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This entrepreneur has bottled the scent of Philadelphia. No, it doesn’t smell like trash

Elizabeth Wellington, The Philadelphia Inquirer on

Published in Fashion Daily News

PHILADELPHIA -- Alex Rodriguez, creative director of RDZ Parfums sprayed his newest scent, Philadelphia, inside of Old City’s Perfumology.

My olfactory glands danced to the full-on cherry palooza.

“That’s the water ice inspiration,” said Rodriguez, “The fruity notes: lemon, cherry, grape, pineapple, and mango. It’s all about Rita’s.”

Philadelphia is Rodriguez’s fragrant homage to the City of Brotherly Love. Other notes include Geranium, rose, and grass, scents you’d find at Longwood Gardens. There are hints of salt, too, that gives Philadelphia a soft pretzel vibe. “We added tobacco to represent the Philly blunt and some cannabis,” Rodriguez said.

Talk about quintessential Philadelphia: these days you can’t walk around town without catching a whiff of the Mary Jane.

“I took all of these Philly favorites and blended them together,” Rodriguez said. “This is what we got. This is Philly.”

Philadelphia, the scent, is a delight to a true-blue Philadelphian’s sense of smell. A single spray lingers on the wrist for hours, starting out sweet like a cherry’s jubilee, before fading into a woodsy pine, and ending with a pinch of candied smoke. A 100 ml bottle of the unisex parfum is $160 and is available at Perfumology, the Old City boutique that showcases Philadelphia-based niche perfumers and introduces prestige scents to Philly — not everyone wants to smell like Taylor Swift or Ariana Grande.

Rodriguez, 38, was born in Camden and spent his preschool years in Puerto Rico before moving back to live in South Jersey and North Philadelphia. RDZ embodies that heritage. Rodriguez’s first scent, Leyenda 21 — a potpourri of rose, vanilla, and fresh air — is Rodriguez’s salute to Roberto Clemente, who spent 18 seasons as the Pittsburgh Pirates’ rightfielder and is one of the first Puerto Ricans to play in the MLB.

In April RDZ debuted The Philly Blunt, peppered with tobacco, vanilla, and coffee, because the smoke that wafts from Philly blunts and the aroma of percolating coffee are ubiquitous in our town. There’s also Cereza — the Spanish word for cherry. “In Puerto Rico, the Piña colada, flan, tres leches ... everything has a cherry on top,” the tattooed Rodriguez said with a gleam in his eye. (And, of course, Rodriguez added, the Philly fan favorite is the cherry water ice.) Rodriguez also released El Coqui — named for the little frog that is the cultural symbol of Puerto Rico. Rodriguez describes El Coqui as essence of tropical rain forest.

RDZ will debut its sixth fragrance, The Art Museum, in 2024. The formulation is not quite there yet, but the plan is for it to be clean, modern, and vintage.


“All of my fragrances bridge the gap between Puerto Rico and Philadelphia,” Rodriguez said. “Puerto Rico has a strong presence in Philadelphia, we are a cultural and economic force in the city. My fragrances — my business — represents that.”

Rodriguez is from a family of entrepreneurs. His dad, Ramon, sold frituras, pastelillos, and arroz con gandules from a food truck in Camden before opening R&J restaurant on S. 4th Street. Ramon Rodriguez had a serious scent wardrobe, filled with 90s cologne classics like Polo Sport, Drakkar Noir, Obsession, and Fahrenheit. He was the kind of man who left a trail of smell good wherever he went. Alex followed in his dad’s footsteps.

“His scent always complemented his attire,” Rodriguez said of his dad. “He taught me that if you smell good, and you look good, then you feel good. You can accomplish anything.”

Rodriguez’s first foray into business was bringing Latin and Reggaeton artists like Daddy Yankee, Prince Royce, and Don Omar to Philadelphia and its surrounding burgs. However, as partygoers aged, the pandemic hit, and violence became more prevalent, people stopped going out as much. Rodriguez started a construction company. Still, he wanted to try his hand at fragrances, of which by now he had hundreds.

“I wanted to make a cologne that didn’t remind people of what they already knew,” Rodriguez said. “I wanted to give them a new experience, a new scent.”

It took Rodriguez seven years and several scent formations before he wandered into Perfumology and met Nir Guy. Guy introduced him to Philly-based perfumer Justin Frederico, who formulated Leyenda 21. It debuted in September. The first batch of 500 sold out in five months. Rodriguez partnered with Paris-perfumer Nathalie Feisthauer to make Philadelphia. Why work with a French perfumer on a Philly scent?

“There are so many diverse people within the fragrance community,” Rodriguez said. “I thought it was important to work with world-renowned perfumers.”

RDZ Parfums are sold in nine specialty stores in Puerto Rico, Mexico, and Florida. Rodriguez wants the fruity, salty, and smokey smells of Philadelphia to go global.

“People always turn to New York, Paris, and France for inspiration in the perfume industry,” Rodriguez said. “But I’m inspired by my homes which are Puerto Rico and Philadelphia.”

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