Histoires de Parfums 1826 (Eugénie de Montijo)

1826 was a year notable for many things, the least of which was the birth of France’s last Empress, Eugénie de Montijo. 1826 is also the name of a perfume inspired by her life and passions, from a perfume house that seeks to capture history in a bottle. Histoires de Parfums is a French niche perfume house founded in 2000 by Gérald Ghislain, and many of their scents are entitled with just a simple date, the date of birth for a famous historical figure who serves as the perfume’s inspiration.

Empress Eugenie, official portrait via Wikipedia.

Empress Eugenie, official portrait via Wikipedia.

In the case of 1826, it is Eugénie de Montijo. She was born in Granada, and was a Spanish Grandee (or aristocrat) who became France’s last Empress Consort as the wife of Emperor Napoleon III. Empress Eugenie was renowned for her sophisticated style, jewellery, and fashion sense, but what Histoires de Parfums is encapsulating is her love of patchouli. Histoires de Parfums describes the perfume as a “sensual amber,” and writes:

The future and last French empress, Eugénie de Montijo, was born in Granada, the jewel of Andalusia. A sparkling beauty, her seductive nature and temperamental elegance delighted Napoleon the third. This beautiful lady who influenced the mundane life and artistic refinement of her time inspired this luminous fragrance, a sensual amber carried by the power of white flowers and patchouli, of which the empress loved the unforgettable vapor trail.

Originality: mix of anis and amber.
(Eugenie de Montijo was voluptuous, full-bodied and delicate at the same time).

Top Note: Bergamot, Tangerine
Heart Note: White Flowers, Violet, Cinnamon, Ginger
Base Note: Patchouli, Amber, Incense, Blond Woods, White Musk, Vanilla.

Source: Luckyscent

Source: Luckyscent

1826 opens on my skin with sharp, clean musk and citruses that immediately give way to a creamy, milky patchouli. It is infused with vanilla, and the tiniest pinch of cinnamon in a refined mix that glows a soft, warm brown. None of patchouli’s camphorous or minty green sides are present to any noticeable degree, at least not at first. Instead, this is a very milky, almost creamy and beige patchouli whose softness in the opening minutes calls to mind both Etat Libre‘s Nombril Immense and, to a much lesser extent, the drydown of Chanel‘s glorious Coromandel. As the momentary burst of citrus and sharp musk sinks into the base, incense rises up to take their place, adding to the tentative, small similarities to Coromandel.

Photo: puresilks.us

Photo: puresilks.us

The differences are much, much greater than any commonalities, however. The main one is the total absence of any white chocolate notes in 1826, whether powdered or mousse-like. The incense is another substantial point of departure. There is extremely little of it in 1826, whereas Coromandel has almost as much smoky frankincense as it does patchouli. Perhaps even more so. Speaking of patchouli, the note in 1826 starts to slowly reflect a quiet earthiness which the Chanel fragrance completely lacks. In less than 5 minutes, 1826 takes on a subtle undertone of damp, wet, loamy soil. Under the surface, hints of tobacco bubble up, along with the tiniest suggestion of something green and camphorous. Both accords momentarily diffuse the milky aspects of the scent, but they are muted and very short-lived.

"Cosmic Swirls Beige" by Jeannie Atwater Jordan Allen at fineartamerica.com

“Cosmic Swirls Beige” by Jeannie Atwater Jordan Allen at fineartamerica.com

15 minutes into its development, the creamy patchouli in 1826 turns plush and deep, feeling like velvet. The earthiness is extremely smooth and well-balanced. As a whole, the patchouli never smells musty or dusty, but turns lightly chocolate-y in nature. Thanks to the vanilla in the base, the overall effect is more akin like a dusting of milk chocolate powder infused with warm, sweet soil, a lot of milk, and hints of woodiness. Underlying that bouquet are subtle undercurrents of incense, spice, tobacco, and milky Chai tea, but the primary impression is of a vanilla-infused patchouli scent. It’s much sweeter, earthier, and warmer than the drier, incense-heavy, white cocoa Coromandel.

For the longest time, there really isn’t much more to 1826 Eugenie de Montijo on my skin. There are no fruited notes or tangerine, no ginger, no discernible florals, and very little cinnamon. The perfume is initially strong on my skin, but extremely airy, wafting in a sheer cloud that extends about 2-3 inches above my skin with 3 enormous smears. The sillage drops quickly, and it consistently takes between 2.25 hours and 2.5 hours for 1826 to turn into a skin scent.

Source: 123rf.com

Source: 123rf.com

I’ve tried 1826 a few times, and the perfume’s simplicity and linearity remains the same each time. 1826 continues as a milky patchouli scent until the 3.5 hour mark when hints of powder creep in, along with a return of the clean musk and an abstract woodiness. The musk does an odd thing to the woods, turning them cold and clean.

Slowly, the woody musk starts to take over. At first, it is an equal partner to the lightly powdered patchouli, but by the end of the 6th hour, it completely dominates the scent. 1826 is now primarily an abstract woody musk fragrance, with just a vestige of patchouli sweetness. The whole thing feels very nondescript and generic, with the tiniest hint of something soapy lurking deep in the base. In its final moments, 1826 is nothing more than a slightly sweet, woody cleanness. All in all, 1826 lasted just over 7 hours with a small quantity, and 8.25 with a heavy dose.

1826 has received mixed reviews on Fragrantica, though the majority seem to like it. One person experienced a much more complex scent than I did, as evidenced by this review:

it is quite beautiful and I wouldn’t mind owning a bottle. The top notes include orange, which complements the heart notes of cinammon and ginger beautifully. Rounding out the heart are creamy white flowers and a hint of sharp (not candied) violet. About an hour in, the base notes start to make an appearance, including a lovely, slightly sweet incense note. This is not an old medieval church type of incense, but a light, dry, modern incense, and it’s not added with a heavy hand. Instead the base notes of vanilla, patchoulli, and amber share equal footing with the incense, which I like. The combination is just right. Beautifully complex and layered, 1826 is a full blooded and heavy boned oriental in the absolute BEST sense.

Other people, however, experienced a “wisp” of a scent that barely lasted and which was far from full-blooded, though they did enjoy it greatly:

  • in my case […] definitely not a heavy oriental..it’s a beautiful wisp of a scent! The spices are very subdued, it’s a warm floral with a clean skin musk peeking out from under, thoroughly wearable. Not sweet at all nor old fashioned- very well blended as someone else mentioned.
  • 1826 starts quite heavy and spicy, reminds me of Ambre Sultan at this stage. But it only lasts a few minutes. [¶] Then it becomes more and more milky and vanillic, sweet, but stays transparent all the time. I think I smell something similar as in Clinique Simply – a bright accord of anise, which is not listed in any of them. It gives this fragrance a pale, lunar light. [¶] It’s so well blended … Absolutely nothing stands out. One light accord of patchouli, white flowers, amber, vanilla … [¶] Recently I’ve been so bored with spices and flowers shouting at me from almost every composition out there… [¶] And when 1826 touched my skin I felt like in a scented heaven. A Zen-like scent. Modest and modern at the same time.Sounds perfect? Yes, but it has 2 very serious drawbacks.
    One: there’s almost no sillage! A true skin scent. I literally have to put my nose onto my wrist to smell it. You really have to use a lot, and still only YOU will be able to smell it … Pity, considering how beautiful it is and that I’d love to share its beauty with someone around …
    Two: No lasting power! After 2 hours there’s no trail of it.

Well, I rather agree with him or her on 1826’s lack of body, not to mention the incredibly weak sillage, no matter how much you apply.

Source: Saveur.com

Source: Saveur.com

In terms of other assessments, male commentators find 1826 to be very unisex, while one woman (who clearly doesn’t like patchouli in general) found the perfume to be too masculine for her tastes. One poster thought 1826 was too earthy, another compared it to “cotton candy” mixed with a “vanilla milkshake,” while a third found the perfume “too powdery” with a soapy undertone. I can definitely understand a number of those assessments, especially the milkshake, though I think it would be a vanilla-cocoa-patchouli one that is only present for the first half of 1826’s life. As a whole, though, the general consensus on 1826 seems to be that it is not a patchouli bomb but, rather, “a very pleasant patchouli/vanilla/creamy white flowers mix with a hint of cinnamon, spice and powder.” I think that’s quite an accurate nutshell summation, even if the creaminess that I personally encountered wasn’t at all floral in nature.

I enjoyed parts of 1826 Eugénie de Montijo in its opening phase, but I find it hard to summon up a lot of enthusiasm for the scent as a whole. The clean, white musk simply ruined it for me, as did the problematic sillage and the banal drydown. On the other hand, the perfume is easy to wear, and those who enjoy lightly sweetened, milky, fuzzy, Le Labo type of scents may enjoy 1826’s approachability. It is definitely unisex, in my opinion; as one male Fragrantica poster noted, the perfume is actually more unisex than the 1969 fragrance that Histoires de Parfum categorizes as such. Obviously, you have to like patchouli to enjoy 1826, but you also have to enjoy some powderiness as well, in my opinion. So, if a milky, creamy, vanillic, slightly powdered patchouli scent with great sheerness, softness, and discreetness sounds like your cup of tea, then give 1826 a sniff.

Cost, Availability, Decant Sets & Samples: 1826 is an Eau de Parfum that comes in two sizes: 2.0 oz/60 ml for $125, £75, or €87; or 4 oz/120 ml for $205, £125 or €145. (Further decant or mini-sized options are below). Both full bottle sizes are available on the Histoires de Parfums website, which also has a great sample program (6 samples of your choice) whose $20 price goes towards the purchase of a large 4 oz. bottle. Further details are available here as to how the process works. Shipping is free for all orders anywhere in the world for purchases over $130; below that, there is a $10 shipping fee. In the U.S.: 1826 is available from Luckyscent in both sizes, along with samples. BeautyHabit sells both sizes, along with a 14 ml decant for $36. Amazon offers 1826 in the smaller $125 size, and the 3rd party retailer is Parfum1. On the actual Parfum1 website, you can buy the small 60 ml bottle of 1826 as well as a 14 ml decant for $36. MinNewYork has the whole Histoires de Parfums line in the smaller 60 ml size, including 1826, but they are currently out of stock of the latter. The Perfume Shoppe (which has a Canadian division) sells 14 ml decants of 1826 for $36, but doesn’t list the full bottle. Outside the U.S.: In Canada, Etiket carries the Histoires de Parfums, though only a few are shown on their website. 1826 is one of them. In the UK, Roullier White sells a couple of the Histoires de Parfums line for £75 for the smaller 2 oz/60 ml bottle and £125 for the 120 ml size, but 1826 is not listed or shown. Elsewhere, Harvey Nichols doesn’t carry the full line, but they do have 1826 Eugenie in the large £125 size. In Paris, the full Histoires de Parfums line is available at Jovoy for €87 or €145, depending on size. You can also find select fragrances from the line in the small size at the Nose boutique in Paris. In the Netherlands, you can find the full line at ParfuMaria. For the rest of Europe, Premiere Avenue has all the fragrances in the small 2 oz/60 ml size for €87, with a 5 ml decant available for €9. In the large 4 oz bottles, you can find 1826 at First in Fragrance for €145. In Australia, you can find 1826 on sale at City Perfume for AUD$179 for the large 120 ml bottle, or for the full AUD$190 price at Peony Melbourne. For all other countries, the vast Histoires de Parfums’ Store Locator page lists retailers from South Africa to Korea, Sweden and Kuwait. Samples: You can find samples at a number of the retailers linked to above. Surrender to Chance offers 1826 starting at $4.99 for a 1 ml vial.

Histoires de Parfums 1899 Ernest Hemingway

Source: Wikipedia

Source: Wikipedia

1899 is the year of Ernest Hemingway‘s birth, and also the name of the newest fragrance from Histoires de Parfums, a French niche perfume house founded by Gérald Ghislain. It is a company whose perfumes are often entitled simply with a date in history, the year in which a legendary figure was born. This fall, they tackled Ernest Hemingway. I absolutely loathe the man for his personal life and character, but I was intrigued by how his essence might be encapsulated on an olfactory level. So when I saw a bottle of 1899 while visiting Jovoy Paris, I eagerly tested it on paper. My initial impression was far from favorable, but scented strips rarely tell an accurate tale, so I asked for a sample. I thought things might change upon a proper test. They did not, in large part. While I now see more to 1899 Ernest Hemingway than I did then, I’m still not particularly enthused.

Source: Luckyscent.

Source: Luckyscent.

1899 is the creation of Gérard Ghislain, and is an eau de parfum. Histoires de Parfums’ full description for the scent, along with its notes, is as follows:

The top notes of Italian bergamot, juniper and pepper are intended to be the aperitif that sparks the conversation and awakens the palate in anticipation of the meal. Following “Papa” from Spain to Italy with Mediterranean scents that evaporate to leave place to a darker mood, where the amber and vetiver mixed is reminiscent of the waxed wood of a Cuban bar top. The exotic meets the familiar, the tropical heat is cooled off by a glass of scotch. 

Top Note: Italian bergamot, juniper, black pepper

Heart Note: Orange blossom, Florentine Iris, Cinnamon

Base Note: Vanilla, Vetiver, amber

Juniper tree needles with berries. Source: nhm.ac.uk

Juniper tree needles with berries. Source: nhm.ac.uk

1899 Hemingway opens on my skin with a cocktail of salty sea crispness and hesperidic citrus freshness. First and foremost is juniper, yielding a green, pungent, pine-y, very outdoorsy aroma. It is infused with fruits, perhaps from actual juniper berries themselves, but also with crisp, lemony bergamot. I tested 1899 three times and, on the last occasion, juicy oranges were also quite noticeable, adding a fruited, sweet touch to juniper’s foresty, green, spicy, peppered aroma. Seconds later, black pepper, green vetiver, and a touch of floral iris join the mix.



1899 Hemingway has the initial profile of a very masculine cologne, but with greater heft and less thinness in its body. It is a profile that I struggle with, if I am honest. Juniper is not something that will make me jump up and down in ecstacy, and neither do black peppercorns or iris. Still, it’s a very rugged, outdoorsy, masculine aroma and I can see why they chose it for Hemingway.

Ernest Hemingway in Switzerland, 1927. Source: Wikipedia entry for Hemingway's "Fifty Grand."

Ernest Hemingway in Switzerland, 1927. Source: Wikipedia entry for Hemingway’s “Fifty Grand.”

Five minutes in, other elements become noticeable. Hints of orange blossom flit about with a slightly bitter, dark, pungent and piquant undertone that resembles neroli more than any indolic, lush, white floral bomb. In 1899’s depths, the vanilla slowly starts to stir. Up top, the vetiver becomes much more pronounced. It’s not earthy, damp, and rooty at all. Actually, when combined with the sharp, fresh citruses and the piney, almost cedar-like aroma of juniper, the vetiver feels very green. To me, the three notes together create the mineralized accord of the vetiver in Terre d’Hermès, only with a much more Alpine feel. During his first marriage, Hemingway went often to Switzerland, and there is something of that clean, fresh, crisp mountain air in 1899. You can almost see the vast forests of Switzerland before your eyes, only these are not snowy but dotted with orange and lemon trees as well.

1899 is a very well-blended fragrance that doesn’t always develop in the exact same manner. In my three tests, some of the notes varied in strength or in the order of their appearance. Take, for example, the iris. During my first test, it was barely a factor for most of 1899’s lifespan, popping up only occasionally at the perfume’s edges but without any substantial heft whatsoever. In my second test, it was quite pronounced in the end, adding a powdery touch to the perfume’s sweet final stage. In my third one, however, the iris suddenly appeared noticeably right from the start, adding its floral coolness to the Alpine meadows. Another note that seemed to vary in its character was the orange blossom which consistently seemed more fruited than floral, except the first time around when it manifested itself in both ways.

Abstract Green Fantasy by Bruno Paolo Benedetti. Source: imagesinactions.photoshelter.com

Abstract Green Fantasy by Bruno Paolo Benedetti. Source: imagesinactions.photoshelter.com

Nonetheless, 1899 does have some uniform aspects to its development. About 10 minutes in, the fragrance turns warmer and starts to lose its cologne-like sharpness. A touch of cinnamon appears, the amber awakens from its slumber, and the vanilla starts its slow rise to the surface. Warmth and sweetness slowly start to creep over 1899, like a wave inching up a sandy beach. The amber, vanilla and cinnamon may not be noticeable in any profound, individual way, but they have an indirect effect on the other notes. They make the orange blossom lose some of its piquant, bitter, neroli-like undertone, and soften the sharpness of the juniper, while adding a touch of spice. At times, the overall effect is almost like Viktor & Rolf‘s Spicebomb, but not quite.    

Suddenly, 25 minutes in, the warm notes flood the surface and 1899 changes into a much different fragrance. Gone is the purely cologne-like scent with its crisp, citrus, woody, masculine profile. Now, there are oriental and floral touches. First up is the orange blossom which stops feeling purely like a ripe, juicy, sweet fruit, and more like the actual white flower. It adds a sensuous touch to Hemingway’s face, like a warm, seductive caress across his unshaved whiskers redolent of his woody, piney, vetiver, lemon aftershave. While the main note remains the peppery, spicy juniper, it’s now been infused with cinnamon and amber as well.

Ernest Hemingway with a bull in Spain in 1927. Source: middletontimes.com

Ernest Hemingway with a bull in Spain in 1927. Source: middletontimes.com

1899 Hemingway’s shift is complete at the 40-minute mark when the vanilla bursts onto the scene like a white bull running into a Pamplona arena. From Switzerland, we’ve suddenly landed in Spain where Hemingway spent so much time in the 1930s. The land of Seville oranges, orange blossoms, groves of green, dry warmth, and languid sensuality — it’s all here, under the top layer of rugged, outdoorsy juniper-lemon cologne. I know Histoires de Parfums gives the perfume’s geographic trajectory as Spain to Italy to Cuba, but I’m sticking with Switzerland to Spain, with crisp Alpine forests taking on a more Mediterranean sensual warmth. I have to say, I find the olfactory symbolism quite impressive on an intellectual level.

Source: wallsave.com

Source: wallsave.com

I just wish I liked the actual smell. For me, the opening was too much like cologne, but uninteresting cologne. The juniper was too sharp and turpentine-like at times, and didn’t even have the appeal of a gin-and-tonic. I liked even less 1899’s new combination of vanilla with crushed juniper needles, trailed closely by cinnamon, then by orange blossoms, oranges, lemons and amber. Honestly, it made me feel queasy, each and every time. Something about the combination felt cloying in its sweetness, somewhat odd in its polar opposite parts, and simply not appealing at the end of the day. Perhaps I’m simply not a fan of juniper mixed with vanilla, gooey oranges, unctuous orange blossoms, and cinnamon. It is the main profile of 1899 Hemingway for hours and hours, and I really wanted it to stop.

Vanilla powder and essence. Source: food.ninemsn.com.au

Vanilla powder and essence. Source: food.ninemsn.com.au

1899 Hemingway brought to mind two other Histoires de Parfums’ scents, but for very different reasons. Like many from the line, the fragrance is not revolutionary or edgy, but has a gracefulness about it — regardless of whether you like the notes or not. Like its siblings, 1899 is potent at the start, while also being incredibly airy in weight and very well blended. In that way, it resembles Ambre 114. Yet, at its core, 1899 is thematically quite close to 1725 Casanova in its transition from masculine to soft, unisex, and almost gourmand in nature. It’s that powerful vanillic base that both fragrances share, after a very crisp start. However, 1899 is significantly more masculine in my opinion, even at its end, thanks to the woody juniper. 1725 Casanova is smoother, more truly unisex with its lavender, more gourmand at its base, and much better balanced in my opinion. It never felt cloying, or a war of extreme, opposite notes.

That brings me to what may be my fundamental issue with 1899 Hemingway: it doesn’t know who it wants to be. It took me a while (and three tests) to suddenly realise that the perfume is trying to be all things to all people. It straddles so many different genres: masculine cologne, oriental, woody outdoorsy, gourmand, and many hybrid versions thereof. But it can’t seem to make up its mind. I don’t have a problem with the fact that Histoires de Parfums has made a fragrance with a commercial, mainstream character — some people on Fragrantica think that 1899 is like Spicebomb — but I struggle with the perfume’s fragmented, confused identity. Perhaps that makes it very Hemingway after all; the writer was known to be a complex set of contradictions with a highly insecure, sometimes utterly neurotic side. (I am trying so, so hard to be polite about the man!)

Getting back to the perfume’s development, there really isn’t a lot more to say. Until its end, 1899 remains a scent that is primarily vanilla, juniper and some form of orange (or orange blossom) infused with a hint of cinnamon, all atop an amber base. At the 1.5 hour mark, its sillage drops, the perfume feels thinner, its edges blur, and the notes are not easily separable in a distinct, individual way. Three hours in, 1899 hovers just barely atop the skin. The sillage isn’t impressive as a whole with 1899 unless you apply a lot. Eventually, 1899 Hemingway fades away in some sort of sweetness and with an average lifespan of about 7.5 hours.

"Shades of Leaves," abstract photography by Bruno Paolo Benedetti. Source: http://imagesinactions.photoshelter.com/gallery-image/abstract-impressionist-photography/G0000LzIQxYEISEo/I0000rdtpLoFmVPU

“Shades of Leaves,” abstract photography by Bruno Paolo Benedetti. Source: http://imagesinactions.photoshelter.com/gallery-image/abstract-impressionist-photography/G0000LzIQxYEISEo/I0000rdtpLoFmVPU

The very end, however, seems to differ in terms of its olfactory specifics from wearing to wearing, perhaps as a result of the quantity applied. In one test, using 3 average sprays from the small atomizer, 1899 ended just after 7 hours in a blur of woody, juniper and vanilla. In another test, using 2 tiny sprays, it took a mere 6 hours for 1899 to die, ending in a powdery, floral, iris-y vanilla blur. In my last test, using 4 big sprays, 1899 lasted longer, just under 9 hours, before fading away with orange-y sweetness and nothing else. The atomizer’s hole is very small, so the quantity applied is probably much smaller than from an actual bottle. It would probably range between 1.5 big smears from a dab vial to about 4 very small, narrow ones.

1899 Ernest Hemingway is too new for there to be comparative reviews that I can show you. The fragrance’s Basenotes entry (on the old Huddler Archive) doesn’t have any comments from those who have tried it. Fragrantica‘s early discussion thus far seems to focus on the extent to which it is like Spicebomb. Some think it’s a much better version. One person (“deadidol“) thinks 1899 Hemingway is well-done, but largely a bore. I agree with parts of his assessment:

More often than not, this brand misses the mark for me, and Hemingway’s a bit of a snooze. When HdP step outside they box, they truly innovate, but too many of their scents strike me as pleasant, run-of-the-mill affairs that are solid value for money, but aren’t contributing anything new. This is a mildly boozy oriental with a powdery iris note and a hefty amount of spices. There are some floral undertones that are met with a dry fruit note to spin the scent as opulent, but it’s linear and doesn’t really do anything to distinguish itself from the more powdery offerings of Dior, ByKilian etc. Also, the connection to Hemingway is a total mystery as there’s nothing rugged, troublesome or even narratalogical at work here, and it’s certainly not very masculine or virile. With that said, it’s a practical addition to the line as it’s big and amiable, bearing notable similarities to Bois d’Argent, but it’s not going to have much appeal for those who are hoping for another Petroleum, Marquis de Sade, Ambrarem, or Ambre 114. Durable and great value (another one of HdP’s strong points), but ultimately too pleasant, too powdery, and too prosaic.

I think 1899 Hemingway is much more rugged and outdoorsy than he does, but I do agree that the fragrance is merely a pleasant, “run-of-the-mill” scent with some “amiable” features. Just how amiable will depend on what you think of the central juniper note, and its interaction with the vanilla and spices. It’s not my cup of tea.

Nonetheless, I have to agree with another Fragrantica commentator in giving kudos to Histoires de Parfum for avoiding the usual, traditional clichés about Hemingway. It would have been all too easy to make a fragrance centered on cigars and rum. And, in my opinion, the company has actually succeeded in encapsulating parts of Hemingway’s life and contradictory character. They’ve created a perfectly pleasant fragrance that will probably be very sexy on some men’s skin. Unfortunately, I find it hard to sum up enthusiasm for more than that.

Cost & Availability: 1899 Hemingway is an Eau de Parfum that comes in two sizes: 2.0 oz/60 ml for $125 or €87; or 4 oz/120 ml for $205 or €145. (Further decant or mini-sized options are below). Both full bottle sizes are available on the Histoires de Parfums website, which also has a fantastic sample program (6 samples of your choice) whose $20 price goes towards the purchase of a large 4 oz. bottle. Further details are available here as to how the process works. Shipping is free for all orders anywhere in the world for purchases over $130; below that, there is a $10 shipping fee. In the U.S.: 1899 Hemingway is available from Luckyscent in both sizes, along with samples. BeautyHabit also offers both sizes of 1899. The Perfume Shoppe (which has a Canadian division) sells 14 ml decants of 1725 for $36. Outside the U.S.: In the UK, you can find 1899 Hemingway at the Grooming Clinic for GBP £124 for 120 ml. Roullier-White in London carries some of the HdP line, but I didn’t see Hemingway on their website. For the rest of Europe, you can find it at Jovoy Paris for €87 or €145, depending on size, or at First in Fragrance which only has the larger 100 ml bottle of Hemingway at €145. For all other countries, Histoires de Parfums vast Store Locator lists retailers from South Africa to the Netherlands, Sweden and Kuwait. Samples: You can find samples at a number of the retailers linked to above. Surrender to Chance doesn’t yet carry the fragrance as it is too new, but you can order from Luckyscent in the meantime.

Jovoy Paris: Aladdin’s Cave of Luxury Perfumes

Source: Tribaspace.com

Source: Tribaspace.com

If you had one day to shop for perfumes in Paris, and wanted to experience the absolute widest possible range of niche perfumes, there is really only one place to go: Jovoy Paris. It’s a surfeit of riches and treasures that is located in the Rue de Castiglione, about a block away from the Place Vendome (as well as some of the chic-est parts of Rue St. Honoré).

Jovoy6In fact, the vastness of their range makes it a one-stop shopping destination that a true perfume lover absolutely has to visit. Sure, you could always go to the beauty sections of the large departments stores like Printemps and Les Galleries Lafayettes, but you wouldn’t be exposed to the very highest end of the niche perfume world, nor to some of the smaller, rarer, more unusual or high-quality perfume treasures. Instead of focusing on brands like By Kilian, Jovoy has things like Roja DovePuredistance, LM Parfums, Neela Vermeire, and many other fantastic brands that it — and it alone — carries in Paris.

Jovoy5I dragged my exhausted self to Jovoy almost at the tail end of my trip, and with the warning of one Paris perfumista ringing in my head that Jovoy has almost too much stuff. It’s true. It absolutely does. But what a sensory delight from start to finish! Even on the most initial, concrete levels of visuals, Jovoy is lovely. The walls are decorated in a chic Chinese red and the furniture is black. I’m quite biased, I must admit, as that is the pairing for my library/office, and black is my favorite colour (non-colour?) in general. Still, Jovoy is a study in chic sleekness and elegance from a mere decor perspective.

My photos cannot do it justice, and, once again, I have to repeat what I’ve said elsewhere: my camera chose Paris to start dying, though I now wonder if it’s perhaps just my batteries that may be the problem, despite nightly charging. Either way, my little, conveniently pocket-sized Canon seemed to be having a tantrum in photographing a lot of perfume bottles in a large number of stores (but, oddly, not a single problem at all in photographing French cheeses somehow……). From blurriness, to strange lighting, to actual zig-zag lightning strikes in neon colours, the perfume images were often wholly unusable. The ones that weren’t still aren’t fantastic. The situation seemed worst of all in Jovoy, so I can only apologise to you and to Jovoy for the quality of some of these. I include them only to give you a sense of the sheer enormity of the brands they carry, as well as a feel of that day.

Parfums de Marly

Parfums de Marly

So, you’ve entered the chic, sleek, minimalistic Asian-influenced environs of Jovoy, and then you see the range of the brands they carry — and your mind is effectively blown. Where do you start? How do you cover everything? None of the pictures I had seen of Jovoy had adequately conveyed the extent of all the unusual brands here. There is SO MUCH stuff! Even the tiniest of shelves has one full range crammed in; every bottle of Parfums de Marly in a tight row, one after another. And that’s only one of the tiny shelves! Jovoy is a wonderful problem for a perfumista to have, but it does also require a few practical considerations before you go.

First, if I may suggest, you should put aside at least a solid two hours — at a bare minimum — for a visit to Jovoy; and if you’re a hard-core perfume addict who hasn’t had much concrete access to testing many, less-accessible lines in person, then perhaps more like four hours. At a minimum. That was approximately the amount of time that I spent in the store, and I tell you without any hyperbole at all that I may have sniffed or tested only a mere fraction of their stock. Maybe 10%. I could have spent six hours in Jovoy, and probably still wouldn’t have had the chance to get through everything. Plus, even if you could get through it all, you would have such olfactory fatigue by the end that I’m not sure you could really process it all. I certainly couldn’t. Again, all of this is a wonderful problem to have. I’m merely warning you that you will have a sensory overload from the sheer range of perfume brands that they have, and that you should plan accordingly.

Jovoy4Second, I think you really need to dress carefully for Jovoy — and I’m not talking about the quality or expensiveness of your attire. I highly doubt that they give a damn. But, you need to wear clothing that will give you the easiest amount of access to as much of your skin as is socially acceptable to be shown in public without getting arrested. And wear layers, because you will run of skin real estate — extraordinarily quickly given the amounts of perfume brands they carry — so you may need fabric upon which to test some of the perfumes that really catch your attention. Even after all that, you’re still likely to be screwed for all the reasons listed up above. There still will be stuff that you don’t get to test or try, that you loved on paper, or that the perfume strips simply didn’t adequately convey.

Perhaps some of my personal difficulty stems from the fact that I have never been able to get a really good sense of a perfume from a mere strip of paper. It’s easy to know which ones you can immediately discount and ignore, but that’s the absolute lowest threshold and bar. What about the ones you think you may like, but are unsure? Or the ones that you really like, but are not sure you absolutely love as much as some of the others? What happens when, towards the end and almost on your way out the door, you stumble across something that takes your breath away on paper, but you have no idea how it will be on your skin (or how long it will last) because you can’t strip to your underwear to find more space on which to test it? As I said, Jovoy has too much stuff — and most of it is amazing.

Roja Dove, exclusively at Jovoy Paris.

Roja Dove, exclusively at Jovoy Paris.

So, now, onto my actual experiences at Jovoy. I walked in without much of a plan except, first and foremost, to try Roja Dove‘s famous perfumes, then perhaps Von Eusersdorff‘s Patchouli. One thing that I liked about shopping at Jovoy is that they left you in peace and quiet to explore, without pestering you, though there were always assistants close-by to help you immediately if you asked. That is really my ideal way of shopping; to perambulate and see what intrigues me, pick up a bottle here or there to spray on a paper strip, and then go from there.

Another wonderful thing about Jovoy is that paper strips are conveniently and discretely placed next to each and every single brand display. No hunting around for mouiellettes, and, even better, no hunting around for a pen with which to write down the name of the sprayed perfume. No, Jovoy thoughtfully places pencils immediately on hand and throughout the store for you to use in remembering which strip contained which perfume. It a practice that that I wish more perfume stores would follow because, for most of my trip, I had started sticking pens in the back pocket of my jeans, in my leather jacket, and even behind my ear at one point. (I would often come home with over 15-20 paper strips a day, winnowed down from about 50+ things that I’d sniffed or sprayed on paper, and I tell you, you need an easily accessible pen or you’ll be lost!)

Jovoy Roja Dove 3 - B

The minute I walked in, I was greeted by a smile from one assistant, but I knew exactly where I was heading. My eye went straight to the lit, highlighted Roja Dove display at the far end. Even before I’d left for Paris, a blog friend had told me about the supposed gloriousness of Roja Dove’s Diaghilev chypre, and its old-style luxuriousness, opulence, and elegance. I also knew, however, that it was €990 for a small bottle, which translates to more than $1330. Some luxury perfume brands have stratospheric prices, but the Roja Dove ones are in another galactic solar system entirely. I know he’s considered one of the most famous, legendary noses in the world, but bloody hell!

Still, it’s free to sniff, right? So I did, and I liked Diaghilev. But I wasn’t blown away, and certainly not enough to try it on my skin. (Besides, what was the point at €990?!) So, what should I try? There were so many bottles, all gleaming in the light with a vast number having lids heavy with crystals. To my relief, there was a wonderful, thin, hard-bound book to the side that described each scent and its notes, and I used it to get an idea of where I should start. Honestly though, even after reading the book, I was still at sea — what with his pure absolute Extraits of florals like gardenia and lilac, his regular line of eau de parfums, and their pure parfum versions. Making matters even more complicated is that the exact same perfume comes in a Men’s and Women’s version.

Jovoy Roja Dove 1 - CI liked description and notes listed for Dove’s leather chypre, Fetish, so I tried both gender versions in Parfum concentration. (It comes in an Eau de Parfum as well, but I couldn’t deal with trying three variations of the same perfume!) According to Fragrantica, the notes for Fetish for Men are: bergamot, lemon, lime, fig, jasmine, neroli, violet, cardamom, cinnamon, elemi, oakmoss, patchouli, pepper, vetiver, ambergris, benzoin, castoreum, labdanum, leather, musk and vanilla. Phew, that’s quite something, especially by today’s standards where all too many fragrances have between 3-6 notes. (Hello, Jean-Claude Ellena! Hello, Montale!) The Fetish for Women is more floral and is perhaps even lovelier, though I have to give both a good test to make up my mind as to which one I prefer. The women’s Fetish includes: rose, ylang-ylang, jasmine, tuberose, galbanum, cinnamon, cloves, cedar, oakmoss, patchouli, vetiver, castoreum and musk. They’re both pretty — and pretty costly, too, at €395 for 50 ml, but at least they are pure parfums.

Another one I liked was Roja Dove’s Innuendo, which I believe I smelled in pure Parfum version as well. The notes, according to Fragrantica, include: bergamot, lemon, orange, lemon verbena, jasmine, may rose, violet, ylang-ylang, patchouli, sandalwood, labdanum, musk, orris root and tonka bean. Lordie, was that pretty! I was significantly less moved, however, by the Roja Dove’s Extrait fragrances which are soliflores in nature, like Vetiver, Gardenia, Neroli and the like. One of them was okay, though I can’t recall now if it was the Gardenia or Lilac, and, to be frank, some of that whole Roja Dove experience is a bit of a blur now. I didn’t try every single one of the absolutes, primarily due to being completely overwhelmed, but generally, I wasn’t hugely moved by those I did sniff. I most certainly was NOT moved enough for the price of the bottle, which is around €325!

The soliflore Extraits in their pure white bottle in the back.

The soliflore Extraits in their pure white bottle in the back.

I also wasn’t passionate about the two Roja Dove ouds I tried, Aoud and Amber Oud. They were fine, though I didn’t think either one was extraordinarily special, and one had far too much saffron for me. As a perfume blogger, I’ve reached critical saffron-oud overload, which is a shame as the spice used to be one of my favorite notes. Clearly, it’s not the perfume’s fault, and is a matter of personal tastes. One thing was unquestionable, however, and that was the gorgeousness of the cranberry-red juice for the Amber Oud. Really lovely.

After Roja Dove, I went next to one of the bookcases in the center with its wide variety of different brands. I was thrilled to see Parfums de Marly, a line about which I’d heard much talk. It is now available in the US at OsswaldNYC, but I don’t live in New York and have no immediate access, so to get to try it leisurely here was exciting. I intentionally eschewed the perfumes that seems to get the most fuss, Herod, because when a company actually and officially lists ISO E Supercrappy (™ Sultan Pasha) amongst its notes, I know it’s best for me to steer very clear indeed. (Seriously, can you imagine how high the percentage of that olfactory carrion vulture must be for Parfums de Marly to have to list it officially?!) All the other bottles appealed to me, but I didn’t know where to start. There were also no notes listed anywhere, and I didn’t want to ask someone because I preferred to be left alone.

Parfums de Marly on the top shelf. Isabey on the bottom. Far right is Von Eusersdorff

Parfums de Marly on the top shelf with Safanad as the second glass bottle from the right side of the frame. Isabey perfumes are on the bottom shelf. Far right is Von Eusersdorff on both top and bottom.

So, at random, I just picked up one of the smaller, clear, non-opaque or coloured bottles that was to the far right, and sprayed a little. WOW! Glorious, simply glorious. I couldn’t find a name on the bottle (which I thought was quite odd), so I asked one of the sales ladies who was equally perplexed. Finally, on the bottom and in tiny font, we saw the name. The perfume turned out to be Safanad which according to Fragrantica is a 2013 Floral Woody Musk whose include: orange, pear, orange blossom, ylang-ylang, iris, amber, sandalwood and vanilla. Really gorgeous. It’s an eau de parfum that comes in an 75 ml bottle and costs €159.



I ambled around further after that, smiling at the chic Puredistance display in one corner, admiring the wall of Amouage elsewhere, and trying to figure out who on earth made the perfumes that were in some very fancy, glittering orbs and locked behind glass. It turns out, it was a line called House of Sillage.

Jovoy House of Sillage 2

House of Sillage

House of Sillage in the cabinest, and more Amouage lined up on top.

Then, I stood gulping in abject awe at the Baccarat-and-gold bottles of Grossmith‘s original, historical line under glass. I had previously tested and reviewed Grossmith’s Phul-Nana, which is a simply gorgeous, opulently Victorian, lusty and spicy orange blossom, neroli, tuberose, ylang-ylang and woody fragrance. At the time of its release, back in the 1880s, it had been the Chanel No. 5 of its day, and I loved its faithfully translated modern version. In that review, I’d written about the famous Baccarat bottles which were created with the help of various Middle Eastern royal families and whose price tag is astronomically high, so to now see them in person…. I was thrilled! It is just as well that they were locked behind glass, because I would probably have stroked them with lust like a crazy person.

Grossmith's baccarat flacons of the original trio in the line. I'm so sorry about the poor photo quality!

Grossmith’s baccarat flacons of the original trio in the line. I’m so sorry about the poor photo quality!

Later on, I had the chance to smell a Grossmith scent which I had previously eschewed testing because I had heard that it was very powdery — and I don’t do powder! It was Shem-el-Nessim, which Fragrantica classifies as a Floral Woody Musk with notes that include: bergamot, neroli, geranium, jasmine, rose, ylang-ylang, iris, musk, patchouli, cedar, sandalwood, heliotrope and vanilla. Good heavens, is that a beautiful perfume! And what sillage it had, too! I was fortunate to obtain a sample, and I’m definitely going to do a full review down the road, but I have to say now, it was truly an opulently luxurious scent in the very best of the old-time tradition from the golden age of perfumery. I’m really glad that Roja Dove helped Grossmith to recreate its ancient classics, because I think the perfume world is far better for it. Now, if only they were more easily accessible….

Eventually, I made my way to the far right wall where I came across Jovoy‘s own line of perfumes. As always, my problem was knowing where to start, and I already had about 13 paper strips in my hand at this point. (And those are the ones that I had not discarded!) I tried Gardez-Moi which was a lovely white flower bomb, but then what? I went by colour, knowing that the darker the juice, the more likely it would be a woody, spicy or oriental fragrance which is my personal, preferred category. I started with Psychedelique because of the name, and it turned out to be an intriguing patchouli.

Von Eusersdorff.

Von Eusersdorff.

Previously, however, I’d tried another patchouli — Classic Patchouli from Von Eusersdorff — which had come highly recommended by another blogger, Susie of Scent Epiphany. I was unsure about both of them, not because they weren’t excellent (they were), but because I’m on the hunt for a very particular patchouli scent. Perhaps more to the point, I simply didn’t dare put two different ones on my skin, lest patchouli’s generally forceful characteristics overwhelm everything else that I may want to try down the road.

Then, my eye was caught by Jovoy‘s Private Label fragrance with its dark, cognac-coloured liquid. It was a woody oriental which smelled of vetiver, amber, leather and, oddly enough, a sort of chilly peppermint that was exactly like that in the American candy, York Peppermint Pattie. I was intrigued by how it conjured up warm winter comfort from its initial whiff, and thought it definitely required further testing. I didn’t try any more from the line and, now, in hindsight, I wish now that I had been clear-headed enough to sniff Jovoy’s Rouge Assassin. Alas, Jovoy had scrambled my brain, so I completely blanked out, and sadly missed my chance.

There were so many bottles within each line, and so many paper strips in my hand, that I decided it was time to seek help. I made my way to a very tall, youngish chap with dark hair who seemed to be the manager. It turned out that he was one of them, but also, the brother-in-law of François Hénin, Jovoy’s owner. Mr. Hénin wasn’t there that day, but Léon took good care of me, even before he found out I was a perfume blogger. Prior to that point, he seemed initially a bit mystified by my rather endless series of questions about the specific notes in different perfumes (and he blinked at my intense, forceful hostility to the ISO E Super that I detected in one fragrance), but he caught onto my tastes quite quickly and steered me to a few things I liked.

Generally, though, he politely and courteously followed my lead in pursuing the specific fragrances I was curious about. By now, I had about 18 paper strips in my hand that I had narrowed down to about 7 that I wanted to try on my actual skin. We went through those 7, but he also pointed me to a few other things. It was actually thanks to Léon that I tried the fantastically diva-ish, seductive Grossmith Shem-el-Nessim, when I would have otherwise discounted it from talk that I had heard about its ostensibly powdery nature. (It wasn’t on my skin, though I haven’t yet had the chance to do a full, thorough test of it.) Léon also pointed me to specific Amouage scents that he thought would appeal to my tastes, and to Puredistance M which, unbeknownst to him, is actually one of my favorite perfumes. (It was around this time that I had to explain that I was familiar with many fragrances in question because I was a perfume blogger, had reviewed them, and/or owned them.)

I hesitated to ask for samples because of the number of things that I was really intrigued by, but Léon was more than generous. I’m extremely grateful to him and to Jovoy, because the simple reality of my skin’s wonkiness is that I need samples to get a sense of a perfume. I can’t really get proper idea of a perfume from paper strips, there is only so much space for spraying perfumes, and, most importantly of all, I have absolutely voracious perfume-eating skin.

In short, it is completely impossible for me to buy a perfume without a sample to test its layers, its sillage and how long it may last. I was disappointed, for example, that the gorgeous Parfums de Marly Safanad had already faded substantially in projection before I had even left the store! The Roja Dove Fetish leather perfume also seemed much more intimate on the skin, though I think some of that may have been olfactory fatigue. While the Grossmith Shem-el-Nessim went strong for hours, there were a number of scents that I had really liked but had no space to try on my skin at all. So, samples were essential.

And samples, I got — without a murmur or raised eyebrow. From Roja Dove, to Safanad, two fragrances from Jovoy’s own line, and a few others. I had heard from one blogger that Jovoy was “stingy” in giving samples, even upon the purchase of a fragrance, but that was not my experience at all. As Léon was calmly spritzing things into vials, I espied the new Histoires de Parfum fragrance, 1899, devoted to Ernest Hemingway, at one end of the counter. I like Histoires de Parfum quite a bit as a brand, but rather loathe Ernest Hemingway for his personal life and character, and I have never been particularly impressed by his writing with the (perhaps understandable) exception of A Moveable Feast which focuses, in part, on Paris. Still, Histoires de Parfums was going to take on Hemingway, and put his essence in a bottle?! This I had to try! I wasn’t impressed by my initial sniff, but as we’ve already discussed, paper strips can go fly a kite in terms of usefulness and true accuracy! So, we shall see how it actually turns out. 

Nasomatto and Boadicea the Victorious.

Nasomatto and Boadicea the Victorious.

Léon kindly gave me permission to take photographs for the blog. I was on my way out of Jovoy when I began taking pictures, but I came across so many cool things that I had to start sniffing all over again! There were things that I had initially missed, like Xerjoff‘s new collection, Join The Club. The few I tried from it were merely average, in my opinion, though I didn’t give the full range a thorough sniffing. (There were so many of them!) Then, I admired the endless, pretty, and sometimes bejewelled, bottles of M. Micallef, and seemingly all or most of the Boadicea the Victorious line. My God, so many of the latter! I didn’t pick up a single one because I didn’t know where to start! I was also a bit at sea when it came to the large Fueguia 1833 line from South America. I’d heard much about it, but I was starting to experience olfactory fatigue to match my physical one. So I gave two bottles some half-hearted sniffs, then gave up and returned to my photographs.

All around, there were bottles from perfume houses that I knew and/or had previously reviewed. To name a few: FrapinLubin, Juliette Has A Gun, Aedes de Venustas, Nobile 1942, David JourquinHeeley, M. MicallefTauer Perfumes, Vero Profumo, Ys.Uzac, and a blast from the past in the form of Jacques Fath and Revillion

M. Micallef

M. Micallef

M. Micallef.

Bottles from Rancé, I think.

I was in the midst of full olfactory (and visual) overload when I saw lines that I’d heard other perfumistas talk about, but had never had the chance to try: Isabey, Andrea Maack, Humiecki & Graef, Czech & Speake, Majda BekkaliJuls et Mad, SoOudE. Coudray, Miller Harris, Evody, Sospiro, Ann Gérard, Brécourt, Undergreen, and… good lord, there were so MANY

Finally, there were perfume brands that I’d never heard of at all, leaving me blinking at their bottles like a deranged owl. To name just a few: Steve McQueen (?!), House of Sillage, Philly & Phil, Eight & BobAmorvero Profumo, Arty Fragrance by Elisabeth de Feydeau (a French historian whose line is inspired by the palace and life at Versailles), Arte ProfumiLostmarc’h (yes, it’s apparently spelled that way, and no, that is not a typo), Testa Maura, Hors La MondeMendittorosa, and Alexandre J. Can you see why Jovoy requires at least a whole day’s exploration to really have a chance to cover even a small portion of their stock? Below are some thumbnails that you can expand to see a bit more of the Jovoy selection, but even these photos are hardly the complete story. 

Speaking of Alexandre J., the latter’s bottles actually stopped me dead in my tracks. In the middle of my photographing, I suddenly saw gleaming mother of pearl! A solid, massively heavy, hefty bottle of white mother of pearl, and then a truly spectacular grey-black one. I took some photos of the accompanying book that explained a little of the supposedly unusual technique, process, and quite original look of the perfumes, but I really couldn’t get a good sense of the exact notes. The white one was for women, that much was clear from the book, and the grey-black one was the men’s version with somewhat different notes, but what were they exactly? The book didn’t say, at least not from what I saw.

I had to go get Léon, who merely grinned at me at this point and asked if I’d like to have an expresso. I laugh at the memory of it, because it was so clear (to both of us) that I was going to be there for the long haul, and that there was no way I was going to be able to drag myself out of Jovoy for a few more hours. While he left to kindly make me an expresso, I noticed a some more brands that caught my eye including a bottle in a steam trunk called Lys Epona. I picked up the stopper, dabbed it on a paper strip, and blinked. Good God, that was fantastic!

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Léon had returned at this point with my much-needed dose of concentrated caffeine, and I asked him about both brands. Alexandre J. seems to be a French designer who apparently seems to be interested in history, art, and luxury craftsmanship. The perfumes that had caught my eye were called Legacy, White and Black. Each of those 100 ml mother of pearl bottles took over 200 hours to make, polish, enamel and inlay, and it was all done by hand. That explains the €495 price tag which translates at the current exchange rate to around $677. I wasn’t impressed by the white one which seemed to be an incredibly light, bland, unoriginal fruity-floral, but the darker woody-musk aroma of the grey-black one was okay. However, I didn’t think either one was original, different or luxurious enough in smell for me to really bother.

Lys Epona via the Jovoy website.

Lys Epona via the Jovoy website.

More to the point, I was still haunted by the beauty of Lys Epona. I had found one tiny, miniscule square of untainted, virgin skin on which to dab a little, and I was transfixed by the aroma wafting over me. So, upon his return, I dragged poor Léon to the large, rather old, classic steamer trunk in whose top shelf the old-fashioned (in a fantastic way!) bottle of Lys Epona with its almost Lalique-looking top lay nestled. “What is that??!” I demanded.

Léon explained that it had been created by Amelie Bourgeois (who had also created Jovoy’s much praised Rouge Assassin) in conjunction with François Hénin of Jovoy. The scent is considered to be part of Jovoy’s own perfume line, and is exclusive to the store. I have the impression that there are only a hundred bottles made, due to a comment made by Surrender to Chance on their website, but I’m not certain on that point and I don’t recall Léon saying that it was limited in nature. 

Jovoy’s website categorizes Lys Epona as a “leather” eau de parfum whose notes include lily. There is nothing else really mentioned other than the fact that it is an eau de parfum that comes in a 65 ml size, and that it costs €225. Fragrantica says its notes are: bergamot, lily, ravensara, narcissus, jasmine, ylang-ylang, wheat, hay, lily, musk, labdanum, tobacco and cedar. I thought it was spectacular with a floral richness and headiness that really evoked the classic style of the golden age of perfumery, and I am incredibly grateful to Léon for giving me a sample. I will review it as soon as possible, probably next week, because its potentially limited nature has got me rather going. If Lys Epona works on my skin, and lasts, it’s going to be something to consider sooner rather than later.

After Lys Epona, Léon and I walked around the rest of the store and discussed the various brands. I asked him about Amouage‘s new Fate, and was surprised to hear that it was far from being a big seller at Jovoy. I would have thought that the blogosphere and perfumista mass frenzy over Fate Man and Woman (especially Woman which I loved), along with those gorgeous iridescent bottles, would have made people rush to buy it. Apparently not. I can’t recall which Amouage is Jovoy’s biggest seller, but I vaguely remember that Beloved does very well, and I think Interlude as well. Still, I might be mistaken on the details, given both the hecticness of that visit and my exhausted state of sleep-deprivation on that trip as a whole. 

While walking around with Léon, I came across a number of perfumes that I had previously reviewed. There was the new Ashoka from Neela Vermeire, and we both agreed on how great the line is as whole. I told Léon my thoughts on Nasomatto‘s sexy Black Afgano, and how it seemed to me to be a super-concentrated version of YSL‘s famous M7 in vintage form. We came across Agonist; I grimaced a little at the sight of The Infidels which, I told him, smelled exactly like Tutti Frutti or Juicy Fruit chewing gum to me. There were many more fragrances I knew well, but I had to smile at all the bottles of LM Parfums lined up, including the new-limited edition Chemise Blanche. I had met with Laurent Mazzone, the brand’s founder, just five days before for tea at the Hotel Costes, and I had gotten to try Chemise Blanche as well as LM Parfums’ upcoming releases

Then, I came to a rather sharp, skidding halt at the sight of Comptoir Sud Pacifique‘s silver aluminum bottles near the front of the store with its wall of expensive candles. I might be a slight snob, but I don’t think the brand really fits in Jovoy, even if it’s CSP’s ostensibly “haute” niche collection with an average price of around €115. It certainly seems a slightly odd stable mate to go with the Amouage, Puredistance, Xerjoff, Neela Vermeire, Vero Profumo, Clive Christian and other lines represented in the store. (My suggestion: carry Profumum Roma‘s fabulous perfumes instead!)

Despite that last list of very respected, expensive perfumes, I would like to stress that there is something for every budget at Jovoy. There are some affordable, high-quality lines available in the store that I really like, from Parfum d’Empire to Histoires de Parfums. (The small bottles of Parfum d’Empire generally start around €66, or about $75-$80.) Jovoy also carries a perfume house that was a new discovery for me on the trip, and which I fell for very hard: Jardin d’Ecrivains. I had first come across the perfume line at Marie-Antoinette, the only other store in Paris to carry the line, and had bought one of the fragrances. It had been an enormous struggle to decide which one I had liked best because they’re all really special, unique, or just simply gorgeous! They’re also extremely reasonably priced at €85 for the large 100 size, high quality and concentration (eau de parfum). So, yes, Jovoy carries Clive Christian which prides itself on being the most expensive perfume in the world and which explicitly uses that phrase as their official (and, hence, very obnoxious and nouveau riche) company motto. But, at the same time, Jovoy also offers brands with bottles in the €66 to €87 price range. Still, I would be lying to you if I said that there are a ton of things at that lower end of the price scale, but there are some.

It was getting late at this point, and I had to meet some friends, so I reluctantly dragged myself out of Jovoy. I was scheduled to leave Paris in two days, and Jovoy was closed the next day, on Sunday, so I was even more grateful to be armed with some samples to help me make up my mind. It’s going to take me a while to go through them all for the purposes of a full, detailed review, but I know I can always turn to Jovoy. Unfortunately, I don’t think they ship to the U.S., but they do to most of Europe. (I’ve already got a mental list of Paris friends who can stop by to pick up what I may need and send it on to me themselves, or whose European addresses I can use for shipping.) If you’re in Europe, I’ve generally heard very positive things about Jovoy’s customer service, so if there is a brand that I’ve mentioned that you’ve been tempted by in the past, or if there is something I review that isn’t easily accessible in your city, you should absolutely check out the Jovoy website

They say that the Louvre can’t be seen in any real or substantive way in just one day, and I’m going to have to add Jovoy to that list. Those who live in Paris are lucky. Those who visit are going to need to give themselves ample time to sniff. Chances are, you’ll find far more things to love than any (regular) person could ever afford. In fact, if you can easily walk out of Jovoy with only one bottle or only one thing on your wish-list, then you’re a far stronger person than I am. Short of having an unlimited budget, there will always be some treasure that beckons to you with a siren song of seduction.

One has to really applaud François Hénin for curating such an astonishing, tempting collection of such high-quality. When I think that he started Jovoy a mere three years ago in 2010, and then see all that he has done, including getting the exclusive rights to carry Roja Dove’s perfumes, I have to give a very huge, very sincere Bravo to him! He’s created such an incredibly large range of tempting, luxury perfumes that Jovoy really is more like Aladdin’s Cave. Now, I just need to find a genie to grant me all my perfume wishes.

Note: All photos are my own, unless otherwise stated.
Address: 4 Rue de Castiglione, 75001 Paris, France. Be careful if you see the address of 29 rue Danielle Casanova listed on some sites, because that is the old address. They moved and the only location now is in the Rue Castiglione, about a block away from the Rue St. Honoré and two blocks away from the Place Vendome. Metro Stop: Tuilleries, Metro Line 1. Jovoy is also accessible, though a longer walk in my opinion, from the Opera, Madeleine and Pyramides metro stops. Phone: +33 1 40 20 06 19 or, if in Paris, 01-40-20-06-19. Hours: Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Website: Jovoy Paris.

Histoires de Parfums Ambre 114: The Golden Touch

"Goldfinger" movie still. Source: businessinsider.com

The woman in gold from “Goldfinger.” Source: businessinsider.com

Imagine diving into a pool. You fall head long into rich, heady, salty, sweet, slightly smoky, dense but smooth, creamy, caramel waters. Fifteen minutes later, when you get out, your skin is coated with an almost translucent, airy haze of gold. That shimmering touch made me think of James Bond’s villain, Goldfinger, who would undoubtedly approve of the golden Ambre 114, a fragrance from the extremely talented (and sadly under-appreciated) French niche perfume house, Histoires de Parfums.

Ambre 114 in the large 4 oz size.

Ambre 114 in the large 4 oz size.

In fact, if Goldfinger had been an actual person, he would have been the perfect inspiration for a perfume house that seeks to capture the essence of famous characters and mythical years in a bottle. Histoires de Parfums was founded in 2000 by Gérald Ghislain who seems to be on a mission to create lyrical perfumed tributes to history. As the Histoires de Parfums website explains, each of the early fragrances was entitled just with a date in history, the year in which a legendary figure was born, with attention being paid to everyone from the Marquis de Sade and Casanova, to Mata Hari and Ernest Hemingway. One of the few exceptions to the rule, however, is Histoires de Parfums’ Cult Books Collection which is intended to be a timeless interpretation of the issue of sensuality from the East to the West. In the case of Ambre 114, it is the East who is speaking, giving “an oriental vision of voluptuousness” that is centered around sweetened amber done in the airiest of manners.

The "half" bottle of Ambre 114 in the 2 oz/60 ml size.

The “half” bottle of Ambre 114 in the 2 oz/60 ml size.

The company’s description for Ambre 114, along with its notes, is as follows:

This mythical raw material improves a 114-element composition. A caravanserai of scents for this hot oriental intensifying the natural sensuality of grey amber, sweet perfume and tinted with exoticism.

In the Orient, women used to burn incenses, myrrh and amber. It is an oriental vision of voluptuousness.

Top Note: Thyme, Nutmeg
Heart Note: Rose, Geranium, Patchouli, Sandalwood, Cedar, Vetiver
Base Note: Amber, Vanilla, Tonka Bean, Benzoin, Musk.

Source: e-boolean.org

Source: e-boolean.org

Ambre 114 opens on my skin with a powerful burst of ambergris. For those who haven’t experienced it, ambergris is a very different kettle of fish from the usual “amber” found in most fragrances. Extremely rare and unbelievably expensive, genuine ambergris has a salty, sweet, musky quality that is almost (just barely) sweaty and marshy in feel. It’s hard to explain, but the aroma is intensely rich, smooth, buttery and deep. On my skin, it almost invariably smells of salted caramel, and Ambre 114 is no exception. The fragrance shows off all of ambergris’ beautiful features in a bouquet that is strongly infused with patchouli. The latter is dark, dense, almost dirty, with a chewiness like the thickest brownie. The patchouli is just lightly smoky and spicy, creating a visual swirl of black with red and gold. When mixed with the ambergris, the result is Ambre 114’s primary bouquet on my skin: salty-sweet, musky, caramelized amber with chewy, smoky, spicy, black patchouli.

Ambre 114’s main duo is lightly sprinkled with green notes in the opening 20 minutes. There is a definite herbal component to the scent, though it never smells of thyme to me. Instead, it feels more generalized, abstract, and indistinct in nature. For a brief moment, though, there was something almost minty lurking about the golden ambered bouquet. Whatever the herbs may be, they occasionally have a slightly medicinal undertone, though it’s extremely light and muted. It’s almost like you’ve entered an old Chinese holistic shop filled with dried herbs, instead of a medical one, if that makes any sense.

Source: footage.shutterstock.com

Source: footage.shutterstock.com

The herbs aren’t the only green elements in Ambre 114. There is vetiver as well, though there is something odd about it in the opening moments. I can only describe the aroma as an earthy “meatiness.” I think the earthy, rooty vetiver must have combined with the salty, slightly mushy, musky aspects of the ambergris to create an aroma that is almost truffle-like in its undertones. Whatever its source, the aroma is just a brief flicker that dies away after about five minutes. A much stronger note is the geranium, though it’s not the flower so much as the fuzzy green leaves. They add a wonderfully peppered, slightly spicy piquancy to the scent, ensuring that the scent’s sweetness never turns cloying or excessive.

In the background, there are flickers of other things, too. There is nutmeg, adding a slightly bitter edge that, again, helps counter the sweetness from the ambergris. Faint touches of vanilla lurk in the base, while far, far below is the merest suggestion of a floral note. It’s peppered, but it’s not geranium, and it definitely doesn’t smell like a rose, either.

Source: wallsave.com

Source: wallsave.com

All these elements are really just supporting players on a stage dominated by the waltzing ambergris and patchouli. Ambre 114’s primary and dominant bouquet on my skin is salty-caramel sweetness mixed with smoky patchouli. It’s rich, plush, warm and sweet, but never truly gourmand or dessert-like in nature. Ambre 114’s core essence remains largely unchanged on my skin, though the degree and strength of some of its notes — especially the secondary notes — vary in significance. After about 20 minutes, the vanillic resin (benzoin) slowly starts to rise to the surface. It dilutes some of the ambergris’ musky, salty qualities, and adds further sweetness. There is a touch of light powder underlying it, too, but it’s never like makeup powder and certainly not very heavy.

In fact, nothing about the scent is heavy at all. Though the fragrance is very potent for the first forty minutes, it’s astonishingly light in feel. Ambre 114 is effortlessly refined, smooth, creamy, heady, cozy, comforting and sexy — all in a billowing, soft cloud that coats your skin like a gold sheath. It’s not an easy trick to take such heavy ingredients and turn them into air, while still keeping the scent very strong. I’ll be honest, it’s actually too airy for my personal tastes; yet, there is also something quite appealing about how effortlessly Ambre 114 surrounds you like the thinnest but softest cashmere sweater. You can only admire the talented touch who created it.

Source: de.123rf.com

Source: de.123rf.com

Ambre 114 slowly changes. Forty minutes in, many of the notes have melted into the amber. The geranium, herbs, nutmeg, and earthy, green vetiver have vanished. The ghostly impression of something floral faded away long ago. Even the patchouli seems to have taken a back seat to the ambergris. Much more noticeable, however, is the vanilla resin, along with its light touch of sweetened powder. The whole thing becomes a beautifully blended swirl of notes, dominated by the ambergris. By the middle of the third hour, however, Ambre 114 has lost its caramel aroma, and is now primarily a sweet, slightly musky amber with vanilla. There are bursts of patchouli that pop up every now and then, if you sniff really hard, along with a sprinkling of sandalwood. The fragrance remains that way for a number of hours until the end of the fifth hour when it turns into an abstract, vague, generalized blur of sweet amber with some vanilla powder and perhaps the faintest suggestion of sandalwood.

All in all, Ambre 114 lasted 7.5 hours on my perfume-consuming skin. The sillage was never enormous to begin with, but it drops even further after 90-minutes. At the end of the third hour, Ambre 114 hovers right above the skin, though you can easily smell its golden notes if you bring your nose to your arm. By the start of the fifth hour, Ambre 114 intimately coats the skin like the sheerest, thinnest gauze, and is increasingly hard to detect. This is not a powerful projection monster, by any means.

Ambre 114 shares a few similarities to some other amber fragrances. Parts of the opening evoked Serge Lutens‘ pioneering Ambre Sultan, but Ambre 114 is a faint, ghostly whisper of that fragrance’s famously potent, intense herbal blast. Plus, Ambre Sultan is really an ode to labdanum, not ambergris, and there is a substantial difference in the two resins’ amber smell. Ambre 114 also reminded me of my favorite amber of them all: Profumum Roma‘s Ambra Aurea. The primary reason is that salty-sweet, marshy, musky, caramel aroma from the ambergris which dominates both scents. That’s where the similarities end, however, as Ambra Aurea lacks Ambre 114’s vanilla and powdery elements, and also has a significantly different weight. Ambra Aurea is like the richest, heaviest fur coat you can buy, while Ambre 114 is the softest, thin cashmere sweater.

Another perfume repeatedly comes up as a point of comparison: Maître Parfumeur et Gantier’s Ambre Precieux. It’s an extremely well-known, much beloved amber that reportedly has a strong vanilla (and vanilla powder) component. I haven’t tried it, but thankfully, a friend has. The Scented Hound‘s review for Histoires de Parfums’ Ambre 114 amusingly states: “If Serge Luten’s Ambre Sultan and Maître Parfumeur et Gantier’s Ambre Precieux had a baby, this is what it would smell like.” He had a different experience with Ambre 114 than I did, so his description may be useful:

WHAT I SMELL:  Almost icy/hot to the touch, Ambre 114 goes on medicinal; the thyme is very evident.  Then as quickly as that leaves you, out comes the geranium note.  I can tell that there’s a bit of amber in there, but I am getting more vetiver at the beginning than amber.  Slowly, the spiciness then wafts up through the other notes.  It starts to warm and then begins to open to that lovely rounded amber that any amber lover craves.  What you are left with is a lovely vanilla’d creamed amber that wraps you in a wonderfully warmed blanket perfect for the long winter nights.

He really enjoyed Ambre 114, concluding that it was “lovely and if I didn’t own so many ambers at present, I probably would be buying a bottle. This is easily a comfort scent.” The Scented Hound is not alone in his opinion; almost every other blogger who has covered Ambre 114 either likes it or raves about it.

Even really picky perfume critics give it a thumbs up. Ambre 114 gets a Four Star mention in the famous perfume bible, Perfumes: The A-Z Guide, by Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez. The latter had a third type of experience with Ambre 114, one in which the rose note was quite prominent, judging by the perfume’s description as “benzoin rose.” The very brief review states:

A beautiful, durable amber accord built of benzoin, patchouli, vetiver and rose. Its transparent smoky sweetness feels weightless, as if hollowed out in the middle to make it float.

On Basenotes, Ambre 114 has a 100% positive rating. Out of 18 reviews, 78% give it Five Stars, 11% give it Four, and 11% give it Three. The main issues leading to some hesitation were that the fragrance was “too simple,” and “weak on longevity.” One positive review, from “alfarom,” reads:

Amber is a dangerous territory where sweetness can easily become overwhelming turning a fragrance into an unbrearable heaviness. The big point of strength of Amber 114 is its extremely balanced blend of spices/herbs and resionus notes (mainly benzoin) joined by woods and rose that make of this composition quite an easy wear in which sweetness is carefully tamed and dosed to become a side aspect. Overall I’d say that while Ambre 114 can be considered as one of the most complex and deep ambers around, at the same time it is outstanding for its incredible wearability and “lightness”. These things don’t happen by accident. Amazing Stuff!

I think he’s right about the lightness, but I experienced a much simpler, more linear scent that he did. It certainly wasn’t “complex” by any means.

What’s interesting to me about reading other people’s accounts of the scent is how extreme the different experiences or perspectives can be. Some think Ambre 114 is a deliciously gourmand, sweet scent. Others — including one chap who explicitly states that he “abhor[s] super-sweet amber scents” — don’t think the fragrance is sweet at all. Some commentators detect the rose, while others join the Scented Hound and me in not smelling any, or in experiencing a lot of nutmeg instead. Half the commentators, including those who give the fragrance five stars, think Ambre 114 has below average projection and so-so longevity, while others have the opposite opinion. One commentator says “You can get a clear 15+ hours out of this” — which really makes me wonder just how much he sprayed!

On one of the many, many Basenotes threads discussing Ambre 114, I came across something else I found interesting. People who don’t generally like amber fragrances like Ambre 114. I’m guessing the cozy vanilla is partially responsible, because Ambre 114 isn’t really a hardcore, spicy oriental fragrance in my opinion. It’s definitely more of a comfort scent that straddles the line between Oriental and Gourmand. The other factors in swaying amber-haters may be just how light, airy, and discreet the scent is. People who don’t like amber fragrances generally seem to struggle with the weight, or find the note to be too much. It’s either too sweet, too spicy, too rich, or some combination of the above. Ambre 114 avoids all that, as it is a very uncomplicated, safe, gauzy, approachable scent. Plus, its extremely soft sillage makes it a scent that a number of people have said they feel comfortable wearing to the office.

Another positive is that Ambre 114 is quite affordable for such a high-quality scent, at least relative to most niche fragrances. The smallest size is 2 oz/60 ml and retails for $125, whereas most niche perfumes start with 1.7 oz /50 ml and often cost quite a bit more. Plus, it’s not hard to find retailers who carry a practical, travel-size 14 ml decant of the perfume that you can buy for $36. (See below in the Details section.) The decant is an affordable way to enjoy the perfume a good number of times while you decide if it’s worth buying a full bottle.

All in all, I like Ambre 114 quite a bit, though it will never be my favorite amber. For me, personally, it’s too translucent and light, the sillage is too low, the longevity on my wonky skin isn’t great, and I don’t think it is distinctive enough. The extremely long-lasting Ambra Aurea suits my style and tastes much more, especially as it’s centered almost completely around salty-sweet, musky caramel and the ambergris isn’t diluted by vanilla. However, I think if I’d experienced some of the rose or woods that people talk about, my views on Ambre 411 might well be different. It might have the edge that would make it stand out and feel a little more interesting. Regardless, I think Ambre 114 is a beautifully blended, well-balanced, extremely cozy fragrance that feels very effortless and is very easy to wear. As ambers go, it’s a refined, elegant take on the note, and I thoroughly enjoyed wearing it.

In short, I definitely recommend Ambre 114 for those of you who are looking for a light amber fragrance that doesn’t overwhelm you, is soft spoken, appropriate for the office, and very cozy in nature. Its warm sweetness and feathery softness feel very much like that favorite sweater that you wear when you want to curl up, relax, and be absolutely comfortable.

On that note, I will leave you with the song that has been in my head since the start of this review: Dame Shirley Bassey singing “Goldfinger.” It’s not the best audio version, but you’ll see the famous woman in gold, along with a young Sean Connery as 007. Ambre 114 has the golden touch, as well.

Cost, Availability, Decant Sets & Samples: Ambre 114 is an Eau de Parfum that comes in two sizes: 2.0 oz/60 ml for $125 or €145; or 4 oz/120 ml for $205. (Further decant or mini-sized options are below). Both full bottle sizes are available on the Histoires de Parfums website, which also has a fantastic sample program (6 samples of your choice) whose $20 price goes towards the purchase of a large 4 oz. bottle. Further details are available here as to how the process works. Shipping is free for all orders anywhere in the world for purchases over $130; below that, there is a $10 shipping fee. In the U.S.: Ambre 114 is available from Luckyscent in both sizes, along with samples. BeautyHabit has not only the 2 bottles, but also a 14 ml decant for $36. Parfum1 sells the 2 oz size bottle, along with samples and the 14 ml decant. They ship world-wide. Ambre 114 is also found at MinNewYork in the smaller $125 size. The Perfume Shoppe (which has a Canadian division) sells 14 ml decants of Ambre 114 for $36. Outside the U.S.: In the UK, you can find Ambre 114 at the Grooming Clinic for £74 for the smaller 2 oz/60 ml bottle. Roullier White carries some Histoires de Parfums fragrances, but Ambre 114 is not listed on their website. In Paris, the boutique, Nose, carries Ambre 114, as does Jovoy. For the rest of Europe, you can find it at Italy’s Alla Violetta or Germany’s First in Fragrance for €145 for the 2 oz bottle. In Russia, Ambre 114 is sold at Orental. In Australia, you can find it on sale at City Perfume for AUD$180 for 2.0/60 ml oz or at the full AUD$190 price at Peony Melbourne. For all other countries, Histoires de Parfums vast Store Locator lists retailers from South Africa to the Netherlands, Sweden and Kuwait. Samples: You can find samples at a number of the retailers linked to above. I got my test vial from Surrender to Chance has a variety of different options and sizes for Ambre 114, from samples to decants. Samples begin at $4.99 for a 1 ml vial.