Some people remember a destination by what they see, some by what they hear. For me, it’s what I smell.
From the sweet aroma of ripe mangoes that grow in Thailand to the dank, familiar stench of the New York City subway, I often close my eyes several times a day to remember my travels by imagining a destination’s heady bouquet.
For Paris, I breathe in femininity.
I realize that’s an unusual thing to say, as other dominant scents like yeasty, fresh-baked baguettes or lightly-roasted sidewalk crepes might have you think of Paris more. But for me, the entire city is like a well-groomed woman. In fact, I often refer to Pont Alexandre as “SHE has such beautiful golden adornments” or to Saint-Chapelle cathedral as “HER stained-glass windows leave me spellbound.” And the best way I know of experiencing the essence of Paris long after I leave is to literally take the scent of women, a bottle of perfume, home with me.
Perfume shopping in Paris is always a treat. Even though many of the brands available in Paris are also available in stores all around the world and online, there is something utterly ladylike about strolling slowly through a shop while in Paris perusing all the offerings.
But there’s one brand you won’t find under the bright lights of the larger Parisian stores – a brand you may have never heard of but which has been in production since the beginning of the last century.
It’s a called Detaille and you can find all the brand’s fragrances in a shop of the same name at 10 rue St Lazare in the 9th arrondissement.
The fascinating story of Detaille begins in the first few years of the 1900s. Countess de Presle was one of the first to purchase an automobile and she felt due to high speed and lack of a windshield, her skin had become too dry. She consulted her chemist friend, Marcellin Berthelo, who then devised a hydrating cream that he and the Countess named Baume Automobile.
This began the production of high quality products and in the year 1905, Detaille was born. The store is dubbed after the Countess’ husband, the brother of the famous painter Edouard Detaille.
As you enter Detaille, you step back in time to the remnants of the Belle Époque period. Warm wooden floors and shelving in this charming boutique make for an intimate shopping experience. There are five main perfumes beginning with 1905 which is named after the year of the store’s inception. The flowery essence has touches of violet and black currant that blossom into rosé, jasmine and Ylang Ylang. The remaining four perfumes have sing-song names such as Alizee, Sheliane, Sofia and Dolcia. With labels like these it will be difficult to resist the clove, vanilla, orange, coriander, peach blossom, white cedar and green apple notes.
And lest you think the emporium only sells perfumes, there are room sprays, skin care products and light toilettes as well. The men shouldn’t feel neglected; there is a nice selection to keep Monsieur smelling sweet too!
But perhaps Detaille will always be my favorite perfumery for a deeply personal reason.
It was the last bottle of perfume I gave to my mother before she passed away in 2012. She was always wide-eyed when I brought her fragrance from Paris, and a bottle of the 1905 was her last. After she passed, since she had not used much, I took the bottle back and it proudly sits on my bedroom dresser. Every day I gaze at my Detaille, put a little on, and conjure up tender memories of my Mom.
As Detaille states in their literature:
Perfume is the memory, the childhood or remembrance of those we met, loved and sometimes forgot.
I hope you’ll remember to drop by this exclusive shop on your next visit to Paris and start creating your own fond memories at first spritz.
Ready to experience all the wonderful smells, sights and sounds of Paris? My connections to the movers and shakers in the city will ensure your vacation is one of a kind! Come be part of my inner circle and meet the people behind the stories on my blog when I plan your trip. Find out more about what makes Paris Made for You so different – and get ready for the experience of a lifetime. As we say, just pack your bags, we do the rest.