Blog post by Gwen

Chinatown – refined and nuanced and exotic

Photo-Wikipedia - Chinatown, Manhattan, NYC 2009 - Pell St. by chensiyuan

Toronto is a great multicultural city, and growing up here, I got to know the pockets of the city where different nationalities got established – like Little Italy along St. Clair Ave. west of Oakwood, the Jewish area up around Bathurst and Lawrence and my favourite, Chinatown on Spadina Ave. around Dundas St.

As a child, my family would go to a restaurant in Chinatown for celebratory dinners. I loved the restaurant because everything was different – the hostess in her cheongsam, the calligraphy on the menu, and the rich colours and textures all seemed strange and exotic. And the food! It looked different – I never saw those baby corn on the cobs anywhere else – and it smelled rich and complex. It was like visiting a distant land while never leaving your hometown – foreign and familiar at the same time.

When I first heard about the Bond No. 9 fragrances from New York years ago, I was a bit apprehensive about the line, especially when I read on their website that “For the first time in fragrance history, a major, full-blown fragrance collection was launched as an homage to a great city." Interesting idea, I thought. But then there was this: ”Each fragrance represents a specific downtown, midtown, or uptown locale or a city-wide sensibility.” Sounded like my kind of fragrance line. So the next time I was in New York, I went to 9 Bond Street in NoHo. I sniffed, whiffed, sampled, swooned, and fell in love with Chinatown, and I wasn’t happy until I owned a bottle.

It opens with crisp, citrusy bergamot juxtaposed with tender, sweet peach – the symbol of longevity and immortality in Chinese culture. As it moves to the heart, the sweetness fades but lingers enough to temper the big sexy tuberose and seductive gardenia that come forward, so they don’t get too loud or too showy. And oh, oh, oh, how these two notes shimmer and dance together, enhanced by peony and more peach blossom, making the fragrance creamy and erotic. There’s a spiciness here, too, from cardamom that weaves through the florals, warming them up so that they hum with gentle heat. It all rests on a woody base of cedar and sandalwood, while patchouli adds earthiness, guaiac gives it a hint of smokiness, and vanilla gives it a lick of sweetness.  

The drydown is nuanced, refined and exotic. Chinatown is a pleasure to wear, and you’ll smell of faraway places without ever having to leave home.

In his book, ‘Perfumes the A-Z Guide” Luca Turin gives Chinatown five stars. I don’t always agree with Mr. Turin, so I’ve taken out a pen and put five more stars beside his in his listing for Chinatown, just as a reminder of how wonderful it is.

Check out Chinatown in our Shop.