The fashion for perfume in France is largely credited to Catherine de Medici, wife of King Henri II. During the Renaissance, prior to running water, these sweet scents were used to refresh the body, and ever since, perfumery has continued to reign supreme in France, with top Parisian fragrances and smaller labels alike. Perfume has also seeped into cuisine and cocktails, which, in addition to sharing some of our go-to perfume boutiques, we explore below.
In recent years, Paris has introduced bespoke scents that certainly would have enticed the Medicis. One of these is Memo, a perfume inspired by travel. Les Echappées, meaning ‘the escapes’ is a collection of fragrances, each symbolising a journey taken by the couple behind the label. From Lalibela, Ethiopia to Inlé Lake, Burma to Granada, Spain, every unique scent transports you to a faraway land. For their recent 10-year anniversary, a new scent conjures up visions of Paris, containing notes of leather, a mark of the brand’s identity. Enter the world of Memo at their flagship store on Rue Cambon and discover that ‘the journey is the destination’.
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What inspires some of world’s top perfumers, including the renowned Alberto Morillas? Cult songs from the 70s and 80s. This is the case with Art Meets Art, a French creative studio that crafts modern and soulful fragrances. The scent-invoking songs include Besame Mucho, Like a Virgin and I Put a Spell on You, each with its own signature notes, both fragrant and melodic.
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Perfume doesn’t get fresher than at Le Labo, where each location is designed as a fragrance lab. With a collection of 15 unisex perfumes, Vanille 44 being the Paris City Exclusive scent, fragrances are created by internationally-recognized noses. Each bottle is made to order, combining the oil concentrate, alcohol and water on the spot. The final touch is a personalised label.
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Prepare for a sensory experience when you enter Liquides, a unique perfume bar discreetly located in the Haut Marais. After an in-depth conversation with the barman about favourite fragrances, he’ll introduce you to an array of bespoke scents, much like sampling wines. Indulge in fragrances from a collection designed by Liquides owners Phillipe Di Méo and David Frossard, to a dozen small artisanal perfumers including French labels Pour Toujours, Dear Rose and Parfums de Marly.
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To create your own signature scent, Candora in the Marais provides a do-it-yourself atelier. In this 90-minute workshop (with an option for a shorter version), your olfactory sense chooses between 17 professionally-crafted fragrances, including Rose, Wild Herbs and Oud. By blending together several scents in just the right amounts, the brother-and-sister founders assist in creating your own perfume.
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Everything you need to know about art of perfume-making
For aficionados interested in learning about the story behind the history of the art of perfume, the Grand Musée du Parfum, which opened last summer, is a must. You don’t have to be a connoisseur to appreciate the fully immersive and interactive experience, which traces perfume-making from its history to current trends and processes today.
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When perfume meets cuisine
For a different sort of olfactory experience, head to Le 68 on the Champs-Élysées. Michelin-starred chef Guy Martin’s restaurant, tucked underneath Guerlain’s magnificent historic flagship, is where the chef rustles up haute cuisine based on the perfume house’s star ingredients, like vanilla, rose, jasmine and bergamot. Visitors can however rest assured that they won’t be eating duck-flavoured Shalimar perfume or steak à La Petite Robe Noire. The cuisine is more of an interpretation of the scent than using the actual scent, as the chef explained.
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