First and foremost, there needn't be any question of bias, for let it be known, we only sell products we love, use, and stand behind. If ever we review something on this blog, it's only to offer a more robust analysis of its qualities, and to let our readers know exactly why we love it as much as we do. Of course, we'd also welcome you to try it for yourself!
Enter Neil Bardon, founder and creative director of Saint Rita Parlor. He recently sent us some of his Signature Parfum to try and, fragrance-obsessed as we are, we'd be forgiven for recklessly tearing open the very neatly packaged USPS box, dispensing with the metallic golden cap, applying to the forearm, and firmly faceplanting into the olfactory ash that introduces Signature Parfum (henceforth referred to as SP).
Proper artist that he is, Neil tends to say precious little about himself and his work, seemingly preferring his creations to stand on their own two proverbial feet. We do know that the fragrance is inspired by Neil's grandmother Rita, who is his regular muse and the namesake of SRP. She drank whiskey and water in between cigarettes while tending to her rose garden. Beyond this, one is hard pressed to find much information on SP beyond the brief description from SRP's own website, which all his retail partners seem merely to copy and paste:
Finest quality parfum. Limited unisex fragrance comprised of over 18 rare and organic essential oils. Handmade by Saint Rita Parlor in Los Angeles, California.
Notes: Whiskey, Tobacco, and Rose.
In the event that some of you are new to all this fragrance business, we'll briefly make clear that typically, when a perfumer is listing the "notes" in their fragrances, they are almost never referring to the actual ingredients that their compositions contain, but rather, they are speaking of the olfactory impressions, or accords (literally a "chord," or a combination of two or more notes) they sought to create. It is highly unlikely that Mr. Bardon simply threw some rose petals and cigarettes into a bottle of whiskey to age for a few months. Undoubtedly, the scent of such a concoction would be that of rancid whiskey and little else.
SP opens up on my skin with a slightly sweet, caramelized burnt wood and smoke accord, which at this stage is more cinders in a fireplace than hot dogs around a campfire. It's too cold and clean for the great outdoors. Thinking of the bourbon whiskey note intended by Mr. Bardon, I can certainly imagine that I'm smelling a freshly toasted stave of an American White Oak bourbon barrel.
Within a few minutes, a clean and soapy rose emerges. Let us here just interject and state that there's really no such thing as gender in the world of fragrance. Having said that, we're also creatures of culture and we understand that such associations are sometimes hard to shake. SP is intended to be fully unisex, and we'd suggest that even for those men still struggling to embrace florals, the rose note here never overcomes the wood and smoke to turn this even the slightest bit toward the "feminine" end of the unisex spectrum. If one must, imagine a spicy Persian rose hookah tobacco, replete with dark molasses and burning coals. You're now somewhere in the ballpark of SP about 10 minutes in.
The spices are warming, and remind us of Moroccan coffee with clove, cardamom, sea salt, all topped with rose water. Along with the charred wood and cigar ash, the aroma persists through the majority of the life of the fragrance, around 6-8 hours.
In its final stages, SP is a bitter Earl Grey, with notes of black tea and bergamot, which is a bitter member of the citrus family, typically found in perfume top notes. We wouldn't be prepared to assert that there actually is any bergamot in the composition at all, but the final impression is certainly one of a slightly sweet, gently charred, cup of tea.
All in all, SP lasted over 12 hours with moderate to soft projection. With many men still struggling to embrace fragrance due to its associations with elevator blow-outs and obnoxiously loud, cheap (as in poor quality), and overdosed co-workers, Saint Rita Parlor's Signature Parfum may just make believers out of a fair few of them. Not only is the aroma itself far more pleasant, natural, and interesting than the garbage being sold under tacky florescent lights in shopping malls and department stores, but SP is truly art with significance. Mr. Bardon can now be said to be among the newer members of a quite ancient tradition of small batch, artisanal perfumers crafting fragrances that tell stories, articulate perspectives, and potentially, convey profound meaning.