Make Way for hajusuuri – Perfume Shopping in Boston

The title for this post was inspired by the Make Way for Ducklings bronze sculpture at the Boston Public Garden. The sculpture by Nancy Schön was installed in 1987 to honor Robert McCloskey and his most popular book, “Make Way for Ducklings”. In the book, Mr. & Mrs. Mallard were looking for a place to start a family, flying over Boston and landing in a few places that did not meet their approval until they reached an island in the Charles River. After the ducklings hatched and had time to learn to be ducks, the family decided to take a field trip to the Boston Public Garden and along the way, policemen had to stop traffic to allow the family to cross safely. Make way for hajusuuri as I take you perfume shop hopping in Boston’s Back Bay and North End neighborhoods. By sheer coincidence, an “Island” met my approval. Read on!

Make Way For Ducklings

I went to Boston several days before embarking on a cruise1. Although I had visited Boston previously on vacation and on business trips, they were before I became a perfumista. This time around, I paid more attention to places that sold perfumes. I was particularly motivated to seek out samples to participate in the Now Smell This Scent of the Day Friday Community Project. The highlight of my Boston visit was a meet-up with fellow perfumista Patricia, a contributing writer at Bois de Jasmin and with whom I had often swapped perfumes.

I stayed at the Westin at Copley Square, right at the heart of Boston’s Back Bay neighborhood and within a short walking distance from the Back Bay Station. I took the train into Boston from New Jersey and I have to say that despite it taking 5 hours end-to-end, it was more pleasant than flying and all its security preambles and cramped seats. The hotel is connected via sky bridge to Copley Place (100 Huntington Ave.), an upscale mall featuring Neiman Marcus and Barneys. At Neiman Marcus, I only stopped by the men’s perfume section where Francis Kurkdjian, Tom Ford and Acqua Di Parma perfumes were prominently displayed. The Barneys perfume section was tiny as compared with the store in New York; however, it does have those Frederic Malle smelling tubes where you can experience how the perfume projects around you. On a rainy day, Copley Place is an ideal place to browse around.

Newbury Street, near the Boston Public Garden, is one of the best-known retail shopping destinations in Boston. When my sister and I visited many years ago, we stumbled upon Essence Studio, a perfumery that sold custom-blended perfumes and essential oils, but which had since closed and moved to Colorado. These days, although there are still many art galleries and designer boutiques, the national chains have crept in and the shops I visited also have locations in other cities:

Chanel (8 Newbury St.)– Color me surprised when I saw testers for Les Exclusifs Parfum Extrait Chanel 1932 and Jersey! The SA was attentive and willingly gave out samples of the Les Exclusifs. Per the SA, Chanel allowed 6 boutiques in the U.S. to make 2 extraits available for testing although she did not know which other locations had the testers. I’m so impressed with this Chanel boutique that if ever I have a “need” to purchase any Chanel item, I will order through this Boston location.

Cartier (40 Newbury St.) – This Cartier location looked more posh than the one in New York. Unlike the New York boutique where the perfumes were tucked away in a corner, this location has the perfumes prominently displayed near the entrance, facing the cashier; however, only two of the 13 Les Heures collection were available for testing.

Bluemercury (160 Newbury St.) – Bluemercury is a luxury beauty products and spa retail chain. The chain is frequently compared to Ulta and Space NK with their breadth of choices of higher-end branded beauty products. The SA generously gifted me with La Mer, ReVive and Jo Malone samples. I should note that I was initially reluctant to walk in because my experience at a Bluemercury in New Jersey was quite opposite – despite having bought perfume, the SA refused to give me any samples; I’m glad I went in to this Bluemercury and my view of Bluemercury improved.

Other Shops in the Back Bay neighborhood near the Boston Public Garden:

Hermes (320 Boylston St.) –Boylston St. borders the Boston Public Garden. As with other Hermes boutiques in the U.S. and in other countries, the service at this Hermes boutique was top-notch. I happily left with a handful of samples.

Blackstone’s of Beacon Hill (46 Charles St.) – This store beckoned to me with its display of collectibles, ornaments, bags, stationery and other gift items. It carries the Soap Paper Factory products including solid perfumes, candles, hand creams and bar soaps.

Officina189

Boston’s North End neighborhood is best known for its Italian-American flavor. I met Bois de Jasmin contributing writer, Patricia, for lunch at Gennaro’s (5 North Square), a quaint restaurant serving Italian soul food. After a sumptuous lunch, we walked to Officina 189 (189 North St.). From the outside, it looked like a second hand boutique, but upon walking in, we were met with an eclectic mix of jewelry, watches, leather bags, bicycles (bicycles? yes, bicycles, with brightly-colored frames), candles, body products and perfumes. The SA welcomed us warmly and helped us smell through the range of perfumes. Officina 189 carries only Italian-made products; the perfume brands available include: Acqua dell’Elbe, La Collina Toscana, My Inner Island and Nobile 1942. We left without purchasing anything – Patricia liked several perfumes but since she is in the area often, opted to take her time deciding; I, on the other hand, was itching to get one of the perfumes but was concerned I could not fit it into my luggage. We then walked off our meal with a stroll by the water and parted ways with a promise to continue enabling each other and other perfumistas.

Before walking back to Back Bay, I stopped in Mike’s Pastry Shop for people watching, Boston Cream Puff and coffee. When I got back to the hotel, my mind was still on one of the perfumes I smelled at Officina 189, so I weighed my luggage and determined that I do have room. I went back the next day and bought an Island that I approved – My Inner Island Vaniglia Sopraffina e Rhum.

Officina189

And now – a giveaway!

To continue her enabling ways, hajusuuri offers a 3 ml decant of My Inner Island Vaniglia Sopraffina e Rhum AND 3 other vanilla-based perfumes in her collection. This giveaway is open to everyone worldwide. To be entered answer the question below AND tell in what country you live. The giveaway is open until 11:59PM PST on September 29, 2014. The winner will be chosen via random.org and announced in a future post. Please note that neither Undina nor hajusuuri is responsible for replacing the decants if they were to get lost or damaged.

If you do not want to participate in the draw, there’s no need mentioning the country where you live but please answer the question below for Undina’s statistics post.

Which city in the World is your mecca for perfume shopping: not sniffing, testing or getting to know brands and their offerings but actually buying perfumes – based on your previous experience?

Images: hajusuuri

1 Holland America New England Cruise from Boston to Montreal, with stops in Bar Harbor (Maine), Nova Scotia (Halifax, Sydney and Prince Edward Island) and Quebec City.

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63 thoughts on “Make Way for hajusuuri – Perfume Shopping in Boston

  1. London, where I live! Liberty’s, fortnum mason, Harrods, Selfridge’s, as well as all the brand unique stores and then les senteurs and bloom. Truly a Mecca for me :)
    (Count me out of the drawer, thanks)

    • I was in London last year and had fun perfume shopping but could have planned better; however, this just means I have to go again and visit Liberty’s, Selfridge’s, Les Senteurs and Bloom, among others…and maybe a private appointment with Jo Loves and a stop by the new Roja Dove section at Harrods (the main floor was too bright and too loud for me). The surprise I had last year was Fortnum & Mason sold more than just tea :-)

      One vote for London!

    • I was in Paris for one day last year and my can’t miss destination was the Serge Lutens boutique. The next time I’m there, I will plan better (hmmm perhaps I have a pattern or not planning regimented perfume visits).

      One vote for Paris! And you’re in the draw, Irina.

  2. Hi there Hajusuuri! Nice to read a new guest post from you at Undina’s blog!
    It seems to me like you had a great time visiting Boston and having some perfume sniffs there. How cool is that you got a chance to meet Patricia from Bois de Jasmin.

    I remember trying My Inner Island at Esxence in March but the only one I liked was the one with rose, I cannot remember the name.

    No need to enter me in your generous draw sweetie :)

    Based on my previous experience I would have to answer – Warsaw, as I have never bought a perfume “in person” from abroad.

    • Hello sweetie, I had a great time in Boston. I started swapping with Patricia two years ago and I was fortunate she was in town when I was there and we had a fabulous time!

      The rose you tried was probably Rose Amere du Desert. This was Patricia’s favorite and I have a sample of it.

      One vote for Warsaw!

  3. It would be hard to call between Paris and London, but as two of my main lemmings ever were not available in London, I’ll go with Paris. Though I try not to buy anything these days. And historically I have swapped, bought on Ebay and received as presents far more than I have bought in store. But that might complicate your stats unduly.

    It sounds like you and Patricia had a blast on your perfumery crawl of Boston. It is pretty much a foregone conclusion when people meet up on a blind basis or otherwise! I have been to Boston a few times – always for business and always prepacking Easter (pre-perfumista!). Will know better next time if there is one…;)

    • Hi Vanessa, well, as cosmopolitan as you are, it’s no surprise that it was a toss up between London and Paris.

      I wish I had more time with Patricia but we had a lovely time at lunch AND at Officina 189. Had she not introduced me to Officina 189, I may not have come across it on my own!

      Vote #2 for Paris! Should we enter you in the draw?

  4. DNEM. I can’t say where my Mecca would be. I’m not a world traveler so I could only take a guess. It seems like New York actually has a lot of perfumes available so I’ll say that.
    I’ve never gone perfume shopping in Boston even though it’s not that far. I positively hate driving in that city and avoid it at all cost. I’m probably missing out on some things because of that.

    • I’m keeping my arms wide open for you in New York, poodle :-)

      I’ll let you in on a secret (of course it won’t be for long)…I have never driven in New York City and the thought of doing so scares the [fill in the blank] out of me. Lucky for me, mass transit is plentiful.

      1 vote for New York!

  5. Hey there Hajuusuri and Undina,
    DNEM but I was astonished at the range of fragrance in two places and spent rather more than expected in both. Los Angeles, USA is a perfumistas mecca with LuckyScent, Beauty Habit and oodles of Independent perfumers. Bruchsal in Germany is where First In Fragrance is situated and I did my credit card proud while there, it was a combination of the excellent selection, amazingly knowledgeable and helpful staff and that Michael B sniffed almost EVERY frag in the shop, bringing things to my attention that I would never even have noticed. To be honest my credit card has only recovered recently.
    Portia xx

    • Hello Portia, making it to Luckyscent in LA is a dream of mine. I’ve visited LA twice pre-perfumista many many years ago. Perhaps I can come up with an excuse to go one of these days…I have a cousin and several friends who live in LA although they are not my besties. First in Fragrance sounds fabulous! The curious person that I am, I read that Bruchsal is in a district that produces the most asparagus in Europe (I love asparagus). Sadly, it is not anywhere near Warnemunde/Berlin, one of the stops in my cruise itinerary in 2015.

      So we’ll go with half a vote each for Los Angeles and Bruchsal, although Undina may not approve :-)

  6. Hajusuuri, I enjoyed reading about your shopping excursion. I’ve ordered perfume from the Chanel boutique in Boston and found their customer service to be great, especially as the samples they included with purchase (at least back then) were large.

    Undina, it’s hard to decide whether Rome or Paris is the ideal perfume shopping mecca for me, as I loved both and found that the passionate staff of the boutiques we went to in Rome (as well as the weather in that city) makes me want to favor it. But then I think of Jovoy in Paris, which was an indulgent experience, full of great conversation with the owner and staff, and I’d have to say Paris. (So for your statistics, Paris is my answer.)

    • Hello Suzanne, the SA at the Boston boutique was 10,000x friendlier that the ones in NYC.

      What time of the year were you in Rome? My sister just came back after a week-long trip. I was too busy to “suggest” that she mule back perfumes for me.

      Vote #3 for Paris! Should we enter you in the draw?

      • Hi again, Hajusuuri. Actually, last year at this very time I was in Rome with Ines and Asali (and my husband – the four of us stayed together for a week and had a grand time, and we also met up together in 2011 in Paris). I hope your sister enjoyed her trip!

        No need to include me in the draw, but thanks for asking. :-)

  7. Hallo Undina and Hajusuuri,
    Thanks for the post and the guide – someday, I will come to Boston… :)
    So far, the two greatest offline sources for perfumes for me were the Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris, and the city – Hamburg. Oh, they know how to treat their clients in Hamburg! Especially on Saturdays there is always a huuuge discount in every perfumery (niche and not-niche)!
    I really want to enter me in the giveway, because I haven’t tried any of the mentioned fragrances, and here comes my vanilla time of the year, the Indian summer! I am in the EU, Bulgaria. Thanks for the chance!

    • OK, you’re the first person who mentioned an airport…I think there should be a future poll on best airport perfume shopping! I think the last time I was at Charles de Gaulle airport was on my way to Budapest and I remember being late for my connection because the transport from one gate to another was delayed due to police activity. And oooh, Hamburg, that is on the itinerary on my cruise in 2015…actually Kiel but I guess that is close enough.

      You’re in the draw!

  8. Fun post Hajusuuri! I’d have said Paris a few years ago but now am not so sure.

    Also you should visit Neil Morris the next time you are in Boston. He’s one of the best kept perfume secrets there and very nice!

  9. Because I visit Dubai twice a year, I have the chance to sniff so many different fragrances. It makes it hard to choose what to buy. And I don’t even try the Middle Eastern lines. In the end, I always come home with at least one or two new bottles. I am in the US.

    • Hi Nancysg! I’ve never been to Dubai – it sounds like a fabulous place to visit but the perfumes for that market are not for the faint of nose (like me).

      Is this a vote for Dubai? You’re in the draw!

  10. This is going to sound quite pedestrian, but it’s the only place I’ve ever shopped for fragrance and that is the city I live in – Houston, TX. I am looking forward to doing more travel in the future and this will likely change everything :)

    • I have never been to Houston except for the airport…quite a few times actually as the cheaper flights from Newark to San Francisco stopped over either in Houston or Denver. If you’re ever in NY, please feel free to email me!

      One vote for Houston! You’re entered in the draw.

  11. I haven’t done much sniffing and shopping for perfume in person, but the one place I have done so is San Francisco. I am actually amazed I managed to stop myself from buying anything! I would love to go sniffing in Boston and NYC as well, and I am in the US.

    • My brother used to live in San Francisco and I visited often :-) pre-perfumista. I remember the beautiful Nordstrom with its twin curving escalators – so elegant! And the Muni was quite convenient.

      Vote # 1 for San Francisco! You’re in the draw, Nemo.

  12. Hi there – great question…truthfully I need to answer: the internet. Perfume discounters, decant sellers, Amazon, Ebay Europe and Ebay dot com are fantastic marketplaces. And plenty of perfumers have their webshops. Also there are luckyscent and First in Fragrance…Apart from that: L.A., New York, Paris. Living part time in Germany I would recommend Quartier 206 in Friedrichstrasse, Berlin and Kaufhaus Beck and Parfümerie Brückner in Munich…I’d be happy to be included in the draw! AndreaSD

    • Hello Andrea – I probably still buy most of my perfumes from brick and mortar stores but the internet is a formidable contender. Thanks for the suggestions in Berlin and Munich!

      What country are you in?

  13. Oh, yes, I vote for San Francisco, too. That is where I travel during many summers with my family, both as a child and as an adult with my own children, spending time with loved ones who live in the area. Shopping for fragrances there is easy, as long as you either take a relaxed approach (just see what you stumble upon) or take a targeted approach (research a specific shopping destination before venturing out). I have found many fragrant souvenirs both ways. There are treasures all over the city. Thanks to the wonderful online world of perfume enablers, I learned that Parfums DelRae calls San Francisco home. I am wearing Amoureuse at the moment, and it is a favorite.

    hajusuuri, I so enjoyed your review of Boston shopping. It seems that you are everywhere (online and in real life)! I enjoyed almost 20 years living on the east coast. It was so easy and rewarding to spend long weekends exploring cities in New England and the Mid-Atlantic states by car or by train. My parents have cruised out of Boston like you, and they absolutely loved it.

    I now live on the west coast of the US, and I’m wishing I could visit Boston again. I would love to see the ducklings in person someday. I work with Kindergarten students, and so I am a fan of Make Way for Ducklings. :)

  14. Hi Tiffanie, I’m glad you liked my Boston shopping review. I really didn’t target any stores…I pretty much stumbled into the stores with the exception of Officina 189.

    Yay for another vote for San Francisco. I think I am due for another visit :-) And I keep hearing about Parfums DelRae Amoureuse – I will put that on my wish list for the NST swapmeet in October.

    I think the Make Way for Ducklings story is so cute!

    You’re in the draw!

  15. Your question made me realize that I have never bought a perfume (except online) anywhere other than Orange County, CA, USA. Even when I lived in Chicago, I’m pretty sure I bought (or was given as a gift) my perfume here when I visited my family for the holidays. For statistical purposes, you could probably count it as in the Greater Los Angeles area. And I will definitely have to see if I can get to the Scent Bar by Metrolink, as I don’t drive, period.

    I’ve seen you mention My Inner Island on NST, and never heard of it otherwise, so it was nice to get more information about it. I’m in the US, and would love to be entered in the drawing.

    • Hi Laurels! Orange County CA…I had to look it up to see if I had been there and lo and behold – Disneyland! I was there a loooong time ago. How long would it take you to get to ScentBar?

      1 Vote for Greater Los Angeles area. You’re entered in the draw!

      • I just looked it up, and on public transit, it will take just under three hours each way, which is the same time it would take me to get to Neiman Marcus at the other end of Orange County. I’m going to have to find a local perfume pal who drives.

  16. Lovely post my dear. I would have to say that NYC is the place for my perfume shopping as you can find almost everything there. I have to admit that I have not been to Paris since beginning my perfume journey and can imagine that might fit the top spot.

    No need to enter me in the draw.

    And that duck sculpture is the cutest thing….I want one for my garden!

    • Hello Houndy! So when are you going to Paris? (just kidding) We love to have you in New York…too bad I’ll miss you at this year’s Sniffapalooza…can’t wait to hear about your experience.

      The sculpture is very nice. I think all the kids sitting on Mrs Mallard polished the bronze to a nice sheen every single day!

      • Hello Patricia – I had a lot of fun spending time with you…from the lunch, to visiting Officina 189 and the walk by the water. Thanks for introducing me to the My Inner Island line at Officina 189! Have you been back?

        A vote for Paris, again…it is in the lead.

  17. Great perfume shopping guide, hajusuuri – thank you!
    I’ve visited Boston once many years ago, long before I evaluated each place I visit from the perfumes availability standpoint – so your recommendations will be useful for my next trip there one day.

    As much as I would want to vote for San Francisco (or New York, or London), since the question is about an actual experience, I must say it’s Las Vegas: on my last trip to there I bought 4 (four!) bottles of perfume there (and ordered one over the phone since then). Las Vegas has the same selection of stores as San Francisco (Barneys, Saks, Chanel, Dior and Guerlain boutiques, Nordstrom, etc.) but they have no sales tax, which saves almost 9% compared to San Francisco – not that bad on the niche/boutique perfume prices. (DNEM)

    • Thank you for letting me guest post, Undina! Las Vegas eh? My one and only time there was for business and since I was there as part of “corporate”, I was required to participate at client gatherings and did not have time to shop. The sales tax “savings” (you have to spend to “save”) do add up!

      One vote for Las Vegas!

  18. My budget is such that I never get to buy more than one bottle at a time. Although NY has a wonderful selection, I did recently get to go to Paris and felt like it had at least twice as many perfume shops where I very much wanted to buy a bottle. So I’d have to vote for Paris, based on my limited experience.

    • I’m also usually buy just one bottle at a time – probably that’s why my shopping spree in Las Vegas left such a strong impression.

      Your vote for Paris is counted. You are in the draw.

    • When I read blog posts about perfume shopping in New York, I usually discover places I had never been to even though I’ve been in the area for more years than I care to admit. Paris is wonderful!

  19. I live in Jackson Mississippi USA, and there is no great perfume shopping here. I have obtained most of my perfumes as decants from lovely people on Facebook pages – New Orleans is the closest place to shop for perfume but I recently went to Chicago on business and had a ball at the Barney’s where I bought Frederic Malle’s L’Eau de Hiver, got tons of samples and also picked up some serge Lutens – I was overwhelmed and wish I had been there longer – there was a Neiman Marcus with an Armani Prive counter. The scents came up were trapped in a bell jar and smelled from the jar – I fell in love with thr Prive cuir de amytheste

    • Hi Marianne! A vote for Chicago! Just like Boston, I’ve been to Chicago several times for business and several times just for fun but alas, they were pre-perfumista days. Now that I think about it, other than Officina 189, Blackstones and the food places I mentioned, the title of this post could have been “Make Way for hajusuuri – Perfume Shopping in CHICAGO”. How cool is that! As to Barneys, every time I go to the one in midtown NYC, I feel like a kid in a candy store all over again. The SAs there are more generous than most.

      P.S. I am going to New Orleans in October. Some people recommended going to Hove Parfumeur. Do you have other favorite haunts there?

      You’re in the draw!

  20. Pingback: Entertaining Statistics: September 2014 | Undina's Looking Glass

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