France has been a renowned maker of perfumes for centuries, and at its fragrant center is Paris. The city’s glittering arcades and cobbled streets are home to many historic perfume houses, identifiable by a distinct scent or crystal bottle. Since the Renaissance, Paris has had a special relationship with eau de cologne, driven by the nobles and royalty and their nose for luxury. King Louis VI was especially obsessed with perfume, and it was around this time, in the 18th-century, that the Provencal village of Grasse became a centre for growing perfume flowers and aromatic plants. Grasse continues to provide French perfume houses with raw materials such as jasmine and Rosa Centifolia. Of course, you don’t need to head to the fields to find French perfume. At these, my favorite perfume houses, you’ll find timeless scents by iconic parfumers, as well as small, boutique houses crafting contemporary fragrances. My go-to scent? The audacious galbanum, daffodil, and jasmine-scented Vol de Nuit, exclusively for Guerlain.
Visit this boudoir-style shop, set up by its namesake back in the 80’s, or any of the other six locations in Paris that were recently revamped. Circle the Perfume Organ to discover how each fragrance influences the next, and pick up your souvenir: the bestselling Eau de Hadrien (Tuscan cypress, Italian citruses, and Ylang-ylang) in a bottle sweetly-tied with a ribbon and topped with a butterfly.
Since the Paris-born debuted its first fragrance in 1968 (a spicy, unisex scent with sandalwood, cinnamon, and rose) the scent-specialist has been producing high-end personal fragrances for body and home. To celebrate their 50-year anniversary, Diptyque has chosen to give their St. Germain flagship an eponymous line: 34 Boulevard Saint Germain. You can also sniff out their exotic repertory of scents, inspired by travels from Damascus to Venice.
This young brand has forged a link between Grasse, New York City, and Paris. It’s dedicated to slow, thoughtful perfuming—a focus on craftsmanship—and boasts perfumes made from hand-picked rose petals and hand-compounded in the city’s center. Visit their Marais store and watch your cologne be prepared and labeled by hand: get the Vanille 44, a Paris boutique exclusive.
Editions de Parfums Frédéric Malle
Frédéric Malle is a publisher of scents, and is best known for his partnerships with independent perfumers, such as Olivia Giacobetti and Dominique Ropion. Like the finest literary publishing houses, the collection is ever expanding. The Rue de Grenelle store is the brand’s first boutique: half Parisian apartment, half fragrance lab, and it has the atmosphere of a curiosity cabinet.
Last year, the historic 1914 building underwent a glamorous renovation, and reopened as a mirrored, white marble boutique and spa. More than 100 fragrances can be sampled in the 17,000-square-foot space, and visitors are invited to an hour-long scent test. Using images and sample scent-notes, a professional consultant will present you with the perfect parfum.