Photos and videos are the way many people chronicle and remember their vacations. For me, it’s perfume. By buying and using a fragrance on vacation that’s native to a country or region, or better yet, made from native plants (or smelling like them), I am sure to create an olfactory memory that will always conjure up the experience of the trip.
So, after I had spritzed out the last drops of Philosykos, Diptyque’s fig fragrance, that I had bought in 2005, I figured it was time to up the game. Diptyque is now owned by Americans, so that was out of the question for me. A pitstop at Serge Lutens, in Palais Royal, delivered the experience I was hoping for. More expensive, yes–but more recherché, more French. The flagship is a dark mecca of unique smells, each created by the namesake and made in France.
Since Lutens makes dozens of scents, guidance is helpful. “I like the smell of smoke, tobacco, earth, pepper, and spice,” I told the clerk at the store late last month. “I like amber but want to try to break that habit. I’m not big on florals, fruits, citrus, or anything sweet, like vanilla.”
“I think you might like this,” the clerk said, quickly presenting me with a paper scent stick. It was divine. I felt transported. I had never smelled anything like this before. I almost cried. “Perfect,” I said. But of course, her work would not be done had she not presented me with several alternates. None of which captured exactly what I wanted like the first one. The winning scent is called Fumerie Turque, which means “Turkish opium den.” (Lutens bases many of his fragrances on his travels. Some travels!)
Though the boutique claims to sell a host of scents not available elsewhere, except for the NYC store, I have found Fumerie Turque online. However, it costs about $100 more on the Internet–a rare case of in-store shopping being significantly cheaper. And besides, an e-commerce purchase can’t come close to matching the 5-senses experience I had finding my new fragrance. And that’s what perfume is all about.