What would your scent be if you were to put the essence of you into a chic fragrance bottle? That’s the million dollar question Joseph Vitorria aims to answer with his custom fragrances from Olfactory NYC. Vitorria founded Olfactory NYC in 2017, and has been helping people concoct their perfect signature scents ever since. When I was offered an opportunity to create my own fragrance at the brand's cute boutique in Nolita, I hesitated while eyeing my 20+ perfume collection on my vanity. But then, I said to myself, “Oh, screw Marie Kondo, another fragrance will definitely spark more joy!”
Upon entering the rainbow-themed store, I expected to get a huge whiff of too-strong perfume, but the space smelled pleasantly light and subdued. Vitorria greeted me with a warm smile and a British accent, and walked me through the Olfactory NYC process. “What type of fragrance do you usually prefer, or do you even know?” he asked me. “A lot of people aren’t really aware of which scents they actually like — they might not know what jasmine or cedarwood smells like.”
“I definitely know my smells, and I always go toward a floral fragrance,” I admitted. Vitorria was about to lead me over to the floral scents when I interjected and said, “But my current perfume collection is almost all florals, so I’d like to get wild today and go deeper into the wild, maybe with a more earthy, musky scent.”
Even though we knew I wanted to go more earthy, Vitorria showed me all of the base fragrances on the wall that a customer could choose from. One of these scents would be the base of my custom fragrance, and then Vitorria would help me add in another accord to the fragrance to make it my own. The wall of base fragrances started with one called “Lulu,” which was a sweet floral scent, and went all the way down to “Jayden,” which was a more masculine scent featuring sandalwood and cedarwood. The other seven fragrances each had their own name and personality, with spicy “Hunter” and earthy “Reed” really speaking to my new risk-taking senses.
Although “Hunter” was definitely sexy and intoxicating, luring me into the red station on the wall, he, I mean it, wasn’t part of my perfume plan today. “Reed” would be the fragrance of the hour, and I was pumped to add a perfume with notes of cedarwood, rose, and sage to my overflowing collection. I will admit, though, that I couldn’t stop thinking about “Hunter” during my perfume making, and I might have to go back again to get another whiff.
Once I chose “Reed” as my base, Vitorria took me over to a table filled with small vials and high-top chairs. “Now we’re going to add different accords to your base to make a custom scent.” As Vitorria mixed a bunch of selections together, he passed them along to me to test on various testing papers with the name of each accord written on it. One smelled too much like the forest, another smelled like mothballs, and another was so subtle, I could barely smell anything. “Smell your shirt or the inside of your wrist before smelling each scent,” Vitorria advises me. “It helps to neutralize your nose so you can smell the scent properly.”
After sniffing about 10 or so blends, I narrowed it down to the original “Reed” (sans any accords) and “Reed” with cedarwood and indian jasmine added in. “Damn, it’s really hard to choose,” I conceded. “I feel like this process might stress some people out.”
Vitorria laughs when I say this and admits that some people do get anxious during the process, and things sometimes get a bit awkward, too. “I’ve had some couples come in to make their own fragrances, and one person will choose their perfect scent and their partner will be like, ‘Ew, you actually like something like that? I thought I knew you better,’” says Vitorria. “Scents are so personal, and people’s personal preferences can sometimes be totally unexpected.”
Unexpected was exactly what I was going for when I ended up choosing “Reed” with cedarwood and indian jasmine ($75, olfactorynyc.com). I was given the option to choose the color of my label (my favorite shade of teal), and could print anything I wanted on the packaging, too. The nickname my friends have dubbed me, “Diva Daley,” didn’t quite fit my new fragrance, so I just went with plain ole “Daley” instead. Perhaps I’ll label my next fragrance “Dangerous Daley” when I return to Olfactory NYC for my beloved “Hunter.”
Until then, I’ll be trekking through the concrete jungle doused in my new custom fragrance, praying the scent will give off the down-to-Earth, cool-girl vibe that my floral fragrances (and my actual personality) have never achieved. Here’s to hoping for the unexpected.