In Perfumes: The Guide (2018), famous noses Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez introduce a thought provoking analogy: if perfumes were historically poetry, today they are blogs. Embedded in this comparison is the idea of decay, thanks to the mass production of the practice. Just think of celebrity perfumes as the all-time low point, that moment at which Christina Aguilera really thought she needed to put her genie in a bottle for teenagers around the world.
Turin and Sanchez also say that despite the tragedy that has befallen the art of perfumery globally, art perfume is here to stay – that is, the poetic, small-batch stuff. Scentido, a luxury perfume shop in Khan Market, would like to underscore that belief. In the small shop (but not small for Khan standards) stands a strong-built man, ready to engage you with his wealth of knowledge. His shoes are brightly polished, he wears a suit, and an all around him are the trappings of regal décor – not decayed but corporatized, replenished, packaged for the new world.
The walls are a teal blue; gold metal shelves hold Scentido’s luxurious collection. Most brands, for lay people like me, require an introduction. Thankfully, the suited strong man is not only patient but loves questions. He guides me slowly through the collection – which currently houses about a dozen brands – and gives me the backstory to each. “This one is made by a famous nose in Paris…. This one is has a deep vetiver note.” This is not a place where you will find Tom Fords and Chloe, I quickly learn. They are replaced by Roja, Ormonde Jande and will soon include Dyptique. Yue!
Sometimes, I’m so amazed by the bottles that contain the fragrance – in Roja’s case they look like crazy disco potions – that I can’t even get to what’s inside them. This is a small shop where faraway scents are collected, ‘settled’ in fancy glass jars, and sold to people with discerning noses. But even if you, like me, don’t have a discerning nose when you walk in, you are hit by the plain realisation that most perfumes we use are diluted to the point where the good stuff – the precious oils and scents – are next to nothing.
What catches you immediately, at Scentido, whether you like a fragrance or not is the strength of the perfume. Concentrated and deep, it’s like comparing a Botanist-and-tonic cocktail to a Blue Riband popsicle. This kind of concentration makes it so that you don’t have to dab perfume on the wrists like we’re accustomed to doing: you spray a pulse anywhere on your body, and passersby will believe you’re a human of quality.
I’m impressed with the niche, focused goal of Scentido and happy with their decision to go really boutique. What I wished for is a deeper exploration into a local, indigenous perfume culture. Scentido is perfectly Eurocentric – if there’s anything in there that you can really turn your nose up at in there, it’s that.
Getting there: Scentido, Khan Market, perfumes begin at around Rs 10,000.
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