Perfume Tour: Niche Perfume Houses in Paris
... they gave me a bottle of Chanel perfume ... (excerpt from a letter to my parents dated June 1983)
I'll never forget the day that Mme M took me to Galeries Lafayette to select a bottle of perfume for my 20th birthday. It was the quintessential Parisian experience. The older French woman initiating the younger American one into the ways of the world. She made me feel special, a part of the club.
Fast forward to 2012, almost 30 years later - thanks to a WICE tour that I did yesterday morning, I'm now the savvy older woman with an insider's knowledge of some of the latest trends in the perfume industry. Instead of taking a novitiate to a large department store selling perfumes, like Dior, Chanel, and Guerlain, that are produced for the mass market, I would introduce her to the seductive world of "niche" fragrance houses.
Parfums Divine, a discrete boutique that is known only by word of mouth, is the perfect starting point. Using raw materials of the highest quality, Yvan Mouchel and his team approach the creation of a new perfume the way that they would a painting, a symphony or a novel. All of their fragrances are works of art. With perfumes like, L'âme soeur, a marriage of noble flowers and aldehydes, and L'être aimé, a fragrance that soars with sun-drenched notes of neroli, bergamot and nectarine, Parfums Divine is a French perfume house that places the accent on creating timeless fragrances. Even though selecting a perfume is a usually a highly subjective experience, the majority of the women on our tour preferred L'infante, a bouquet of freshly gathered white flowers with a final hint of sensuality. It also contains vanilla, which we learned appeals to 70% of men.
3 rue Scribe
After a brisk walk from the 9th to the 1st arrondissement that helped clear our noses for the next stop on our olfactory tour, we entered Parfums Jovoy, a boutique with a pleasing contemporary design dedicated to niche fragrances. Inviting us to take a seat in the cozy alcove at the back of the boutique and to help ourselves to a croissant, owner François Hénin rubbed his hands together with the excited air of a schoolboy as he asked us how we would like to start our scent-laden tour of his world. With more than 1,200 niche perfumes at his disposal, Mr. Henin guided us through a rich parade of floral notes, with scents like the remarkable flor e canto, a tantalizing mixture of tuberose, magnolia and plumeria that transported us to the warmer climes of Mexico, and Betrothal, a scent originally created to honor Queen Mary of England's betrothal in 1893. Most surprisingly, I learned the secret of how French women "waft", or leave an enticing trail of scent behind them, from a man. Mr. Henin told us that the trick is to spray perfume on your scarf or jacket and not only on your skin.
4 Rue de Castiglione
Theresa de Belder, our very knowledgeable guide, also recommended that we visit Penhaligon's, a boutique selling niche fragrances made in England.
209 rue Saint-Honoré