It was time to make my way to the square just outside Palais Royal, where I was to meet Monsieur D. At exactly 1pm sharp, Monsieur D arrived, and we exchanged pleasantries before strolling into the Palais Royal. Our first stop was, naturally, the famed Serge Lutens boutique, where countless other perfumistas before me had no doubt made the pilgrimage to. The outside display held a bust wearing a metal helmet, presumably to promote the latest release, La Vierge de Fer. Inside, the lighting was dim and the décor an oppressive, sinister goth designed to swallow up the soul. Or perhaps it was meant to recreate the sense of quietude and respect that one would encounter in a cathedral, with the perfumes in their bell jars being the objects of worship, and the blotter strips laid out neatly in front of them being the incense to be offered.
Fortunately, the sales assistants in Serge Lutens were anything but scary and they offered their assistance with much aplomb. I reapplied Miel de Bois to one wrist and Musc Koublai Khan to another while Monsieur D tested out Santal de Mysore. Upon application, he exclaimed that there was way, way too much cumin for him to be able to wear it; it reminded him of food. I was however, quite taken with Santal de Mysore, being a huge fan of cumin myself. Additionally, I found Musc Koublai Khan to be rather less skanky than many had made it out to be, and in fact found it to be not quite the monster I’d expected it to be. And now for my startling confession: I left Serge Lutens without buying anything, despite liking quite a number of things. Before the accolades start rolling in for my amazing self-restraint, I must admit that the main reason I didn’t get anything was because I already own a whopping 15 different perfumes from Serge Lutens and countless other decants that I have yet to use up (occupational hazard!). I am, however, regretting not obtaining a sample of Miel de Bois and Santal de Mysore for further testing, for I am positive that full bottles of them will somehow end up in my collection one day.
Leaving Serge Lutens, Monsieur D and I walked further along the empty corridor of the Palais Royal towards Parfums de Rosine, which was inopportunely closed for lunch. We then decided to head to the Parfums de Nicolaï boutique at 28 Rue de Richelieu, which was merely one minute away from the Palais Royal. Monsieur D was on the hunt for a bottle of Sacrebleu, which had been discontinued recently. We were informed that there were no bottles in the shop, but Monsieur D was insistent, so the sales assistant helpfully telephoned the other boutiques to ask if they had any Sacrebleu in stock. Horrors upon horrors! Sacrebleu had officially disappeared from Parfums de Nicolaï. If you’re wondering why Monsieur D was so hung up on obtaining Sacrebleu when Sacrebleu Intense is still available, it’s because, in his words, “the raspberry top notes are more obvious in the Sacrebleu. It is also less muskier. That said, I must add that the drydown is pretty much the same.”
Just as we were about to leave the shop, my eyes wandered to the top shelf, where there happened to rest, in all its resplendent glory, a 250ml refill bottle of Sacrebleu. You know what it’s like to think that something is lost forever, only to find it? The rest of what happened should be played out in slow-motion, like the action sequences of a blockbuster movie. I lifted my hand, pointed it at the bottle of Sacrebleu (which happened to be the VERY LAST ONE) and shouted, “Look!” Monsieur D and the sales assistant turned their heads in the direction I was pointing. Monsieur D’s face changed from one of disappointment to that of immense surprise to that of joy beyond comparison. “Oh wow oh wow oh wow oh wow oh wow” was all we could utter. As the sales assistant brought it down from the top shelf, we confirmed that it was indeed Sacrebleu, not Sacrebleu Intense, and Monsieur D promptly proceeded to pay for it. Oh, and in case you’re wondering if all this news is too good to be true, and that I’ve made up a fictitious fairytale, here’s a picture to prove it!
We then proceeded to walk up Rue Saint Honoré, stopping by Colette, a whimsical lifestyle boutique that sells all things chic. I was there primarily because they stocked niche French brand A Lab on Fire, and I’d smelt a sample of What We Do in Paris is Secret (WWDPS) back in summer, and fallen terribly in love with it. It opens beautifully with a sugary lychee accord, then segues into I’ve-fallen-head-over-heels-for-you territory with its tonka, vanilla and heliotrope heart that is so easy to wear. Some might deem WWDPS (Dominique Ropion, love of my life) to be too straightforward, but I think it’s a gorgeous masterpiece. The honey note provides the gourmand with a much-needed slightly animalic, dirty skin boost, and when the tolu comes into the picture I’ve already decided to get married to this fragrance. Needless to say, I bought a bottle of WWDPS. They didn’t have the bigger bottles (for once, I actually want a bigger size), so I bought the 15ml travel spray for a highly affordable €24. I did try the rest in the line, but they didn’t wow me much (Thierry Wasser’s creation for the brand, Sweet Dream 2003, was a boring cologne, while Olivier Polge’s L’Anonyme ou OP-1475-A didn’t make much of an impression. Bruno Jovanovic’s Almost Transparent Blue was positively vile, which shocked me greatly, as I am a huge fan of his creation, Dries van Noten, for Frédéric Malle.) I did quite enjoy Liquid Night, an aromatic oriental that shapeshifts on skin over time to create the most delightful illusions. But that shall have to wait for another post. Meanwhile, Monsieur D is busy testing the fragrances from the Le Labo range, and he is quite smitten with Lys 41, which I credit myself for recommending to him knowing his love for white flowers in fragrance. Although he didn’t buy it there and then, I found out later when I was back in London that he had bought a full bottle! Hurray! 100 points to the ultimate perfume fairy godfather enabler! I left with a stash of samples from Byredo, thanks to the lovely sales assistant. I would highly recommend paying Colette a visit if you’re ever in the area.
Our next destination was Jovoy, which, truth be told, was immensely overwhelming in terms of its niche fragrance selection. If you’ve only got one hour to go perfume shopping in Paris, let that place be Jovoy. You can find the brands they stock on their website, as there are too many to list here. The question one faces, as always whenever one is placed in such a treasure trove, is where to start? Honestly, though, I don’t remember where I started, but I made my way gleefully across the room spritzing whatever caught my eye. I’d never had a chance to test Neela Vermeire’s creations before, and had always wanted to due to the rave reviews written by my fellow bloggers. I wasn’t disappointed. Betrand Duchaufour’s signature was very much present and if there’s one word to describe them, it’s “rich”. I don’t recall much in terms of how exactly they smell, definitely not enough to write any reviews of them, but I remember Trayee being my favourite due to its meditative elegance. I was also a fan of Bombay Bling, which was fruits galore, and especially MANGO, which I really love. If there’s any fragrance gift you’d like to give me, make it Neela Vermeire (yes, shameless plug I know, but I can’t afford them given the current state of my wallet – on a perfume buying ban until at least March, maybe even April). It’s a line that’s definitely worth exploring. I also recall spritzing on some of the perfumes in the Parfums MDCI line, which I really liked, but can’t afford. Chypre Palatin was a standout for me, again another Duchaufour creation. I also liked Un Coeur en Mai, a delicate, complex floral that was equal parts elegant and sophisticated. I didn’t find Invasion Barbare to be particularly great, despite the love it gets on internet forums, for it smelt just like any other barbershop fragrance (I blame my unsophisticated nose), and I preferred the cheaper alternatives of Givenchy’s Insensé, Paco Rabanne’s Pour Homme, and Penhaligon’s Sartorial. In any case, I was never a huge fan of the fougère genre, so I was bound to be less than objective towards Invasion Barbare.
And that’s it for Part II of Day 2! I’ve finished writing Part III, but thought it would be too long to combine everything in one post, so keep your eyes peeled for it!
~ The Smelly Vagabond