David Kern founded American Perfumer last year. His company’s blog earned the business a trip to the Perfumed Plume Awards in Manhattan. | Photo by Kevin Gibson

A unique local business’ blog has catapulted it onto a big stage, competing with Forbes, InStyle and more for a prestigious award.

Dave Kern, owner of American Perfumer, will travel to Manhattan to represent his St. Matthews retail business on April 10 in the 2019 Perfumed Plume Awards, held annually to recognize the best in fragrance journalism.

The business, which opened six months ago at 211 Clover Lane, focuses exclusively on American perfume, which Kern hopes is a new and rising market category. He says his retail store is the only such store in America that focuses solely on American perfume.

The distinction isn’t without nuance; he says most perfume traces its roots to France, while modern American perfume is something Kern likens to American craft beer in the early 1990s, when home brewers were experimenting and brewing anything and everything but the light beer that was the norm then.

The scents are unique and specific. And yes, a few are made that even resemble bourbon aromas. | Photo by Kevin Gibson

Similarly, as perfume has been focus-grouped into becoming more and more homogenous, American perfumers are artisans, he says, who express creativity through aromatics.

The American Perfumer blog became a finalist thanks to a pair of entries, titled “Layers: Pushing Through the Arts to Perfume” by Dannielle Sergent, and “Rose of Winter” by Maria McElroy.

For Sergent, who is an architect and painter, the writing process was personal.

“When Dave approached me about the article, his interest in hearing about my three overlapping professions of art, architecture and perfume initiated a few weeks of introspection and analysis,” she said in a press release. “It was the first time I really studied the intersection of these arts and their influence upon each other in my work.”

Kern, who before launching his business was a vice president for PRG Commercial Property Advisors, said he had been looking into launching such a business for at least two years. He had watched the rise of American perfumers and, as a fan of aromas in general, wanted to act as a retail partner for these people he considers artists.

The partnership he has forged with the 32 perfumers he works with is, he says, “almost as a gallerist would an artist.”

The perfumers come from all walks of life, from biologists to farmers to visual artists, and many of them are based in coastal cities like San Francisco, Portland, Seattle and New York.

“They’re just people who I think, first and foremost, are thoughtful and capable,” Kern says. “If this is the kind of people making perfume in this country, the sky’s the limit for them.”

The scents are each unique creations in themselves, most or all of them focused on a specific theme, be it earth, sea, sky, leather, smoke, chocolate or vanilla. They are designed to evoke memories and feelings.

American Perfumer carries about 125 perfumes by 32 different perfumers around the U.S. | Photo by Kevin Gibson

One might remind of the leather in a new car or couch, or perhaps it’s a smell that evokes a fresh rain in a forest. Perfect for Kentucky, a pair of the categories include whiskey and bourbon.

Kern says being a finalist for the Perfumed Plume Awards is an auspicious step forward after just six months and only six blog entries and six podcasts.

American Perfumer currently carries approximately 125 fragrances by 32 perfumers, ranging from $28 per bottle to $250 (most are under $150). The store also carries two limited-edition perfumes that Kern hopes will lead to a branded line of American Perfumer products in the future.

He says as the perfumers’ success goes, so will the success of his business.

“American perfume is going to be its own market category, and I think we can participate in establishing it,” he says. “And if perfume can be considered an art in any way, American perfume is going to lead the way.”

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Kevin Gibson
Kevin Gibson tackles the 3Rs — retail, restaurants, real estate — plus, economic development. He loves bacon, loathes cucumbers and once interviewed Yoko Ono. Check out his books, “Louisville Beer: Derby City History on Draft” and “100 Things to do in Louisville Before You Die.” He has won numerous awards for his work but doesn’t know where most of them are now. In his spare time, he plays in a band called the Uncommon Houseflies.Email Kevin at [email protected]