Beyond Mardi Gras – Perfume Shopping in New Orleans

For those who prefer quiet to over-the-top Mardi Gras celebrations, fall is the perfect time to visit New Orleans: the worst of the heat is over, restaurant reservations are fairly easy to get and the streets are passable, perhaps with the exception of Bourbon Street at night.

Mardi Gras Countdown

I recently spent 5 days in New Orleans. My home away from home was Hotel Mazarin, a lovely French Quarter boutique hotel on Bienville Street, half a block away from Bourbon Street. I highly recommend it for its central location, well-appointed and spacious rooms and common spaces, friendly staff and extensive breakfast spread.

As with most of my vacations since falling into the perfume rabbit hole, I keep my eyes and nose open for perfumes. Two perfumeries stand out as quintessential perfumeries and worth a visit (or two, or three…):

Hove Parfumeur  (434 Chatres St.)

In a Now Smell This Lazy Weekend Poll, I asked for New Orleans perfumery recommendations and someone mentioned Hove Parfumeur. The boutique is surprisingly boudoir-like despite the dark wood furnishings and stone floors. Hove carries its own line of fragrances; these are available in different formats and concentrations (perfume, cologne, solid) and can be added to lotion, shower gel and body oil. Some of the perfumes have a matching soap, candle and room spray. There are over 50 different fragrances split between the Standard Line and Luxury Line. This bifurcation did not make a difference to me other than the Luxury Line is a little bit more expensive than the Standard Line.

Hove Parfumeur

So how does one smell through 50 fragrances in one visit? On top of the counter, pre-dipped tester strips marked with the perfume names are laid out on top of a sheet of glass. As you cycle through the perfumes, push forward the strips you are interested in. The staff will then pull out the perfume bottles from the cabinets on the back wall and give you an opportunity to get up close and personal with the perfumes. Most of the perfumes had a classic feel and I had a difficult time narrowing them down but narrow down I did. I ended up with a shower gel fragranced with Corduroy, a travel atomizer of Mantrap, ½ dram each of Heliotrope, Spring Fiesta and Fascinator, plus a bunch of soaps (yes, I have a soap obsession).

Bourbon French Parfums (805 Royal St.)

Bourbon French Parfums was a serendipitous find. At the library, I came across Dollbaby (by Laura McNeal), a fictional coming-of-age book set in 1960s New Orleans. Normally, I would dive right into Chapter One but this time, I decided to read the Foreword. Lo and behold, the author mentioned that the perfumery in the book is based on a real perfumery that had since moved to Royal Street. You can just imagine my excitement when I found out that Bourbon French Parfums has a custom-blend perfume service!

Bourbon French Parfums is located on Royal Street, a 13-block stretch of fine jewelry stores, antique shops and boutiques, art galleries and restaurants. Upon walking into the nondescript storefront, there’s an eclectic mix of colorful perfume bottles and atomizers, counter tops and shelves full of perfume and perfumed body products. Similar to Hove, Bourbon French carries house perfumes (Parfums de Maison), soliflors and blends with names like Voodoo Love, Kus Kus and Quadroon.

Bourbon French Parfums

I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to consult with custom-blend specialist Jasmine. The custom-blend perfume corner has several trays of dropper bottles, consisting of what looks like about 100 different essences. After asking me questions about my scent preferences, she smeared 3 essences on my forearm: spicy, sweet and powdery. We went through 4 mods over 40 minutes until I got my scent. Although the minimum size of a custom blend is 1 oz., I was able to get two ½ oz. bottles since the 4th mod is different due to the addition of fig to mod 3 to brighten it. My custom-blend included: white tea, lily-of-the-valley (those who know me are probably gasping right now), tuberose, vanilla, musk, black cherry, sandalwood, amber tobacco, patchouli and citrus.

I asked Jasmine for tips for others who may visit and utilize the custom-blend service. She strongly suggests making an appointment and don’t wear perfumed lotion the day of the appointment. The store closes daily at 5PM so make sure you allow time for your visit even if you are not going to get a custom-blend.

Custom Blend Perfume

Other stores I visited that sold perfumes:

Forever New Orleans (301 Royal St.) – Would you believe this store does not have a web-shop? In addition to New Orleans themed merchandise, the store also carries the Royal Apothic line of perfumes, hand creams and candles. I bought a travel spray of Royal Apothic Plains of Thistle in a beautiful green bottle and package. Do read Undina’s post on “minor brands” to see which Royal Apothic perfume she recently bought.

Dollz & Dames (216 Decatur St.) – This is a women’s wear and accessories boutique. It carries two lines of perfume: Juliette Has a Gun and Alice & Peter. Not many stores carry these brands so this is an opportunity to spritz and test instead of buying samples.

Dollz & Dames

Marie Laveau’s House of Voodoo (739 Bourbon St.) – While searching for Day of the Dead rubber duckies (don’t ask), I walked into this shop and the counter-top had perfumes for sale – Magnolia, Sandalwood, Musk, Vanilla, Patchouli and Jasmine. The shop was really crowded and I was very uncomfortable inside and left without buying anything.

Day of the Dead Duck

My New Orleans Food Experience

As someone who cannot stand hot & spicy foods, I was concerned about not being able to enjoy the New Orleans Cajun and Creole foodie scene. And boy, was I wrong! Cajun is country-style food, a combination of French and Southern cuisines, with the most common dishes being jambalaya and crawfish etouffee, both served over rice. Creole food is a refined combination of European and African cuisines with rich sauces, herbs and more extensive use of seafood. While I ultimately stayed away from Cajun food, I had my share of Creole food, including lots of gumbo. There is no shortage of restaurants in the French Quarter. I particularly enjoyed dinner at Red Fish Grill (115 Bourbon St.) and Olivier’s (204 Decatur St.).

On the sweeter side, a visit to New Orleans is not complete without a visit to Café du Monde (800 Decatur St.) and enjoying a plate of powdered-sugar coated beignets while sipping aromatic chicory café au lait.

Tip: Don’t wait to be seated. Look for an open table, sit down, and the server assigned to your section will stop by to get your order. Also, if you are planning to visit Café du Monde’s store, it is across the street from the Café and it closes at 5.

Pastry

I hope you enjoyed reading about my perfume shopping, with a side helping of eating in New Orleans. I went to many more places worth visiting – the Louisiana State Museum at The Cabildo and at The Presbytere, the Ogden Museum of Southern Art and the World War II Museum, among others. I also had a chance to tour the Lower 9th Ward, the area devastated by Hurricane Katrina. Almost 10 years later, the area is still a ghost town with empty lots, perhaps every 10th house raised or rebuilt, but there are still no businesses (grocery stores, banks, gasoline stations) in the vicinity.

Tennessee Williams once wrote:

America has only three cities: New York, San Francisco, and New Orleans.

Everywhere else is Cleveland.

He may be right.

It’s an infamous Black Friday in a couple of days. For Undina’s monthly statistics post please tell: 1) in which country do you live? and 2) have you ever done any Black Friday or Cyber Monday perfume shopping (with Internet there are no borders for a good deal, are there)? You will be entered into the draw for 2 ml of hajusuuri’s custom blend perfume and a block of Pumpkin Spice soap. The draw is open until 11:59 PM PST on (Cyber) Monday, December 1st. The randomly selected winner will be announced in the next statistics post.

Images: all by hajusuuri

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50 thoughts on “Beyond Mardi Gras – Perfume Shopping in New Orleans

  1. H – Thanks for taking us on your journey to New Orleans. I love that town as it’s full of life and there’s always something exciting and fun to see. And every morning that I’m there, I always head over to Cafe Du Monde for Cafe Au Lait and Beignets! It’s one of my favorite things after a night of festivities.

    • I had a party in my mouth when I had the beignets :-). It was my first time in New Orleans and if asked for a one word description of it, I would use “colorful” in more ways than one. Thanks for stopping by Houndie.

  2. Undina, it is as if I dreamed up this post, that I willed it into being. I am going to New Orleans at New Year and was craving this EXACT information, but couldn’t’ find it anywhere. So excited to read it. I am going to ALL these places.

  3. Lovely writeup, hajusuuri! I enjoyed it thoroughly. I reckon a visit to New Orleans is due soon. I have a friend whose favorite city in the world is New Orleans, and he certainly made it sound like a lovely place! Add to that the numerous perfumeries that you have mentioned, and that just pushes me to want to go :)

    I wonder how much the bespoke service cost? It sounds like something I’d be absolutely up for.

    • The bespoke service is a very affordable $85 for 1 oz. Since you have to be there for your custom blend, you will need to add another 9% sales tax. You really should go while you’re in this part of the world!

  4. Hajusuuri, I’m soooo jealous. I’d love to visit New Orleans (and those perfume goodie shops). Maybe one day.

    To answer your question;
    1) I live in Spain at the moment.
    2) Yes! It’s a sale time. How can I miss?

    • One of these days, you’ll make it to New Orleans! I have never been to Spain but I would love to go…probably in 2016. And sale time is the best time to go shopping although just my luck, half the time I end up buying something that is not on sale at sale time!

  5. Wonderful post Hajusuuri, really enjoyed you taking us on a virtual perfumery tour of New Orleans. And how lovely to get your own special perfume, were you happy about the way it turned out? Was it the most ‘you’ perfume in your collection, I wonder?
    And to Undina’s stats, Black friday seem to have only got herevery resently as in this or perhaps last year, and with the tax from stuff purchased from outside the EU, it hasn’t really paid off to buy. So, no, have never used those sales.

    • Thanks, Asali. I am very happy with the way it turned out and I need to wear it more often. As to whether or not it is the most “me” in my collection, I would say no but then again, I don’t know what is, yet. I also now know you’re in Copenhagen for my first peek at your blog! I will be there August next year for the start and end of a cruise. If the timing works, perhaps we can meet up and I can mule some samples (as long as I can get myself organized).

    • Hi Joan, you absolutely have to visit New Orleans! As to the pictures, kudos to Undina for picking the right ones from the big mess I sent her in haste. Corduroy is woody and bergamot-ish (since the notes are not listed, I am guessing it is bergamot as it is not lemony, grapefruity nor orangey but it definitely citrus). I chose it as the scent for the shower gel as the bergamot is bright and the woody part gives off a sense of cuddliness and the combination of this makes the shower gel a great pick-me up any time of the year.

  6. I have never been to New Orleans, and now I have it on the top of my list of places to visit. Also, the ducky is oddly cute!

    I am in the US, and I haven’t done any Black Friday perfume shopping…yet :)

    • Hi Nemo! New Orleans is so “in” you should try to make it there. The duck was part of a Day of the Dead display at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art. None of the stores I went to had it and a salesperson suggested going to Marie Laveau’s Voodoo Shop (not available there either). A friend googled it and found them on Amazon! I ended up not buying any but it was kinda fun pursuing the quirky rubber duckies. I’ve done my share of Black Friday perfume shopping. How much longer can you hold off? :-)

  7. To answer Undina’s question — yes, I have bought perfumes during Black Friday. Lord & Taylor has these Doorbuster coupons ($20 off of $40 purchase). There are NO perfumes anywhere near $40 but a coupon that can be used on Cosmetics & Fragrances is like gold. If I recall, I bought an atomizer with refill set of Chanel No. 5 EDT one year and another year I kept searching and searching and by golly I wanted to use the coupon so I ended up with a bottle of… Alien. This Friday, I won’t be able to get to the mall until late-morning and I will not even attempt to drive there; however, I live close enough to WALK there and as long as it is not too cold, my legs will take me there and I may just spend mine and my neighbor’s coupons.

    • The only sales (% off) I’ve ever seen for the regular store’s fragrance department were Saks’ and Sephora’s Friends & Family events. But Saks stopped doing that and Sephora doesn’t carry any perfumes I’d want to buy even with % off since usually those can be bought even cheaper at different online discounters.

  8. New Orleans is on my vSO’s “to visit” list so we’ll go there, hopefully in the near future. With you guide now I feel even better about going there.

    Living in the U.S., so far, I think, I haven’t done any not just perfume Black Friday shopping. But this year I’m watching the strangest countdown to Black Friday from Ormonde Jayne… I don’t really need anything from them but if they offer something that I won’t be able to refuse… And I plan to check (just in case) Krigler’s website: there’s a perfume I’m eying but I’d love to get at least a free S&H… I doubt it’ll happen but it doesn’t hurt to check, right? : -)

    • Definitely take the time to visit New Orleans. It was fabulous and I’ll probably re-visit (and still not during Mardi Gras either as that would probably make me miserable).

      Doesn’t hurt to check the Krigler website! Free shipping from Krigler is not attractive enough since I can just walk to the boutique at The Plaza.

      With Ormonde Jayne, I’m always leery of their sales because they tend to get overwhelmed and end up not fulfilling orders as they should. This is not from first-hand experience, just anecdotes from comments on perfume blogs.

      I went to the mall today to get a haircut and it was empty possibly due to the wintery mix that is yucking up everything outside. I asked nicely and was able to take home Black Friday pre-sale specials on Origins stuff today instead of having to go back another time to pick them up.

  9. Well, I live in Croatia and the Black Friday craze is starting to be felt here (our shops are suddenly having Black Friday?!). I never shopped for either days though. :)

  10. Your personal perfume sounds divine! I would wear it.

    I love New Orleans! You’re making me want some étouffée…

    Don’t know how to answer the question. I live in the US and I’m essentially shopping for perfume all the time. I undoubtedly will succumb to some of the online promotions. Perfume shopping in a store is much rarer for me so I certainly won’t go OUT on Black Friday.

    • Black Friday is not a holiday at my company and I’ve had a 50/50 chance of having to work that day, usually with flexibility to work from home. During the years where I’ve had the day off, I had braved the mall on Black Friday especially if I know in advance that a favorite store is giving away shopper incentives and/or freebies and there were things I needed to get.

      As to my personal perfume, it’s got everything but the kitchen sink! I should just carry an atomizer of it with me in case I bump into you :-)

  11. Hi hajuusuri! I loved this write up. Just thought I would mention that Bourbon French is running their holiday sale right now through December 1. My favorite from the line is Oriental Rose followed by Voodoo Love and Kus Kus.

      • I believe I visited the Bourbon French shop in 1971…but have been back numerous times online since they put up their website. No custom blend, though. My favorite Oriental Rose is a “new” fragrance from an old formula introduced last year (or was it the year before) about this time.

  12. I so enjoyed your travel report, also because of having spent a happy – and hot and humid! – week in New Orleans with Mr Bonkers in 1998. However, this was 10 years ‘pre-perfumista’, so it is good to learn where all the scented hangouts are, should I ever be lucky enough to go again. And meanwhile there is SIP Magazine Street, of which I still have a drop somewhere.

    Oh – please do tell…why were you looking for Day of the Dead rubber duckies? ;) ;)

    I am in the UK and we don’t have Black Friday here, though I am aware of it as a ‘shopping bonanza thing’.

    • Hi Vanessa! I just read up on SIP Magazine Street and that sounds really fabulous. What time of the year were you in New Orleans? It was still “two showers a day” warm when I was there in October but I couldn’t imagine what it would have been like in July/August, even in September!

      As to the Day of the Dead rubber duckies, I just thought they looked creepily cute and I was thinking of starting a collection of rubber duckies from my travels. I don’t think I’ll go down that path because everywhere I went asking for rubber duckies, I got a blank stare and/or “You want a WHAT?”.

      • I think it was late Sept / early Oct, but my memory is a bit fuzzy. It was insanely hot and sticky, for sure! That is funny about the rubber duckies – thanks for coming ‘clean’, hehe.

        Oh, and I was quite wrong about Black Friday over here. Amazon and Apple brought it over from the US in 2010 and it has quietly been gaining momentum – now it seems to have taken hold and people are fighting over tellies in scrums on supermarket floors. Not all American imports are a good idea…;) I must say it had passed me by till I heard the news today!

        • Oh no, you just enabled me on non-perfume stuff! How did that happen??? You reminded me I should check out Amazon for “deals” although I literally just placed an order from Amazon for regularly-pricing things that Dad and Mom requested plus tea filter bags recommended by Undina. I have a few more hours left to check out the Apple website!

          • I have another update on our Black Friday, as it was being discussed after the fact on our BBC Radio 4 (national public radio). Turns out that though the shopping occasion came over here in 2010 it was relatively low key right up until last year, but exploded this year, really coming to people’s attention. So I wasn’t as mad as I thought not to have clocked it earlier. ;)

  13. What a lovely post and now I’m very curious to give Hove perfumes a try! I’ve been shopping with Bourbon French for several years now via their online shop and have to say their customer service is excellent. I also have to recommend Mon Amour and Lady Evangeline as two of my favorite BF perfumes, though there are many that are just gorgeous. Thanks for sharing your trip with us, Hajusuuri, and Undina, I’m new to your blog and am loving it already! :)

    • Thanks for stopping by, Absolute Scentualist :-) Both Mon Amour and Lady Evangeline sound wonderful (it’s got to be the vanilla!). I enjoyed my shopping experience at Bourbon French. There was a Twilight series actress the same time I was there and I got the same polite/pleasant treatment she did. Heh, she was my only celebrity sighting and I had no clue she was famous!

  14. Cleveland is actually a great town (I know I am very biased!) so if everywhere else is Cleveland, than everywhere else is awesome!

    I too have always wanted to go to New Orleans – one of these days. In the meantime, thanks for the tour.

  15. Pingback: Entertaining Statistics: November 2014 | Undina's Looking Glass

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