October was a busy month of visits for me (11 in total!). And when I called upon a gorgeously-kept Victorian manse one Thursday evening in mid-October, I got two visits for the price of one via Sfumato/Castalia, a perfume shop by day and cocktail bar by night.
I’d stumbled across this unique establishment while searching online for naturally made perfumes sold in the area. I was in need of a new scent but wanting to veer away from traditionally-made perfumes with their oft-synthetic ingredients. Sfumato’s site popped up in my search results, and I was psyched to learn that a perfumery creating signature scents from plant-based ingredients resided right in Midtown.
According to Sfumato’s website, its scents are concocted from “trees, flowers, herbs, and spices.” This is evident when you step into its basement-level shop and sniff sample sticks of the eight perfume varieties currently for sale.
Four perfumes reside in Sfumato’s Signature collection, and four are deemed Black Label. An eight-milliliter bottle (dubbed the Travel size) of a Signature scent is $30; a Black Label variety in that size is $40. Sixty-millileter Standard size bottles run $90 and $120, respectively.
And then there are the perfume flights – the route I ended up taking. I couldn’t decide which of Sfumato’s scents I liked the best, so I decided to get to know the four Signature varieties (Epiphany, Gravitas, Siren Song, and Survival Instinct) better via the flight option, which proffers one-milliliter sample vials of each for $15 (the flight containing the four Black Label perfumes is $20).
Three and a half weeks after my visit to Sfumato, I’m down to the dregs of those four vials of Signature scents, and I’ve enjoyed the heck out of them. I find wearing the herbal, woodsy, citrusy, luxurious plant-based scents both soothing and exotic.
It’s a close call between Gravitas, Survival Instinct, and Epiphany as to which one is my favorite, but my snap-judgment verdict at the moment is that it’s Epiphany, with its aura poetically described on Sfumato’s website of “intense greenness with hints of dew-covered moss and life ready to step into the sunlight. An elegant party that always pleases, no matter who attends. The scent of myself, delivered divinity on a fresh spring day.” How can one not feel transformed by the wearing of a scent with a description such as that?
As the wearer feels transformed by the donning of Sfumato’s enchanting scents, so Sfumato itself transforms into something else entirely. In the evenings, starting at 6 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays, its shop counter turns into a bar rail, and it becomes Castalia, the cocktail bar.
And as one might expect, Castalia is not your typical cocktail bar. Each of its signature alcoholic beverages have been inspired by one of Sfumato’s scents. When you order one, it’s served to you with a napkin sprayed with the scent that inspired the drink. You’re encouraged to sniff the napkin as you sip the drink to mingle the olfactory experience with the tasting experience. Non-alcoholic versions of each cocktail are also available.
I decided on the cocktail that paired with the Mocha Valentino Black Label perfume, the Cacao Manhattan, and savored the rich notes of chocolate, coffee, and spice in the whiskey-based drink as well as in the scent that accompanied it.
While as a perfume shop Sfumato’s tiny interior had been welcoming, I especially adored the environs as a bar. With its dusky lighting and stone walls, it was intimate and cozy; the bartenders were the consummate hosts, friendly and charming. What an ideal place to enjoy a warming cocktail and the rich scents that accompany it on a dreary winter’s evening (or any evening, really)!
3980 Second Ave.
Detroit, MI 48201