paris perfume perfumeries guide serge lutens ex nihilo-(1)

Paris Perfumeries | Sweet smell of success

Sexy and glamorous. Red carpet ready. Did someone say 'rescue fantasy'?

No trip to Paris is complete without a unique perfume memento. Susan Skelly sniffs the rarefied air for 10 of the best perfumeries within the 1st arrondissement’s orbit.

Paris is dotted with perfumeries staffed by knowledgeable, passionate purveyors of scent, from legends (Annick Goutal, Caron, Diptyque, Penhaligon’s, Le Labo, Jean Patou) to funky cocoons (Iunx, Jar), newcomers (Ex-Nihilo) and the bold and bespoke offerings of Nose. You don’t have to know what you want; knowing what you (or a gift recipient) likes is enough to get the experts on your case. Experiment, go crazy. Give those white paper strips, glass stoppers and newfangled scent-delivery systems a workout.


20 Rue Bachaumont, 2e. (01) 4026 4603. No need to be overwhelmed by the 350-plus fragrances in this boutique, even though only true connoisseurs will recognise all the brands. The seven founders, who include “nose” Mark Buxton and Romano Ricci, the great grandson of couturier Nina Ricci (and grandson of Robert Ricci, who created the famous L’air du Temps) have devised a perfume profile database which scientifically identifies each of the notes in a particular fragrance. Tell Nose co-founder and president Nicolas Cloutier – he was serving customers the day we called – your favourites and he’ll be able to suggest several that will appeal. Recently, Cloutier’s company was commissioned to create a fragrance for director Wes Anderson’s movie The Grand Budapest Hotel. Brands on the shelf include a wealth of respectable lefties – Creed, The Different Company – as well as a swag of innovators such as Juliette Has A Gun, Odin, Kilian, Miller et Bertaux, Keiko Mecheri and Maison Francis Kurkdjian. There’s also an apothecary-style wall of stoppered bliss should the budget stretch to the €8000-€30,000 ($11,500-$43,400) needed for some bespoke alchemy.

TRY: Bois D’Ascèse and Cuir Velours by Australian perfumer Naomi Goodsir in collaboration with Julien Rasquinet.

 Jar Parfums

14 Rue de Castiglione, 1er. (01) 4020 4720. As enigmatic and eccentric as its renowned jewellery sibling in the Place de Vendôme. This tiny, plush shop in taupe tones has little more than a table with seven bell jars imprisoning chamois leather ruffled into exquisite flower shapes impregnated with rich, rapturous perfumes. The lid is lifted, upturned (with a discreet, magician-style flourish) and held under your nose for appraisal. Jarling, Shadow, Jardinia, Golconda, Diamond Water… Don’t ask what the composition is, it’s beside the point. Dab, blend and buy. From €300-€600 ($435-$870) for 30ml. Think of it as an ephemeral art work.

TRY: Ferme tes Yeux.

paris perfume perfumeries guide nose serge lutens jovoy

From left: Bois d’Ascese (Nose); Iris Silver Mist (Serge Lutens); Fracas (Jovoy Parfums Rares).

Serge Lutens

142 Galerie de Valois, 1er. (01) 4927 0909. A cool, Gothic boutique whose windows of black silk moiré backdrop a futuristic installation of short-circuiting ultraviolet light and bottles of amethyst and ruby liquid. The scents of Serge Lutens are legendary – Iris Silver Mist; Bois de Violette; Tubereuse Criminelle – and a limited-edition perfume range is offered only in Paris and New York. As one would expect of such an extraordinary talent (areas of expertise: photography, make-up, perfume) Lutens’ shrine is a fine place to burn the credit card in the beautiful Palais-Royal.

TRY: Bornéo 1834, La Vierge de Fer.

Jovoy Parfums Rares

4 Rue de Castiglione, 1er. (01) 4020 0619. Owner Francois Henin calls Jovoy “an embassy for rare perfumes in Paris”. A colourful bustling arty perfume emporium, the large Geraldine Prieur-designed space offers small-production scents from exotic locales, rare and forgotten perfumes, fragrances for the home, candles (the entire Cire Trudon range), accessories and leather trunks for storing and transporting perfume. As well as a big range of Amouage and the signature offerings from The Different Company and Robert Piguet, there are, for the ardent and adventurous, Clive Christian, Heeley, Grossmith, Masaki Matsushima and Andy Tauer. The shop has as many idiosyncrasies as a Nick Hildebrandt wine list. For the ingenue, it’s like buying an untried grand cru wine because you like the label. Revel in the packaging and bottling creativity.

TRY: Bosque by Humiecki and Graef, Ciel d’Opale by Ann Gérard Parfum, Vétiver de Lubin, by Lubin.


239 Rue Saint-Honoré, 1er. (01) 4244 5014.   This blood-red perfumerie is beside the equally funky Hôtel Costes. There’s a small line-up of testers: a motion-activated laser puffs the scent you want to test from a paper flower atop a tall cone. This select IUNX  range comes from celebrated nose Olivia Giacobetti (L’Artisan Parfumeur). Some are available as travel sprays.

TRY: L’Ether, L’Eau Sento.

Editions de Parfums

21 Rue de Mont Thabor, 1er. (01) 4222 1689. There’s something seductive about a boutique lined with identical stoppered bottles. The promise of the unknown? But this space (one of three Frederic Malle stores in Paris) is also slick and modern. The core collection’s collaborators range from noses such as Jean-Claude Ellena and Edmond Roudnitska to Ralf Schwieger and Pierre Bourdon.

TRY: Noir Epices by Michel Roudnitska, Portrait of a Lady by Dominique Ropion.

Maison Francis Kurkdjian

5 Rue d’Alger, 1er. (01) 4260 0707.   Enter via a short passageway past a wall-mounted installation of a Parisian cityscape in what resembles precision-cut steel. Five years old and established by the artist who has created perfumes for Acqua di Parma, Dior, Davidoff and Christian Lacroix, the offerings of Maison Francis Kurkdjian have grown from seven to 21. The ceiling of the pocket-sized store is gold leaf and the door frames zinc, a combination picked up in the squat, square bottles of scent. This in-demand perfumer will create a bespoke scent from €15,000 ($21,567) for two 60ml flacons.

TRY: Oud Velvet, Amyris, Lumière Noire.

Ex Nihilo

352 Rue Saint-Honoré, 1er. (01) 4015 9377. Clean lines, marble floors and walls, warm and enthusiastic advocates. Here’s a chance to be a perfumer: personalise eight base scents with oils from a portfolio including jasmine, orange blossom, iris and sandalwood, and create your own exclusive scent. At Ex Nihilo you can choose the quantity and shape of bottle to take away.

TRY: Oud Vendôme, Bois d’Hiver.

Le Maître Parfumeur et Gantier

5 Rue des Capucines, 1er. (01) 4296 3513.  If Madame de Pompadour, George Sand and Louis XV were preparing their toilette in the 21st century, how would they choose to smell? Nicolas de Barry and Eddy Blanchet consulted historical documents, inventory books and testimonies to create Les Parfums Historiques, a portfolio of fragrances with titles such as L’Ambitieuse, L’Amoureuse and Le Bien Aimé. Established by Jean-François Laporte in 1988, the collection at Le Maître Perfumer et Gantier interprets 17th-century recipes that use raw and rare materials. Also in store: a selection of candles and scented cushions.

TRY: Ambre Preciéux.

Your turn: First destination for perfume when you travel?


Editor. Writer. Traveller. Keeping tabs on all things fab.

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Copyright © Susan Skelly 2020.