The French Quarter of New Orleans is blessed with not one, but two, local perfumeries. Earlier, I wrote about my experience at Bourbon French Perfumes. Today, I’m blogging about my experience at Hové Parfumeur.
Hové is an entirely different shopping experience than Bourbon French. It’s a slightly larger store, to begin with. I connected more with the Bourbon French salesperson – we had a lengthy conversation. The Hové salesperson seemingly wasn’t very communicative, but she also had several customers to attend to while we were there – she was perfectly friendly when we approached her. One of the weird things about Hové, especially for an experienced perfume shopper, is that as far as I can tell, you are not allowed to test the perfume on skin in the store. Instead, they have blotter strips, which as near as I can tell have been dipped into extrait and laid out on the counters. They ask you to “test” the perfume by sniffing the blotters. You can sample their entire range of perfumes this way… But for me, it was not very satisfying, as you might imagine! It took me quite a long time to determine what I wanted to get in my sample set since I had to test the perfumes in this way. Plus, if there is more than one customer in the store, you may be delayed as they spend time perusing the strips, since there is no tester out – you have to wait for the person in front of you to finish. I assume this blotter strategy is a way to prevent tester theft, but from a customer service perspective, I think it would be better to have testers out and just assume some loss. Whatever. I was lucky that I was able to go through the strips several times to figure out what I wanted to get in my sample set, but I can imagine if the store was much busier than it was while I was there, it would become a struggle.
Hové offers all their scents in cologne and extrait, and you can get sampler sets in each. The pricing depends on whether you choose perfumes from their Standard or Luxury lines. I chose the extrait sampler set and got a mix of Standard and Luxury perfumes. I was also rather tempted by their full line of body powders, which were on sale while I was there in August. I really regret not buying a powder now. They do have lotions, oils, soaps, and a range of other products in their scents as well.
I must say, I have had better luck with these six Hové perfumes than I did with the five from Bourbon French, but it almost goes without saying that I would. I got to choose these exact six whereas at Bourbon French I was not able to select what I wanted in the set. Looking back on my reactions to these two houses, I wonder if it would have been better to just get a lotion or spray in a scent I liked at Bourbon French rather than be forced into their sampler set.
Tea Olive: “The fragrance of the southern Sweet Olive is unique. It is a languid and exotic sweetness heightened by a teasing piquantness, thus creating a fragrance totally feminine and intriguingly different.”
I think Hové’s description of Tea Olive is rather accurate. As many of you surely know, tea olive is another name for osmanthus. I was intrigued by the idea of a “southern” osmanthus scent. I haven’t tried a great number of osmanthus perfumes, but I have a general appreciation for the note – LUSH’s 1000 Kisses Deep is on my “to-buy” list and Mona di Orio’s Oud would be, too, if I were made of money (HA!). Plus, I seem to recall having read a positive review of Hové’s Tea Olive before. So, having briefly researched the Hové line before our trip, I felt that I wanted to try Tea Olive. It was the one thing I wanted to try going in. Surprisingly, though, Tea Olive is probably my least favorite of the Hové perfumes. It is primarily an osmanthus scent, but it’s very, very sweet and almost… I don’t know how to describe it. I could swear I smell a bit of bell pepper or pimiento or something in it. I assume this is the “piquantness”? Is this a natural aspect of osmanthus? I really don’t know. It’s definitely unique and I could imagine someone falling in love with this perfume… just not me. While my opinion of Tea Olive is definitely improving after a second wearing, it doesn’t hold a candle in my mind to the other two osmanthus perfumes I mentioned.
Magnolia: “The true Southern Magnolia, a fragrance of subdued warmth cooled by fresh notes, redolent of the deep South.”
Magnolia was another I chose, because, duh, THE SOUTH. Seemed like you have to get the magnolia perfume at a southern perfumery. I also love magnolia. But, I have a theory that no magnolia perfume will ever be able to live up to my childhood memory of my grandmother’s magnolia tree. “Magnolia” in perfumery often smells nothing like real magnolia, and degenerates into a watery floral. Hové’s magnolia does indeed starts fresh. It smells fresh, vaguely spicy. But is it magnolia? At first I wasn’t sure. However, midway through the perfume’s development, the florals become richer, warmer, spicier. It begins to remind me more of real magnolia. I actually begin to think it’s a pretty darn good magnolia scent, capturing the warmth and depth of the flower. I just wish it were… a bit more heady. Like, knocking me over with magnolia. Still. Recommended.
Spanish Moss: “Warm and exotic, mossy and green… a reformulation of an old favorite.”
Geez, Hové’s description of Spanish Moss doesn’t sound very promising, does it? Spanish Moss doesn’t really smell much like moss. It’s a sweet, bright floral. Like Tea Olive and Magnolia, it very much evokes traditional floral perfumes. It doesn’t smell contemporary at all. Spanish Moss is well-blended and creamier than Tea Olive and Magnolia. It’s hard for me to pick out specific notes, except probably heliotrope and definitely vanilla. I really like Brian Pera’s review of this one. I agree with him that while it doesn’t really smell like oakmoss whatsoever (don’t get this perfume expecting a true chypre), it gives the impression of moss and sweet florals. An imaginary moss. It’s quite nice.
Touché: “Rich floral notes heightened by a touch of citrus and a dash of spice create a zesty, happy and conservative fragrance.”
I wish Hové would provide better descriptions and note lists for their fragrances. “Zesty, happy, and conservative”???? At any rate, Touché is an aldehydic. The start is citrus + aldehydes. The heart is a creamy floral, verging on tropical. I am really horrible at picking out floral notes in floral blends, and particularly nervous about my ability when said florals are transmogrified by aldehydes, so I won’t even try. If I had to pinpoint the aldehydic fragrance it most reminded me of, I’d say Tableau de Parfums’ Miriam, with the following alterations: Remove the lavender. Amp up the aldehydes. Remove the expensive sandalwood. Add a floral note that makes it feel vaguely tropical, but yet not nearly as tropical as Bourbon French’s Perfume of Paradise. Replace the vanilla in the drydown with warm spice. Downgrade the quality of the ingredients a couple notches. That sounds bad, but… Miriam smells expensive, probably the most expensive-smelling thing I have in my collection. So being less expensive-smelling than Miriam isn’t necessarily an insult. It also has moments that remind me Balenciaga’s Le Dix, although Le Dix smells fresher/more springy… In fact, I think I’ve seen Le Dix compared to Miriam before. So. Touché is somewhere in between the two. I don’t know that I need this – I’ve got a purse spray of Miriam that will hopefully last me another… six months?? at the rate I spray that stuff, and a small decant of Le Dix. But, it’s nice.
Diverti: ”Light and refreshing, this blend of sandalwood, cedar and a mixture of floral notes creates a divertissement of it own.”
I admit to being somewhat stumped by Hové’s description of Diverti. It just doesn’t compute. I wouldn’t call it light and refreshing… Maybe invigorating. To me, this smells like a really great spicy lavender cologne. I have issues with lavender; in fact, I often can’t stomach it in perfumes. But for whatever reason I like Diverti. It smells like an old-timey men’s aftershave to me. I smell mostly lavender, woods, and… moss? I think there could be some patchouli, or else the other woodsy things are working together to make the impression of patchouli. It’s probably been years since I smelled real old-school Old Spice, but that’s kind of how this reads to my brain… Old Spice. (I should get a reference sample of Old Spice.) I normally stick pretty solidly to perfumes that read feminine, but this is an example of a masculine-skewing fragrance I’d wear. I think it could be nice on my husband, as well, though. I notice that it’s listed on both the men’s and women’s section on Hové’s website, so they obviously share my views.
Belle Chasse: “The fresh spiciness of Carnation surrounded by the warm and subtle influences of romantic Rose and Jasmin and other romantic florals.”
Well, finally a Hové website description that lists some notes! I’ll be upfront. Belle Chasse is my favorite out of the six I got, and to my nose it is the most distinctive and expensive-smelling. (I’ll note that it’s part of the “Luxury” line, but then so are Touché and Spanish Moss…) Belle Chasse is a carnation fragrance. Now, I’ll be honest: though I love classic perfumery and old-timey florals, I am not very familiar with carnation perfumes. My understanding is that it’s hard to find a true carnation perfume these days because of IFRA restrictions on eugenol. (I’m sure Google will direct you to some bloggers who write about this phenomenon far more competently than I can.) I’d add, spicy florals are not exactly on-trend these days anyway. So literally, I have never smelled a pre-reformulation carnation perfume. I’m not sure I’ve smelled a post-reformulation carnation perfume. Well, I think Tauer’s Lonestar Memories has carnation. But otherwise I am entirely ignorant of carnations in perfumery, so I have no reference point. But I think Belle Chasse is freaking fabulous. It’s spicy, rich, smells like cloves. I know that eugenol smells like cloves. So I assume it’s got eugenol. I definitely pick up on the rose as well. Of all the parfums I tried from Hové, this was the strongest – the start is quite intense and can even be overwhelming. Wearing Belle Chasse is a commitment. I spilled some of this into my work computer’s keyboard (yeah) and over a week later I can still catch whiffs of it. I think it’s great, and if you want to buy a real carnation perfume that’s still being produced today, I’d imagine this is a good bet. Certainly for the price – a dram of parfum would put you out $24. Now… again, maybe Belle Chasse is really just a wan, forgettable version of carnation for someone who’s smelled all the great carnation perfumes. I wouldn’t know. Ignorance is bliss, because I think it’s wonderful. Hopefully I’ll get around to smelling some of the famous carnations soon.
So, as you may sense, my experience with Hové’s perfumes was quite rewarding. I like five out of the six perfumes I tried, and I’m not sure I even totally dislike Tea Olive. All of these perfumes have a vintage sensibility. Nearly all of them have a creamy, polished aspect that reminds me of sepia-toned photographs. While I find them eminently wearable, I’d imagine that lots of women my age would declare them “old-lady” perfumes, if they really thought about it. Although, I’d venture that in some cases, the unique history and relative exclusivity of Hové might cause them to give the perfumes a chance. None of the perfumes feel totally dated or difficult – they’re not THAT vintage – but I really admire Hové for maintaining the old-fashioned vibe.
We’re talking about going back to New Orleans for New Year’s, and if we go again, I’ll be hard-pressed to decide between getting another sample set (there are certainly enough perfumes to choose from, and there were a few that I narrowly passed up last time – I remember Radiance in particular), or getting some perfume or body products in one of the fragrances I already tried.