It's Andy Warhol's birthday today (he would have been 80 this year), and Bond no. 9 is marking the occasion with the launch of the third fragrance in their Andy Warhol series, Lexington Avenue (prior entries: Silver Factory and Union Square).
The Lexington Avenue bottle might be my favorite of this series so far. It's decorated with shoes because Warhol drew shoes, lots of them, early in his career; for a time in the 1950s he was on retainer as an illustrator for the I. Miller Shoe Company. The name of the fragrance comes from an apartment at 242 Lexington Avenue in Murray Hill that Warhol sublet from a friend in 1953.
How the Lexington Avenue juice resonates with the shoes (or with Warhol, although he reportedly loved perfume and was buried with a bottle of Estee Lauder Beautiful) is lost on me, but then, I'm pretty dense: you'd pretty much have to make it smell like leather to remind me of shoes. In place of leather, we've got a floral woody chypre with a rather unusual list of notes: blue cypress, fennel, cardamom, pink peony, iris, crème brûlée, pimento berry, patchouli and sandalwood.
An unusual list of notes doesn't always make for an unusual (or even interesting) fragrance, but this one, by perfumer Claude Dir, qualifies. The opening is citrus over spiced sheer fruits and wood with licorice. It's just slightly sweaty on my skin, but not in an unpleasant way — for a brief time, it reminded me of Annick Goutal's Eau du Sud, although they don't really have anything in common. On paper, the opening gradually softens into creamy vanilla notes, but on skin, the floral notes and crème brûlée seem to arrive all at once with no warning, and the shift is a little disorienting: suddenly you're in gourmand territory, and what started as a unisex-possibly-leaning-towards-masculine takes on a more conventional feminine character. That doesn't last either, though, and eventually, Lexington Avenue shifts into a Chinatown-like woody patchouli, very smooth and clean and middling dark, with light resinous accents.
It's rather fun to wear, and has plenty of personality. Other than the brief time when the crème brûlée is ascendant, I'd call it a unisex, but I believe Bond is marketing it to women (the press release, at any rate, mentions that it links "two of the most ultra-feminine commodities a woman can own: fragrance and footwear"). As with many modern chypres, I don't find it very chypre-ish — I'd have pegged it as a gourmand woods, although it is neither overly foody nor particularly sweet.
It's very much worth a try, but for myself, I still haven't decided if I actually like Lexington Avenue. I thought Chinatown was beautifully done, but it just isn't me, and Lexington Avenue, while not a Chinatown dupe, might be in the same category. I should note that Annie over at Blogdorf Goodman, who is a Chinatown fan, says that Lexington Avenue is even better. For my part, I'll give Lexington Avenue another try come fall, but for now, Silver Factory remains my favorite fragrance from Bond no. 9.
Bond no. 9 Andy Warhol Lexington Avenue is available in 50 ($135) and 100 ml ($195) Eau de Parfum. It does not launch officially until September, but you can find it now at Beautycafe. If you've got $575 to spare, you might want to wait for the limited edition with the 4 shoe charms on a sterling silver chain (removable and wearable; bottle shown top right) designed by Robert Lee Morris. If you can wait even longer, in time for Christmas there will be a set of three 50 ml bottles in different colors (the mock-up I saw had the shoe design on white, hot pink and lavender backgrounds) inside a large purple fiberglass shoe for around $1100.
An aside: if you love the shoes but not the perfume, the Warhol store has Andy Warhol shoe-print posters, stickers, jigsaw puzzles and mouse pads. Also, a really wonderful "ANDY FOR PRES" watch, in case you're not happy with any of the 2008 candidates (please note that this was NOT an invitation to discuss politics in the comments! you'll get deleted if you say so much as a word!).
Note: all images via Bond no. 9.