Paris is perfume fan’s wonderland. While my purpose for being there was work I did manage to have a scent adventure over the course of the week and explore some of the city’s famous perfume houses. After two weeks in Italy the French culture took some slight adjusting to. The cool veneer of the Parisian way in comparison to the perhaps more sociable Italians can be like stepping out of a hot sauna and into a cold shower. But with a mindset adjustment you except this is their way and with a little conversation you can (usually) reveal a warm and inviting personality.
Before I set out to explore I decided to take the perfumed temperature of the city by a visit to Printemps. Although I prefer to visit the individual houses there are benefits in visiting a large department store where you can find everything in one building. For me the benefit was that less walking was involved after walking the streets of Rome the week before. The Printemps Beaute Maison did not disappoint. With a large assortment of the world’s most coveted brands both major and niche my favourite discovery was the newly launched Fougere Royale by Houbigant. Originally created in 1882, this 2010 edition is a redesign by perfumer Rodrigo Flores-Roux. It is a modern version that I see no merit in comparing to the original except for the fact that both are fantastic. Fans of the extinct Yves Saint Laurent, Jazz Prestige may find solace in a bottle of this newer Fougere Royale. It shares some similarities in the floral department and both are classic fougeres. The other pleasure I had was to finally sample the By Kilian range. Unavailable here in Australia I have been meaning to order samples from Luckyscent to better acquaint myself with the brand’s creations. Their approach interested me as they openly publish their perfume formulas, something that is almost akin to perfume treason for other brands. On closer inspection I realised many of the ingredients are declared as accords so the brand still maintains a sense of secrecy with its perfumes. As a fan of iris I was curious to sample Prelude to Love. While it didn’t disappoint it was By Kilian’s Straight to Heaven, White Crystal that opened my wallet. An interesting dry wood and spice combination that falls somewhere between Gucci’s Envy and Frederic Malle’s French Lover.
Printemps Beaute Maison
64, bd Haussmann, Paris
My weekend began with two appointments. The first was with the Salon du Palais Royale Shiseido where I was able to experience the world of Serge Lutens. For a detailed account of this experience, click here.
Serge Lutens, Les Salons du Palais Royale Shiseido
25 Rue de Valois, Paris
Following this appointment my next meeting was with La Maison Guerlain. Like an unfaithful husband rubbing off the perfume of his mistress as he comes home to his wife, I sheepishly arrived at Guerlain trying to disguise the fact my arms were drenched in Serge Lutens. This feeling soon left me as the scent of Guerlain took over every patch of unscented skin I could provide the Maison staff. For a detailed account of my visit to Guerlain, click here.
68 Avenue des Champs-Elysees, Paris
Later that weekend I had the pleasure of exploring some of the smaller perfume houses that are abundant in Paris. Making my way down Rue Saint Honore I visited some well-established perfume houses and some less talked about. My first stop was the infamous Colette. This multi-level, multi-branded store serves the fashionably ‘cool’ set of Paris with its eclectic mix of urban living accessories and high-end street fashion. The street provides some great people watching as globe-trotting fashionistas and Parisian hipsters file in and out of the boutique to receive their culture fix of clothing, music, literature and of course perfume. Here you will find the likes of Le Labo, Mark Buxton, Comme Des Garcons and Juliette Has A Gun.
213 Rue Saint Honore, Paris
Further down at number 137 is the quaint boutique of Astier de Villatte. Primarily known for their furniture design and tableware in white ceramic. The brand was founded by graduates of the Beaux-Arts school in Paris who set up the collective in 1996 and the boutique came later in the year 2000. Their series of colognes were authored by Takasago nose, Francoise Caron. Eau Fugace, Eau Chic and Astier de Villatte Eau de Cologne are three stylish yet straightforward creations and are available in 40ml, 150ml and 900ml sizes. All bottles are made in Florence, Italy from traditionally mouth blown glass.
Astier de Villatte
137 Rue Saint Honore, paris
The music snob in me would normally associate Hotel Costes with the series of bland house/lounge music CDs that provided cafes and restaurants ambiance in the mid 00s. A friend mentioned I should pay the hotel a visit as they have a range of fragrances available exclusively from the hotel. Perfumer Olivia Giacobetti is the author of the Hotel Costes range and also the exclusive IUNX range my friend informed me of. These perfumes are presented in tall cylindrical bottles and look more like UFO fuel rather than perfume. Get ready for take-off! In keeping with the hotel’s modern elegant theme, the perfume boutique is red and black and perfumes are sampled via large futuristic tubing that generates the scent as you bring your nose near to the opening. My favourite was Eau Sento, a subtle scent of cedar and incense that reminded me of L’Artisan’s Passage D’Enfer. These fantastic bottles double as weapons to fend off would be thiefs of your delicious perfume.
239 Rue Saint Honore, Paris
On route to Maitre Parfumeur et Gantier I discovered Parfums Jovoy, a slick perfume boutique offering a diverse range of fragrances. Meticulously merchandised with charming staff and clientele. Under the displays the scents are sampled by opening the generic brown laboratory inspired bottles that carry a small perfume sample. This effective system prevents you confusing your nasal sensors with the residue of every other customer that has been spritzing fragrance in the store previous to your arrival. While this has worked for Diptyque who have even created a perfume said to smell of the interior of their Saint Germain boutique, this more clinical atmosphere is much less fatiguing on your nose. The boutique offers a range of perfume history and composition workshops as well as perfumes by Frapin, Amouage, Illuminum and the house’s own collection, Parfums Jovoy. (2012 update: Parfums Jovoy has now moved into a larger space near Place Vendome. You can find them at 4 Rue de Castiglione)
29 rue Danielle Casanova, Paris (2012 update- this address no longer exists, see above for new boutique address)
I have been a fan of Maitre Parfumeur et Gantier for a few years now. Whether it is the carnivalesque Bahiana or the maharaja of sandalwoods, Santal Noble, the perfume house is always able to surprise and delight. The boutique like the brand draws inspiration from 17th century French culture. Its decadent décor offers a nice visual experience whilst experiencing their fine range of perfumed products.
Maitre Parfumeur et Gantier
5 Rue de Capucines, Paris
On this trip to Paris I wanted to pay Christian Dior a visit. I had enquired after the Collection Couturier Parfumeur whilst in Hong Kong earlier in the year and was told it was not yet available in Asia. I decided to join the brand’s many worshippers and make a pilgrimage to the Avenue Montaigne flagship. Finally I had a chance to experience the range, which to be honest was a bit of a disappointment. Vetiver was its saving grace however I am partial to the grass and anything vetiver, I am easily impressed. Sadly Francois Demachy’s creations lack an air of creativity and originality one would expect from this highly anticipated launch. The trend of an exclusive line, a la Les Exclusifs de Chanel and Hermes’ Hermessence is nothing new as are the themes Demachy has explored: A signature house cologne, oud, amber and vetiver. I must admit I need to go back for Vetiver. It is a tried and true success in the Guerlian sense of what a vetiver should be: sharp, green, sophisticated and masculine. While it gets no points for originality, it is beautifully constructed and is a qualitative vetiver that is worth archiving in your collection as a vetiver reference. First I need to archive a large bottle of Guerlain’s Vetiver before all of the now discontinued bottles designed by Robert Granai disappear. The sculptor’s frosted glass design has been in use since 2000 before being retired earlier this year. The other noteworthy Dior is Cologne Royale. It is a simple cologne with a shot of mint in the topnotes. It’s like a morning kiss after you have just brushed your teeth.
30 Avenue Montaigne, Paris
Christian Dior’s neighbour is the infamous Caron. Created in 1904 by Ernest Daltroff, the historic house is known for its perfume urns that are purchased from the boutique and can be refilled at the boutique. Popular creations are Narcisse Noir (1911) and Tabac Blond (1919), created by the brands founder who was a self-taught perfumer. One of my favourites is Yatagan, the name of a traditional Turkish sword; it is a flowerless odour containing leather notes, patchouli, oakmoss and castoreum.
34 Avenue Montaigne, Paris
Over on the left bank in the Latin Quarter of Saint Germain des Pres there are a number of small independent perfume houses. Moving from left to right along Boulevard Saint Germain is Diptyque. I purposely visited to smell for myself how close the new 34 fragrance resembles the boutique it has been modeled from. Upon entering I realized that the scent of the room is influenced by the candles staff have decided to burn that day. All the same, it is a lovely atmosphere and the friendly staff were kind enough to share the new fragrance with me and talked about its creation pioneered by Givaudan’s headspace technology.
34 Boulevard Saint Germain, Paris
On the way to Frederic Malle I wanted to visit L’Artisan Parfumeur. Their small boutique just off Boulevard Saint Germain is small and intimate. Continuing with their travel series Bertrand Duchaufour has created eight new perfumes to add to the already extensive list of L’Artisan creations. Each is a different mood and different destination. Called Mon Numero, five of the eight have been released. My favourite was Mon Numero 9. Following my time in Italy this fragrance took me back to Florence and the traditional colognes I had discovered at the profumeria of Santa Maria Novella. The addition of cedrat and rhubarb leaves gives this zesty sparkler a modern edge.
50 Rue Saint Peres, Paris
For sentimental reasons I had to visit Frederic Malle before leaving Paris. Over the past six years I have collected a fair amount of his creations and although I knew I wouldn’t find anything I hadn’t already discovered, I was in the area and it is not everyday I can say I am in Paris, the home of Frederic Malle. The wooden décor is so Malle and epitomizes this area of Paris, which is full of forward thinking, stylish creative spirits.
37 Rue de Grenelle, Paris
My adventure ended at Maison Martin Margiela. In a perfect world my wardrobe would be filled with the Belgium designer’s clothes. I like his simple, practical yet chic approach to fashion design, which is still evident in the garments the brand produces following the designer’s departure a few years ago. Earlier this year I was excited to discover the house had produced it’s first fragrance. But this excitement lead to disappointment when I first came in contact with a bottle. The green galbanum accord just didn’t sit well with me. Skeptical I decided to seek out the recently launched Untitled L’Eau. The sales associate advised me L’Eau had less galbanum. This newer scent is for me, much more wearable. A paired back less candied version of Diptyque’s Oyedo, it also shares similarities with Acqua Di Parma’s latest Colonia incarnation, Essenza. It is a great everyday modern cologne both men and women could wear.
Maison Martin Margiela
13 Rue de Grenelle, Paris