I love perfume.
No, I’m going to go a step further.
I adore perfume.
So much so that I’ve often thought that if I wasn’t committed to blogging about all things French and style related, I could easily have a site dedicated to beautiful fragrances and the sparkling bottles that house them.
That said, you might be surprised to learn that perfume is one area where I don’t always reach for the French version first. While I’m a fan of a great many French perfumes, I’m quite happy to explore fragrances from all over the world. I’ve even spent time with a perfumer in Melbourne, who created a unique blend for me.
I am, however, an avid admirer of French perfumeries. There is just an elegance about them that other perfumeries around the world can’t seem to match. And, as a result, I always make a point of visiting one or two while I’m travelling in France.
Interestingly, despite my love of perfume, I don’t generally find selecting a new fragrance an easy experience. As is the case for many people, certain scents can induce nasty headaches in me, so I’m always super careful with my research and my testing.
A lot of my research involves reading about perfumes. I’m especially interested in understanding which top notes are found in a fragrance, as they often contribute to my thumping head, And years of experimentation have taught me that I prefer scents with musky or woody base notes.
After reading perfume writer Katrina Lawrence’s Paris Dreaming, I’d got it into my mind that I wanted to try Guerlain’s L’Heure Bleue. Reviews suggested that it fit my preferences well. And I’d enjoyed wearing its more modern adaptation, L’Heure de Nuit. Sadly, L’Heure Bleue wasn’t available to test in Melbourne so I took my own perfume related advice and decided that I would trial the perfume while I was in Paris.
But that’s not how things turned out.
Thanks to not one, but two, exploding travel atomisers (seriously – can you believe both the bottles I mentioned here let me down?) I chose to test L’Heure Bleue before I actually arrived in Paris. As someone who wears fragrance every day, I simply couldn’t imagine not spritzing myself for over a week. Given my non-existent Czech, I decided that I’d bite the bullet and head to the Guerlain Institut in Prague, rather than go on a sample search to get me through to Paris,
The lovely Czech assistant sprayed the scent onto my wrist in the morning. And, by the afternoon, I’d fallen completely in love with what is considered by some to be a rather old-fashioned fragrance. I went back that evening and purchased their last remaining bottle of the eau de toilette.
Although I’d already bought the bottle of perfume, I continued to explore the history of my new love. As I was investigating, I realised that on top of offering both locals and travellers their famed Champs-Élysées address to marvel at, Guerlain we’re now allowing perfume lovers to select their own iconic bee bottle and have it filled with their choice of scent at a number of Parisian locations. Additionally, Guerlain had also opened a boutique on the corner of Place Vendôme dedicated entirely to perfume.
I don’t know how I missed these new developments to the Parisian perfume scene, but I was determined to check things out on this visit.
Personalising Your Guerlain Fragrance
If you’d not realised that you were entering a Guerlain boutique prior to stepping through the door at 356, rue Saint-Honoré, the radiating sun logo set into the floor would probably give you a big hint. That, and the fact that the relatively small space, is adorned with Guerlain fragrances (for both men and women) from floor to ceiling.
I knew the moment I walked through door that I wouldn’t be leaving empty handed. I could see immediately that my desire to personalise my own bottle of L’Heure Bleue was going to be straightforward enough to achieve.
Because sitting right behind the counter was a wall of large urns of eau de parfum, each labelled with the names of classic scents. Obviously I was pleased to see L’Heure Bleue. But if you happen to prefer Shalimar or Iris Ganache or any one of around 30 scents, you’d have been happy too.
The English speaking assistant was quick to assist me. She walked me through the process of choosing both the fragrance and the bottle, as well as confirming the price. She also let me know that once I had purchased the flacon I could return to get it refilled. Although it was not offered to me, you can apparently get the bottles engraved too.
All Of The Decisions
My number one tip? I highly recommend that if you are going to personalise a perfume, you have some idea of which fragrance you would like first. I can imagine it could easily become overwhelming if you have to choose a scent in the boutique.
Choosing which bottle you would like will probably be hard enough. At first I thought I might have trouble making a decision. There were so many pretty colours all lined up together. And my first inclination was to select blue, which was gorgeous. As was the black. And the turquoise. But then I noticed my favourite colour – grey – sitting up on the top shelf.
Let’s face it. If I’d not seen the grey option I might still be standing there, which would have been awkward at best.
The process of filling my chosen bottle with 125ml of eau de parfum was quite the spectacle. The young lady first lifted the large flask of scent onto a marble bench and then proceeded to decant the perfume into a beaker especially reserved for L’Heure Bleue. She then gently poured the liquid into the bottle. It took three pours to completely fill my grey flacon.
Finally, my little bottle, now full of delicious fragrance was boxed and wrapped with so much care I wondered if I would ever actually open it.
All in all, the whole thing was quite the luxurious Parisian experience. And a good deal more fun than grabbing a bottle of perfume on the way through duty-free like I normally do.
So Which Guerlain Boutique Should You Visit?
If you are a Guerlain fan, and you have the time, I’d recommend you indulge your senses by visiting both the flagship store and the newer boutique. They are both beautiful, fragrant spaces, filled with sparkling glass and classic scents.
That said, if you are wishing to choose both your fragrance and the bee shaped bottle in your favourite colour, I’d suggest you are best to visit the Vendôme boutique. It seemed quieter, I received attentive service and the range of fragrances in the decanting bottles appeared wider (at least as far as I could see).
However, if you are after make-up – perhaps one of Guerlain’s new revamped Rouge G lipsticks or the classic Terracotta Bronzer – as well as perfume, then brave the crowds and head to the iconic Champs-Élysées address, where the opportunities to test make-up are numerous. There was only a very small amount of make-up on offer at the Vendôme boutique.
Are you a fan of Guerlain perfumes? Which scent is your favourite? And do you have a preferred Guerlain address in Paris? Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below.
And until next time – au revoir.
Please note: This is an unsolicited post and no compensation of any kind has been received from Guerlain.
10 thoughts on “Parisian Perfume – A New Experience With Guerlain”
What a lovely experience, Janelle!
When I was a buyer in the early 80’s, Mitsouko was my everyday scent. (Definitely no longer ‘me’!)
My favorite Guerlain boutique is at 29 rue de Sèvres in the 6th arrondissement, St Germain des Près. Not because the boutique itself is so wonderful, but because it is one of the storefronts that conceal St Ignace, a neo-gothic church built in 1855 that cannot be seen from the street. When I was an au pair in 1973 (and sadly could not afford Guerlain perfume) I lived nearby and discovered quite by accident that opening the door at 33 rue de Sèvres and walking just a few steps suddenly revealed…vaulted stone ceilings and stained glass windows and enormous gold candelabra and…! There was only a small plaque that indicated a church might be found if one entered; now there is a larger sign but it is still easy to miss.
Here is a tiny video showing the church from the sky that shows the ‘wall’ of buildings between the church and the street: https://youtu.be/rQqvVweWXK4
It is an interesting place – it is not part of any parish. The Jesuits (St. Ignatius of Loyola was their founder) built and support the chapel independently of the Vatican. Last year it underwent 9 months of its first renovation since it was built, and I am frankly sad that I did not see it again before it was brought into the 21st Century.
This Guerlain boutique is not as busy as some others (this one is not a tourist destination) and very conveniently located near Bon Marché. They also do treatments at this location, as well as makeup instruction.
Thanks so much for sharing Alisa. That is quite an amazing find. I will make sure I check out both the church and the Guerlain boutique when I am next in Paris. Mitsouko is an such a classic scent – I’d love to know why you think it is no longer ‘you’. I’ve been really surprised to discover recently just how much I’m loving the fragrances that are around 100 years old. I’m wondering what that says about me at this point in time?!?!
I second the rue de Sevres boutique. I went for a facial there about 5 years ago – amazing experience and I left with a huge bundle of samples
I have been looking at every department Store here for Samsara products at no avail.I have been weari g it for years and love it.I get millions of complement on the fragrance. I would love to find the body creme,powder,lotion,soap,etc.Please advise.Thank you
Hi Robin, I’d be happy to try to help. Can you let me know where you’ve been looking and I’ll see what I can come up with. Warmest, Janelle.
Robin, did you try ebay? that is a good source for discontinued fragrances and related toiletries. So many of the older fragrances have been reformulated that there is very active trading in old store stock, unopened and even used containers of the original scents. For liquid items (perfume, eau de toilette), there is the risk of evaporation or poor storage having affected the scent, but that would not apply to lotions talc and soaps. I buy old Arpège, for example.
Hi Janelle , if you love Guerlain then you would probably love Patricia de Nicolais shop “Parfums de Nicolai” at 45 Rue des Archives Paris.
Patricia de Nicolai is the granddaughter of Guerlain & her perfumes are beautiful. The perfumery on Rue des Archives is in the middle of the Marais where we always stay, a wonderful shopping street. Do yourself a favour & drop by. I bought Rose Royale as I love floral perfumes.
Thank you for this advice Denise. I’ve never visited “Parfums de Nicolai” although I feel like I’ve seen it, as we often wander/stay in the Marais. I’ll definitely check it out when we are back in Paris next year.
Would you mind telling me the cost of choosing your scent and bottle? I want to give this to my sister for her birthday when we travel to Paris soon… but I also don’t want sticker shock when I get the bill!! 🙂
Hi Tanya, I’m not sure if the different fragrances cost different amounts, but my choice of an individually numbered grey, 125ml bottle filled with L’Heure Bleu cost 205 euros. It also came with a gift of a travel atomiser. I purchased it around 10 months ago now, so prices may have changed. I still have a lot of fragrance left, but if I happen to have used it all by the time we return to Paris later this year, I’ll be interested to see how much it costs me to have it refilled. I hope that helps, and that you have an amazing visit to Paris.