This NOHO-based perfumery captures Manhattan sophistication in a bottle

by Jessica Jones-Gorman

In the days and weeks that followed September 11, 2001, Laurice Rahme, like most New Yorkers, was consumed by the aftermath of the terrorist attacks that had both literally and figuratively left a scar across the skyline of her city.

“There was so much sadness, so much tragedy,” Rahme said. “And then there was this terrible acrid smell that simply hung over all of Manhattan as a constant reminder of what had taken place. For many, many months, my neighbors were wearing masks to simply walk down the street. That’s when it occurred to me; I could make New York City smell good again.”

A former Parisian and beauty industry exec who was transplanted here in 1976 by her then-employer, Lancome, Rahme had long maintained a sort of rose-colored vision of her newfound home: where others smelled bus fumes and stale subway stations, she picked up soft notes of coffee and vanilla. And when the powerful city she loved so dearly was wounded on 9-11, she knew a Manhattan centric range of perfumes could serve as a tribute to the pieces of the city that still remained.

“We launched in 2003 with 16 fragrances and called the company Bond No.9 because our headquarters was located in a fabulous downtown space at 9 Bond Street,” noted Rahme, who worked for decades as a distributor in the fragrance industry, helping to create an American presence for brands like Lancome, Annick Goutal, and Creed. “The idea behind the line was to pick all of my favorite neighborhoods and dedicate a scent to each one.”

The concept, however, was utterly French: Scents like YSL’s Rive Gauche, and Guerlain’s Champs-Elysees have celebrated some of Paris’s most famous landmarks for years. Even Chanel No. 5 is representative of the address where Coco created her fashions. Yet no one had ever before broken down the quarters of Manhattan and branded them by their distinct smells.

“Each neighborhood has its own soul, and it was my goal to capture that in a bottle,” Rahme said. “Harlem has strong coffee notes…Wall Street is on the water so there is a sort of sea kelp ocean smell to that area, sort of like being on an ocean liner. But people go to all of these different neighborhoods for different reasons: To play, to work, to eat, to have fun, to dance or romance. And that’s exactly what’s considered when each fragrance is made.”

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Poured into curvaceous bottles emblazoned with the image of a classic NYC subway token, the fragrances retail from to $200 to $300 per bottle. There are a total of 68 different varieties currently, representing all areas of the city from Little Italy and Chinatown to Chelsea, Gramercy Park and SOHO. In 2007, inspired this time by the war in Iraq, Rahme created what would become Bond No. 9’s top seller, Peace.

“I wanted to do a peace fragrance that would be a sort of postcard from New York to the world,” Rahme explained. “It became so popular so quickly that we created a men’s version two years ago.”

The popularity of the brand also afforded Rahme the chance to branch out into other boroughs.

“We did Queens last Christmas… Brooklyn about three or four years ago,” the perfumer said, describing both fragrances by note (Queens is heavy with bergamot, cardamom, blackberry and tuberose; Brooklyn is infused with grapefruit, cypress-wood, Geranium leaves, and Juniper berries).

“We could honestly do another 50,” Rahme added, hinting that odes to the Bronx and Staten Island might be introduced in the near future. “These are all places that I know and love, but it takes two to three years to get the scent just right.”

Body creams and scented candles are now also available in Rahme’s five boutiques. In addition to the Bond Street flagship, there are now stores on Bleecker Street, Madison Avenue, in the Meatpacking District, and one in the Hamptons. The line is also regionally exclusive to Saks Fifth Avenue stores, and enjoys international recognition in boutiques around the globe.

“Many countries in the world want Bond because Bond is New York,” Rahme explained. “Italy, Germany, the UK, Japan, Latin America, Dubai—people all over the world love our city, and this is a lovely way that we can share it with them.”

Bond’s customers range from resident to tourist.

“We have two types of customers,” Rahme said. “There are New Yorkers who love their city and buy this perfume because it represents who they are and where they’re from, and then we have tourists who buy these fragrances as a souvenir, a way to bring a piece of New York back home with them.”

But there’s one common theme, Rahme said. All of her customers thoroughly love this city.

“I remember when I first moved here,” the perfumer recalled. “There was so much energy and I was simply overwhelmed by the high-rise buildings that made me feel so small. I was a young girl, but I can still remember how lucky I felt to be here. Those memories, that energy…that’s exactly what I want my customers to feel when they spritz on one of these fragrances.”

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Bond No. 9
9 Bond St. / 212.228.1732