Living in such close quarters, we inevitably become connoisseurs of a wide range of aromas. Cheese melting into a $1 slice on the corner, cloying coconut heating up in a Nuts 4 Nuts cart, street meat charring on a grill, the occasional notes of some misplaced maple syrup-y odor mingling with car-bus-taxi exhaust, and, blech – Hot Melted Garbage in the SummerTM. Breathe deep, New York. We’ve got it all.
Besides all those atmospheric aromas lingering around, us humans love to coat ourselves in our very own scents — ones that come with us into a cab. So when Christopher Brosius found himself working his way through school at the wheel of a taxi, he unknowingly enlisted in the crash course that would teach him the smells of the city. Driving folks around the five boroughs, Christopher got unsolicited whiffs that gave birth to his hatred of perfume. “From the cab driving days, I learned that there are certain perfumes that make me really nauseous,” he says.
But it was these discerning olfactory glands that would lead him to become one of the most intriguing fragrance creators in the city. Today, he’s the founder of CB I Hate Perfume, a fitting name for his collection of unique scents. You won’t find any of the same old musks and florals at his new gallery in Bushwick. Instead, guests enjoy aromas that evoke memories and spark the imagination. “Scent is the record of your own special life – it’s your experience,” Christopher says. “My mission is to capture that experience. I bottle it so you can have it, use it and love it whenever you wish.”
At the Library conjures up days spent around old tomes that have seen more years than us, while At the Beach 1966 hints at days spent squirting on sunblock to ramble through sand, seashells, driftwood and the boardwalk.
“I dont’ really have a single favorite,” he says, when asked about his current lineup. “There are definitely ones I keep going back to, like Dirt obviously, the smell of really fresh, newly turned earth. Sand. That kind of stuff. Tomato leaves. Snow.”
Yes, snow. When asked what the chilly precipitate smells like, Christopher chuckles, “Well, like snow. It’s just like rain has a smell. Snow has a smell. It’s very faint, but it’s there.” The delicate scent was one of the first he created and arose from a long, difficult process that’s indicative of the way he works in his Brooklyn lab. “It was something that I worked on for about 5 years,” he explains.
It all began when exhaustion prompted him to give up the taxi driver’s seat. Christopher headed over to a summer job in cosmetics, where a hobby of blending scents during his spare time at Kiehl’s gradually built into a serious endeavor. “When I first began working with some of the bigger houses and they were making their analytical technologies available to me, and their technicians, I started to work on isolating a lot of (to other people) bizarre smells. But to me, these things smell great. I mean, who wouldn’t want the smell like an old book?”
While looking for just the right blend to recreate freshly fallen snow, Christopher also sifted through a lot of duds. “They would send me samples and I’m like, ‘Well this smells like fruitcake, candycanes and Rudolph threw up and this doesn’t have anything to do with snow.’ No no no. We don’t want fantasy here. We want reality.”
Then, like so many other artistic endeavors, he stumbled on the ah-ha!’ moment while cleaning out his studio. “I ran across this one thing where I just picked it up and whiffed it, as I usually do when I’m clearing things out,” he explains. “I’m like, wait a minute, this is the piece that I need for snow! If I put this with that, that, that and that, I think I’ll have it.” And indeed he did. The result went on to win him the first two of his four Fragrance Foundation Awards, one of the highest honors in the biz.
Five years later, Christopher opened the doors on his first storefront in Williamsburg. Now, after 10 years over on Wythe Avenue, he can be found tinkering on fresh scents at his new combined home, studio and gallery space on a quiet, industrial block of Maujer Street in Bushwick. His workshop is stylish and studious, a designer’s eye for fashion paired with a mad scientist’s attention to detail and chemistry. Stacks of books cover the wall in one room, while neat rows of fragrances line up the shelves in the next.
When asked about what’s next, Christopher has Roald Dahl-style dreams in mind. “To sort of be able to take that Willy Wonka ‘these snozzberries taste like snozzberries’ trip would be kind of fun,” he says. It’s a world of pure imagination.
To check out Christopher’s full collection of 40 ready-to-wear scents and 500 single accords at 318 Maujer Street, call his gallery at (718) 384-6890. Guests can set up an appointment from Tuesday through Thursday between 12 p.m. and 6 p.m., or visit during public hours on Fridays and Saturdays from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Photo Courtesy of Michael Weiss