Courtney takes us on a perfume walk around Boston.
At face value, Boston isn’t exactly a perfume destination. It lacks dedicated perfume boutiques like Aedes in New York or the Scent Bar in LA, and the culture of the city doesn’t necessarily lend itself to the celebration of fragrance (Bostonians have a bit too much Yankee practicality to fritter their energy and thought into perfume). But as a resident, I feel fortunate that I can try out a wide array of luxury and niche fragrances within a few subway stops, and if you find yourself in Boston there’s plenty of perfume to be found if you know where to look.
The best part of the city for sniffing is Boston’s Back Bay neighborhood, the center of shopping in Boston, with blocks of boutiques tucked into the brownstones of Newbury Street, as well the Copley Place and Prudential Center malls (adjacent to each other and conveniently joined by a sky bridge so you can shop your way from end to end in the winter without ever having to don your hat and gloves).
My favorite sniffing tour is to start at the far end of the Copley Square mall, near the Back Bay T station, and hit the perfume counters. The first stop is Neiman Marcus (5 Copley Pl, (617) 536-3660), which carries Tom Ford Private Blend, Maison Francis Kurkdjian, Atelier Colognes, Hermes, Balenciaga, Houbigant, Annick Goutal, and other brands; their staff tends to be more knowledgeable and helpful than most.
Next in line is Barney’s New York (100 Huntington Ave, (617) 385-3300), which features the Frédéric Malle line (complete with red “telephone booth” style scent chambers to experience the fragrances), as well as Serge Lutens, L’Artisan Parfumeur, Cire Trudon candles, Diptyque, Comme des Garçons, Nasomatto, Les Parfums de Rosine, and Arquiste.
Cross over to the Prudential Center and you have Saks Fifth Avenue (750 Boylston St, (617) 262-8500), which has a spacious perfume section featuring By Kilian, Jo Malone, Guerlain (including the classics and exclusives), Hermès, Diptyque, Bond No 9, and Acqua di Parma, among others. Nearby is Sephora, where you can peruse the latest launches and will have a much easier time getting samples than at the department stores.
On Newbury Street, you can check out the Fresh line of fragrances at its standalone boutique (121 Newbury St, (617) 421-1212). Up the street near the Public Garden is the Chanel boutique where you can try the Exclusifs line (5 Newbury St, (617) 859-0055), and the nearby Hermès boutique on Boylston (320 Boylston St, (617) 482-8707) carries the Hermessences (and Hermès staff are blessedly willing to hand out a couple of their generous sample vials).
Louis Boston, an uber-luxurious clothing and accessory store, recently moved from Newbury Street to Boston’s up and coming Seaport District (60 Northern Ave, (617) 262-6100). If you have time, Louis Boston is worth a visit for the view of the water and a thoughtfully edited selection of fragrances from Santa Maria Novella, L’Artisan, Nasomatto, Boadicea the Victorious, Comme des Garçons, and SoOud.
A much-beloved perfume destination is Colonial Drug, a family-owned drugstore that opened in 1947 in Harvard Square in Cambridge. It has a terrific selection of classic fragrances—a rare brick-and-mortar store where you can pick of a bottle of Jolie Madame or Fracas. It’s an asset to vintage perfume lovers, but I personally find its set-up a bit frustrating, with rows of tempting fragrances tucked into boxes behind the counter, and relatively few testers in reach of customers. In a recent visit to Harvard Square, I realized that Colonial Drug just moved from its longstanding location in Cambridge to the nearby suburb of Newton (360 Watertown Street, Newton, MA 02458, (617) 864-2222), so it will require a longer detour.
If I’ve missed some must-sniff locations in Boston, I’d love to know about them!
Photograph of Boston by runneralan2004 via flickr, some rights reserved.