Those who love flowers inevitably love fragrance as well - and one's sense of smell, we know, is very individual. One may prefer the crisp green scent of freshly cut herbs, or the soft aroma of velvety rose petals. To satisfy the human nose, perfumeurs have toiled for centuries to extract, and then capture, the elusive scents of the earth's many rare delights.
A few facts about fragrance...
- Perfume began as incense in Mesopotamia.
- The Egyptians invented aromatherapy...Cleopatra's ship was made from cedarwood. She had perfumed sails, incense burners were everywhere and she scented her body with oils infused with violets, roses and almond oils with orange blossom.
- Alexander the Great had his tunics soaked in saffron.
- In ancient Rome perfume extended to houses and household pets...
- Louis XIV had, in effect, a staff devoted to his perfuming interests - his cloths were bathed in nutmeg, jasmine, orange blossom and cloves.
- Louis XV had perfumed doves that were released as partners, to scent the air -
- Napoleon, even while on campaign, insisted upon scented lotions, etc.
Perfume has a rich and fascinating history. Too much to cover here, but a list of books at the end will enrich your library.
Start with a walk in the park.
In this case, the Tuileries, or perhaps the Luxembourg Gardens. Then a stroll down the Quai de la Mégisserie, across the river, to all of the flower stalls.
Visit flower shops and shops that specialize in fragrance - perfume.... What they really specialize in is creating ambiance - mystery, romance, curiosity, seduction, charm, sensuality, and necessity.
A single rose, an abundant mixed bouquet, a flat of herbs or a tall planted clematis tied to bamboo - whatever your pleasure - you will find it.
Parfum de Feuilles
Found at L'Artisan Parfumeur, this fragrance is absolutely divine - for the same reason I love to mix roses with tomato leaves when making floral arrangements in the country. Some might say they are an odd couple. To me, opposites attract and create the essential contrast to make life interesting.
Not just one fragrance but a company philosophy of single-note fragrances. When you want a particular fragrance go to Diptyque and try -
Figuer (Fig Tree) - for something dense and exotic, or Scented Geranium (Geranium Rosa) for a walk through the garden, as if you had just rubbed a leaf that released its perfume. Other Diptyque scents include Feu de Bois (Firewood), Baies (black current leaves and Bulgarian roses) and Choisya (Mexican orange blossom). All delicious!
Diptyque also has a cologne collection - fragrances not just for the home - L'Hombre Dans L'Eau (The Swan on the Water) and others. They have also introduced a new body care line this year, with names like Byzantium.... Who wouldn't feel indulgent enveloped in Damask Rose. Many of the shops on our list carry scented candles and room sprays for the home - Explore, experiment and enjoy!
Poivre Samarcande by Hermès
One of the most brilliant perfumeurs today is Jean Claude Ellena, the alchemist behind the fragrances at Hermes. His formulas are mysterious, puzzling – exotic, compelling and unique cocktails. Of all the fragrances that I have worn, Poivre Samarcande elicits comments and compliments from everyone.
Joel Rosenthal, the extraordinary jeweler - and an American - has created Golconda, which reminds me of that moment when night-scented stock are at their peak, intoxicatingly intense - beyond floral – other worldly. Of course, I have no idea what elements have been combined to make this intensely rich perfume. It could even be the essence of truck loads of spicy carnations. One never knows all the notes in a fragrance – after all isn’t that the perogative of any skilled perfumeur – to hold back on some elements – and don’t we love the mystique of it anyway?
I first discovered the fragrances of Serge Lutens in the Shisheido shop in the Palais Royale years ago. If you have ever walked by the exquisite violet façade and not gone in – well, what can I say – you have been missing something. Available now at Barney’s in New York and I am sure other places, I still buy mine in Paris. The association of Un Lys, the violet shop and one of the most glorious places in Paris - the Palais Royale – just intensify the fragrance for me. Other fragrances are available, I encourage you to find your ‘note.’
En Passant –
Frédéric Malle, proprietor of Editions de Parfums, whose boutiques in Paris boast futuristic, glass-enclosed fragrance chambers - has a coterie of talent under one roof. Since launching his company in 2000, he has recently expanded across the pond, arriving at 19 East 72nd Street on the Upper East Side.
White Lilac – If you know anything about fragrance composition you know that a single note is not simply a single note. These complex formulations have back notes that enhance and support, and allow that single flower to express itself completely, with no competition.
In the case of En Passant, what Olivia Giacobetti did with white lilac is magical.
Whatever supports this white lilac is the best of fragrance partners –
En Passant, as the name suggests, is quite like a waft, a breeze of white lilac, soft, feminine – and genuine.
Oh, and lastly, did we mention - Mariage Freres - and the hundreds of fragrant teas that they offer. The delicate fragrance and color of meringues at Ladurée, the warm fragrant aroma of souffles at La Recamier. And then, there's the air itself - the lindens in blossom, and the omnipresent, appetizing aroma of freshly baked bread, pain au chocolat and then...and then...and then....
Vilmorin, Casa Nova, Delbard and La Boutique - all nurseries along the Quai de la Mégisserie.
Le Cedre Rouge - 22 Avenue Victoria
Henri Moulie - 8 Place de Palais Bourbon
Mariane Robic - 39 Rue de Babylon
Stephane Chapelle - 29 Rue de Richelieu
Milles Feuilles - 2 Rue Rambuteau (Marais)
Flamant - Rue Furstemberg
Hysope & Cie - 104 Rue Vieille du Temple
Shiseido - Salons du Palais Royale - 25 Rue de Valois
Fragonard - 203 Rue St Honoré
Parfums de Nicolai - 28 Rue de Richelieu
Hotel Costes Shop - 239 Rue St. Honoré
Roger & Gallett (Marionnard) - 1 Place du Palais Royale
Editions de Parfums/Frederic Malle - 21 Rue du Mont Thabor
Diptyque - 34 Boulevard Saint Germain
La Maison du Roy - 24/26 Passage Jouffroy
Guerlain - Champs Elysées - 35 Rue Tronchety
L’Artisan Parfumeur - 24 Boulevard Raspail
Cote Bastide - 4 Rue de Poissy
Aesop - 20 Rue Bonaparte
Agraria - www.agrariahome.com
From My Library on Fragrance
The Scented Garden by Eleanor S. Rohde
The Scented Garden by Rosemary Verney
A Natural History of the Senses by Diane Ackerman
The Book of the Scented Garden by F.W. Burbidge (circa 1905)
Gardening with Herbs by Emilie Tolley & Chris Mead
L'Ame Parfumée des Jardins by Catherine Laroge
And so many more.... Look for our Paris mix on iTunes.com, coming soon!
All photography by Charlotte Moss. Graphic design & layout by Matthew Kowles.
Vintage magazine ads and Town & Country cover from a collection.