Bourbon French Parfums, New Orleans Louisiana USA (photo Liza Wade)
With 12 contributors and writers around the world, all scent obsessed, there is something to be said about shopping at small brick and mortar boutiques for unusual or hard to find perfumes. It is an experience that you cannot replicate online. In a new monthly series, “We Love This Store” we head to The Big Easy for a Virtual Tour of Bourbon French Parfums. Laissez Le Bon Temps Rouller -Michelyn Camen, Editor in Chief
There is a reason I have been drawn to olfaction as a framework upon which to write. There are those of us who have learned to appreciate perfumery as an art form. We express our interest in this endeavor much like others speak about wine, music or fine art. We use the same highly descriptive language and metaphors and, likewise, search for an emotional connection to our subject.
Old New Orleans (art from the Louisiana State Museum
One might say that what might draw someone to the world of perfume might also be the same elements which would lead someone to fall in love with the most unique of American cities: New Orleans. The first time I visited this city I was eleven years old and accompanied my mother on a walk around the French Quarter. It was a hot summer day in 1977 and someone had randomly gifted me a balloon. My mother loves to tell the story of how we rounded the corner and a bouncer standing guard at a strip club, upon seeing me, declared, “Kid, this ain’t Disneyland!” Indeed, New Orleans was not then, and is not now, nor ever was Disneyland. In fact she is the Anti-Disney. Where Walt Disney created fantasy from scratch and re-invented reality to compensate for life’s possible disappointments New Orleans is comfortable with all that life has to offer: the good, the bad, and the ugly. Hence, the seediness of prostitution and drunk college kids sits comfortably next to venerable establishments such as historic Creole restaurants and high-end art galleries and antique stores…all in the few square miles of the world renowned French Quarter.
I have returned to New Orleans many times as an adult, mostly for the revered Jazz and Heritage Festival which I have attended over fifteen times. I have little traditions which I enjoy that make the trip feel complete: oysters at Acme, beignets at Café Dumond, dinner at a new-to-me local restaurant not known to tourists. Now added to that list is a visit to the quirky little perfume house called Bourbon French Parfums.
Counter at Bourbon French Parfum (photo Liza Wade)
Bourbon French Parfums is located in the heart of the French Quarter on Royal Street in New Orleans. In a world of highly commercial perfumery, even the niche sort, there is something very special about a perfume house that is over 170 years old and still has only one store front boutique. One might even describe this vintage shop as shabby chic as it understated and, like your grandmother’s house, charming despite the clutter. The most recent time I walked in, the first weekend of this year’s Jazzfest in April, the weather was high 70’s and sunny enough to feel just shy of hot. The door to the boutique was open so I rolled my suitcase in like I was coming home. No one on staff blinked an eye as I plopped my belongings onto one of the antique chairs in the salon and began to eye the case line.
Bourbon French Parfums Soaps (photo Liza Wade)
The shop is littered with baskets of fancy soaps, fleur-de -lys jewelry, and glass perfume bottles for sale. The real lure, however, is the tiny tray of house perfume testers sitting demurely on the glass counter. I found the scent that I brought home with me after my first visit to Bourbon French Parfums, called Mon Idee, a carnation fragrance created by Alessandra Crain about the same time I made by first trip to New Orleans.
Lori Barrios of Bourbon French Parfums (photo Liza Wade)
Wanting to find something new I examined Kus Kus created by the founder August Doussan in 1843. While the spicy, sophisticated scent was attractive to me I felt like I needed something lighter going into summer. The intriguingly named Voodoo Love, also created by Alessandra Crain, would have to wait for a fall visit as well. My nose took in several soliflors until delighting upon something that spoke to my mood. It is soft and playful with notes of peach and rose, like a little sister to YSL Yvresse, only at one third the price. Immediately, I decided I must have a full trio of products: Eau de Toilette (4 oz.), Body Lotion (8 oz.) and Body Shampoo (8 oz.). The fragrance bottle was premade but I waited as Lori Barrios (who has been with BFP for two decades) created both my body lotion and shower gel in my presence. I was in perfumista heaven as I waited!
Needless to say, I experienced the perfect end to a wonderful weekend filled with the sensory experiences which only New Orleans can provide. Now, whenever I layer my Festival fragrance I am reminded of spring in New Orleans. Next on the bucket list: an appointment for a private consultation to create a custom blend. My own personal voodoo, anti-Disney signature scent!
Liza Wade, Contributor
Bourbon French Parfums
805 Royal Street
New Orleans, LA 70116