Unique New Orleans Perfumes

Before leaving on a vacation I usually research honey holes for perfume sniffing at the destination, and then during the trip I keep my nose to the wind, figuratively speaking, not to miss any perfume shop, counter or corner.

For my New Orleans visit I’ve read hajusuuri’s post (can you believe it – it was almost 4 years ago!) but for some reason I wasn’t really looking forward to visiting any of the perfume places she described. So I decided that I would be probably fine without planning anything and would see how it goes.

My vSO was the one who spotted that shop not too far from the hotel we stayed on our evening stroll. It was already closed but we decided to come back the next day.

We all know those new brands that resurrect some ancient history, buy it from heirs of defunct brands or even invent it? So when you come across a brand with a genuine almost 90 years and 4 generation history, you can’t help feeling some admiration.

 

Hove Parfumeur

 

Hove Parfumeur is an interesting small store in French Quarter (434 Chartres St.) that sells perfumes, jewelry, soaps and other bath products. They carry about 50 (fifty!) perfumes available in perfume and cologne concentration as well as solids.

Same as it was when hajusuuri visited the store, they still have pre-dipped paper strips with printed names laid out on glass trays. I went through sniffing all of them in several iterations, noting those that I liked. Either I looked like I knew what I was doing (which might be), or the girl who manned the store wasn’t really interested in perfumes, or she misread me as not a potential buyer, but I was left alone to sniff all I wanted for probably half an hour. I’m not complaining, I prefer it this way but it felt a little unusual for any store of that size where I was the only customer.

 

Hove Parfumeur

 

Testing perfumes the way this shop offers is quite the opposite to what we usually do at most other places: you get to smell perfumes in their drydown phase first, so instead of judging them on the opening 15 minutes burst, you get to decide what you want to test on skin from liking the base notes. None of the two seem sufficient to make a final judgement on perfumes. But at the same time I wasn’t about to put even 2-3 perfumes on my skin and walk out into the 32C/90F humid street not knowing when I’d get to the shower.

The store sells perfumes in multiple sizes starting from a dram (~3.6 ml), but for the price of 3 you can get a set of 6 dram bottles – and that was what I went with.

For my set I got Bayou D’Amour, Diverti, Fascinator, Grandee, Mantrap and Rue Royale. Neither the brand’s site nor Fragrantica provides a detailed list of notes for these perfumes, and I’ve never been too good picking notes out – even when listed – so I’ll share brand’s descriptions for these perfumes and my impressions.

 

Hove Parfumeur

 

After testing them for several times, I can see how that paper testing works for the brand: all of their perfumes smell very good in drydown.

Rue Royale was my last pick for the set. It smelled good but mostly I was influenced by the description: “A hint of musk pervades this basically dry and light fragrance, selected most often by fair brunettes who wish a quiet elegance.”

Testing proved that “quiet” isn’t a thing that this fair brunette wishes for. Rue Royale has a beautiful opening (I smell strong rose), and then it’s quite pleasant in the 4th hour of drydown. But in between I get something slightly dusty and dull. I might try it once or twice under different weather but I do not expect to fall in love with it enough to wear it.

Diverti (“Light and refreshing, this blend of sandalwood, cedar and a mixture of floral notes creates a divertissement of its own”), Fascinator (“The rich warm notes of Oak Moss, blended with a hint of musk, this fragrance is sure to fascinate both men and women”) and Grandee (“An elegant and grand blending of floral notes topped by a fruity note to add a bit of happiness. For those who are outgoing and who like bright colors”) are rather unisex perfumes that from time to time suddenly veer masculine. All three are worth trying but I’m a little wary about perfumes that do not perform consistently on my skin: I do not want to be stuck with something I’m not enjoying for the whole day in the office.

My most favorite of the six is the one with the name that doesn’t resonate with me – Mantrap. For my not native English ear it sounds like a contrivance to catch men (even though I know that it’s a gender-neutral term). But nevertheless, I liked this perfume.

Official description: “Made provocative by its high resinous notes, made alluring by its underlying spice notes, this is truly a heavy Oriental fragrance.”

Mantrap reminds me of Alahine and maybe a little of Coco though I wouldn’t go as far as calling it “heavy oriental,” at least not in the dab format. But it is definitely a floral oriental perfume that smells like a classic perfume – well blended floral bouquet and warm spices. It wears nicely in hot weather, and I look forward to trying it in winter as well.

Bayou D’Amour, “An exotic blend of floral notes dominated by notes of the luscious fruit, mango,” is my second favorite in the brand’s line-up. I tried hard but I cannot detect mango. For me it’s a big white floral perfume. If I were to guess, I would say that I smell plumeria but I’m not sure, it might be some other tropical flower. Bayou D’Amour smells great in hot weather.

 

Hove Parfumeur

 

While I do not think that any of these perfumes are worth paying for blind testing (almost no perfumes these days are), but if you happen to visit New Orleans, I think stopping by Hove Parfumeur is a worthwhile diversion from main activities (such as eating and listening to music).

 

Images: my own

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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