The third part of my Paris fragrance journey starts at 39, Boulevard des Capucines (RER Auber. Metro Havre Caumartin), where a former theater hosts one of the two Fragonard fragrance museums (A) in town (I’ll write about the other one later in this post). The visit is free and well worth it, because there are ancient fragrance bottles of all kinds, from roman oil containers to 19th century glassblowing materpieces. There are also various instruments, used to extract fragrance oils from plants. The guided tours are informative and in many languages. They explain the history of perfumery and how fragrances are made. There’s also a fun game in which visitors are asked to match cream fragrances contained in small boxes with the pictures of the corresponding materials: coffee, lavender, rose etc. The only drwback is that, at the endo of the tour the guide will try hard to sell Fragonards fragrances. I din’t find a single interesting one.
From the museum go right along boulevard des Capucines and take first left to get to Rue Scribe. At n°3 there is Divine (B), a very niche house with only two shops in Paris and one online. Maybe I was in a bad moment, but none of their fragrances really thrilled me, through Luca Turin, in his fragrance guide gives their eponymous fragrance Divine (*) four stars out of five and I usually agree with his reviews.
An n°9 on the same street there is the other Fragonard museum (C). It’s worth a visit even if you’ve seen the other one, because it’s located in a lovely 1860 house, with still some original furniture, and because the collection of bottles is different. The information given in the guided tours, instead, is pretty much the same, so I suggest to follow the guide only in one of the two museums.
Follow rue Scribe and you’ll get to Boulevard Haussman, where you’ll see the Galeries Lafayette (D) on your right and Printemps de la Beautè (E) at your left. Both these department stores have amazing fragrance floors. Lafayette’s one is on first and mezzanine floors and displays many brands, niche and not, including an amazing Guerlain counter, where I experienced their method to select your favorite fragrance. Or, almost. Actually, they have a lovely counter where you can smell different notes accords, such as aldehydic flowers, fruity, chypre, woody etc so that you can tell which smells appeal to you the most. But the shop assistant just asked me which Guerlain fragrance I use and as I said Mitsouko she just showed me all the feminine chypres she had. I was very impressed by Vol De Nuit (*****), both for the smell and the amazing art deco bottle, but not by the selection method. What if what I like in Mitsouko was the fruity part?
Also, they sold amazing huge bee shaped bottles but had no testers for the fragrance inside. I know there are people who would by anything, if it’s crazy expensive, but I think very few would spend 17.000 euros for a fragrance they may not even like.
Printemps has its beauty floor in the second building (blvd Haussmann 64) , coming from the Galeries Lafayette. They have an huge selection of niche brands, even the italian PROFVMUM, so hard to find in Milan. At the By Kilian’s counter I tried the last fragrance of the Oud collection, Musk Oud by Alberto Morillas. It confirmed the impression I had with M7 by Dior: Morillas’ouds don’t agree with my skin: it turned awful in a few minutes, but I don’t want to rate it because I think it’s just my skin.
I also found the Caron corner, where I loved Tabac Blond (***). It’s sold from their “fragrance fountains” just as Parfum Sacré. I remember when, in the Eighties, Parfum Sacré (**) was advertised during afternoon shows aimed at housewives of the most commercial italian tv network (Rete4). Sometimes a fragrance is rare and expensive because it contains hard to find ingredients. Sometimes it’s just a marketing choice. I had the pleasant surprise that my beloved Amazone was still sold at the Hermés counter. In Milan’s Hermés shop they told me it was totally discontinued. Instead, it’s still available, at least in Paris.