Friday, 21 June 2013

Paris Is For Perfume Lovers: Part 2 - Solo Sniffing In Printemps, IUNX & The Odd Shop In Between

After my lunch with Neela, replete with liver and sundry other spicy delights I am not sure I could put a name to, I decided to work off some calories by pounding the pavements and hitting the perfume trail.  The nearest retail behemoth was Printemps, the layout of which you would think I would have grasped by now, having visited the store three times in as many years, near enough.  Not so.  Printemps is as confusing as the room sets in IKEA, and I always find myself starting my search for the niche fragrance area in the wrong building.  And when I do eventually locate the way to the Beauty section within the right building, I invariably stumble across Jo Malone first every time.


I am not sure I am wholly comfortable with the new ownership by Esteé Lauder, and one or two of the recent launches such as Plum Blossom have had that mainstream floral, ozonic, Herbal Essences vibe going on.  However, when it comes to getting under your feet and in your face, the Jo Malone concessions simply can't be beat.  As a result, I always start off any sniffing session with the latest half a dozen or so scents from the line, somewhat queering my nose in the process, and end up being a bit cross with the brand on yet another count.  It probably taps deep into some childhood shame about spoiling my appetite by gorging on wine gums right before dinner.

All of the above notwithstanding, I have taken the trouble to conserve my smelling strips, so I can tell you that I tested:

Velvet Rose Oud
Amber and Patchouli
Oud and Bergamot
Saffron Cologne Intense
Rosewater and Vanilla

Sneaky shot of the niche area while the security man was on his mobile

Amber and Patchouli was rather pleasant, in a L'Ombre Fauve-Lite kind of way, and I would happily have worn either the Saffron Cologne Intense or the Oud and Bergamot if someone gave me a sample.  None of them blew me away though, which seems to be rather the trouble with the house these days.  I cut my niche teeth on Jo Malone, and it seemed ever such an exotic and prestigious brand back in 2008 when I was stalking Ebay for minis and 30ml bottles of just about any scent you care to name (except Grapefruit Cologne, obviously).  Yet most of the recent launches seem to me more like casually shuffled olfactory building blocks, cobbled together in the spirit of: 'Oh, have we put rose with oud yet, or what about vanilla instead?  Or shall we take a punt on both?'  Maybe the whole layering concept underpinning the Jo Malone ethos has backfired on them by fostering a perception in the customer's mind that no single perfume is a viable entity in its own right.  

Having a tea - and teal - moment


Having got up to speed with the JMs, I took my slightly compromised nose over to the Frédéric Malle stand, where the sales assistant let me make my own sample of Dries Van Noten using one of the test tube-style receptacles which Freddie (another Freddie!) of Smellythoughts recently put me onto.  They are wide at the opening and taper to a point, perfect for spraying commando.  (Sorry, I seem to be rather partial to that word at the moment.)  My pride at having successfully negotiated this DIY sample favour was quickly dented by the SA chiding me for thinking Dans tes Bras didn't smell of very much.  She proceeded to drench an embossed blotter with the fragrance, which was my cue to agree that it was (of course!) rather a strong scent after all.  Or it was on card, certainly.  Now I didn't care for the opening of Dries Van Noten (which it's taking all my concentration not to call Denise Van Outen); it was very peanut brittly in the manner of SL Jeux de Peau, but I have yet to do a proper test and pay attention to the drydown - the reviews seem to indicate it is likely to be very much to my taste.

Denise Van Outen, looking uncharacteristically moody - Source: The Randomizer


I paused momentarily by the Diptyque counter, and sniffed the new summer scent, Eau Mohéli, a perky violet leaf-spicy-greenish number built around a central note of ylang-ylang.  I swear the sales assistant never mentioned that key fact, for I am sure - ylangoholic that I am - my ears would have pricked up if she had.  Whilst refreshing, this scent again failed to move me particularly.   Patty of Perfume Posse hits the nail on the head when she says in her review:  'It’s crisp, which feels weird for a ylang fragrance.'


I stopped by the Serge Lutens area briefly to try Fille de Berlin, whereupon the assistant promptly extended a blotter.  I inhaled deeply.  'Hmm', I mused.  'This is nicer than I was expecting, sort of fruity and more floral.'  The assistant loitered for a good couple of minutes, observing my reaction, before blurting out: 'Oh, I do apologise - I've given you Datura Noir!'  She quickly proffered what looked like a white spectacle-cleaning cloth, and which was pre-sprayed with Fille de Berlin.  The spicy opening knocked my head off and slew the lemming in one seamless swipe, however the drydown - a whole week later! - is characterised by a tender, realistic rose note.  As with Dries Van Outen, I think I need to conduct a proper test.


The highlight of my sniffing in Printemps was my systematic sampling of the latest Private Blends - that's the Jardin Noir and the Atelier d'Orient Collections, plus I also tried Sahara Noir for good measure (incense on steroids, but I sensed it might be lovely after a day or so).  As ever, Tom is keeping up the 'noir' theme I note, though it was nice to see him breaking away from references to 'wood' and 'oud' in the titles.  I liked all the Jardin Noir scents, with Jonquille de Nuit and Lys Fume stealing the show.  The Atelier d'Orient scents were more disappointing - and a little bit odd. Plum Japonais in particular was a 'me-too' car crash version of Féminité du Bois, to be perfectly blunt about it.

The very lovely sales assistant, who bobbed and smiled like a sleek black moor hen, made me up a sample of Jonquille de Nuit, which I would liken to DelRae Début but without the indolic drydown.  As I went to thank her, I peered at her (generic) name badge and said, with only a trace of mischief in my voice: 'And you would be...hold on...Tom Ford!  Why thank you, Tom - it was very nice to meet you.'  To which she replied, grinning broadly: 'I am also Julie.'  


The rest of the afternoon passed in a haze of wandering.  I ambled down rue Cambon, stopping for a cup of tea and a blotter consolidation session in a cafe opposite no 31.  Then I dropped into IUNX to pay a social call on Ron the manager.  I explained that I had still to make a serious dent in the Eau Frappée light sabre I had bought on my visit in 2009, and that even if I had fallen for the latest release, L'Arbre, there was no way I could accommodate another whopping truncheon in my fridges.  

As it turned out, L'Arbre was a spicy woody scent that might have made a better candle or room fragrance.  Ron showed me some photos on his phone of this year's Christmas window display, which had been a huge hit with the Japanese apparently, a steady stream of whom had paused to take photographs of the curious and colourful playplax edifice.  Except it wasn't playplax as such, though it was evidently a close relation, prompting Ron and me to reminisce about playing with the toy stuff as kids.



I was starting to flag by now, but took a peek inside a Dior store, where the assistant had a particularly sparkly smile.  

The ultimate way to curb snacking?
Then a sign in the Rue Castiglione amused me, because I used to go out with an Italian plastics engineer called Bruno.

Hey, look - I still have the 'his and hers' egg cups to prove it!

Coming up in Part 3 - another perfumista meet-up or two!  The picture below is a clue, but I should point out that the cat in question is an impostor...



  1. A fabulous post Vanessa :D Glad to read your still using your suppository-style sample vials :P
    I'm riddled with envy I want to be back in Paris <3

  2. Hi Freddie!

    Your suppository-style receptacles are the biz! I have been sending them off all round the world, hopefully without incident. I love how easy they are to fill and to seal. And what a bargain compared to the regular tackle. :-)

    Here's hoping you get back to Paris again soon!

  3. What a wonderful day of perfume. Brings it all back vividly.

  4. I was in Printemps but I didn't know there were two new Tom Ford's perfumes :( so Ididn't look for the brand (since I've tried everything else, Ombre de Hyacinth being my favorite).

    That "sparky smile" together with the look on Dior SA's face can scare away a horde of zombies.

  5. Dries van Outen - your concentration did slip after all. :D
    That cat is not only an imposter but also a poseur, one of the cutest. Looking forward to part 3.

  6. Hi Lucy,

    That is one of the reasons I like travel writing because it freezes the moment long after your memory has faded - which with me and sniffing expeditions can be just a week or too!

    Next time I visit Paris, I would be interested to go to some of the literary haunts and houses you did - I think you are stealthily reeling me into appreciating this home interiors world...

  7. Hi Undina,

    Printemps is such an Aladdin's Cave of delights that it is impossible to do the whole place in one go. I must have missed out about half a dozen perfume houses, including By Kilian, which I am kicking myself about now. I forgot to mention that I caught up finally with AG Musc Nomade, whose praises Katie Puckrik has been singing for ages, and I did like it very much indeed.

    Zombie scaring is of course an activity on which you are something of an authority. A passing reference to them may be incorporated into Part 3...;-)

  8. Hi Olfactoria,

    Dagnabit! You caught me out having a momentary lapse...

    Impostor puss and the one he is impersonating are indeed super cute, and poseur is a good word for it!

  9. Lovely, fun poast. Really enjoyed going virtual perfume shopping with you in Paris. I hope we can do it together for real one day.

    I really want to get past that nutty opening of Dries van Noten. Denise van Outen is it's new name now!

    Ah, and dear Ron. I hope he's doing well.

    Roll on Part 3!

  10. Hi Tara,

    I would gladly go back to Paris another year if I could - at this notice the cheapest option was to fly from Liverpool (though I only flew home in the end!), but if we went together it would make sense to take the train to and from London. I might have to review my eclectic hotel preferences if I had a travelling companion, mind. ;-)

    Dear Ron was on good form, though I still can't remember what part of Ireland he is from. Hold on, Mayo, that's it. The time he crashed his dad's car has just come back to me, and I am pretty sure that was there!

  11. That was good fun riding in the virtual side car! I enjoyed your guided tour thru Paris.

    I have been very intrigued by the new Diptyque myself, but you have calmed the desire. I thank you for that because I already want too many things!

    The Dior lip thing - I think you are on the right track. It could curb eating. Also smoking, drinking, kissing, general enjoyment of life...

  12. Hi Vanessa, Truly enjoying your Paris write-ups, since I miss Paris. Looking forward to the next chapters:-)

  13. Good gosh, that mouth! And I am on the more daring end of the style spectrum, I think?

    Can't wait to hear about Part 3. The kitty can only mean you met up with Undina?

  14. Hi joanelaine,

    'Virtual side car' is a fun way of putting it! Sorry it couldn't have been a real one. Or a combination of Metro and Shanks's pony, my actual transport modes. ;-)

    I hope I haven't been unfair to the Diptyque scent - there are a few favourable reviews knocking about, but I don't think anyone was blown away by it as such.

    The Dior lip was the most extraordinary thing. Apparently the catwalk models at the recent Dior show wore stick-on crystals like that, and this 'fashion' has now been imposed on sales staff. For a limited period, I very much hope for their sakes!

  15. Hi Asali,

    I am glad the reports are bringing back happy memories for you. I mentioned your and Ines's visit to Ron when I was chatting to him. Hopefully we will all get to hook up one day in some fragrance mecca or other... ;-)

  16. Hi Natalie,

    I didn't half pity the poor assistant for having to put up with all that hardware. She was being jolly stoical. And she also gave me the most enormous sample of Grand Bal. About an 8-10ml decant at a guess! Grand Bal indeed...

    And yes, as you will see in Part 3, I did indeed meet Undina, hot from her visit to Vienna!