Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Fragrance Review: Perfect Bliss Perfume Oil

I seem to be on a roll with perfume oils. Today I have been enjoying the scent of a light and lovely perfume oil named, happily, Perfect Bliss. Perfumer Sarah Horowitz-Thran created this fragrance to reflect the mesmerizing scent of the floral arrangements at her November 2002 wedding.

This fragrance features:

  • top notes of blood orange, mango, and papaya

  • a middle accord of gardenia, rose, tuberose, and lily

  • and base notes of vanilla, patchouli, cedar and musk

Wearing this fragrance is like going on a tropical mini-vacation. Just closing my eyes and sniffing, I could practically hear the sounds of the island birds chirping and the palm trees whispering in the breeze!

The top notes give off a quick fruity blast, followed by the sweet delicacy of the white flowers. The soft musk/woodsy accord gives it a solid depth. My only complaint is that this fragrance disappeared far too quickly. I was hopeful that being oil-based, rather than alcohol-based, it might linger for hours. This was not the case. I had to reapply several times throughout the day to keep it detectable on my skin. Having said that, this would be a good fragrance to wear on a hot summer day, or when you just want to be carried away on a dream of Tahitian flowers!

This perfume oil is available at fragrances and more. Cost: $40 for 1/8 oz roll-on.
photo source: fragrances and more

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Fragrance Review: Love N.1 Perfume Oil

I love fine fragraces and spritz them on with carefree abandon. However, in my heart-of-hearts, I prefer all natural ingredients whenever possible. Yes, I'm one of those "granola" mothers who steamed organic kale leaves and pureed them for my children's dinners when they were babies. I am a big fan of organic products, and I consider the use of organic ingredients in fragrances to be a definite "plus."

So I am happy to review a lovely perfume oil handcrafted of essential oils in a base of organic jojoba oil. Love No.1 is part of the Soul Collection (Love N.1, Heart N.2, Soul N.3) created by perfumer Andrea Kane.

It is comprised of Blood Orange, Tuberose, Pink Lotus, Turkish Rose, Cocoa Absolute, Cassia, Sandalwood, Patchouli, and Vanilla.

The fragrance opens with a strong patchouli/sandalwood accord. After a few minutes, the light tuberose and lotus notes come floating up to the surface. Finally, the rose and cocoa notes hit their stride, balanced with a touch of vanilla. This fragrance has an overall sweet, warm and woodsy character. The drydown lasted about two hours, which on my skin is considered a relatively long time.

The sleek bottle is made by Verreries Brosse, the makers of the iconic Chanel No. 5 flacon.

This fragrance is available online at theorganicbeautyexpert

Cost: Parfum Oil (1/4 oz. $110), Eau de Parfum spray (2 oz. $120); Body Oil (6.7 oz. $85); and Whipped Body Butter (8.5 oz. $65).

image source: theorganicbeautyexpert

Jon Bon Jovi and Kenneth Cole: Fragrance to Fight Homelessness

image source: Nordstrom

Singer Jon Bon Jovi and designer Kenneth Cole have teamed up to help fight homelessness. They have pledged that a portion of the proceeds from the sales of R.S.V.P., the new Kenneth Cole men's fragrance manufactured by Coty Inc., will be donated to three charities that aim to combat homelessness. They include:

  • Habitat for Humanity, which seeks to eliminate poverty housing and homelessness from the world, and to make decent shelter a matter of conscience and action;

  • HELP USA, whose aim is to empower the homeless and others in need to become and remain self-reliant; and

  • The Philadelphia Soul Charitable Foundation, which exists to combat issues that force families and individuals into economic despair through the creation of programs and partnerships that break the cycle of poverty and homelessness.

R.S.V.P. is a woody/spicy fragrance consisting of (from

  • Top notes: Lavender, Grapefruit, Pepper, Wet Grass

  • Middle notes: Iris, Orchid, Cedarwood

  • Base notes: Sandalwood, Patchouli, Vetiver, Soft Cashmere

R.S.V.P. is available at Nordstrom: Eau de Toilette 1.7 oz. ($45) and 3.4 oz ($59.50); After Shave Balm 3.4 oz ($45); After Shave Splash 3.4 oz ($45); and Deodorant 2.6 oz ($16).

Kudos, Jon and Kenneth!

Sunday, January 28, 2007

End of Parisian Tour

And now we come to the end of our Parisian perfume journey. I hope you've enjoyed this forray into the wonderful world of French fragrances as much as I have enjoyed writing about it!

I would love to hear about your favorite perfume destinations not included in this itinerary. Your suggestions and ideas will help me plan my next journey! And for those of you who want more practical "nuts-and-bolts" details about visiting parfumeries in Paris, I have good news!

I have written an article titled "The Perfumer-Lovers' Guide to Paris" which will appear in Marlen Harrison's restyled online magazine I am delighted to be one of PerfumeCritic's writers, and the new magazine-style format of is slated to debut this Thursday, Febuary 1st. Be sure to check it out!

Of course, I will continue to buzz merrily away at The Perfume Bee and look forward to keeping you apprised of all the latest in niche perfumery.
photo: 20th century perfume organ, Fragonard Museum, Paris

photo credit: Christine Pierce

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Niche Perfumery in the News

Yesterday’s online issue of, often referred to as “the beauty bible” for beauty and fashion insiders, features an article about the increasing popularity of niche fragrances. Hip readers of The Perfume Bee (that means you!) already know that niche perfumery is “where it’s at!” It is nice to see this recognition in the mainstream fashion industry.

Included in the article is an interview with Sniffapalooza’s founder, Karen Dubin. She points out that when given the opportunity to smell niche fragrances, customers will notice the difference in sophistication between niche scents and more commercial scents. “People,” she adds, “are looking beyond department stores to find something really special.” You go, Karen!

Friday, January 26, 2007

Better-Know-A-Niche Perfumery: Stéphanie de Saint-Aignan

Le Printemps de la Beauté is a treasure trove of wonderful designer and niche perfumes. Located on the Boulevard Hausmann near the Opèa, this perfume department in one of Paris’ grand old department stores is a must-visit for perfume fanatics such as myself.

One of these niche brands is from the designer Stéphanie de Saint-Aignan. Her 2007 collection features seven unique eaux de toilette, each with its own story. She likens her yearly collection of perfumes to the annual collections of new dresses or jewelry made by designers.

Here they are:

  • Amande Honorable (feminine) Floral/woodsy musk; linden blossom, sugared almond, and notes of clean linen and musk

  • Berbériades (feminine) Spicy/Oriental; Citrus fruit top notes, jasmine, wood, oriental notes and spices

  • Embruns d'Ambre (feminine) Floral aquatic; aquatic notes, solar notes, and ambergris

    (side note: while my French is passable, I often need help in fine-tuning translations of perfume ingredients. One of my teenaged sons, having worked his way through a few years of high school Spanish, introduced me to the website. It is very helpful for simple words, but the translation of longer sentences can be confusing, if not downright hilarious. For instance, this is the translation I received for the ingredients in Embruns d'Ambre:

    A fragrance mixing the odor océane to the one of the gray amber that floats to the surface of the oceans. This is a low-fat, foamed amber…..!?!!
    Mmm, low-fat foamy amber... But I digress…

  • Le Pot aux Roses (feminine) Floral rose-violet; green top notes, violet and rose middle notes on a white musk and powder base.

  • Tobacco Mucho (masculine) Woody/aromatic; notes of frosted lemon; burned wood; and tobacco leaves.

  • Un Thé au Sahara (feminine) Citrus/aromatic; mint; tea; spices; precious woods

  • Voleur de Ciels (masculine) Woody/chypre; mint, jasmine, gasoline, leather

Of the seven, I chose Voleur de Ciels to purchase. I was in a bit of a hurry, which is never a good thing when buying fragrance. It was also very hot and crowded in the department store at the time of my selection. I was probably hungry, too. And the list of perfume notes was not readily available to me. Which is a roundabout way of admitting that I made a mistake…

When I first applied it, all I could smell were the mint and jasmine notes, which were quite nice. But the dry down awhile later left me surprised and a little stunned. When I finally discovered the notes, I had to laugh. Really, gasoline, on moi? It is described as smelling both of a man and a plane. And here’s the kicker: of all the fragrances I tested in Paris, this one has the longest staying power, hands-down. Truly, it lasts hours and hours, which is all the more devastating because fragrances typically last about 15 minutes on me.

In retrospect, I should have bought the Le Pot aux Roses. It was light and flowery with just the right amount of powder. These fragrances are available in Paris at Printemps de la Beauté. Cost: 60 euros for 30 ml eau de toilette; 80 euros for 50 ml. For more information, please go to the Printemps website.

UPDATE: The new Parisian perfume boutique, Evody, also carries Stéphanie de Saint-Aignan. The address is 63 rue Saint-André des Arts 75006 Paris. Telephone is: 01 55 42 06 54

source of perfume descriptions: French Osmoz

photo credit: Christine Pierce

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Better-Know-A-Niche Perfumery: Hermès Perfume

Nearing the end of my Parisian perfume journey, I came to one of the most well-known fashion addresses in the city: 24 rue faubourg-St. Honore, home of the Hermès flagship store. While it is better known for its luxury handbags and silk scarves, Hermès also has a rich history of creating beautiful perfumes. The fragrances are located on the ground floor right next to the scarves. I must say, the scarf department was wild! There were sales associates lined up along one side of the long counter, with seas of beautifully colored scarves on the counters in front of them. Lined up on the other side were droves of eager customers waiting to choose their silken treasures! It was very high energy and chaotic!

Next to that, the perfume department was like the calm in the eye of the hurricane! There was just one sales associate, and a great display of testers so one could, if one were so inclined, spritz happily to one's heart's content. Which is exactly what I did! The Hermès classics were all present and accounted for: the green floral Amazone; the floral woodsy Caleche; and the rich amber floral 24 Faubourg.

But the main focus of my attention was The Hermessence Collection.

The Hermessence Collection is Hermès' contribution to niche perfumery and is available only in select Hermes boutiques. Launched in 2004, this line currently has six beautiful fragrances created by master perfumer Jean-Claude Ellena. They include:

  • Rose Ikebana, a blend of rose petals and crisp rhubarb; peony; pink peppercorns, grapefruit, vanilla and honey;

  • Ambre Narguilé, combining honey and amber with benzoin, labdanum, vanilla, caramel, sugar, tonka beans and sesame seeds;

  • Poivre Samarcande, pepper softened with mellow wood and musk

  • Vétiver Tonka, the strength of vetiver and the smoothness of hazelnut blended with neroli, bergamot, and tonka;

  • Osmanthe Yunnan, a soft floral blend with tea, osmanthus flower; orange; freesia and apricot

  • and the latest, Paprika Brasil, combining the essence of capsicum with the flames of brazil woods, spices and cloves.

These are available in 100 ml bottles ($175); the luxury version of 100 ml in a leather case ($420), and in Discovery Sets of 4 15-ml bottles for $120. The predetermined "variety" Discovery Set features the first four fragrances only: Rose Ikebana, Ambre Narguilé, Poivre Samarcande, and Vétiver Tonka. You may also purchase the Discovery Set with four bottles of the same fragrance of your choice.

My personal favorite in this collection is Osmanthe Yunnan. I am growing increasingly partial to the osmanthus flower and when blended with another of my favorites, freesia, it is a real delight. This fragrance also lasts an extremely long time on my skin, especially for an eau de toilette (well over 8 hours).

For more information, please see the Hermès website or telephone the NYC boutique: 212.751.3181.
photo credits: Christine Pierce

Monday, January 22, 2007

The House of Caron

"Bright," "sparkling," "crystalline," and "gemlike" are just some of the words that come flooding to my mind when I think of the Caron boutique. Located on the stately Avenue Montaigne in the 8th arrondissement, this is a true jewel-box of a store. Walking into this parfumerie reminds me of entering the glittering Hall of Mirrors at Versailles, albeit on a much smaller scale! The company was founded in 1904 by perfumer Ernest Daltroff and has been creating luxury fragrances for the last century.

This picture shows Caron's trademark crystal fountains. They are filled with the company's beautiful haute perfumes. As you can see, they are lovely to behold.

My favorite perfume from the crystal flacons is Tubéreuse. This is Caron's newest “fountain” creation, created by in-house perfumer Richard Fraysse in 2003. As its name suggests, it is a soliflore based on the beautiful tuberose flower. It has top notes of Indian tuberose; middle notes of jasmine, peach and apricot; and a warm vanilla base. It dries down to a very beautiful, elegant finish. There are 13 fountain fragrances, which may be purchased in Caron boutiques in Paris. Cost of Tubéreuse: 100 euro/50 ml eau de parfum.

For more information, visit the Caron website. There is also a Caron boutique in New York City, located on Madison Avenue between 61st and 62nd streets, telephone 212.319.4888.
photo credits: Christine Pierce

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Coach to Launch Its First Fragrance in March

We take a break from our Parisian perfume travelogue to share an announcement from Coach. This iconic leather goods manufacturer has created its first fragrance, Coach. Produced by a division of Estee Lauder Cos. in cooperation with Firmenich, this scent is slated to be launched in March and will be available exclusively in Coach's 220 U.S. retail stores.

According to,"the scent has top notes of tart green mandarin, guava, violet petals and water lily; a heart of genet flower, honey, orange flower, mimosa and jasmine, and a drydown of sandalwood, amber wood and vanilla."

The collection will consist of a 1.7-oz. eau de parfum spray for $68, an 8-ml. purse spray, $42, and a 0.15-oz. solid perfume, $40.

photo image: Coach purse spray;
photo credit: Robert Mitra

Friday, January 19, 2007

The House of Guerlain

House of Guerlain, 68 Ave des Champs Elysées

Today I am going to describe my visit to La Maison Guerlain (The House of Guerlain). Going there is like making a pilgrimage to the Mother Ship of haute parfumerie. Located on the expansive Avenue des Champs-Élysées, this quintessentially Parisian boutique is just what one might picture when thinking of a French parfumerie. It is charming, genteel, and refined. Walking through the door is like stepping back in time, to the lovely Belle Époche era of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

The Belle Époche period was a golden era of beauty, creativity, and peace in Europe. On the cultural scene, the arrival of the cancan, cabaret and the cinema livened things up. Meanwhile, the art world was swept away by the new styles of Impressionism and Art Nouveau.

Built in 1914, this boutique captures the essence of that time. The second floor, with its enormous plate glass windows looking out at the ever-changing street scene below, is a perfume-lover's haven. There are dozens and dozens of beautiful perfume flacons displayed throughout the chamber with blotting papers at the ready for your testing pleasure. Two easy chairs in one corner were most appreciated as I felt somewhat overwhelmed after an hour of sampling. Yes, I nearly swooned with delight! The sales associates were friendly but non-intrusive and did not seem to mind my camera and notepad.

Perfume display, second floor

Bee bottles!

The classics are all here: Jicky, created in 1889 and considered by many to be the first "modern" perfume and the first unisex fragrance; Apres L’Ondee (After the Rain Shower), the lovely violet-scented, powdery floral created in 1906 by Jacques Guerlain; Mitsouko, created in 1919, with its earthy heart notes of oakmoss and peach; Shalimar, the ambery floral created in 1925 and still considered the flagship perfume of Guerlain; and Liu, a beautiful floral/aldehyde fragrance created in 1929.

Common to many of the Guerlain fragrances is a special vanilla and amber accord. This unique accord is often referred to as the Guerlinade and a perfume by the same name was launched by Guerlain in 1921. It is a very light, pretty floral that would be good for daytime wear.

A special section of the room is devoted to the four fragrances in Guerlain’s latest collection, “L’Art et la Matiere”. Each of these fragrances has been created around a rare, precious ingredient by a master perfumer.

The collection includes Rose Barbare (Barbaric Rose), a beautiful elegant honey, rose and chypre fragrance created by French-Armenian perfumer Francis Kurkdjian; Cuir Beluga (Beluga leather), created by Olivier Polge; Angélique Noire (Black Angelica), created by Daniele Andrier; and Bois d’Armenie (Armenian incense paper), created by Annick Menrdo.

It's hard to tell in the picture below, but the tall bottle with the puff-atomizer is Angélique Noire, my personal favorite in this collection. It is a fresh, clean, sweet fragrance of angelica root, bergamot and vanilla. It dries down to a soft, slightly gourmand vanilla scent with good lasting power. It is available at the Guerlain flagship store (140 euros/ 75 ml) and at Bergdorf Goodman $195 for 2.5 fl. oz.

Guerlain treasures

Alert readers may have noticed I did not list this perfumery under "Better-Know-A-Niche Perfumery." That is because the House of Guerlain is beyond niche. It is in a category unto itself and stands alone as one of the first haute perfume houses in the world. Très bien!

photo credits: Christine Pierce

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Better-Know-A-Niche Perfumery: Serge Lutens -- Les Salons du Palais Royal Shiseido

Les Salons du Palais Royal Shiseido is home to the exceptional creations of Serge Lutens, master perfumer for this boutique since 1990. M. Lutens is wonderfully skilled in making harmonious, mysterious fragrances blended with rare and unusual essences. His fondness for Marrakech, where he has lived for many years, is evidenced in many of his warm, sultry, woodsy and spicy fragrances.

To learn more about M. Lutens, I recommend this terrific interview by Astrid Vitols in Osmoz. There is also a great website devoted to all things Serge Lutens here (although quite a bit has not been translated from French into English).

This distinct line of niche perfumes is showcased in the beautiful, hushed boutique located in the historic Garden of the Palais-Royal in Paris' first arrondissement. There is an almost reverential air in the main salon where the fragrances are on display. Each corner of the high-ceilinged room has a beautiful glass case displaying the line of fragrances. Each bottle of fragrance is paired with a previously-dipped scent strip which has dried down to its final notes. It is a visual delight just looking at the classic bell jars of eau de parfum, some availaible only in this boutique. (Fortunately, they may also be ordered online from the salons-shiseido website; cost is 100 euros for 75 ml eau de parfum).

Some of my favorites include:

  • Ambre Sultan:: a classic amber oriental fragrance with oregano, laurel, myrtle, amber, labdanum, benzoin, resins, angelica root, patchouli, sandalwood, styrax and tolu balsam

  • Bois et Fruits: a woodsy floral with apricot, red plum, peach and figs on a cedar base

  • A La Nuit: a sweet floral with jasmine, clove, benzoin, white honey and musk

  • Tubéreuse Criminelle: a rich tuberose floral with orange blossom, clove, musk, nutmeg, jasmine, tuberose, vanilla, styrax, and hyacinth greens

What I found most interesting about Tubéreuse Criminelle was how harsh the top notes were. When I first smelled it, I was hit with a gasoline/asphalt odor that nearly took my breath away! The sales associate must have seen the look of dismay cross my face as I snifffed it expectantly on the back of my hand. "Give it time," she said. So I walked outsided into the courtyard and strolled around in the cool winter air. A short while later, I sniffed it again. She was right! It had changed dramatically and was now a deep, rich tuberose scent that I just loved. I still do! The color of this eau de parfum is also unexpected. Most tuberose fragrances I am familiar with are a pale yellow hue. Not so with this one. It is a dark ambery brown, like an expensive cognac.

Tubéreuse Criminelle reminded me of two important lessons when trying new fragrances: 1) give yourself plenty of time for the dry-down; and 2) don't judge a fragrance by its color.

This line is available at aedes, $92-$120 for 1.69 ounces. It is also available at The Perfume House and in Australia at mecca.
photo credits: Christine Pierce

Monday, January 15, 2007

Better-Know-A-Niche Perfumery: The Different Company

On my second day in Paris, I went to what turned out to be one of my favorite niche perfumeries in the city: The Different Company. This perfumery was created at the beginning of this century with the goal of creating luxurious fragrances with rare and precious ingredients and keen attention to detail and craftsmanship.

Located on a quiet side street in the 2nd arrondissement, this boutique has a very clean, zen-like feel to it. The minimalist approach is reflected in the clean lines of the bottles made of carefully blown glass and topped with hefty bronze caps.

The press relations associate, Julie, was extremely helpful and very knowledgeable about the line. I was able to test the different fragrances at my own pace, and Julie answered my many questions with great patience and charm.

The Different Company collection currently has nine beautiful fragrances:

  • Bois d'Iris: Iris, vetiver, cedarwood, narcissus, geranium, musk

  • Osmanthus: Chinese osmanthus, leaf green, bergamot, orange, tangerine, rose, rose bay, castoreum, hay, and musk

  • Rose Poivrée: Damascus Rose, centifolia rose, rose bay, pepper, coriander, vetiver, civet

  • Bergamote: Bergamot (70%), ginger, orange blossoms, leaf green, rhubarb and musk

  • Jasmin de Nuit: Egyptian jasmine, star anise, cinnamon, cardamom, black currant, sandalwood, musk, and amber

  • Sel de Vétiver: cardamom, grapefruit, geranium, Haitian vetiver, Indonesian patchouli, ylang ylang and iris

  • Charmes et Feuilles: marjoram, peppermint, sage, wild thyme, jasmine sambac, grapefruit, clementine and patchouli

  • Sens et Bois: Chinese cedar wood, white violet, black pepper, elemi resin, ginger, patchouli, vervain, bergamot and incense

  • Ailleurs et Fleurs: neroli, petigrain, tuberose, hazelnut- and elder-flowers, mandarin, star anise, Bigarade orange, soft musk and plum

Choosing a favorite is difficult because they are each delightful and full of unique character. So I will choose two: Jasmin de Nuit and Ailleurs et Fleurs. Both of these gorgeous florals were created by Céline Ellena. Jasmin de Nuit is made with a particularly high concentration of Egyptian jasmine blended with warm cinnamon, cardamom and star anise on a bed of golden amber. It has a delicious dry-down and very good staying power. I am a big fan of jasmine in any form, and this fragrance is one of my favorite jasmine blends.

Ailleurs et Fleurs combines the delicate white flowers, neroli and tuberose, with petigrain oil and elder blossoms on a soft, musky base. This is a sheer, yet elegant transparent floral with unexpected depth. It calls to mind summer afternoon garden parties with white organza dresses and pearls.

These fragrances are available directly from The Different Company website. They are also available at luckyscent and lusciouscargo, $130-$150 for 90 ml eau de toilette.
photo credits: Christine Pierce

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Better-Know-A-Niche Perfumery: Etat Libre d'Orange

Our journey continues across the Seine into the 3rd arrondissement, along the edge of the happenin' Marais district. At the corner of Rue Pastourelle and Rue des Archives is the new parfumerie, Etat Libre d'Orange. Founded by Etienne de Swardt in 2006, this parfumerie allows its perfumers (Nathalie Feisthauer, Antoine Lie and Antoine Masondieu) free reign in their creative expression.

This is reflected in the provocative names of the fragrances:

  • sécrétions magnifique (magnificent secretions): iris, cocoa, sandalwood, opoponax

  • vraie blonde (real blonde): aldehydes, Champagne, rose, white pepper, myrrh, patchouli, suede...

  • je suis un homme (I am a man): bergamot, orange bigarade, lemon, myrtle, cinnamon, clove, cognac accord, leather, patchouli, animal notes...

  • encens et bubblegum (incense and bubblegum): peach, raspberry, vanilla, lily of the valley, orange blossom musk, incense...

  • jasmin et cigarette (jasmine and cigarette): jasmine absolute, tobacco, hay, apricot, tonka bean, turmeric, cedar, amber, musk...

  • putain des palaces (hotel slut): Rose absolute, violet, leather, lily of the valley, tangerine, ginger, rice powder, amber, animal notes...

  • eloge du traitre (praise of a traitor): pine, laurel, mugwort, clove, geranium, jasmine, patchouli, leather, musk...

  • rien (nothing): incense, rose, leather, iris, rock rose, oakmoss, styrax pyrogene, patchouli, amber, cumin, black pepper, aldehydes...

  • nombril immense (large belly button): patchouli, balsam of Peru, vetiver, black pepper, sweet myrrh, bergamot, carrot seed, ambrette seed...

  • antihéros (anti-hero): lavender, musk, wood

  • divin'enfant (Divine Child): orange blossom, rose, amber, musk, leather and tobacco...

The sales associate and I had a very merry time with the translations! We sat across from each other at her desk as she carefully sprayed each fragrance onto a blotting strip for me to smell, one at a time. I would smell each one with care, try to guess some of the notes, and then ask the name. I think everything sounds beautiful when spoken in French, but sometimes the translations can be a bit jarring! For instance, one of my favorite scents, Putain des Palaces, a soft, powdery rosy floral, sounds like beauty incarnate when its name is spoken in French. When she translated it for me as, "Hotel Slut," I nearly fell off my chair laughing! Probably not the response she was expecting, but the incongruence between the beautiful scent/melodious French name and the English equivalent caught me off guard.

I also really like Vraie Blonde, a bubbly aldehyde that feels very youthful. The newest fragrance has not yet been launched, but I was able to smell a sample. It is named Vierges et Toreros (Virgins and Bullfighters) and is a light tuberose/incense scent on a woodsy, musky base. For more information on this line, please see the Etat Libre d'Orange website.

Newsflash: Victoria mentions on her Bois de Jasmin website that the line is going to be availabe at Henri Bendel’s in NYC in the winter of 2007.

Next stop: The Different Company

photo credits: Christine Pierce

Monday, January 08, 2007

Better-Know-A-Niche Perfumery: L'Artisan Parfumeur

My fourth stop of the morning was the darling L'Artisan Parfumeur, just around the corner and down the street at 24 Boulevard Raspail, 75007 (01 42 22 23 32). This cheerful boutique, founded by Jean Laporte in 1976, features a wide range of unique eaux de toilette, home fragrances and fragrant objects. I fell in love with the limited edition Fleur de Narcisse 2006 Eau de Parfum. Last year was a bumper crop for the Narcissus flower, and this exquisite fragrance is the sweet essence of elegance in a bottle.

I also enjoyed the trio of eaux de toilettes, Les Epices de la Passion, translated as Love Potions. These three fragrances are inspired by ancient recipes for bewitching magic spells!

Safran Troublant (Saffron Spell) is the sweetest of the three. It combines saffron and vanilla with red rose and sandalwood into a lovely golden elixir.

Poivre Piquant (Fiery Pepper) is the the spiciest scent, combining strong notes of white pepper with the slight bitterness of licorice and velvety softness of honey and milk.

Piment Brûlant (Hot Pimento) is my favorite in the set. It is warm and spicy like red pepper, softened with a bit of chocolate, all blended with a touch of vanilla, poppy and cloves.

This trio of three 15-ml sprays is packaged in a beautiful red satin cylindrical case in a black gift box for $75 which can be ordered on the L'Artisan Parfumeur website.

Also interesting is the special 5-piece collection eaux de toilette Sautes d'Humeur (Mood Set). These five fragrances, “Lazy mood”, “Angry mood”, “Jealous mood”, “Joyful mood”, and “Spiritual mood” are a means of expressing or changing your mood in a very elemental way! I will be describing these in a later post, after I have time to feel their effects!

Finally, I also stopped by the L'Artisan Parfumeur flagship store near the Louvre.

This boutique offers a 3-hour perfume-making workshop in the upstairs studio. Cost is 95 euros. The class is offered sporadically, so do check in advance if you are interested in taking it. I was told by the sales associate that on a clear day the cozy atelier has a spectacular view of the Eiffel tower. Sadly, it was hidden by clouds on my visit!

Thus ends my first morning in Paris! Stay tuned for a description of my intriguing afternoon visit to the hip new parfumerie, Etat Libre d'Orange.

photo credits: Christine Pierce

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Better-Know-A-Niche Perfumery: Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle

My third Parisian parfumerie was Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle, located a couple blocks from Maître Parfumeur et Gantier at 37 rue de Grenelle, 75007.

Frederic Malle shook up the perfume world a few years ago when he offered nine world-class perfumers the freedom to create the luxurious perfumes of their choice. The resulting fragrances are of the highest quality and are a true delight for the senses. This boutique is very sleek and modern, with six floor-to-ceiling glass tubes in which customers may test various scents.

Scent Tube Frederic Malle.JPG

It's hard to tell from this photo, but basically the cylinder swings open at waist level, and you stick your head into the tube and breathe in the fragrance, in this case, En Passant. It is a terrific way to smell the pure fragrance with no olfactory distractions.

Editions de Parfums.JPG
My favorite fragrances in this line are Carnal Flower, a rich, elegant tuberose-based floral created by Dominique Ropion; En passant, Olivia Giacobetti's ethereal white lilac fragrance with watery notes, orange tree leaves, cucumber and wheat; and Iris Poudre, a sophisticated floral of iris, jasmine and rose warmed on a vanilla and sandalwood base. It was created by Pierre Bourdon.

The sales associate at this boutique told me it took 700 trials before deciding upon the final recipe for Carnal Flower. She said 15 trials/day would be presented for testing over a great length of time. I must say, it was well worth the wait!

Their website has an intriguing chart under the "choose your own perfume" tab indicating where each frederic malle fragrance is located on a scent grid. There is a "fresh/transparent"..."warm/rich" continuum intersected by a "sweet/soft"..."dry/streamlined" continuum. This visual display makes it very easy to begin choosing a fragrance. I wish all perfumeries would adopt this technique!

These 15 exceptional fragrances can be purchased in the U.S. at Barneys New York (in New York City, L.A., Boston and Dallas) and online at: barneys new york.
Cost: Carnal Flower 100 ml $250; En Passant 50 ml $105; Iris Poudre 100 ml $180. Also available is the test kit of 14-10 ml samples and descriptive booklet, for 240 euros on the Frederic Malle website.
photos credit: Christine Pierce

Friday, January 05, 2007

Better-Know-A-Niche Perfumery: Maître Parfumeur et Gantier

The second stop on my Parisian perfume tour was Maître Parfumeur et Gantier (MPG), located conveniently next to Parfums de Nicolai at 84 Rue de Grenelle, 75007. This classical parfumerie was founded in 1989 by perfumer Jean-François Laporte. Since 1997, Jean-Paul Millet Lage has headed the company.

Based on the High French Perfumery concept of the 17th century, Maître Parfumeur et Gantier literally translates as "Master Perfumer and Glovemaker." This is in reference to the historical link between glove-making and perfumery created by the fashion for perfumed gloves in France during the 1600s. (For a terrific description of the connection between glove-making, perfumery, and Grasse, please see Grasse's Museum website).

MPG is a parfumerie using very rare and fine ingredients to create luxurious perfumes. It has a variety of women's fragrances, men's fragrances, and home fragrances. The women's collection consists of four lines: The Divine Flowers; The Light Symphonies; The Mystery Accords; and The Invitation of the Journey.

After sampling several eaux de toilette at MPG, my favorite fragrance was Freezia d'Or ("Gold Freesia"), in the Mystery Accords line. It contains freesia, tuberose, neroli, jasmine, ylang ylang, iris and sandalwood. It is an absolutely delicious, freesia-y scent lightened by the refreshing lift of neroli. I had every intention of buying a small bottle, but it was not to be.

"Why not?" you may be tempted to ask. Well, since this stop was very early in my Parisian fragrance journey, and I did not want to be overloaded with shopping bags, I blithely assumed (wrongly, as it turns out), that I would be able to pick up a bottle of Freezia d'Or at the department store near my hotel. "Au Printemps" is one of the grand old department stores in the 9th arrondissement. It contains an extensive collection of hard-to-find perfumes, including Maître Parfumeur et Gantier. However, it is only a partial line. It does not carry "Freezia d'Or." Word to the wise....

Fortunately, "Freezia d'Or" is available online at aedes and beautycafe (cost: $105/3.3 ounces ).

The sales associate at MPG, Catherine, was very charming and helpful. She asserted that if one is wearing a fragrance that is suitable to one's chemistry, that one should not be able to smell the scent on oneself after application. In other words, if you can smell your perfume after you put it on (given a dry-down period, I assume), it might not be right for you. Others, she continued, should be able to smell it, however, and be pleased by it. What are your thoughts on this?

If you'd like to see my previous review of MPG Eau de Camelia Chinois, please visit here.

Next stop: Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle

photo credit: Christine Pierce

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Better-Know-A-Niche Perfumery: Parfums de Nicolai

My first morning in Paris, I made a beeline to the Left Bank. Armed with a map and a list of four parfumeries I wanted to visit before lunch, I hopped off the Metro at Rue-du-Bac, walked briskly to 30 Rue de Grenelle, 75007, and prepared to enter the store. It was not yet open. Drat! As I was quickly to discover, most stores in Paris open at 10:30 or 11:00 am. They are often closed for lunch as well. So, I took a quick walk around the block, watching my breath form clouds in the cold morning air, and circled around for another attempt. Bingo! The parfumerie was open!

Parfums de Nicolai Interior.JPG

This parfumerie is very petite but also very charming. I remembered it from a prior visit in 1998, and it looked remarkably the same. On that visit, I had purchased "Juste Un Reve" eau de toilette (an elegant jasmine and rose floral) and "Mimosaique" eau de parfum (yellow mimosa and green leaves - with iris root, jasmine and anise). Both were still available on this visit.

This time I tried four different fragrances, and ultimately selected a 30 ml bottle of "Rose-Pivoine" (Rose-Peony) eau de toilette. This is a very wearable, light floral fragrance consisting of top notes of bergamot and tangerine; middle notes of rose and peony; and base notes of amber and oak moss. Rose-Pivoine is the perfect fragrance to wear when you want something that is not over-powering but rather more of a background presence to your day. It can be purchased at beautyhabit. Cost: $40 for 30 ml edt. Parfum de Nicolai fragrances can also be found at Luckyscent.

Parfums de Nicolai was created by perfumeur Patricia de Nicolai and her husband, Jean-Louis, in 1989. As the grand-daughter of Pierre Guerlain, Patricia grew up immersed in the world of perfumery. She studied chemistry and attended the ISIPCA perfume school in Versailles. In 1988, Patricia was the first woman to receive the prestigious prize of the best international perfumer from the French Society of Perfumers.

Since 2005, Patricia has been using her creativity and her excellent knowledge of natural essential oils to create custom blends for individual clients. She compares custom-blended perfume to "haute couture" in the fashion world. For more information, please see the Parfums de Nicolai website.

Next: a visit to Maître Parfumeur et Gantier.
photo credits: Christine Pierce

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

My Luggage Arrived Today!

Hooray! My luggage arrived today, with all of the perfume bottles intact and fully accounted for. I am thrilled to have these pretty bottles of liquid gold lined up on my counter. Starting tomorrow, I will begin discussing the various perfume houses I visited, as well as the different fragrances I brought back to the States.

For now, jet lag is casting it's ugly shadow, so I will quickly follow-up my last post with a description of Fragonard "Capucine" eau de toilette. In contrast to yesterday's light, citrusy "Eau du Bonheur," "Capucine" is a warm, oriental fragrance consisting of green tea and bergamot top notes; middle notes of rose and jasmine; and base notes of musk, winter woods and vanilla. While it's not one of my favorites, I can see how it would be a cozy choice to wear on a cold winter's day. It can be purchased online at Fragonard, $32/100 ml edt refillable spray, or $48/200 ml.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Fragonard Perfume Museum

Day 4 with neither my luggage...nor my perfume samples.....

As I was dolefully unpacking my meager carry-on bag which represented the sole remainder of my European luggage, I chanced upon five TSA-approved foil-wrapped eaux de toilette samples from Fragonard Parfumeur which had made their way into one of the bag's many hidden pockets. Joy! All was not lost! I tore open the first packet, Eau du Bonheur, and sniffed happily away. My mood noticeably brightened as I took in the cheerful essences of bergamot, orange blossom, mate leaf, sandalwood and cedar. These single-use towelettes are a wonderful way to try a new fragrance, and are perfect for travel.

I obtained these samples at the beautiful Fragonard Perfume Museum (Musee Du Parfum) in Paris. Located in a 19th-century town house near the Opera Garnier, this museum has displays depicting 3000 years of perfume history. It is a short, self-guided tour with some very interesting pieces. Here is a Perfume Organ:

Perfume Organ Fragonard Museum.JPG

This is a Perfume Coffret from the 19th century:

Fragonard Perfume Coffret.JPG

Tomorrow while awaiting my luggage, I will try my second Fragonard eau de toilette-towelette, "Capucine." Stay tuned!
top image: Fragonard Perfume Museum, Paris; photo credit: Christine Pierce