(image Alan Ginsberg reading Howl in Washington Square Park, 1966)
Perfumer Laurence le Guernec
I find it hard to get excited testing a new Bond no 9 perfume since I know it’s going to be a perfume in a star bottle with a New York city name. With the exception of the giveaway names, such as Chelsea Flowers (a floral), New York Musk (a musc), or New York Amber (an amber) the name and the perfume have no relation whatsoever. Chinatown is a beautiful contemporary take on a classic French genre of perfume. Nuits de Noho is a misguided derivation of Angel. Little Italy smells like diluted orange cleanser/solvent. So Washington Square, where I lived in the 1980s and never saw a rose outside of a perfume shop, smells like bergamot, tarragon and rose.
The ridiculous marketing conceit of the perfume line aside, Washington Square is one of the more successful in the Bond line. In reverse chronological sequence, Washington Square winds up a musk, woody rose. On its way to this soft, sweet yet paradoxically loud finale, Washington Square shows off a brisker, stronger and more aggressive rose in the middle notes. The topnotes are in fact the most interesting part of the perfume, with a brassy bergamot topnote surrounded by a sharp, cool green touch from tarragon and geranium. Where you might expect the astringent green top notes to lead into a fairly sharp rose, and despite a touted leather note, the rose itself smells sweet.
I imagine a lot of people would enjoy the basenotes of this perfume, but for me the soft landing into the marshmallowy basenotes (Is it amber? patchouli? musk?) is a letdown.
Still, high marks for a long-lasting perfume that shows a deliberate progression.