Blog post by Gwen

J. Crew No. 57 – warm and spicy and woody

Photo: perfumeniche

On October 20, 1942, art collector, bohemian and socialite Peggy Guggenheim opened ‘’The Art of This Century’ gallery on the top floor of 30 West Fifty-seventh Street in NYC.  The gallery was an instant success and quickly became a success and soon became a meeting place for artists, art critics and collectors and played a crucial role in launching the careers of Abstract Expressionist artists like Jackson Pollack.

Riding on this success, Guggenheim decided to have a show featuring only modern female artists, and so the Exhibition by 31 Women opened on January 5, 1943. Imagine the scene at the gallery that night: artists, left-wing radicals, and bohemians rubbing shoulders with New York’s upper crust among works by like Frida Kahlo, Kay Sage, Hedda Sterne and Dorothea Tanning (who later ran off with Guggenheim’s husband, Max Ernst) displayed from the curved oak walls of the gallery. The smell of whiskey cocktails mingled with the scent of women’s perfumes, men’s colognes and the frisson of excitement in the air when people know they are experiencing something memorable.

Hailed by the press as the party of the decade, the Exhibition by 31 Women opening party inspired two scents from New York City-based niche perfumer Arquiste for clothing line J. Crew No, 31 and J. Crew No. 57 and now I’m wearing them.

The J. Crew website says: ‘Don't think of Carlos Huber, an architect specializing in historic preservation and the man behind Arquiste fragrances, as a perfumer—he's more like a storyteller. Inspired by lightning-rod moments in history, his aromatic creations call to mind (and nose) a specific time and place. These two scents (created exclusively for J. Crew) were inspired by Exhibition by 31 Women, the first all-female modern art show in the United States, curated by Peggy Guggenheim in 1943.’

Let’s talk about No. 57, which was inspired by the aromatic cocktails and curved oak walls of the gallery. It opens with a mouth-watering note of warm, deep whiskey, Ms. Guggenheims’ favourite tipple, that smells of sweet hay, honey and oak barrels. A note of cinnamon adds warmth and spiciness to the whiskey note, making it sensuous and alluring. I get whiffs of oakwood and cedarwood that give No. 57 a clean, sophisticated woodiness. Labdanum here is musky, warm and animalic and gives the impression of supple, worn leather. Its amber aspect links to a soft, creamy note of vanilla, making No. 57 a perfect mix.

The drydown is warm, woody and refined. This is the smell of being in a library – oak walls warmed by sunlight, leather wing chairs, and a drink on a side table. I want to cozy up in that chair.

Check out J. Crew No. 57 in our Shop.