Surely, no one would disagree that perfume is seductive. The sense of smell is a magical, mystery tour of your own desires.
“It is,” says James Craven, fragrance archivist at Les Senteurs equivocally “the most important of the senses,” evoking memory, occasions and, of course, special people past or passing.
He greets me in the bijou boutique in Portman Village, the walls lined with seemingly countless bottles informed by subtle differences of hue – saffron yellow, light tobacco and pure as crystal water with the refreshing absence of almost vocal labels in the main, vying for attention and superiority as one might reasonably find in a department store.
A Shop Focussed only on the World’s Most Exclusive Fragrances
“The world is our customer,” begins Craven. “People often come here who have discovered some things about perfume and want to know more. Department stores are not the places as they are too busy,” and, he says, with an informed certitude, “people can make costly mistakes.” Indeed, they do.
It is so true that perfume evokes precise feelings and is linked to time. We are all also, to a greater or lesser extent, prone to the insistent magnetism of advertising — especially those of contemporary perfumes bludgeoning us with bold colours, semi-naked models, alluring or daring names and logos and of course, fancy packaging.
But strip away all of this and Les Senteurs proves that the customer can indeed trust the experts – and avoid costly mistakes. Craven listens to his customer.
Fragrance is Emotion
He asks what they have worn before and liked to establish whether they favour the clean freshness of citrus , the bold depth of leather and so on. Here, Craven likens perfume to the notation of music.
Founded in 1984, Les Senteurs (the scents) prides itself on stocking some of the most exclusive and desirable fragrances in the world.
By the company’s own admission, “allowing you to find your perfume at your own pace.”
A Bit of Proust, A bit of Science
This should be a pleasurable journey, a discovery and with such a rich selection, you will know it when you find it. Perhaps you want to remember. Perhaps you want to experiment with the self-transformative power of a new scent.
In a way, says Craven, “there is so much emotion is squeezed into every crucial drop” of the chosen fragrance found. It is not for nothing that Patrick Suskind’s international bestseller, simply titled ‘Perfume’ won plaudits – the story of a street urchin, born with no smell of his own but possessing the greatest sense of smell in the world.
“Smell is our most instinctive sense,” continues Craven. “It defines us.”
Actually, more laboratory than shop, more pharmacy than store, Les Senteurs has been bestowed the Best Perfumery in Basenotes (Reader Awards) in 2012, 2013 and 2014.
Unique events for Fragrance Lovers
Special evenings, book launches and the like are staged here amongst the temptation of around 350 or so fragrances including Annick Goutal, Creed, Knize, By Killian, etc.
Their wares are not indulgences. Simple necessities. (Prices from £53 for Tauer Ville to £900 for Frederic Malle). ML
2 Seymour Place, London, W1 (020 7183 5842) and 71 Elizabeth Street, London SW1 (020 7730 2322)
71 Elizabeth St, Belgravia, London SW1W 9PJ, UK