I'm just back from Paris. My schedule was pretty hectic, my time was somewhat limited plus, as I was travelling with a girlfriend of mine who never visited the city, to my perfume trip, I had to add the usual turistic excursions (Cluny, Pompidou, Mont Maitre, Notre Dame, Orsay, Louvre..and so on...). I'm exhausted and my feet look just like the gosling's ones but I'm extremely satisfyied and, most of all, I'm back with tones of goodies and a full report I hope you'll enjoy...
(please note that the following happened during my five days trip and several of the following boutiques have been visited in different days)
My first stop was at Caron in Avenue Montaigne. This boutique has an old-style luxury vibe that can result slightly off-putting at first but Mme Al Saadi (the directrice) was just lovely and extremely generous too. Looking at her wearing a lot of Caron powder exactly as if she came straight from the 1930s was quite an experience per-se. No need to say that I fell for most of their extraits. I'm afraid I've to disagree with Mr.Turin this time. Yes, most of their reformulations verge on the same woody-soapy-rosey base but, as a matter of fact, I still find many of them to be extremely satisfying and outstanding. I pulled the trigger on three extraits (Tabac Blond, En Avion and Poivre) and left my heart on both Narcisse Noir and Nuit De Noel of which, thanks to Mme Al Saadi's generosity, I had several smples of (together with samples of almost any other fragrance in production). Amazing experience and great customer service.
Next stop: Guerlain at Champs Elysees.
Not much to say about this boutique except that it should be a MANDATORY stop for any true fragrance lover out there. The service was just fantastic and the shop looks terrific. As I walked the door they asked me where I came from and called an italian speaking SA to assist me. I was actually familiar with almost anything they had in the boutique so I took the chance to re-test a bunch of their "pure-parfums" to check if any further reformulations happened. Jicky and Vol De Nuit (both in parfum) are still the standouts IMO. I asked them about the forthcoming discontinuation of Vetiver Pour Elle but the SA assured me that it is not confirmed yet (any further news anyone?). She also offered me a bunch of samples of it. I finally pulled the trigger on a bottle of Sous Le Vent and been offered the Guerlain Privilege Card with a 15% discount on a future purchase. Also briefly tested the Les Deserts d'Orient trio but unfortunately they had no samples to offer. Before leaving, the SA wanted to spray me all over with Shalimar Parfum which is still pretty terrific expecially during the opening and heart. Time to move on and head off to....
Serge Lutens at Palais Royal
This is possibly the most beatiful flagship store EVER (and I'm not even amongst the biggest Lutens' fans out there). Extremely elegant, quiet, dark and...kinda grotesque in a completely appealing way. Black wood furniture, dark blue lights and creepy SA's. Gosh, Lutens' SA's are scary. They never smile, the don't talk and they don't even walk...they crawl like zombies. Fascinating! :)
This pale, female SA completely dressed in black, stared in front of me with her charmingly austere beauty. Fixed expression, a faint voice, detached attitude. She moved extremely slowly and, one after the other, showed me the whole range of fragrance. I confirm that with the exception of most of the earlier stuff, I'm definitely not among the biggest Lutens fans. I pulled the trigger on a couple of bell jars (Iris Silver Mist and La Myrrhe) and left my heart on Fourreau Noir but I find most of his latest offerings to be way too overloaded with Iso E Super.
Biggest disappointments among the older stuff:
Encense Et Lavande (I was actually ready to buy this but after wearing it, it turned into a big no-no-no. The drydown is just way too far from being an acceptable body fragrance).
Cuir Mauresque which smells fine but it's a sort of one-dimensional version of Knize Ten and Santal De Mysore.
Winners (excluding the ones I bought or already own): Sarrasins, Boxeuses, Fourreau Noir.
Overall, a great experience and another mandatory stop for anyone visiting Paris. I got away with two bell jars, the usual solid parfum set of cards and a couple of spray samples I didn't ask for (Five O'Clock and Vitriol).
Next Stop: Jovoy.
Jovoy was my best fragrant-experience in Paris. These guys know how to do business, really. As I walked the door I've been immediately offered a coffee and a bunch of paper strips. The director was extremely friendly and informed me that I could have asked for samples of any fragrance that catched my interest. I've been left all the time I needed to properly test anything I wanted. The selection of brands was pretty good but nothing comparable to stores such as Campomarzio 70 or Lucky Scent though. That being said they still had an extremely solid offering. I tested all of the Xerjoff's Ouds and I've been incredibly impressed by both Zafar (pretty challenging-dreadful stuff indeed, loved it) and Al-Khat (nice woody jasmine). I can't come with my final virdict yet but, so far, these two were the winners. Tested a bunch of the Dorin's offerings and found both the Musk and the Amber to be quite interesting.
Came out with a full bottle of Xerjoff Fiero and tones of samples including the Jovoy's full range of fragrances, MDC Chypre Palatin, Vero Porfumo Kiki and Rubj (both extraits), the new Aedes De Venustas, Dorin's Un Air D'Amour Pour Monsieur and some others.
When I got back to my apartment I immediately opened Fiero to realise that my bottle was defective and the juice spilled out. I came back to Jovoy where I've been immediately given a brand new bottle and, with much surprise, I've been also asked to choose one of their candles as a courtesy gift because of the happening. They also offered me free shipping on my next order...These guys know what customer service is :)
Next to Jovoy is JAR
JAR, JAR....JAR. Anyone who has experienced JAR (both the fragrances and the store), knows what I'm talking about. JAR is not a perfume shop, it's a secret club. Their compositions are far beyond being just fragrances, they're more like the car crashes in Ballard's Crash. Perversely fascinating, kinda morbid and definitely out of this world. Anyway...I sat at the table and decided not to be avid so I focused on only three of their "concoctions". Bolt Of Lightning, Jardenia and Golconda. WOOOOAAAAA!
The SA offered me to wear a couple of them and I decided to go for Jardenia and Bolt Of Lightning. He applied them on my wrists with the most pleasant massage I ever got on my wrists LOL After this experience my day was done. I will have to test this stuff several more times before coming with a reliable conclusion but after spending the whole day with this stuff on my body I can say that there's absolutely nothing like these fragrances around. BoL is a green tuberose with a weird "wet foliage" facet and a nose-pickling (kinda sharp) gassy note. Putrefying leaves with green fruit? Amazing stuff but I'll need more testing. Jardenia is pure funghi porcini. Funghi porcini and gardenia to be honest.
I quite enjoyed the experience and while I even thinked about pulling the trigger on Bolt Of Lightning, I definitely hated Jardenia. JAR gets all my respect for producing such daring concoctions but, honestly, as much as I love odd stuff and challenging fragrances, after a whole day spent with Jardenia on my wrist I was literally nauseated and disturbed. I was so disturbed that I couldn't eat at night (my stomach was truly revolted) and needed a couple of showers to scrub Jardenia off. This stuff is absolutely gross. Sorry guys. That being said, I'm still more than intrigued to deeply explore all of their other stuff.
Moving on to Parfums De Nicolai.
Lovely stores (I visited both the one next to Palais Royal and the one in Rue Des Archives).I basically focused on re-testing a bunch of their classics to check the current status of the formulations. Both Le Temps D'Une Fete and Odalisque still smell pretty darn good. Pour Homme kept on doing nothing for me this time, as well as the first time I tried it. I bought a couple of their Vaporisateur D'Ambiance (Vetiver De Java for me and their latest Dansons La Capucine which is a nice galbanum/geranium centered composition for my aunt). No samples available in any of their stores...weird.
Last but not least, Comme Des Garcons...
A mandatory stop for me. The Rue Du Faubourg St.Honore boutique is one of the biggest and most beatiful CDG's shops I've ever visited and, most of all, is one of the very few to stock a huge selection of their haute couture collections. Seeing their most hazardous creations hanging from the stands is quite an experience. I obviously tested the new Play trio and, for the first time, I haven't felt enough intrigued to buy any of them. Don't get me wrong, these fragrances are actually pretty decent but, if you're a CDG hardcore lover, they're kinda underwhelming (will surely give them another chance with a full wearing, though). That being said, they definitely could represent a valid option for anyone who's not familiar with the brand. Let's say they're a good entry level if you like to explore this brand and a terrific alternative to most of today's offerings from any designer.
A few other minor stops were Annick Goutal to rapidly test their new Nuit Etoilee which striked as a nice (but somewhat forgettable) aromatic minty-piney concoction. Parfumerie Generale where I got samples of the new Corps et Ames and Cuir D'Iris and got gifted of a bottle of Querelle (?!?). Lovely travel companion :). Etat Libre D'Orange was closed but their windows were pretty fantastic. They looked halfway bewteen a sex-shop (neon lights included) and an art gallery. At the Jean Patou boutique in Rue De Castiglione, the SA told me they're now planning a worldwide re-launch of Patou Pour Homme (any further news anyone?). Colette was absurdly crowded so I rapidly tested the latest deliveries by A Lab On Fire and run away (my initial impression is that all of them are pretty underwhelming). After a visit to the Musee De Cluny, I checked the Diptyque's boutique in Blvd St Germain and with my disappointment, I've to report that all of their previous bottles have been completely replaced, here and in any other shop in town, be the new ones (the oval ones). If you don't like the new design, it's time to stock up on the older ones as they will be replaced pretty soon all over the world...
My latest stops were Printemps, La Fayette and a bunch of Sephora/Marionnaud. Printemps was pretty cool, well organized and easy to browse. I tested Dior's Grand Bal and Oud Ispahan which are both pretty nice but absolutely unoriginal. Grand Bal is an average woody floral that if smelled blindly you can't distinguish from most of the fragrances in the same vein while Oud Ispahan is the same, trite, rosy-oud concoction which brings similarities to countless fragrances that go from Portrait of A Lady to Dark Rose, via a pile of Montales. Anyway, grabbed a bunch of samples including Kurkdjian's Oud and a few others. Lovely SA's. La Fayette was crowded, messy, noisy and overpopulated by aggressive SA's spraying Chanel Allure Homme Sport Eau Extreme on any form of life approaching the beauty department...I took to my heels and hidden myself at the Musee Jacquemart-Andreé.
Conclusion: my latest Paris trip have been terrific and my travel companion is one of the very few persons I know that could be a true candidate to be sanctified. She's been incredibly supportive and patient and enjoyed both the city and the exhausting sniffatons we went through but, I've a few considerations to make.
My feeling is that most of the perfume hauses are pushing the consumer way too much. Countless lanuches, new lines, new releases, flankers, ouds ouds ouds...basically, many "old fragrances" with just "new names". Ok, we have big mouths and we can probably eat much more than we actually need but, how long it will take to completely saturate the market? Are many of these new fragrances actually good? Or at least good enough to motivate a purchase?
My consideration is obviously made from the side of a "consumer" (collector, fragrance-aficionado, call it whatever you want), but my feeling is that all this, is getting a bit over the top. In front of such a huge offering and a limited budget, the question rises spontaneously: how many of the countless launches we experience as of late, are really worth of attention?
My (very) personal answer: no more than 10%. Again, most of the newest stuff (both by newer brands and historical ones), are just redundant. Again, with all the exceptions made, new bottles and new names for the same old stuff...
Lots of reviews coming...