Sasha Spielberg wants to time travel when she’s 90 back to a particular summer in Europe in 2018. She will do this through the transportive power of perfume. That’s the plan and she’s sticking to it, as long as a fragrance doesn’t become her signature along the way. Every 3 months, for the past 12 years, she’s assigned a scent to attach as an aura to these blocks of her life. Similarly, under the moniker Buzzy Lee, she’s explored the past and present through her incredible debut album, “Spoiled Love.” Throughout the album, she dissects relationships, breakups, and the lingering moments in between. Like scent, the songs conjure certain emotions that take the listener to the familiar and vulnerable aftermath of romance. Smelling a former lover’s shirt they left behind can inspire so many verses. It’s no surprise that such a fantastic storyteller through music would be fascinated with the fantasies of fragrance. Below we discuss some highlights throughout Sasha’s fragrance system, a current perfume that knocked her off her feet, and the 3 month rule:
Let’s take it back to the beginning—tell me about the start of your fragrant journey. What was the first perfume you remember smelling and forming a memory around?
When I was 5 years old, my mom bought me Oilily perfume. I felt so adult! I sprayed it everywhere. And then I sprayed it… everywhere. And that was scarring. But it didn’t stop me from being completely scent-obsessed later in life.
You mentioned you have an incredible system of collecting fragrances over the years where you assign a perfume to a period of three months of your life so you can time travel when you’re older. When did you start this and what made you initially begin “The Three Month” rule?
I started this my freshman year of college, and I think naturally in college our brains just work in semesters which is a period of three months, and then the summers are three months, etc, etc. So I really attribute the three month rule to college schedules.
Do you have a list of perfumes you want to try for upcoming “Three Month” stints, or do you let a new fragrance enter your life more spontaneously? I am obsessed with researching new scents heavily. I go to Scent Bar (or I used to pre-Covid) weekly and they know my palette by now so they show me new perfumes that have just come in. But something happened, it’s terrible, but something really just happened and it’s completely disrupted my time travel plans and that is: I’ve found a scent that I am addicted to and CANNOT for the life of me let it go. That was spontaneous.
What are some notable standouts over the last couple of years? What are some you started to tire of before the months were up and why?Baccarat Rouge 540 by MFK was a staple for me. That was my breakup in 2018, and my European tour. Anine Bing perfume oil was also a secret weapon, I mixed it with Glossier You. I also love Henry Rose via Michelle Pfeiffer. Two standouts for me “Jake’s House” and “Last Light.” are I can’t believe I’m revealing my secrets but oh well, TAKE THEM! The beauty with perfume is it smells different on everyone. I wore Jo Malone Myrrh Tonka for fall of 2019, and I received not one compliment so I ditched it and to say I’m a validation addict is an understatement. I NEED to be complimented on my perfume for it to make it past the three month mark. With this one I wear now, 1509 Sophia and 1509 Elisabeth, I get stopped by people in double masks. DOUBLE masked! It’s the most magical perfume I’ve ever come across. It’s completely intoxicating and you’ll see why I’m mad about it. I apologize to my future 90-year old self for only giving her the 2009-2020 time machine.
Do you feel like your fragrance personality aligns with your own? If not, what do you want your fragrance to say about you in certain moments? So I actually would use fragrance to try on different personas. I one time smelled Montale Full Incense on someone and I wanted to copy her because she embodied everything I wanted to be at that time. However, I’m just not “full incense.” I’m also not “patchouli,” or “oud.” I find in the spring and summer I’m a tuberose/gardenia mixed with vanilla or peach. One of my favorite perfumes ever made is “MDCI Peche Cardinal” and in the winter I’m amber and vanilla. I can accept that I’ll never be those other versions of myself. Sillage, though, is quite important. I was talking to my friend Rachel about sillage (she is also perfume obsessed) and she said “do you want to leave a room and be talked about or do you want to enter a room and be looked at?” I think that’s the real question with perfume. She wants to leave rooms and have people wonder what perfume she’s wearing. I want to enter a room and have people flood me asking what perfume I’m wearing.
If you could scent any movie (ie. what fragrance would define the mood of the narrative, characters, songs, etc.) what would you choose and how would it smell? THIS QUESTION! Okay, obviously any French film is a gardenia/tuberose/jasmine mixed with cigarette smoke. Italian films feel more musky in the base notes with Iris top notes plus sunscreen. Paris, Texas would be Montale. Any 90’s indie movie that takes place in NYC like Walking and Talking would be Balmain Ambre Gris which is discontinued. Any Nora Ephron movie would feel Fracas heavy, perhaps. The Bad and the Beautiful, The Heiress, and Sunset Boulevard would all be heavy on the gardenia and jasmines. Atlantic City and Body Heat would be heavy on the vanilla and tobacco like Tabacco Toscano by Santa Maria Novella, or it’d be cherry and almond like Rahat Loukoum by Serge Lutens.
What are some of your favorite spaces to experience and try out fragrance?
Right before bed where I can climb under the covers and be enveloped by the scent. One of my favorite guilty pleasure smells in the world is a Duty-free type of perfume like Versace Bright Crystal or Gucci Bloom mixed with cigarette smoke. I can never pull it off in public or in the daytime, but I have a secret bedtime ritual which is wearing very commercialized perfumes to bed, like Alien or Bright Crystal.
What is in your collection right now (I will catalogue and paint all!) ? How do you store them?
Below are some standouts from each year of Sasha’s perfume experiment.
Do you have any favorite notes or notes you’ve come to love over the years? Or, do you recognize any patterns in your collection?
Tuberose, Gardenia, and Amber.
What does fragrance bring to your day to day when you’re not thinking historically?
It brings me the most happiness. When I’m getting whiffs of myself throughout the day it really feels like the kind of dress up I would play as a kid. It brings out this child in me. I think I’ll always be the Oilily child wanting to appear like a grown up.
Are there any new perfumers or houses you’re drawn to? 1509. 1509. 1509. 1509. Never smelled anything like it. Also drawn to MFK and Xerjoff.
Interview and watercolors by Elizabeth Renstrom.
Portrait by Harry McNally