When Thierry Mugler created the gourmand category of fragrance with 1992’s Angel with its signature chocolate heart it fired the imagination of others. Where else could one go with notes that smelled of food? One of the early answers was to make a coffee centered fragrance. 1996’s Thierry Mugler A*Men would be the first on the market but over the nearly twenty years since the release of A*Men there have been almost two hundred coffee inspired perfumes.
I love the smell of coffee. I start everyday with an espresso and even before I take my first sip I breathe deeply taking in the rich aroma. I think I own a virtual Starbucks worth of coffee perfumes and can serve up any style one would like. When I am playing olfactory barista for myself there is one coffee perfume which rises above them all, Bond No. 9 New Haarlem.
When Bond No. 9 released its first set of perfumes in 2003 Creative Director and Owner, Laurice Rahme’s fragrant tour of New York was an instant hit. It was so successful that many were wondering what the follow-up would be. In 2004 she would oversee what I think are two of the flagship perfumes for the brand in Wall Street and New Haarlem. For New Haarlem Ms. Rahme would collaborate again with perfumer Maurice Roucel. They had worked together on Broadway Nite and Riverside Drive in the inaugural collection. This time they would serve up the quintessential to-go cup of coffee for that New Yorker on the move.
What sets New Haarlem apart for me is that too many of the early gourmands tried to imitate A*Men’s power. That all too often turned them into cloying miasmas that made you feel as if you were one of the misbehaving children in Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. M. Roucel made one of the first gourmands with restraint. There is never a moment where the coffee smell is not apparent but the exquisite balance he achieves throughout is what makes New Haarlem special.
From the moment I spray it on the aroma of freshly-brewed coffee rises to my nose. The first movement is a green, slightly herbal, contrast. It has the effect of making the early moments a little more coffee bean than coffee drink. The green reminds me of the natural oil which covers a whole bean. The heart is where the coffee really gets brewing. Again M. Roucel makes a wonderfully balancing choice of framing the deeply redolent coffee with cedar. Those clean woody lines delineate and amplify the central note. The base is where he adds a shot of flavor to our coffee. M. Roucel uses amber, vanilla, and tonka bean to create a hazelnut accord. It is a well-chosen accompaniment as the nuttiness is tinted with a little sweet. A great patchouli recalls some of the herbal beginning as the final ingredient is added.
New Haarlem has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
As I already mentioned it is the incredible balance M. Roucel achieves which makes New Haarlem the Gold Standard for coffee perfumes. Head out and grab a bottle, to-go.
Disclosure: This review is based on a bottle I purchased.