.  I don't claim to have synesthesia but when I first smell Chinatown I see pink and gold. It starts off with a soft candy cloud of peach. Before the sweetness of the peach can envelop and overpower, bergamot and something like Chinese five spice powder temper the sweetness and give it a tart and spicy tang. The white flowers begin to unfold, the gardenia and tuberose playing a gentle sweet symphony in the background as the peony shines through. Happily for me, peony takes a dominant role over the white florals.  There is a lot of development in the first hour of wearing. Initially it is light and bright but then the woods and patchouli add a a darker aspect with a very Asian character.  It is a true floriental. There are brief moments when  an occasional little funkiness will enter the picture; I can't tell you what note is responsible for that! Some have described this as a wax candle smell but for me it just adds to the Chinatown backstreet encounter; the good smells mingle with the occasional more pungent odor.

This perfume never goes into white flower territory as its notes might suggest; Chinatown never veers too far from her Asian roots. I find it exotic and evocative of Sunday meanders through the local Chinese market. There are stalls selling fruits housed next to a hawker stall with spicy Chinese dishes. You pass the foot reflexology and massage shop, and smells of floral massage oils emanate from behind the curtain. Passing the Chinese temple you smell the joss sticks burning in the background. The next stall sells beautiful Chinese  lacquer chests and when you open the doors a mysterious smell of old wood, spice packets, tea bags and foreign treasures speaks of its past history.
When I bought my bottle of Chinatown  years ago I loved it but thought it was too big for everyday use; it was something I would only wear on a big night out. Now, though, my tastes have changed and I find it wearable most any time. Chinatown was my gateway perfume to the perfume world. I had always loved scent, but it was the first perfume that told a story; you started one place and ended up somewhere else. It literally took me on a journey, a scented journey,  and this was a revelation.

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