This Fragrance Reminds Me of Someone I Don't Like, But It Was Just Too Good to Not Buy

Sometimes, a sale is more than a sale. It's a sign.
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Samantha
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Sometimes, a sale is more than a sale. It's a sign.

I wish I was the kind of girl who could go buy a fragrance and just have it work on my skin, but I learned the hard way a few years ago that an initial spritz you think you love can result in a migraine days later. Dior Hypnotic Poison was my rude awakening. I loved it and didn't think twice before purchasing a bottle because it met every sort of criteria I'd ever had for a scent: it's a sweet, spicy vanilla, which is a foolproof concoction as far as I'm concerned. 

Except it wasn't. It took a few days for me to realize something happened as it settled in on my skin, and that something resulted in some of the worst headaches I'd ever had. I was devastated. I promptly returned my bottle to Sephora with a sigh (and new appreciation for their ever-forgiving return policy), determined to test-run every fragrance before ever getting my hopes up again.

When I wandered into the Nordstrom Bond No. 9 booth over the holidays — shout out to Mall of America for being the most overwhelming place ever — an intriguing spritz of New Haarlem wasn't enough to convince me to grab an impulse bottle, but it did come close. Despite being happy with my go-to bottle of Serge Lutens Un Bois Vanille, I'm always on the hunt for a new grown-up gourmand, something with a little kick to it. So when the sales rep sprayed my wrist (and incidentally some of my cardigan) with this oriental, woody fragrance, I was seriously considering tossing my test-run rule out the window and just going for it. 

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The first whiff was so interesting, albeit a bit more than I'm used to (this is coming from a girl whose signature fragrance for years was Comptoir Sud Pacifique's Vanille Extreme — possibly the most cloyingly sweet vanilla ever). I hemmed and hawed, ultimately settling on the fact that Toronto doesn't have a Nordstrom to return my potentially unsuccessful impulse purchase to.

New Haarlem reminded me of something I couldn't quite place. I mean, I loved the scent as far as I could tell, but something about it was unsettling. It was only later that I realized it was reminding me of the overwhelming cloud of spicy perfume a particularly salty character in my life carried around. I was angry the one thing I came across that I found so intriguing could be ruined because it vaguely reminded me of someone I wasn't a huge fan of. 

Defeated, I decided New Haarlem was something I would simply never be able to wear.

Days went by, and despite the fact that I'd washed off the initial spray from the Bond No. 9 counter, the scent lingered in the sleeve of my cardigan. It gnawed at me. I wanted to conquer this weird block I had created between me being able to enjoy this fragrance for what it was — an awesome perfume — instead of associating it with someone I disliked. It was just such a unique, bold scent I didn't want to miss out on.

There's a buttery sweetness to New Haarlem, but in this really heavy, carnal way. Like, you know when a dude smells amazing, and you just keep wanting to take that scent in? It was like that, but with a heady vanilla. It was addictive.

A week or so after my return home, I was wandering through The Bay on Queen Street and took a walk by the Bond No. 9 counter. Signs alerted me to a totally unexpected sale: 60% off. This sale made the difference between "Ehhh, maybe I'll buy a bottle one day" to "Holy $h!t, I think I can make this work." I mean, 50ml was still a bit pricey at about $90 after tax, but damn, I couldn't say no (and deeply regret not snatching up the bottle of Riverside Drive while I was at it). I decided if ever there was a sign to bite the bullet and buy this damn perfume, this was it.

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The staying power of just one spray of New Haarlem is incredible. I'd say sillage, for me, is at least eight or nine hours. I spray this on at 6 a.m. and can still smell it on my train ride home from work at 5 p.m. I absolutely love it. 

I think great sillage is a big part of Bond No. 9 perfumes. I've never come across a scent that really sticks as much as a Bond No. 9 one. It's definitely not a fragrance you're going to feel swindled by — staying an hour and fluttering away, taking your hard earned cash with it. Bond No. 9 sticks around; with one spray, you're covered. And I mean only one spray. When I first started wearing this I was seriously concerned with how offensively strong it could come off to someone who found the scent less than ideal. I could totally see it coming off as a bit much, and sort of had to become confident in wearing it. It's big, loud, and unapologetic. Any more than a spritz of this and you'll be overwhelmed. 

Opening up with lavender and bergamot, New Haarlem settles in with notes of coffee and cedar, all on a base of amber, vanilla, tonka bean and patchouli. It's a lot, but I am totally obsessed. I couldn't be happier with my purchase, and the fact that I was able to overcome limitations brought on by negative associations makes it all that much better. 

  • Do you have a fragrance that reminds you of someone you don't like? Would you ever wear it?
  • Have you ever purchased a perfume only to find it mixed horribly with your body chemistry?
  • Have you ever snatched up a beauty buy on sale you otherwise would never have shelled out for, and ended up being super happy with it?