When it comes to choosing a perfume, personality, individual tastes and even cherished memories from the past play a part in the kinds of scents that end up winning us over. After all, the faculty of smell is the most primal and subconscious: a sweet whiff of vanilla might bring you back to childhood memories of cake baking in the oven; the sensual, woody scent of Moroccan oud might lead you to recall a first love, or an unforgettable trip from decades past. For this reason, personalised and high-quality scents are invariably preferable to mass-market fragrances. After all, who wants a perfume that everyone else is wearing?
In the domain of luxury and bespoke scent-making, Paris is a world capital. Harbouring many of the globe’s most talented noses– perfumers who are regarded as artisans or even artists for their incomparable creations– the glamorous city is the perfect place to find exclusive and bespoke fragrances. Without further ado, here are 6 of the best Paris perfume shops and luxury scent-makers: places where you are all but certain to find (or help create) a unique fragrance that suits you perfectly.
You probably don’t know it, but you’re most likely familiar with at least one of star perfumer Francis Kurkdjian’s scents. From Jean Paul Gaultier “Le Male” to L’Extase by Nina Ricci and Narciso Rodriguez for Her, the Frenchman rose to fame in the perfumery world in his twenties for conceiving fragrances that were at once global bestsellers and unusually elegant, balanced, delicious creations. He is also acclaimed for having recreated Marie Antoinette’s favourite fragrance for the Palace of Versailles, reaching back to 17th century scent-making methods to do so.
Perfume aficionados were predictably overjoyed when Kurkdjian opened his own fragrance house in Paris in 2009, in close reach of the fashionable Place Vendome. It now has 500 branches around the world, but the original boutique in the perfumer’s home city remains a coveted spot for fans of luxury fragrance. The Maison Francis Kurkdjian now offers more than 20 exclusive scents in its collection, from Oud to Aqua Vitae, a fresh, citrusy and woody fragrance inspired by Italy and featuring Calabrian lemon, Sicilian mandarin, tonka bean, vanilla infusion and guaiac wood. He also recently created a scent for luxury crystal company Baccarat, a floral, woody fragrance designed to celebrate Baccarat’s 250th anniversary.
But true seekers of high luxury will naturally gravitate toward Kurkdjian’s custom perfume creations. Starting at 20,000 Euros, exclusive clients can command the attention of the world-celebrated nose, who will dream up an entirely bespoke scent for you, delivered in two 60 ml engraved bottles. This can be arranged by appointment only.
Prized by high-end scent fans for their emphasis on sourcing only the finest raw ingredients, Ex Nihilo Paris will be on the radar of anyone who takes the art of fragrance seriously. With a boutique on the prestigious Rue Saint-Honore, this scent maker isn’t a household name for many– but that only reinforces its niche appeal.
Rose of May from Grasse and Madagascar bourbon vanilla are among the carefully selected ingredients featured in Ex Nihilo’s exquisite range of scents. Popping into their boutique, you’ll quickly understand why it’s one of the more exclusive spots in the French capital.
Each perfume in Ex Nihilo’s collection can be personalised with additional or special ingredients, adding notes you love to yield a creation that’s entirely yours. Clients observe the whole fascinating process, as the scent experts weigh, filter and bottle ingredients in front of their eyes. The presentation is also synonymous with luxury: you can request personalised caps made from precious materials such as onyx, mother of pearl or buffalo horn; engrave delicate glass bottles with a name or favourite line of poetry, or even come away with an exclusive bottle encrusted with precious stones, diamonds or 14 carat gold. There is, decidedly, nothing too decadent in the eyes of this perfumer to numerous celebrities.
Boasting celebrity and royal clients including Nicole Kidman, Beyonce and Kylie Minogue, the couture fashion house Maison Hayari launched a series of perfumes to complement their clothing creations in 2011– and has since become one of the French capital’s go-to destinations for luxury scent shopping. Nabil Hayari, the eponymous designer, is now associated not only with beautiful clothing, but also with unique and sumptuous perfumes. Offering 12 fragrances, including numerous unisex scents and a collection emphasising precious rose, Hayari has a boutique dedicated to perfumes at 130 Boulevard St Germain (Metro: Odeon or St-Germain-des-Pres.) Be sure to duck in to sample some of their luxurious creations as part of a private shopping tour in the area, ideally led by one of our expert docents. Our favourites include Amour Elegant for him and her, with top notes of bergamot and pink pepper, middle notes of jasmine and grasse rose and base notes of leather, patchouli and oak moss.
This French perfumer is beloved among those with an appreciation for quirky, statement-making niche perfumes that are of an astoundingly high quality, all made with a deep sense of artistic flair. A former fashion photographer, Lutens started his career in perfume-making with Japanese luxury company Shiseido, before striking out on his own in the early 1990s with his own line. He has since created nearly 80 distinctive and alluring unisex scents that all are characterised by the perfumer’s love of bold notes and unusual olfactory blends. Lovers of more exclusive scents, take note: he also releases one or two perfumes per year in his Palais Royale Collection, named after his breathtaking standalone boutique within the galleries of Paris’ Palais Royale. On any high-end shopping tour in the capital, a stop at his shop, decorated to resemble a magician’s apothecary or astronomer’s lab with its deep blue and violet tones, is highly recommended. Coveted and classic exclusive scents to be sampled there include the celebrated Musc Kublha Khan, Cuir Mauresque and Tubéreuse Criminelle. There are also 28 rare scents referred to as the “Flocons de Table” that are marked by whimsy and surprising combinations of scents: Rahat Loukoum, for example, which features whiffs of almond that recall Turkish marzipan. You can also come away with exclusive hand-engraved flocons that are only available for purchase at the Palais Royale boutique, and are created to celebrate the launch of each new scent.
Finally, we would be remiss if we failed to mention the fascinating Fragonard Perfume Museum and shop. Located just opposite the sublime Palais Opera Garnier, home to the French National Ballet, and high-end department stores Printemps and Galeries Lafayette, a stop at Fragonard is an ideal part of a luxury shopping tour in the area. Fragonard is one of France’s oldest, and most prestigious, scent-makers; the museum offers a fascinating look back at the history of perfume from the Egyptian period to the present day. Kohl pots, delicate bottles and flasks in elegant old glass, smelling salt containers and travel sets are some of the artefacts on display in this under-appreciated Parisian collection.
Meanwhile, for those interested in learning how to build their own scents, luxury perfume workshops allow you to experiment with blending different scents, with the advice of expert noses. You’ll come away with your own bespoke perfume following the workshop– not to mention a much greater appreciation of the artistry and creativity involved. Finally, the extensive onsite boutique offers Fragonard’s entire collection, from classic scents to limited-edition perfumes.
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