Fall is the time when fashion and film present there best works. The same is true for the world of haute perfume. At least it seems so here in San Francisco. Last week we had the launch of Penhaligon’s Iris Prima at Saks Fifth Avenue and yesterday amid the Beaux Arts splendor of Neiman Marcus on Union Square we very lucky San Franciscans had the great honor of being presented two perfumes from the house of Perris Monte Carlo.
The event began at one o’clock. I arrived with Hillary Randall, my muse extraordinaire and guide through the looking glass of perfume. The theme for us was old world splendor and in tune as always we both dresses accordingly for a very regal and warm presentation by our visitors from the principality of Monaco. As Hilary and I walked though the rotunda we were greeted as always with friendly smiles and hellos from the associates at the Creed and Jo Malone counters along with the always lovely folks at Tom Ford. The delightful Suzetta across the way at Estee Lauder waved to us. And of course the ladies and gentlemen of the Dior Boutique looked smashing in there signature black and made us feel welcome with great warm waves and smiles. Going to Neiman’s is always fun and part of the fun is the friendly people who work there. I know that much of this charming atmosphere is due to the General Manager of Neiman’s Alan Morrell. I have even seen Alan on the sales floor bringing coffee to patrons of the store and seeing to there comfort. That’s warm friendly Neiman Marcus for you.
The Perris Monte Carlo event took place just beyond the rotunda in the heart of the fragrance department. The S.F. Sniff gang were already there and being introduced by our host Michal Gizinski to the stars of the event. The buzz was that of pure joy and excitement and it was infectious. Michal presented Hilary and me to Elisabetta and Gian Luca Perris. Elisabetta is a stunning blonde with a most beautiful smile. And Gian Luca is athletically handsome man with open warm eyes. This brother and sister team of the house of Perris Monte Carlo could not have been more gracious and kind to each person they met.
Gian Luca, Elisabetta, and Michal
As the event began to unfold I broke off to take some photos then popped over to say hello to Mik from Mik Moi perfumes and catch up a bit with Tama Blough, Brooke Baird, and Mario Gomez from S.F. Sniff along with the rest of the gang. Good friend Mary Edington popped up and there were hugs for everyone. Mary and I insinuated ourselves next to one of the three tables displaying the two new perfumes being launched by Perris Monte Carlo, Rose de Taif and Oud Imperial. There was a bit of sniffing of perfume blotters but in no time flat we got down to business and hit the flesh with the spray. You know how it is with perfume lovers, there is no fooling around. Like Tama said to me “You just have to have it on the skin to really appreciate perfume.”
Hilary, Mary and Mik
The Rose de Taif was one of the most wonderful and true rose perfumes I have ever smelled. Gian Luca explained to us how the rose oil is extracted. The delicate roses are picked at dawn in Taif Arabia to ensure there purest beauty in fragrance. Like Grasse Jasmine that is the only time these precious roses can be picked. They are distilled in an alembic water process. For this perfume this water process is a bit different than elsewhere. The flowers are placed directly in the water and not separated by a filter. This method is what gives the unique and beautiful quality to the Taif Rose oil which it produces. It takes thousands upon thousands of roses to create just a tiny amount of oil for the perfume. The notes are, lemon, nutmeg, geranium in the top. The gorgeous Taif Rose is the heart of the perfume and the base notes are Damascus rose absolute and Rose Musk.
He also shared with us some pure oils to smell that are used in the making of the two perfumes. This was my first time smelling pure authentic oud. It was the most amazing fragrance full of mystery and fifty centuries of history. You could sense the ages shift and shimmer as visions of the Middle East came into view in the minds eye. It was a magic carpet unfurling before me filled with all the tales of the east from Algeria to India.
So of course my next stop was Oud Imperial. Cumin and jasmine open the fragrance beautifully; the heart is Oud, incense, patchouli and saffron. And in the base is a beautiful sandalwood, Virginia Cedar, Vetiver from Java and Blackwood. On my skin there is an initial blast of petroleum that mellows quite fast into a warm mix of woods and incense. It carried me off to the deep spiritual sanctuary of an ancient Imperial Roman temple filled with mystery, gods and grandeur. It reminds you of how the smoke and incense of the East came west to conquer Europe again and again. It has both a religious and sensual aspect to it that I find fascinating. It is eastern, enticing, and enchanting. Oud Imperial is simply the best oud perfume I have ever encountered.
Hilary asked Gian Luca about the oil concentration in the eau de perfumes. The rose is twenty two percent and the oud is eighteen percent. Yet these eau de perfumes were like pure perfume. Simply put they are stunning, lush and long lasting.
At this point Michal directed us to a very comfortable seating area behind the presentation display and with sparkling water and delicious homemade cookies we got to talk and compare the two fragrances. It is always so interesting to me how different a scent can be on my skin as opposed to others. Elisabetta and I talked with Mary about this phenomenon. Elisabetta told us that the chemistry of the skin can enhance a perfume. One persons PH can bring certain notes to the fore where as on another person entire new story is told.
Mario and Brooke
Slowly people began to drift away and the event began to wind down. Michal invited me to stay on and chat one on one with Gian Luca and Elisabetta. Well I was thrilled to be asked and charmed by them both so of course I accepted. I asked them how they got into the business of fragrance and discovered it is in their blood. The business has been in existence for fifty years and was founded by there father Michele Perris in Milan. Gian Lucca entered into the industry in 1989 and Elisabetta early in this century. Talking to them I learned just how passionate they are about perfume when I asked Gian Lucca how he thought the sales for the event were going.
“That is not so important to us.” He told me. “What is important is the journey we are on. What we have learned along the way, and how much fun it is to create these beautiful perfumes.” Now that was the answer of a true artist and visionary.
Elisabetta and I talked about the history of gender in perfume and the changing perceptions of masculine and feminine beauty in the last five hundred years. We both agreed that gender assignment to fragrance is a bit silly. Everyone should wear what they love. After all flowers are both male and female and the bees do the flirting and the hard work.
I discovered that Gian Luca is also an accomplished sailor in the team sport of Mach Racing. In 2007 he was awarded as helmsman of his team the UBS Match Race Award. The trophy was awarded to him by Prince Albert of Monaco. We talked a bit about sailing and he told me he learned to sail from his Father Michele who gave him his love of the sea. I told Gian Luca if he loved sailing he must take a look at the stained glass ceiling of the rotunda of Neiman’s. The rotunda and ceiling are all that remain of the old City of Paris department store that once stood on the site of Nieman’s. The central figure if the ceiling is the old City of Paris ship that brought the founder of the old department store to San Francisco from France in the 19th century and is forever commemorated in this work of art.
Elisabetta and Gian both talked about how much they loved to visit San Francisco and how unique it is among American cities. We all agreed that it is very European in its style and feeling. The told me how much my city is like Monte Carlo in the fact that both cities are melting pots of many different peoples, cultures and cuisines. Throughout our talk Michal brought over patrons who were purchasing perfumes from the house of Parris. Gian and Elisabetta most kindly signed bottles for every person. One lovely woman told them how much she adores Quelques Fleurs Royale.
That reminded me as did Michal that the Perris’ also owns the house of Houbigant and 10 Corso Como. There were bottles of Quelques Fleurs, Fougere Royale (2010), Duc De Vervins, and Orange en Fleurs on the display behind us. So with their permission I asked them about there involvement in these perfumes. It was most interesting to learn how they went about recreating the famous 19th century Fougere Royale which was the first fougere in history created in 1882 and became the standard to which all fougeres are compared.
Gian Luca told me they employed the considerable and brilliant talents of perfumer Rodrigo Flores-Roux who has created so many wonderful perfumes for everyone from Tom Ford to Arquiste. It was a long journey until they came to what is now Houbigant’s Fougere Royale. I asked them how they knew what the original smelled like. The Osmothèque at Versailles has samples of the perfume and were very generous in helping them in there quest to bring back this classic. Gian praised the talent and work of Rodrigo Floes-Roux and was very appreciative if his talents as an artist. You can’t speak of Houbigant without mentioning that it was the parfumeur of Marie Antoinette and it is said that during her attempted escape from Paris she had the coach stop at Houbigant to pick up a few bottles of perfume for the road. The house was also favored by Napoleon, Queen Victoria and Tsar Nicolas II of Russia.
Elisabetta and Gian Luca signing bottles of Perfume.
Before I left the event the wonderful Rami Zardeh who is always so welcoming and helpful in the fragrance department of Neiman’s assisted me in my purchase of a bottle of Oud Imperial. With my signed bottle of Oud Imperial in tow I bid a fond and reluctant farewell to our guests of honor and with many thanks to them and to Michal for a most wonderful afternoon of perfume, stories, and new friends. We all agreed as we shook hands that perfume has the unique ability to bring people together in the most wonderful way.
Thank you Michal for a wonderful event!
Perris Monte Carlo Facebook : https://www.facebook.com/PerrisMonteCarlo
Houbigant Webpage: http://www.houbigant-parfum.com/
10 Corso Como Webpage: http://www.10corsocomo.com/