You smell — like FLAMING ROCK!

Yesterday I set foot in Scottsdale Fashion Square for the first time in about a year and a half. I had free-product certificates to be redeemed at Aveda (fragrance spray) and Sephora (shave cream), and I’ve been on the hunt for workout shorts that aren’t basketball-length and baggy, so I thought the Euro-cuts of H&M might proffer an option or two.


Welcome to Barneys in Scottsdale.

We parked under Barneys, and when the elevator doors opened, I was amazed by how desolate the store was. Remember the eerie-looking pre-Hurricane Sandy photos of evacuated places like Grand Central Station, suddenly stripped of the bustle and humanity you’d expect to see? Barney’s was the retail equivalent of that, nearly devoid of both customers and sales associates to assist them. (If I had to estimate the number of employees in the cosmetics/fragrances department of Macy’s in the same mall, I’d conservatively guess 20–25. At Barney’s, I remember seeing three.)

Which is a shame, because Barneys carries some chic, unusual lines that would make great splurge gifts … say, if one were to treat oneself to a new fragrance as a present for an upcoming birthday.

  • Frédéric Malle’s offeriFredericMalle_GeraniumPourMonsieurngs are unique not just in scents but in setups, which include giant plastic spray bottles (“perfume guns”) and rubber incense. I love the Geranium Pour Monsieur EDT that I received as a birthday gift two years ago; it’s one of my go-tos.
  • D1 and D2 and I sniffed our way through Nasomatto, too. My favorite was Black Afgano (a “strong smoke and incense fragrance”), while Meathead veered toward Pardon (aoud, chocolate, sandalwood).
  • One of my clients just did a quick-hit print profile of Byredo and its creator, so I was curious to take a whiff of Bullion. And how could you not want to sample something called Mister Marvelous — so in the chance that someone asks, “What is that you’re wearing?” you could respond, “Why, Mister Marvelous.”

Plus Tom Ford Sahara Noir, and Molton Brown Black Pepper, and even Gendarme Grabazzi, which made me laugh and shake my head because Gendarme products used to be sold in the International Male catalog, which … isn’t Barneys, shall we say.

And then — cue the lights from heaven and chorus of angels! — I stumbled across the Comme des Garçons counter.

I love fragrances that have interesting scents and even more interesting “back stories.” (Which is how I spent an entire afternoon at Christopher Brosius’ store in Brooklyn, CB I Hate Perfume. Between scents like Mr. Hulot’s Holiday and the stories that inspired them, I was in heaven.)

Comme des Garçons, meanwhile, created 888 in an attempt to translate the smell of gold into a perfume.* Intriguing, yes? And when I visited the Flight 001 store in San Francisco I discovered CdG’s series of five incense-based fragrances, each of which was devoted to one of the main spiritual teachings in the world. My memento for the trip ended up being Ouarzazate, named after the Moroccan city and representing Islam; the others in the series are Jaisalmer (Hinduism), Avignon (Catholicism), Zagorsk (Orthodox Christianity) and Kyoto (Buddhism and Shintoism).

* Important: translate (in an “inspired-by” sort of way), not re-create.

CommedesGarcons_Odeur53Back when I worked at the Tribune and the store Passage was open in central Phoenix, I found probably the most unique CdG scent of all: Odeur 53, billed as an “abstract anti-perfume” that cloned the odors of nonorganic items. So instead of a standard fragrance profile, with top notes of A/B/C, middle notes of L/M/N and base notes of X/Y/Z, here’s how CdG describes Odeur 53:

  • “The freshness of oxygen”
  • “Nail polish”
  • “Flash of metal”
  • “Cellulosic smell”
  • “Pure air of the high mountains”
  • “Sand dunes”
  • “Fire energy”
  • “Ultimate fusion”
  • “Wash drying in the wind”
  • “Burnt rubber”
  • “Mineral intensity of carbon”
  • “Flaming rock”

Many of these phrases would make excellent band names, BTW. Also, there already is a, which sells rock-based oil lamps. Apparently they are so popular there are imitators, since much of the website is dedicated to links explaining the inferiority of those competitors (and to waiving rights to sue if something goes wrong — and with a name like Flaming Rock, who’d think that could ever happen?) The Burnt Rubber website, meanwhile, is a “unique motorsports experience” but it looks like I can get right on — still free and clear! — while someone’s already snapped up the domain names and (really?) (Actually, that should be the name of the “hottest new workout trend — Ultimate Fusion!” It would involve three components: [1] dancing; [2] candy snacks like the Sharkies that I once purchased in hopes that they could quell my cravings for the gummi bears I encountered in the grocery store candy aisle; and [3], as the inevitable lawsuits reveal, methamphetamine-based “dietary supplement” pills.)

But I digress: Odeur 53 is — and I mean this lovingly — the oddest fragrance I have ever worn. Mr. Brooks, who was equal parts bemused and amused by my affinity for it, gifted me with a travel size one year as a thank-you gift, then started sneaking into my room while I was out to spritz himself with it, too. (I was distraught when, months later on a trip, the seal on the bottle gave way and the contents evaporated into my luggage.) And I’m not the only one drawn to its unusual nature: The online comments range from “I get that after-a-violent-thunderstorm feel” to notes of “crumpled-up tinfoil” and “the fragrance equivalent of living near high-tension power lines.” (Two of those commenters meant their words positively. It might be hard to discern that.)

So, my new gift to myself was a big-ass bottle, because the only size available is 6.8 ounces. Barring another cap-related mishap, I should be able to enjoy the Odeur Experience for several years.

WHAT SAM WORE: 6-10-13
shirt061013 pants061013 shoes091011
The shirt: Knit Jonny-collar shirt,
from the Armani Exchange outlet store in Palm Springs .
The shorts: Skinny chinos, on clearance at
(Thanks, Tammy!)
The shoes: All-Star sneakers by John Varvatos for Converse,
from Nordstrom Rack in Scottsdale.

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