Jean Patou Perfume Bar

jean patou bar

Update: the bar is no longer open to public.

I pick up a delicate Bordeaux wine glass and bring it close to my face. However, instead of taking a sip, I inhale deeply and lose myself in the banana jam redolent sweetness of the prized jasmin de Grasse. The rose walls are lined with shelves of liquid filled bottles and the counter is graced with the silver martini shaker, however despite the illusion, I am not at a bar. At least, this place does not serve alcoholic cocktails for internal consumption. Instead, the glasses are especially made for fragrance testing by Henry de Monclin, and the traditional perfumery bottles on the shelves contain 200 of the finest raw materials and essential oils. Mme. Catherine Saudubray tending the bar has a degree from ISIPCA, the most prestigious perfumery school in the world, and as she gracefully threads paper strips dipped in various absolutes through the upturned Monclins, she narrates the history of the house, interspersing it with the absorbing comments on the materials I am smelling. …

Among the most fascinating perfumeries in Paris, Jean Patou certainly ranks highly. In contrast to the large and gilded Guerlain flagship at 68, Champs Elysees or the dark and mysterious Serge Lutens shrine, the store located under the arches of rue de Castiglioni has the intimate and laidback atmosphere. The boutique is undeniably luxurious, with its mother-of-pearl painted fixtures recalling the whiteness of jasmine petals, and the pink elements of décor serving as homage to Jean Patou’s favourite flower, rosa centifolia, a flower that blossoms in every single of Jean Patou fragrances.

The ground floor of the boutique houses the perfume collection, which at present consists of Joy, 1000, Sublime, Enjoy and Sira des Indes. The vials with the raw materials particular to a specific fragrance are within a reach. The rose de mai and jasmin de Grass flank Joy, while the blackcurrant bud absolute is placed near the amethyste bottle of Enjoy. Testing the familiar classics, I linger in the opalescent glow emanating from the perfume columns. The ambery wave of Sublime unfolds gently in one Monclin, while 1000 plays out its seductively elegant melody in another. Created by Jean Kerléo, who was the Patou nose for thirty years (1967-1997), these are the compositions that exemplify opulence. Just consider 1000, a composition that lets the leathery apricots of osmanthus spill voluptuously onto the civet and iris base.

Mme. Saudubray hands me a strip saturated with Julye, and I feel dazzled. The leathery darkness is layered with the soft floral touches and the vanillic woodiness in this sensual composition. Julye is an example of a tailor-made perfume, a service offered by Jean-Michel Duriez, a talented perfumer who replaced Jean Kerléo, as the house perfume nose, thus bringing a new creative influence to the venerable house. His laboratory is right on premises, a white tiled room located in the basement of the house. As I hear about a Baccarat crystal cube containing 900 ml of personal perfume and the impressive fee required for such an undertaking, I get a sense that Jean Patou, a man whose flamboyance and dramatic flair were infamous, would have certainly approved of such extravagance.

Indeed, knowing a little about Jean Patou helps to understand his vision and his daring streak. Jean Patou was born in 1887 in Normandie into the family that owned a fur and a leather tanning business. It was natural that that Patou would join into the family trade, which is exactly what he did in 1907. The nightmare of fighting in trenches for four years during the WWI instilled in him a desire to live each moment to its fullest. After the war, he opened the fashion house after his own name, ushering fame and recognition through his ability to create clothes of effortless elegance and femininity. It was not long before the first perfumes were launched. Created by Henri Alméras in 1925, Amour Amour, Que sais-je? and Adieu, Sagesse were marked by the exquisite refinement and devastating seduction characteristic of Alméras’s art and fitted perfectly with Jean Patou style and his sense of humour. Michael Edwards quotes Jean de Moüy, the great-nephew of Jean Patou, “The three fragrances told a love story: Amour Amour signaled the start of the affair. Que sais-je? is a question: ‘What’s happening? Are things becoming more serious?’ The third, Adieu, Sagasse is the decision—‘Goodbye wisdom!’” The first tanning lotion, Huile de Chaldée was to follow in 1927. Moment Suprême, a mesmerizing juxtaposition of lavender and amber, debuted in 1929, along with one of the first unisex sports fragrance, Le Sien. And then in 1930, in the midst of the Great Depression, came Joy, a ravishing vision of jasmine and rose that would set the gold standard for this classical pairing. Experiencing it at least once is simply essential.

Back at the perfume bar upstairs, Mme. Saudubray leads me through the materials used in the classical Patou fragrances. “We want our clients to be able to explore the finest materials in order to understand the quality of Patou perfumes,” she notes with a smile. Although the perfume bar seems like a modern concept, it is actually a replica of the cocktail bar originally located at 7, rue Saint-Florentin. “Jean Patou wanted to create a real cocktail bar where men could sip their drinks while women tried on the latest fashions,” explains Mme. Saudubray. “In 1930, the perfume house launched a Cocktail trio, Cocktail Dry, Cocktail Sweet, and Cocktail Bitter Sweet, which gave Jean Patou an idea of transforming the cocktail bar into a perfume bar.” As I experience the creamy richness of Mysore sandalwood, the ethereal woodiness of iris, the radiance of hedione, and the verdant rosiness of geranium served in the Monclins, I am more and more taken by the idea of the perfume bar. I want to sink into the comfortable leather armchair and continue my journey through Joy, one note at a time. Ultimately, the enjoyment of perfume is only heightened by understanding the beauty of raw materials on their own terms.

I bid my goodbyes and step out into the street, where the smells of rain, roasted coffee beans and lingering cigarette smoke are gently weaved into the quintessential Parisian perfume. Before I continue my walk down rue de Castiglione, I turn around and take a last look at the pink hued boutique. Jean Patou met a premature death at the age of 56, only six years after creating the legendary Joy. Although the house has shed its 1930s aura, I nevertheless sense the presence of a man who inspired its development. After all, as Jean Patou used to say, “I believe that each of us should be a man of his time.”

_____
From time to time, Jean Patou boutique holds the perfumery workshops, where one can have an opportunity to learn about the art of perfumery and the process of perfume creation in an interactive environment with Jean-Michel Duriez. For more information as well as for scheduling visits to the perfume bar, please contact 5 rue de Castiglione, 75001 Paris, tel. 00 33 (0)1 42 92 07 22.

Photos (click to enlarge): Perfume Bar 2005. Ground Floor Perfume Columns. Jean-Michel Duriez at Perfume Bar. Henri Alméras at Perfume Bar, circa 1930s. Copyright of Jean Patou.

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26 Comments

  • Laura: What a great story you told! I was there with you every step of the way, thanks to your vivid and precise writing. I hope you can attend one of Duriez’s workshops! May 15, 2006 at 5:16am Reply

  • ChristinaH: I’d love to visit that boutique someday.Thank you for describing your experiences there and the photos of the interior.Sounds so lovely! May 15, 2006 at 6:10am Reply

  • Marina: oh, I would love to visit there one day. Thank you so much for this fascinating glimpse inot the world of Patou. May 15, 2006 at 9:42am Reply

  • Robin: V, what a lovely post. Why do you think Patou keeps such a very abbreviated line — few new releases, few re-issues? May 15, 2006 at 11:49am Reply

  • cynthia: What a great article! I felt as if I were with you at the boutique. Perhaps, someday I will go there myself. May 15, 2006 at 12:12pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Laura, thank you! It was a very enjoyable visit, and the boutique is absolutely fascinating. Have you had a chance to stop by there during your trip? May 15, 2006 at 12:55pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Christina, yes, it is well worth a visit. The perfume bar is just great, and I am planning to return to explore more the next time I am in Paris. May 15, 2006 at 12:56pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: M, I wish more of the classical Patou fragrances were made available. The line is just great! May 15, 2006 at 1:06pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: R, when it was still family owned, it had a very streamlined line that emphasized quality. I understand that it took Jean Kerleo 10 years to develop 1000. The line had a few fragrances, but all were gems. Nobody has these kind of time frames nowadays, and I wager that with the new P&G ownership, the new releases might appear more frequently. Overall, I guess that the house concentrated on maintaining their classics. However, I agree that it would be great to see some reissues. Of course, 1920 creations are very much in the spirit of the time. On the other hand, Guerlain reissued a few from its archives, and I hope that Jean Patou will follow the suit. For instance, Colony with its pineapple notes, or Cocktail, a delicate chypre. Or Moment Supreme, a fascinating floral bouquet. Or Vacances, which has always been one of my favourites. May 15, 2006 at 1:12pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Cynthia, I am glad to hear this! I hope that you will have a chance to visit the boutique too and to experience its perfume bar. May 15, 2006 at 1:13pm Reply

  • paradise: V,
    I had no idea you are living in Paris! I don’t know why but for some reason I thought you were in the States. Silly me.

    I received Joy as a gift some time ago and I’ve always loved it. I didn’t know much about the Jean Patou house so thanks for the well-written (as always) history lesson.

    Now I must go and take out my bottle of Joy to smell again! May 15, 2006 at 1:47pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Paradise, no, you were right, I am in the States. This is an article from my recent Paris trip. This time, the visit was only a short one, however I still managed to make a few stops at the perfumeries.

    Joy is one of those fragrances that I love returning to again and again to remind myself of why I love perfume. It is breathtaking on so many different levels. May 15, 2006 at 3:45pm Reply

  • Madelyn Etkind: Dear Victoria,
    Hello from Roslyn on a very rainy Monday ! I loved your virtual tour of indeed one of the all time great perfumes houses. I felt I was with you – I thought the photos were mrsmerizing – what gotgeous colors. V- I started wearing Joy EDP after reading my first of many Vivien Leigh biographies! She wore it with gay abandon in 1932 – when it was considered to be a bit risque ! I then moved on to the 1000 and was seduced by its’ osmanthus note – what a supremely elegant bouquet -that is – brilliant . Imagine I bought .5 and 1 oz of the extrait !!Oh la la ! Sublime is aptly named because it is simply : subline – very amber and sensual. My final foray into the Patou line is Enjoy. –which I did – it is such a indescribable scent! There are not enough days of the week, to wear all my beautiful scents ! Anyway – once again, you outdid yourself V – . When were you in Paris ? I really thought you were visiting now ? By the way , did you ever attend the World Perfume Congress (this year in Grasse )?
    Love
    Madelyn E May 15, 2006 at 8:08pm Reply

  • portlandia: Oh, my, that is totally my fantasy! What a fabulous experience. May 15, 2006 at 10:09pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Madelyn, oh, what biography of Vivien Leigh were you reading? I am looking for something to read about her. I read someplace that she wore Joy and favoured violet fragrances. And yes, you are right–there are not enough days in the week to wear all of the beautiful fragrances. And not enough time to visit all of the places I want to see. I have not had a chance to attend the World Perfume Congress yet, but I hope that I might have a chance. May 16, 2006 at 1:10am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: D, it was such a great visit! I keep thinking about that perfume bar and wish that one were to open in NYC. May 16, 2006 at 1:11am Reply

  • Madelyn Etkind: Dear Victoria,
    Good Morning ! I will get back to you on the details of the 2 -3 biographies I have on Vivien Leigh! I’m delighted that you share yet another interest of mine “the life and passion of Vivien Leigh “. I read with utter fascination – that she wore Joy in her early years from about 1932 throughout her heyday. her final years ( albeit she had a all too brief – yet compact life B- Darjeeling, India -1913 D 1967 ! ). she wore (remember ) Ma Griffe. I will let you know -. I ran out and bought Joy EDP in the then Bonwit Teller (remember that gorgeous store ?) in 1990 -when I lived in Syracuse NY. Now I still enjoy Joy – in the forn of the EDP and extrait!
    Best to you – dear Victoria!
    Warm Regards,
    Madelyn E May 16, 2006 at 1:44am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Dear Madelyn, thank you very much. I would love to hear which ones you have read and enjoyed. I remember when I first saw Vivien Leigh in Gone with the Wind. Her beauty was stunning, simply stunning. Joy is perfect, in any form. I like the EDT as well, which creates a sheer veil of jasmine on the skin. Also, 1000 mist was osmanthus perfection, however it seems to have been discontinued. May 16, 2006 at 2:01am Reply

  • Mikhail: I have been to the boutique in January but was not aware of the second floor bar. I talked to a different lady (probably), she was heavily pregnant. Because I felt sorry for her having to stand (no chair around) among these upturned vials I did not ask too many questions.

    But she clarified one thing that bothered me for a while: the difference in packaging for Joy: some boxes have red stripes, some have golden stripes. No one in US could tell me what’s the matter. Turns out the red striped boxed were made in France (now discontinued) and gold striped boxes are made in UK (where the production has been moved). The official party line is that the two formulas are identical but you never know.

    I will spend a month in Paris this summer and will check the boutique more systematically. Thanks for the story. May 16, 2006 at 8:40pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Mikhail, the second floor where the bar is located can be accessed by calling the boutique in advance. It was such a fascinating experience, and I highly recommend visiting.

    The mystery of red versus golden stripes has been on my mind as well, so thank you for confirming my guess. I have first realized that the production moved to the UK when I bought Sira des Indes. May 16, 2006 at 11:37pm Reply

  • Maria de Leon Balagtas: We are interested to import Jean Patou products as these are not available in Cyprus.
    Can you please put us into contact with your Export Department in order to assist us with requirements to this effect?
    We thank you in advance and look forward to the pleasure of hearing from you rean soon.
    Regards
    Maria de Leon Balagtas September 27, 2006 at 3:11pm Reply

  • Mosaics: i’d like to have a spray of that perfume…. i hope i can…. April 13, 2007 at 3:51am Reply

  • RONALD HYMAN: ENLIGHTENING. WOULD ANY BODY BE ABLE TO ASSIST MY SEARCH FOR A POWDER AND PUFF IN “MOMENT SUPREME”? OR SOME OLD PACKAGE FROM THIS RANGE? REGARDS:HYMAN May 29, 2007 at 11:14am Reply

  • johanna campbell-trejo: I need so much to find a perfume I bought 11 years ago in Europe, then again a friend bought it for me in New York. It was called “cocktail”. It was in a BLUE bottle with a Red lid. PLEASE< PLEASE> PLEASE Help Me Find It!!!!!!!!!
    Thank You So Much For Your Time July 16, 2007 at 12:24am Reply

  • Brielle: Lovely to read about the opulence and fine ingredients of the house of Patou. Sadly for me, the last fragrance they came out with that I actually enjoyed was Ma Liberte (now obsolete). All else by them smells “typical”, nothing of the caliber of a “Que sais-je?”, “Colony”, or even “Caline”…all which have ceased to exist. Still when I go home to visit, will have to go into Paris to visit the boutique. September 17, 2007 at 10:59am Reply

  • perfumekev: Ahhhhh. the Joys of the perfumes of Patou. from the beautifully contrasted notes of Amour Amour, to one of the most beautiful lilac perfumes ever Vacances. to the stunning velvet textures of Divine Folie. then the Iconic Joy one of my life long loves. It is my older sisters middle name Joy and it is also her signature perfume she is a red head and she wears Joy so beautifully it was as if it was created for her. I try to find as many vintage bottles of joy as possible because I never want to be without it. or to make sure I always have bottles to give her as gifts.

    the jasmine rose harmony set to an intense green heart note. I can never truly get my head around the scent of Joy it has a notes of such great beauty and animalic notes that verge on being too much. Joy is a fascinating thing.

    I just found a bottle of Le Sien which to my understanding is quite rare. I love it. so much pettigrain citronier fixed with a soft chypre background with notes of imortelle.

    such a shame the bar is no longer avalible nor the family of vintage Patou perfumes. May 17, 2013 at 7:25pm Reply

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