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Not only is it a reminder of the wonders I saw in Paris, but of the beauty of people who are in love with their work—people like François Henin and Bertrand Duchaufour—and the kind of lasting imprints they leave.
Located on the rue Castiglione, Jovoy is one of the few perfume boutiques in Paris with lots of space, which it uses wisely. When you walk in the door, you aren’t hit with a wave of perfume smells, which is incredible considering the number of brands they carry—too many for me to remember—but the ones that immediately come to mind include Xerjoff, Parfums d’Empire, Mona di Orio, Vero Profumo, Neela Vermeire, Puredistance, Parfums MDCI, Honoré des Prés, Histoires des Parfums, Frapin and Amouage. Next to most of the perfumes in the shop is a little bauble (like a little covered dish) that has a wick-like piece of cloth impregnated with the scent, so that you can simply open it and get a feel for what the scent smells like—but if you feel like spraying, there are plenty of scent strips available to do so. The shop itself is decorated in a regal shade of crimson, accented by furnishings in wood and leather, and every member of the staff is courteous and friendly, leaving you free to explore on your own for as long as you wish, yet being quite available if you have questions or would like a sample made to take with you. I would have to say that most of the sales assistants in Paris were splendid, but there was something extra special about the staff at Jovoy—perhaps because they work for the thoroughly charming François Henin. Henin is the president of Jovoy, and from the moment we entered the shop (there were four of us including my husband and perfume-blogging companions, Jasia Julia Nielsen and Ines Stefanović) he was nothing less than accommodating, enthusiastic and fun. The first thing he did was ask us if we’d like cappuccinos or espressos, and after those were fetched, he bounced around answering questions, making samples, and encouraging us to use his lighter to light up an oud chip so that we could experience the scent of the burning wood. I had been testing the MDCI range for much of our lengthy stay at his boutique, but not being in a mood to try on a masculine scent that day (which is rare for me) I had avoided Chypre Palatin. It wasn’t until Henin pulled the bottle down and decided to wear some himself that I caught a whiff of this amazing beauty—and not long after it hit my own skin (and Jasia’s, who also decided to give it a spin) I decided it was coming home with me.
On my flight home from Paris, I started reading a novel titled The Soloist by Mark Salzman, about a young man who started out his life as a child-prodigy cello player and then, at age eighteen, suddenly experiences a dramatic shift in the way he hears the notes of his music, such that he loses his gift and the illustrious career that came with it. He goes from knowing the adulation of the world’s most famous concert halls to the anonymity of earning his living as a cello teacher at a university, and now at thirty-three, unexpectedly finds himself taking on a young student who could potentially be another child wunderkind like himself. In this new role he begins reflecting on his time spent with his own boyhood teacher, the very gentlemanly Professor von Kempen, a man once considered the greatest cellist who ever lived, but whose career became a casualty of the Nazi regime in Germany, and of whom he recalls:
Parfums MDCI Chypre Palatin can be purchased at Jovoy Paris Haute Parfumerie—or in the United States from LuckyScent.com, where a 60-ml bottle is currently $250 (the bottle with the tassel, which is the one I own) or $375 for the version with the bust stopper pictured above.
†The Soloist, copyright © 1994 by Mark Salzman (Vintage Books, a division of Random House, New York, 1994, pp. 100-101)
Images: Photo of the Hotel de Ville (top of page) is from Wikipedia; The Soloist book cover image is from Ebay; photo of the Jovoy Paris boutique is from mademoiselleaparis.com; and photo of the Parfums MDCI Chypre Palatin bottles are from LuckyScent.com.
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Von Kempen was a deeply religious man, but not in the sense of contemplation of the supernatural or the promise of an afterlife; he simply couldn’t get over his sense of awe and wonder that something as magnificent and beautiful as music could be channeled through such flawed creatures as human beings. Every time he encountered music he opened his mind to it with the humility and gratitude of someone receiving a gift he could not possibly deserve. Toward the end of his life that attitude grew to embrace such ordinary phenomena as the changing light of the seasons, the sounds of migrating birds or the taste of fine tobacco. The only thing I could see that he felt no particular sense of gratitude for was politics. He had the newspaper delivered to his home every day, but would not even glance at it until Frau Schmidt, his housekeeper, had first thrown away all of it except for the art, science and food sections. †
In words more succinct than I could express, this quote sums up the reverential, awe-struck way I felt when I was in Paris, no matter where I was in the city, but particularly as I was standing under the vaulted ceiling of Notre Dame and, later, marveling at the seemingly endless expanse of architectural grandness that is the Louvre. This quote also offers a fitting prelude to my attempt to describe the perfume I brought back from Paris that has become my “souvenir perfume” from the trip—meaning that while I bought a number of perfumes while I was there (none of them exclusive to Paris), this is the one that reminds me of my experience, translating into scent everything that my eyes took in: MDCI Chypre Palatin. Palatin refers to “palace,” and Paris being very much a palatial city in terms of its architecture, I feel like I discovered Chypre Palatin in the absolute perfect place—as if I turned the corner on the rue de Rivoli, stepped into the square in front of the Hôtel de Ville, and found it lying in wait for me by one of the fountains there. This is one of the richest smelling chypres I’ve ever worn; to the degree that I’m not sure I would have identified it either as a chypre or as something created by perfumer Bertrand Duchaufour if I had smelled it blind without knowing its name or maker. Certainly I’m no expert on Duchaufour’s work—I’ve mainly only smelled the perfumes he’s created for L’Artisan Parfumeur and Neela Vermeire (as well as one of my favorites from Frapin—Frapin 1697)—but those I have smelled always struck me as being very modern, full of olfactory movement (his perfumes strike me as very kinetic in the way they vibrate on the skin) with a certain amount of translucency. Perhaps proving that a great artist is one that isn’t constrained by style but one who adapts his style to serve the subject he is working on, Chypre Palatin smells stately, grand and what I think of as classically French in terms of its construction … and maybe because it is a Duchaufour creation, it doesn’t go overboard in this direction. It’s got just enough heft and richness to suggest opulence without crossing over into ostentation.
Before I describe it further, let me say that while it’s marketed as a masculine, I wouldn’t characterize it that way at all (for maybe all of thirty seconds it is masculine-smelling on my skin) and would go so far as to suggest that Chypre Palatin would appeal to women who love scents like Amouage Jubilation 25, which it reminds me of, except that Chypre Palatin is more refined and less challenging, not having the cumin and animalic emphasis that Jubilation 25 possesses, while still smelling every bit as expensive. Here is its list of notes:
Top notes: jacinth (hyacinth), clementine, aldehydes, cistus essence, galbanum essence, thyme, lavender
Heart notes: rose, jasmin, iris concrète, prune, gardenia
Base notes: benjamin (benzoin), styrax, leather, vanilla, tolu, castoreum, costus, oakmoss, everlasting absolute
A green, herbal opening that is slightly dry and masculine-leaning is how Chypre Palatin smells when it first hits the skin, but within the space of a minute its top notes begin to sweeten and become creamy. There is a gentle fruitiness to the floral heart of the perfume that is what reminds me of Jubilation 25 a bit, along with a creaminess that smells a touch oily and mink-like, like the scent of a good fur coat or a very well-groomed cat. This effect is far more subdued in Chypre Palatin than it is in Jubilation 25, but it’s there: that sexy, glossy, slightly animalic aroma that I can only describe as smelling feline and fur-like. It’s the kind of smell that makes me want to purr—and while in Jubilation 25 that facet goes on for ages—in Chypre Palatin, it is softened by the vanillic creaminess of its base accord, such that the overall scent dries down into something more reminiscent of a cashmere sweater than a pretty kitty. To be more precise, a cashmere sweater, impeccably smooth skin and a hypnotic custard-creaminess that makes me think of sandalwood (even though this might be an illusion since I don’t see it listed among the notes) is what the drydown of Chypre Palatin resembles. Oakmoss, probably the low-atranol kind that is now being used in perfumes, lends just a bit of earthy fuzziness and is perhaps what also makes me envision the fragrance as a finely-woven, summer-weight cashmere sweater of a scent as it enters this stage.
Though Chypre Palatin doesn’t smell palatial in terms of smelling like a place—or a palace, however they might smell—its golden richness, seamless blending and construction that reminds me of classic French perfumery does evoke a feeling of being in a grand and opulent locale. It’s well-matched to my Paris experience—and is further anchored to that experience by the place where I purchased it—the Jovoy Paris Haute Parfumerie. I would be remiss if I didn’t say a few words about this boutique which is superlative in every regard, from the brands they carry, to the beauty of their newly-acquired and gorgeously-decorated space, to the exceptional customer care one receives there the minute one steps in the door.
Like Paris Itself, Grand and Expansive:
Parfums MDCI Chypre Palatin and Jovoy Haute Parfumerie
June 12, 2012: