Perfume Review: I Love New York For All by Bond No. 9

Bond No. 9 is a New York perfume house founded in 2003 whose fragrances celebrate the city itself. As the company explains on its website,

The Bond No. 9 collection of women’s, men’s, and unisex eaux de parfum — has a dual mission: To restore artistry to perfumery, and to mark every New York neighborhood with a scent of its own. Each fragrance represents a specific downtown, midtown, or uptown locale or a city-wide sensibility.

ILNY_LOGO_BANNER_RED

Bond No. 9 has a variety of different collection lines, but the “I Love New York” (sometimes spelled elsewhere as “I Love NY”) line is intended to be a special post-9/11 homage to the whole state of New York. Released in September 2011, ten years after the horrors of that day, “I Love New York” began with three perfumes (For Him, For Her, and For All) and will soon expand to number many others fragrances. I think there may be nine in the line by now (For Marriage Equality, For Mothers, For Father’s, For Earth Day, etc.), but I’m not certain of the final total.

Sephora began to carry a few Bond No. 9 fragrances as of March 2013, so I thought this would be a good time to start exploring the line. There is enormous adoration for the big fan favorite, Chinatown, as well as for New Haarlem, but I thought I would start with the “I Love New York” collection since that is what Sephora carries. I chose “I Love New York For All” because it’s essentially a coffee scent and… well, I have a slight problem with caffeine over-consumption.

I_Love_NY_For_AllThe company describes I Love New York for All as:

velvety smooth yet sense-awakening—like a really good and fresh cup of java laden with cream. In fact, at the heart of this warmth-inducing gourmand’s delight is an infusion of coffee beans with soothing but slightly spicy cacao natural and tantalizing creamy chestnut. But those aren’t the first flavors you smell. At the outset, a gentle wake-up call: a citrus-floral-spice blend of bergamot, lily of the valley, and pepper. Top-notes usually aren’t as softspoken as these, but for sure your attention is riveted, and remains so as the coffee aroma begins percolating. The mellowness is sustained at the end with base notes of exotic, always-entrancing patchouli, animal leatherwood, hypnotic sandalwood, and, adding a rum-like kicker, vanilla.

The exact notes in the perfume (which I’ll sometimes refer to simply as, “For All“) are:

bergamot, muguet, lily of the valley, pepper, coffee beans, cacao, creamy chestnut, patchouli, vanilla, leatherwood and sandalwood.

Oddly enough, the carded manufacturer’s sample that I have also lists “full-bodied geranium,” which is not on the notes on either Bond No. 9’s website nor on Fragrantica. It is, however, most definitely part of the perfume and a big part of its opening.

I Love New York For All has a crazy, crazy start! Utterly schizophrenic and unusual — not in a good way, either. It begins all green, black and brown: heavy green geranium leaves; spicy, biting, sharp, pungent black pepper and acrid smoke; and brown woods. There is an occasional note of chestnuts, like marron glacé, which pops up somewhere in the mix, as well as vague hints of patchouli. And yes, there is a vague, fleeting impression of coffee, but it’s nothing like actual coffee. Not even remotely.

I had to look up “leatherwood” to see if it was responsible for the extremely unpleasant, medicinal note of smoke and woods. After doing some digging around, I still don’t know what it is. Wikipedia states, rather unhelpfully, that it might be one of several different kinds of plants or shrubs, possibly a tree. Whatever it is, I’m sure it’s something with a definite smoky, peppery wood aroma that, here, is similar to either cedar or cypress. Perhaps, even agarwood oud, as it’s got a heavily medicinal aspect to go along with the dark wood note.

And, yet, despite that very acrid, bitter, sharp note, there is an incredible sweetness to I Love New York For All. It’s sickly sweet, revoltingly cloying, synthetic and chemical — and it churns my stomach. The combination of it with the geranium — so green that you can almost smell the fuzz on the leaves — and with that acrid pepper and dry wood made me want to dry-heave at my desk.

The nauseating mélange softens after fifteen minutes, but only just barely. Chestnut, cardamom, vanilla and ersatz coffee impression become much more noticeable, with a definite chocolate edge to the whole green-brown mess. As time passes, the brown notes overtake the green and black ones, though the synthetic trumps all. I think it’s meant to be vanilla, and it does eventually turn into something less chemical, but for the first hour, it’s beyond painful. It’s hard to explain what that note is really and truly like, but it feels like medicine. Almost antiseptically sharp and unnatural.

I tried to find some explanation for it in reviews, someone who could tell me what the hell this painful cocktail of medicine was really all about. I didn’t have any luck. I found one review by The Scentrist who seems to have changed his mind about “ILNYFA,” now loves it, and says he is was wrong about the scent. His initial review merely states that he found it the most interesting of the original “I Love NY” trio and damns it with faint praise; his later review finds the scent much more “likable” and something he really enjoys. Obviously, his experience was very different from mine, but he does pinpoint the vanilla as being too sweet, writing:

it does a fairly masterful job of straddling the fine line between being overly feminine and butchy-masculine. Can I find fault with the vanilla? A bit, as it makes the concoction sweet, perhaps overly so in some respects. It could likely do without it, but it wouldn’t be quite the same and probably lack a broader appeal.

Having read that, I think it might be the vanilla note which is causing me so much misery, along with its manifestation in conjunction with some other, extremely discordant elements. Or, maybe, it’s the cedary woods having turned the vanilla? Whatever it is, the result is something too harshly synthetic and chemical, with medicinal undertones.

My experience was close to that of the commentator, “sebjar,” on Fragrantica who wrote:

geez all I get is medicine, bitter medicinal notes almost annoying like the medicine has gone bad kind of smell. Or almost like opening a wooden medicine cabinet where the medicine fragrance has taken over the wooden cabinet with just a hint of the wood like cedar or some other fragrant wood. Not recommended. […] I usually love cacao, chocolate notes but it’s just not working for me here. And I was really hoping it would because I’m a huge fan of gourmands but I wouldn’t call this a gourmand! Sorry!

Or to “bigjakeriz” who said:

Based on the notes I thought I would love this since I love sweet gourmand fragrances. But when I got to test this , what a shocker. Like a combination of all the notes but gone stale. Just a sickly sweet stale scent. Smells like chocolate when it turns bright and flakey with some medicine poured over it. I could not tolerate this at all.

In all fairness, however, the perfume has a number of rave reviews on Fragrantica.  A large number of people seem to have had a very, very different experience with the smell. Some called it a chocolate scent, others a coffee one. A few changed their minds completely on it, going from dislike over the peppery notes to a much greater appreciation. A handful compared it to “popcorn” (which I don’t agree with) or to cinnamon waffle cones. I did notice that the vanilla tamed after two hours and, yes, turned to something vaguely reminiscent of waffle cones, albeit very chemically artificial ones. 

I couldn’t tolerate I Love New York For All to see how it further developed. I lasted 2.5 hours before I waved the white flag and had to scrub it off. By the end of that period, the nausea was just too great. I don’t mind gourmand fragrances is done properly, but there is nothing rich, luxurious and natural about the Bond No. 9 take on things. It’s not like a Guerlain gourmand fragrance, for example. No, I Love New York For All takes sweet to a whole new and very sickly level with synthetic notes. Then, it tosses sweetness into a mix that involves acrid woods, over-done biting black pepper, cocoa and geranium (!) for a combination that is simply unbalanced in every possible way. I can’t even begin to imagine what it would be like if I actually smelled lily-of-the-valley, bergamot and muguet in that unholy mélange.

Unbearable. Simply unbearable.

DETAILS:
I Love NY For All is available on the Bond No. 9 website where it costs $105 for a 1.7 oz/50 ml bottle and $175 for a 3.5 oz/100 ml bottle. Bond also offers a limited-edition eau de parfum version of the scent with a charm necklace for $255 for 3.3 oz. There is free ground shipping within the US for all purchases, but international shipping seems crazily high at $150!! (Surely that must be a typo!) You can also find the perfume at Sephora which seems to offer accompanying products such as body lotions and a body wash. Nordstrom also carries it for the same prices, along with the limited-edition $255 eau de parfum version. Saks Fifth Avenue has it as well and seems to be the retailer with which Bond No. 9 works most closely. In Canada, you can find Bond No. 9 at The Bay where it costs CAD $120 for a small and CAD$200 for a large bottle. In the UK, Harrods seems to carry all of Bond No. 9’s “I Love NY” line except for I Love NY For All. In Russia, Bond No. 9 is carried at TSUM. In Dubai, the line is available at Paris Gallery.

21 thoughts on “Perfume Review: I Love New York For All by Bond No. 9

  1. Great minds think alike Kafka, dear! I recently got a sample of I ♥ New York for Him and I’ll discuss it in the coming edition of Monday Quick Sniffs.
    This one for all sounds terrible

  2. The flagship store is right down the street from me so I am always tempted to champion and support local business. I have to say though that I have yet to find a fragrance in their huge line that fits me. I also have a hard time justifying the price of some of their bottles.Then there is the whole business with the owner that I was reading about . . .

    • I heard about the store issue and the “lightbulbs” comment. I don’t know the details but, if true, it’s highly disturbing. I was never sure if it was the store manager or the actual owner; I generally try to stay away from drama or gossip, so I didn’t really pursue it. But, at the time, it did make me think about all the samples that I had from Bond No. 9 and the issue of reviewing. I concluded that — as a blogger — it would be akin to not reviewing a Bertrand Duchaufour perfume just because he made a fragrance with a dictator’s daughter. But — as an individual purchaser — I think it would make a very big difference indeed.

      Have you not liked any of the usual favorites Chinatown, Andy Warhol Silver Factory, or New Haarlem?

      • I was thinking the same thing! Duchaufour has made some of my absolute favorites. Ethically, it always gives me pause though. There have been many figures in perfumery, art, music, fashion, etc. with questionable affiliations (ie Chanel). I guess that the key is to be aware, but to not close oneself off completely from the objects themselves?

        As for the Bond fragrances that you named, I liked Chinatown the most, but not enough to want to own a bottle. I appreciated Andy Warhol Silver Factory, but it’s not for me. Same for New Haarlem, which I love for its coffee note but I can’t wear it well. I did like Bond’s Oud, but not any more than another Oud from another line.

        • The ethics thing is such a sticky wicket for me because where does one draw the line? How can one ever be logically consistent without being totally extreme? And, if one isn’t logically consistent, then isn’t one really just being a hypocrite? For example, is merely decrying something truly enough if one doesn’t take a greater stand? Isn’t just being aware a cop-out in the long run? I know people who won’t buy anything from Chanel or anything even remotely associated with Wallis Simpson because of the Nazi issues. I admire them for their stand and their logical consistency, and I always feel like a lesser person for not being so adamant about things. (Does any of that make sense?)

          All of that comes back to Bond No. 9 because the link that Undina posted has now left me really and truly torn as to what to do — just as a BLOGGER. 😦 It’s certainly wiped out any desire to purchase the perfumes themselves, point blank, by being one step too, too far for me.

          • I think that it’s okay to review perfumes even if the owner, perfumer, or line is ethically questionable. I would think of it as just evaluating art. If it were me, I would include the information as briefly and objectively as possible in the post if you feel comfortable addressing it, and let your readers decide whether or not that influences them to buy or not.

            I think that reviewing can be taken separately from what you do as an individual consumer. Public and private spheres.

    • Is it this Lightbulb story that’s the cause? As I wrote to BaconBiscuit, I’ve heard some vague reference to the general story but not all the details. Or is there some other reason why you won’t go near the line? I don’t think I’ve ever heard such a statement from you about ANY perfume house! Wow.

        • Woah. I had actually already heard about the racial profiling, but this is new information to me. Thanks for sharing it! I was already inclined to dislike the line (for superficial reasons, even before I read about the lightbulb incident) and now I see I have plenty of legitimate reasons not to. They sound completely petty and delusional. Maybe their bottles of mediocrity are so expensive because they have to pay their lawyers for all the petty legal battles in which they engage!

  3. Oh boy you and I both had a stinker this week! This sounds like you thought you were going to have a nice stroll down 5th ave. and then suddenly some cheap Perfume Mafia guy put a bag over your head and drove you to Elizabeth NJ but all the time kept telling you that you were in the best part of the Upper West Side.
    I have never been tempted to try Bond No.9 because I am so shallow….I hate the bottle design. I suppose I should give Chinatown a whirl.

    • Hahaha, Lanier, it was more akin to thinking I was going to be at the coffee place in Friends and ending up with a cheap mob guy putting a bag over my head, but yes, you’re dead on. As for the importance of bottles, I know many, many like you who value the look — so you’re far from alone.

      Totally OT, I thought of you last week when testing and reviewing Maison Francis Kurkdjian’s Absolue Pour Le Soir. I really think you’d like it because I know how you appreciate a little skanky naughtiness in perfumes, like your beloved Mitsouko. If you have the time, look up the review because that is one scent that I think might make you a little weak in the knees! *smooch*

      • I finally tried Mitsouko (vintage)! It was really lovely, and I could totally see the “intimate” inspiration, especially at the very beginning. I was surprised to like it as much as I did, but I always am so pleased when I liked things I didn’t expect to be very impressed by.

        • Oooooh, interesting! So you can take both skank AND serious fruity chypres! Very unexpected, Kevin. But I’m so glad you got the chance to smell the classic, in her true, legendary form!

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