May 22 2011
I keep almost-empty fragrance bottles in the same way that other people keep photo albums – as a reminder of past eras, people and places. Barney’s Route du Thé ($65) has particular resonance for me. It’s the fragrance that I wore in the 1990s when I worked as the fashion editor of a national newspaper.
I was, with hindsight, its worst fashion editor ever. My real talent was for shopping, which I much preferred to reporting po-faced and full of self-importance from the front line of the fashion shows. Thus, in New York one season, when I should have been hunting down the supermodel rumoured to be having an affair with a well-known rock star, I was in fact in Barneys on the trail of a bottle of Route du Thé.
It was the original and most perfect example of a cult fragrance, since wearing it meant that you had been in NY recently, shopped in Barneys (it wasn’t available anywhere else) and knew an olfactory trailblazer when you saw one. Route du Thé was a seminal fragrance in many ways: one of the earliest unisex fragrances, a precursor to the exclusive boutique-only scent and one of the first fragrances (if not the first) to be inspired by tea.
On a recent trip to New York, I decided that the time could be right to revisit my old favourite, since tea fragrances are now back in fashion. (Jo Malone recently introduced five new limited-edition Tea Fragrance Blends, £34, 30ml, each based on a different kind of tea.)
One spritz of Route du Thé (3.4oz eau de toilette, $65) and I remembered all the reasons I was drawn to it in the first place. It’s a crisp but unusual citrus – sharp as a set of Henckels knives with as much fizz as a sherbet bomb – and easily in my top five scents for summer. How, I wondered, could I have ignored it for so long?
For me it is the scent of New York, of drinking vodka gimlets in dimly-lit lobby bars and of partying alongside Calvin and Kelly Klein. And while I couldn’t tell you what was on the catwalks in New York that particular season, I do remember what I bought...