For both novices and nerds like me, shopping for perfume can be an awfully frustrating retail experience. Perfume salespeople range from the desperately solicitous to the rudely dismissive, and most stores (in New York, anyway) that carry anything worth buying have simply too large a variety to sample without suffering a serious case of nose fatigue. Worst of all is the frequently unsound guidance dispensed by some salespeople: in the case of one department store associate who I asked about a certain brand, this guidance was limited to indicating which scents were “for gentlemen” and which “for ladies.”
Fortunately for fellow New York perfume junkies, there’s a remedy in MiN, an apothecary on Crosby street that stocks a diverse but tightly edited collection of fragrances, many of which are exclusive to them, and an equally discerning selection of men’s grooming products. Mindy and Chad, the owners, have a genuine interest in perfume and share their knowledge helpfully, as opposed to imperiously. Even the space itself (a bit clubby and masculine; stately ceiling height; lots of wood) is a welcome change from harshly lit department stores and cramped upscale pharmacies.
Linari, one of the lines they carry exclusively, is a relatively new line of four luxury fragrances. Eleganza Luminosa (an exceptionally pretty and balanced feminine floral) and Vista Sul Mare (a citrus-ozonic scent with a spicy floral heart and soft amber-cedar base – talk about development!) were created by Egon Oelkers, whose strong suits appear to be sophistication and reserved luxury. The more interesting Linari fragrances to my nose are the two authored by Mark Buxton, who can also do luxury but not without a deliberate twist. Hence the heady herbal cocktail of absinthe, clove and sage that lifts the blandly woody heart of Notte Bianca, or the startling cherry-raspberry accord that opens the gourmand Angelo di Fiume and manages not to smell like dessert.
All of the Linari fragrances are exceptionally complex, smell of extremely high quality ingredients and definitely have some tenaciousness on the skin, but they do seem very occasional and, for me anyway, too dressy to wear with any frequency. For something a little more rough around the edges, I turned to Frapin, the French cognac producer, which makes a line of perfumes also carried exclusively at MiN.
Admittedly the neatly trapezoidal bottles with their birch wood caps is what lured me in, but two of the scents kept me interested. Passion Boisée embodies a very old-world elegance and masculinity, with sweet spices (nutmeg, clove) to warm the citrus top notes, rum and glove leather to butch it up a bit, and oakmoss, patchouli and cedar for a super-dry chypre base. If I ever had what one could remotely call a ‘power lunch’ I would be all over this.
Finally, Terre de Sarment combines those same sweet spices (this time nutmeg and cinnamon) with grapefruit, cumin, both neroli and sweet orange blossom, a medley of resins, tobacco and vanilla. I don’t particularly like the first fifteen minutes of this scent, which is all spiced fruit, but it eventually assumes a mesmerizing oscillation between the cool, smokey incense and myrrh and the warm, ambery sweetness of the vanilla and benzoin. I wish the tobacco note were a bit earthier to give the dry down more dimension, but it’s still constantly interesting.
MiN New York is on Crosby street between Houston and Prince, in Soho. Among the other not-easy-to-find brands they carry are L’Artisan Parfumeur, Parfum d’Empire, Parfums d’Orsay, Penhaligon’s, Geo F. Trumper, CB I Hate Perfume, and Dr. Vranjes.