Jovoy’s breathtaking new London perfumery (and five favourite smells)
It isn’t everyday that London gets a new landmark on the perfume map – so the opening of Jovoy on Mayfair’s Conduit Street is a cause for corks popping.
Or, perhaps, the gentler sound of fragrance being atomised from one of the many, many intriguing and exotic perfume names showcased on its shelves.
In Paris, the opening in 2006 of Jovoy – on the rue Castiglione – was a game-changer in scent retail: a destination for perfumistas (from around the world, nowadays) that showcased perfume brands which had until then been largely unavailable. It was the ‘baby’ of François Hénin, who previously worked exploring the olfactive riches of Vietnam, distilling raw ingredients for the perfume trade. François had his finger on the quickening pulse of the fragrance world, sensing a shift away from the signature scents Parisians had tended to wear in the past. He created a destination that made any perfume-lover who crossed its threshold feel like a kid in a candy store, frankly.
Well, the Conduit Street store’s offering is equally exciting – from Neela Vermeire to Atelier Flou, L’Essence du Bois to Olfactive Studio, Jacques Fath to Perfumer du Monde, via Volnay, Jeroboam, Aedes de Venustus, Eight & Bob, Arty Fragrance and more, more, more. (Over 30 perfume houses, in all – some of them unavailable anywhere else, including the glamorous Alexander J.)
There are, moreover – as François (quite the twinkliest man in perfumery, NB) told us – many features to this store that can’t be enjoyed in its boutiques elsewhere. (Jovoy has since spread its retail wings and now has stores across the Middle East, including Iran, Qatar and – soon – Dubai.)
Behind the Conduit Street facade, the store’s surprisingly spacious – two stories of scented treats, leading out to what will become a garden at the back. And one of the most intriguing features (glimpsed behind François in the main photo) is an ‘Enomatic’ flacon-filling machine in the style of those found in wine bars. Instead of rocking up for your glass of Chardonnay, however, you can have your perfume bottle filled (or refilled) with a shifting selection of exclusive fragrances, including Jovoy‘s own much-loved, bestselling but alas discontinued Poudrée. Or, alternatively, the exclusive fragrance created by Vanina Murraciole using a precious, 25-year-old Rose de Mai oil, combined with an exquisite Bulgarian rose…
Perhaps you’d prefer a perfume bottle personalised by M. Micallef with a design of elephants, or roses, or tigers? Or maybe you fancy the luxurious leather cases from The Different Company, to protect their bottles. An exquisitely-lacquered perfume bottle called a Dauphine, created by British craftsmen…?
The objet we have our own eyes on, however, is a clever travel flacon which resembles nothing so much as a shimmering, enamelled dagger, in jewel-bright colours. The price? A cool £6,000. (But don’t let that put you off. Sniffing is not only free, but massively encouraged.)
In town for the opening, meanwhile, we sat François Hénin down and – as is our wont – asked him to share his five favourite smells in the world. That Chesterfield sofa might as well have been Freud’s couch, as it turns out – and we didn’t really expect him to be moved to tears, as he was by the fifth aroma…
1. Thit Kho caramelised pork. This is cooked for 48 hours in coconut milk and traditionally eaten with eggs to celebrate New Year. The smell of this is so good that it’s basically responsible for my first extra 10 kilos.
2. A ripe mango. Another scent memory from Vietnam. The lush aroma of these is unequalled (though Indian mangoes are pretty good, too). Its equivalent in perfume form would be Neela Vermeire‘s exquisite Bombay Bling, created by Bertrand Duchaufour.
3. Mint lemonade. Hmm. Are you noticing a foodie theme coming through, here? But the fragrance of this – which I drink when travelling in the Middle East – inspired a Jovoy candle of the same name which smells exactly, but exactly, like this.
4. Karak tea. This is a type of Arabic chai, spiced with cardamom and sweetened with sugar. Perfumer Cécile Zarokian is working on a Jovoy fragrance based around this which will launch in the autumn, in which the spices are mixed with white flowers including frangipani.
5. Aromatic plants – with a whiff of cigar. My grandparents had a wonderful chateau in the Loire, where I’d spend my holidays. Every day I’d go fishing; I would make my packed lunch, take a big bottle of water and my bamboo fishing rod, and I’d walk 45 minutes to the pond where I’d fish. I’d be surrounded by aromatic herbs that grew around the water, and I’d stay there all day. Then late in the day, my father would drive up in his big Citroen Trois Chevaux, smoking a cigar. He’d say: ‘Jump in,’ and we’d have that time together. It’s a very precious memory, and to this day I adore the smell of cigars.
After François’ revelations, may we suggest you take yourself off to sniff out some new favourite smells of your own..? Jovoy‘s highly experienced staff are there to help – or will happily leave you to explore under your own steam. There are those sofas on which to recline – and more than enough fragrances to keep you happy for a morning, an afternoon. Or a whole blissful day, actually.
Just don’t forget to tell them The Perfume Society sent you…
Jovoy 21 Conduit Street, Mayfair, London W1S 2XP/020-3903 9970
By Jo Fairley