Scents of Cities : Paris

“To err is human. To loaf is Parisian,” said one of most illustrious writers of the 19th century Victor Hugo. I cannot say that loafing was a part of my Paris visit, although I tried to make time for it nevertheless. Loafing in Paris is synonymous for me with the walks down rue de Grenelle, one of my favorite streets in Paris for its quiet and gentle charm (and also for its numerous perfume and shoe boutiques.) The typically Parisian scent of black coffee and cigarettes felt intoxicating. The pale grey outlines of the buildings bathed in the sheer golden glow of the unusually warm winter sun attained a dreamlike character. Whatever fragrance I carried on the sleeve of my coat— Serge Lutens Iris Silver Mist, Frédéric Malle L’Eau d’Hiver, Etat Libre d’Orange Jasmin et Cigarette—it was perfectly in sync with both my mood and the atmosphere in the city. It was just magical, and even now, this feeling combining serenity and excitement is almost palpable.

I will certainly share more details on what transpired during my trip, especially since a short article will hardly do justice to all of the amazing encounters with the perfumers whose work I have always admired as well as the fragrant discoveries that took place over the past week. It is difficult to pick the main highlight of the trip; however, the visit to the Osmothèque was unforgettable. I went there with Michael Edwards, whose erudition and passion for fragrance enhanced the experience even more.

The Osmothèque is a perfume conservatory, an Aladdin’s cave for anyone with interest in fragrance and perfume history. The jewels of the perfumery are at your fingertips, recreated based on the original formulas and compounded with the original materials. If you go to the Osmothèque and are at loss over what to smell—and I promise that this will happen, unless you are organized enough to make a list beforehand, simply ask for the Coty fragrances. I had a pleasure of being introduced to these gems by Jean Kerléo, the president of the Osmothèque and the former in-house perfumer for Jean Patou. His are the ravishing 1000 and Sublime. Although I have Coty Chypre in various versions, from the 1940s to the 1980s, nothing can compare to what I smelled at the Osmothèque. It combines the sensual sweetness of jasmine with the animalic breath of leather, folded into the mossy and green layers. It is at once tender and aggressive, a kiss and a slap wrapped into one.

My most exciting scented discovery turned to be Etat Libre d’Orange. I have tried a few fragrances about a month ago, and they struck me as unconventional and whimsical. In Paris, I paid a visit to the boutique and had a chance to explore the rest of the line. Although not all fragrances are equally wearable or memorable, most of the ideas are interesting. Jasmin et Cigarette, Putain des Palaces, and Vierges et Toreros captured my attention the most. Jasmin et Cigarette is quite a ravishing combination of jasmine’s banana jam sweetness accented with the honeyed, balsamic dryness of tobacco. It is a scent of smoked flowers and cured leaves. Putain des Palaces brilliantly evokes a candlelit room decorated with heavy red velvet. It combines the powdery warmth of rose and violet with the animalic undercurrent. Vierges et Toreros is a sheer tuberose wrapped into a rich veil of incense, woods and musk. The names and the packaging are quite provocative, but the fragrances are anything but gimmicky. The most interesting part is that many of fragrance concepts are introduced by the perfumers themselves, which happens quite infrequently in the industry dominated by marketing tests and consumer profiling.

As for the fragrances I smelled most often on women in Paris, I would have to name Prada and Chanel Coco Mademoiselle. The newly launched Dolce&Gabbana The One also seemed to be quite popular at the moment. Other than this, I remember noticing quite a variety of perfumes, from Christian Dior J’Adore to Chanel Cuir de Russie, Hermès Eau des Merveilles and L’Artisan Passage d’Enfer. This kaleidoscope of fragrances was an integral part of my Parisian experience. In the evening, returning from the explorations of the day, I would pass by a seafood stand and linger to watch the seller weight Belon oysters and large shrimp wrapped in seaweed. Their briny aromas would intertwine with the scents emanating from a bakery nearby, and this composition could rival many bottled essences.



  • Anjali: Your trip sounds like it was absolutely marvelous! I am quite jealous of you, but am excited to hear more of your stories soon so I can live vicariously =) The Osmothèque (and Michael Edwards! This man has recommended me Angel and Lolita Lempicka in his Online Fragrance Guide scent selector thingamajig, but I still adore him), Etat Libre d’Orange, and just that dreamy Paris vibe that you describe so well all sound so heavenly. I cannot believe btw that I have a new found lemming for a scent called Jasmin et Cigarette 🙂 December 20, 2006 at 3:13pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Anjali, I am sure that you will love Jasmin et Cigarette. I found it to be along the lines of Tea for Two, but richer. A very interesting composition. Some other fragrances from the line came across like sketches of ideas, albeit created from high quality materials and done in an interesting manner. Yet, many were quite unusual. All in all, it was a wonderful trip. I must say that I bought only gifts and nothing at all for myself. I did not even have time to go to any boutiques, since all of my meetings were quite tightly scheduled. December 20, 2006 at 3:25pm Reply

  • Laura: I’m so excited you’re back—that means we’ll get to hear all about your trip! This first installment is enchanting. More, more! December 20, 2006 at 5:15pm Reply

  • Dusan: Vika, I hope this is just the first in a series of instalments about your magical sojourn in Paris. You must keep spinning the yarn at least until New Year’s Eve! Oh, how I want to go to Paris… December 20, 2006 at 10:32pm Reply

  • Anya: Raw oysters, seaweed, a bakery and the full kaleidoscope of current Parisian sillage — keep telling us all about it, V, it sounds luscious! December 20, 2006 at 5:48pm Reply

  • moon_fish: Dear Vika!
    I`m soooo happy you do like ELDOrange line! I have to say that in Jan 2007 Etienne will make visit to USA to meet Henry Bendel, so the line will be in US quite soon.

    You made my day by that Chypre `kiss and slap` definition. Please, continue, don`t stop! 🙂 December 21, 2006 at 1:41am Reply

  • Leopoldo: Very entertained by ELDO’s bottles. I think the Eurostar is calling me for a weekend trip in January. Though I’m supposed to be saving money.

    Glad you had a wonderfully scented time. December 21, 2006 at 4:13am Reply

  • Leopoldo: .. and it looks like it must be near the Picasso museum. I’m there! December 21, 2006 at 4:14am Reply

  • k-amber: Victoria, I am happy to read your comments again! What a stunning photograph! I have been wearing L’Eau D’Hiver for a few days, which is very comforting. Have a wonderful trip & stay. Yoi toshi wo omukae kudasai.

    Kaori December 20, 2006 at 11:22pm Reply

  • chayaruchama: How wonderful to have you home…

    And equally wonderful to share in your travels.

    I hope you feel renewed and refreshed !

    Enjoy this season, with all love. December 21, 2006 at 6:49am Reply

  • Nick: You’re back!

    More on Paris, please!

    Best Regards December 21, 2006 at 7:14am Reply

  • aryse: Hello Victoria,

    Thanks for your come back and for your comments,

    I work in Paris not far rue de Grenelle and it’s one of my favourite streets for its numerous perfume (as you said).Frederic Malle L’EAU D’HIVER is perfect for the season and make me thinking about APRES L’ONDEE.

    THE OSMOTHEQUE is a dream, the memory of perfumes history.Certainly THE CHYPRE by COTY you have smelled is the first, created in 1917.I have one in my collection and…waouh !!!

    ETAT LIBRE D’ORANGE is a new perfume boutique, opened in november.I agree with you, their fragrances are very curious (not only by the name, but also by the notes).For example, SECRETIONS MAGNIFIQUES (lol)including : blood, sweat, pheromones, musk.Some people love it and some people hate it. Did you try this fragrance ?

    Have a very nice day. December 21, 2006 at 7:23am Reply

  • Dmitri: Glad you are back and full of fragrant memories! It is especially interesting to read about your visit to the Osmothèque. Another good reason for all of us to visit Paris. Hopefully you will share more of your impressions with us soon. December 21, 2006 at 8:38am Reply

  • VeronicaV: It’s so good to see you back! December 21, 2006 at 10:30am Reply

  • Robin: Your trip sounds lovely, and looking forward to reading the next installment. And I want Vierges et Toreros, of course 🙂 December 21, 2006 at 11:51am Reply

  • Marina: I am reading this like poetry and living vicariously through your descriptions…thank you for this treat! December 21, 2006 at 8:03am Reply

  • Judith: Oh, your trip sounds wonderful! It’s great to hear about it–and the ELDO fragrances sound very exciting! I can’t wait until they come here! December 21, 2006 at 2:30pm Reply

  • Sara: Welcome home. Your trip to Paris sounds delightful. Thank you for sharing your sensations and impressions in such a lovely way, as always.

    Sara December 21, 2006 at 2:42pm Reply

  • Tigs: Enchanting descriptions and accompanying photo. Etat Libre D’Orange sounds like a really exciting new find. Thanks for the info on the Osmothèque – does the average Joe Q. Public who takes the seminar get to meet Kerleo and/or smell what s/he would like that is not below in the cold cellar? I assume that you got the royal treatment! I understand from the recent interview on Scentzilla that even the lectures for the public are at a relatively high, specialized level? December 21, 2006 at 11:16am Reply

  • carmencanada: Oh, V., I really need to get out more (or at least read more magazines). I didn’t even know about L’Etat Libre d’Orange which sounds right up my alley, especially the three you described. In fact, I might go there tomorrow. The prices sound quite affordable and they’ve very smartly put out different sizes, so you don’t have to commit to a huge bottle. I, too, am looking forward to further reports… It’s always the travellers who see the most of your city. December 21, 2006 at 4:24pm Reply

  • Avant Que l ‘Ombre: Etat Libre d’Orange…Les Nez, Le Labo, Montale, Keicho Mecheri and unfortunately too many others… I just feel overwhelmed and tired with all those new trendy niche fragrance lines. December 21, 2006 at 9:47pm Reply

  • Cait: Welcome back! I am so excited to hear of your scented experiences. I’m going to be there in January and I expect it to revive my perfumed consciousness. Thanks,
    Cait December 21, 2006 at 7:26pm Reply

  • violetnoir: V, welcome back! What an amazing time you had in Paris.

    I cannot wait to read more about your Parisian adventures.

    Hugs! December 22, 2006 at 12:53am Reply

  • aryse: In 2007, to ETAT LIBRE D’ORANGE, still of other fragrances should follow of which among them: “BOTTES ET CEINTURON” (Boots and Belt), “ENTRE CUISSE” (Between Thigh) and “SOLDAT INCONNU” (Unknown soldier).

    Holidays for me till january 3 th.MERRY CHRISMAS and HAPPY NEW YEAR for you Victoria and for everyone. December 22, 2006 at 10:33am Reply

  • Elle: Wonderful to see you back! Your trip sounds like it was fantastic and Jasmin et Cigarette and Putain des Palaises have jumped to the very top of my lemming list. Was very relieved to see Moonfish’s comment that they might soon be at Bendels. Look forward to hearing more about your adventures. 🙂 December 22, 2006 at 3:51pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Laura, thank you! I will try my best. 🙂 I think that most of the writing will take place after New Year’s, as these couple of weeks are likely to be crazy. December 22, 2006 at 10:56am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Anya, thank you! It was just magical. I am looking forward to sharing more stories, starting from my Monday trip to Camille Goutal and Isabelle Doyen’s lab. BTW, have you ever heard of Massoia wood? December 22, 2006 at 10:58am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Dusan, I will definitely do so! Thank you for sharing your thoughts on La Myrrhe, by the way. I love the way you captured it. We do experience it similarly. December 22, 2006 at 11:07am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Kaori, doesn’t that photograph look festive? I would never be able to take anything like this myself, but I was happy to have discovered it. Best holiday wishes to you as well! I hope that 2007 will be a wonderful year for you in all aspects. December 22, 2006 at 11:12am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Sergey, thank you! It evokes such a powerful response from me. I still cannot get it out of my mind. Chypre is truly a gem to rival many fragrances.

    Good news about ELDO! December 22, 2006 at 11:13am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Leopoldo, if I lived someplace, where all it took to get to Paris was a Eurostar trip, I would be spending all of my free time there. But then again, maybe not. When I lived in London, I made a trip only once. 🙂 Time and financial constraints are always present, alas. December 22, 2006 at 11:15am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Leopoldo, oh, yes, that museum is worth a Eurostar trip alone. December 22, 2006 at 11:16am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Chaya, I definitely do! It was an exciting trip. December 22, 2006 at 4:04pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Nick, I am only too happy to share! 🙂 December 22, 2006 at 4:05pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Aryse, you are right about Apres L’Ondee and L’Eau d’Hiver. It shares a similar character, if not the exact olfactory character.

    I loved the Osmotheque, and Jean Kerleo was such a fascinating person to encounter. I regret to hear of his departure from the Osmotheque, but I am looking forward to the Osmotheque being expanded. We shall see what happens. December 22, 2006 at 4:07pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Marina, thank you for your kind words! They made me very happy. December 22, 2006 at 4:10pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Dmitri, thank you very much. I will be writing more about the meetings and the events of the past week. This is just a brief overview, an hors d’œuvre, so to speak. December 22, 2006 at 4:13pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Veronica, thank you! December 22, 2006 at 4:14pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Tigs, the seminars are excellent, at a rather high technical level, so you will not feel that anything is lacking. Moreover, the general selection of fragrances would provide more than enough excitement–Jacques Fath Iris Gris, many Coty and Rosine gems. Be sure to sniff Coty Chypre, Coty Iris, Jacques Fath Iris Gris and Rosine Le Fruit Defendu.

    Unfortunately, I recently received the news that Jean Kerleo has left the Osmotheque just a couple of days ago. December 22, 2006 at 4:20pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Robin, there are a few fragrances from the line that you might enjoy! December 22, 2006 at 4:21pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Judith, thank you, there are plenty of exciting release for 2007! December 22, 2006 at 4:21pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Sara, thank you very much! It was a magical trip in many respects. December 22, 2006 at 4:22pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: D, it is true! I lived in Chicago for a number of years and I have never been at the top of the Sears Tower. Yet, a friend who visited for a day made a trip. It is always like this… December 22, 2006 at 4:24pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Cait, I am sure that you will have lots of fun. It was one of the most exciting trips I have taken. December 22, 2006 at 4:24pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Avant Que l’Ombre, on the one hand, I agree–there are many unremarkable offerings from the niche lines. Yet, if it were not for niche, the situation would be rather dire. I just cannot take another Jennifer Lopez flanker. December 22, 2006 at 4:25pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Aryse, sounds like they are expanding and expanding. Very curious about the next offerings. December 22, 2006 at 4:26pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Elle, thank you very much! It is wonderful to feel like you were missed. 🙂 I will write more about the trip over the next few weeks. December 22, 2006 at 4:27pm Reply

  • Katie: Can’t wait for the articles with more details. I am so glad you had a successful and happy trip. Love your description of Chypre as a simultaneous slap and a kiss, just fantastic.

    Merry Christmas, V, hope your holiday is just as wonderful as your travels. December 22, 2006 at 6:25pm Reply

  • Amy: Glad you’re back, Victoria!! Ahhhhhh, Paris… December 24, 2006 at 9:24am Reply

  • March: How did I miss this post going up?

    Thank you for creating these vignettes for us to enjoy.

    Hey, I’ve heard about The One. We had a UK commenter who couldn’t quite believe that it wasn’t here… what did it smell like? December 26, 2006 at 8:31am Reply

  • stephania: I wish you a faboulous, rich and fulfilling new year! Please let me share a perfume-related memory about Paris: the second time I went there it was 1981, I was thirteeen and I was with my mom. I absolutely wanted her to buy me a bottle of Opium. She said that was way too much for me, but finally gave in and we went in a perfume store. Mom asked for Opium, and the shop assistant clearly thought she was buying it for herself, because after she looked at me and said “Now, something for the young lady…how about Diorissimo?” So, in the end my mom got Opium, and I got Diorissimo! I was mortified, never wore it and even today i hate white florals! (actually, I don’t wear Opium either). Anyway, the fragrance I associate the most with Paris is Tabac Blond, and I like wearing it when I visit the city, take photographs and shop for vintage clothes, one of my passions. December 28, 2006 at 5:53am Reply

  • Nlb: That description is the exact thing I couldn’t touch on, while wearing Guerlain’s “L’Heure Bleue”! There is an organic naturalness to it(almost an attractive grunginess!), mixed with the languid dreaminess of rose and jasmine, that reminds me of what Paris is supposed to smell like. It sounds like your visit was wonderful! December 29, 2006 at 5:13am Reply

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