Bruno Marçal, Getty Images, Daniel Aratangy, Publicity
A perfume specialist, Brazilian Dênis Pagani, of the website 1 nariz, shows us the way to find the most diverse aromas (bottled or not) in the French capital
The trails of an aroma
The history of Paris can be told through its scents. For example, it’s no coincidence that the air extractors of bakeries are conveniently pointing to the sidewalks, tempting every passerby with the soft aroma of golden-crusted bread.
On Boulevard Richard Lenoir, which ends at Place de la Bastille, you can smell the freshness of the fruit, greens, and mushrooms at the stalls of markets like the one at Place Maubert. Fish exhibited by restaurants like L'Estaminet bring with them the aromas of the sea.On this olfactory tour of Parisian streets, it’s almost mandatory to dedicate some time to the fromageries (cheese shops) and their particular aromas, a pleasure for connoisseurs and those capable of anticipating the path of cheese to their mouths. The most impressive fromagerie? Barthélémy. But even the one you’ll find just around the corner will exceed your expectations. Paris is always Paris.
Boulevard Richard Lenoir: 11e arrondissement
Place Maubert: 5ème arrondissement
Barthélémy: Rue de Grenelle, 51
L’Estaminet: Rue Oberkampf, 116
In addition to these almost chewable aromas, let’s not forget the ones that leave a trail as they pass by. What is the reason of our identification of perfume as something typically French? It was Minister Colbert, in the 17th century, who regulated, stimulated, and developed the manufacture of French products like wine, textiles, and, of course, perfume. He created French luxury as we know it.
Back to 2019, the French perfume industry is alive, well, and filled with emerging brands that could be described as “authorial.” Outside the circuit of great names and stores, there are experts ready and eager to showcase their point of view and create an aroma of their own by focusing on their creativity, instead of committing to selling a million bottles.
Du Pain et des Idées: Rue Yves Toudic, 34
Before visiting perfumeries, think about what you’re looking for and how you’d like to feel after applying a fragrance on your skin. Imagine in what situation you’ll be wearing it. Are you looking for something energetic or seductive? If you’re a bit of a connoisseur, define if you prefer floral or wood scents, or focus directly on raw materials. Talk about it with the salesperson: they know their products very well and will be happy to guide you through your purchase.
A good starting point for this perfumed tour is Serge Lutens’ store, inside the Palais Royal. Do not be intimidated by the low lighting and the purple details on the walls. Ask for a sample of the Muscs Koublai Khan and be amazed by its almost animal energy (it’s only a dramatic introduction for a perfume that wears lightly).
On another front, the brand Histoires de Parfums combines the nostalgic inspiration for their perfumes with the aesthetics of the store. Located in the heart of Le Marais, a cool neighborhood par excellence, it looks more like a contemporary art gallery than a store. Their first collection has names like 1725 or 1804, but their perfumes are very recent and manifest their contemporaneity.
Now, if you’re looking for a library of aromas – not bottles –, Osmothèque is the perfect place: with almost 4,000 bottles in their original formula (800 are no longer produced), it has become a must-see. If you ask in advance, you can arrange a visit to the cellar where they keep their relics, participate in olfactory conferences, and enjoy the cuts from their collection. Patricia de Nicolaï, the perfumer and president of Osmothèque, is also the owner of one of the brands with the best price-quality ratio in the universe of authorial perfumes. Contrasting with the simple visual identity of Parfums de Nicolaï, its fragrances are filled with strength and creativity.
If what you’re looking for is to taste aromas, you cannot miss the store Épices Roellinger, located conveniently close to the Louvre. There, you’ll be able to find the results of studies on spices carried out by chef Olivier Roellinger on a wall filled with tiny jars. These condiments range from dozens of chili peppers from Asia and Africa to blends with delicious ingredients such as fleur de brume and pure spices. In addition, every jar comes with suggestions for their use. For example, the Poudre des Bulgaires is a mixture of seasonings for yogurt and constitutes a quick solution to improve your breakfast. You cannot miss their collection of vanillas, at the back of the store, where you’ll be able to find all the aromatic varieties of this flower. The offer ranges from sweeter species with thicker, rounder flowers – like the one from India – to others that look like they are made out of leather or burned wood.
To continue on a similar path, you can visit Butte aux Cailles, a neighborhood located on a small hill in the south of the city. The quiet atmosphere is a refreshing break from the busy heart of Paris. There you’ll find Les Abeilles, a store that specializes in products derived from hives. For example, they have honey-based soaps and candles made out of beeswax. But the best part is the abundance of varieties of honey that you can try, each one from a different flower and with distinct characteristics. The most Parisian of all is the one produced by bees living in hives scattered all across town. And, just like these bees, with a little instinct and dedication, visitors can find their way to the best aromas in Paris.
The favorites of Patricia de Nicolaï, president of Osmothèque
How does Osmothèque get the original recipes for the perfumes?
We keep in a vault, like in a bank, around 200 recipes entrusted to us by the brands. These recipes continue to be secret because it is impossible to protect them legally.
What are the treasures of the collection?
Iris Gris by Jacques Fath (1947) is an exceptional work made with iris as the main material. It’s very original, extremely soft, and very potent. And Chypre by Coty (1917), which gave way to an entire family of sophisticated perfumes known as Chypres, like the giant Mitsouko by Guerlain (1919).
Osmothèque: Rue du Parc de Clagny, 36, Versalhes
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