Museum

The Grand Musée du Parfum, a museum with a nose for perfume

The capital's perfume museum - Le Grand Musée du Parfum - opened its doors late last year. A stylish, playful way to learn, the museum reveals the world of scent by taking you on a stroll through the senses.

Only an upscale like 73 Faubourg-Saint-Honoré, Christian Lacroix’s HQ in the late 1980s and a symbol of Parisian elegance, would do for a museum as swanky as this one. Where the invisible – scents and perfumes – is made palpable, this 1,400 sq.m building opposite the Hôtel Bristol, tucked away at the end of a courtyard, has been gutted then refurbished in optical white, pearl grey and gold.

Privately funded, the museum is backed by the Syndicat Français de la Parfumerie – the French professional trade union of perfume companies – and the IFF laboratory (International Flavor & Fragrances, a world leader in the creation of fragrances, of which it creates dozens every year), and benefits from the oversight and knowledge of a committee of top-flight experts who are helping to spread the word: Nicolas Beaulieu, perfumer and designer at IFF, Jean-Claude Ellena, the nose of Hermès, Elisabeth de Feydeau, perfume historian and writer, the founder of Arty Fragrance, Mathilde Laurent, the nose of Cartier and Élisabeth Sirot, heritage director at Guerlain.

According to its president, Guillaume de Maussion, the aim of the four-floor Grand Musée du Parfum is to be “scientific, creative and mainstream”, by exploring the history of perfume and its visual and sensory dimensions. Rookies will hit the exit knowing a lot more about essences, from Antiquity to contemporary perfume, than when they arrived. Let’s start with the Gallery of Seduction, which tells seven tales of couples, real or imaginary, in which perfume plays the starring role. Cleopatra and Marc Antony, for example, were bound by the spirit of conquest in which the sacred mingled with power and poison. Breathe in the sacred sources of immortality in ancient Egypt – myrrh, incense and olibanum – from three small dishes, learn how perfume protects, heals and rejuvenates in a vaulted chamber, then explore the close links between couture by Chanel, Dior, Paul Poiret, and others, and perfume from the 1930s onwards, in a room lined with bottles in top-class display cases.

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Le Grand Musée du Parfum

73 Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré, 75008, Paris Phone : 01 42 65 25 44 www.grandmuseeduparfum.fr
See itinerary

Upstairs, scent squeezers and a bouquet of roses reveal the chemistry behind perfume, which entails turning a natural scent containing four hundred molecules into three synthetic ingredients in the laboratory! Next up, embark on a treasure hunt and uncover the link between our sense of smell and the emotions, and how our memory retains scents. Then discover the scent journey, from the nose to the brain, on a series of high-tech screens, before entering the Garden of Scents, where perfumes are distilled in the air under scent cloches equipped with sensors developed by the Projectiles agency that detect our presence. Lastly, the museum tests your scent memory on the Secret Sharing Sofa, before inviting you to play a guessing game and try to recognize wood fire or cinnamon on interactive terminals.

Ever wondered what perfumers actually do? Find out on the fourth floor! The first thing you see is a forest of twenty-five drops suspended in the air, each one of which cradles a sphere. Inhale, guess the scent of the raw ingredient, and then put your ear to it to hear the answer – it’s magical! Each sphere represents one of twenty-five of the most wonderful perfume ngredients created by British designers Harvey & John. Perfume masters then appear on screens to challenge conventional wisdom or answer questions asked by the public. Last but not least, discover the perfumer’s organ, which experts use to compose a fragrance “symphony” from two hundred and fifty essences. It’s a little bit like stepping into some crazy sci-fi movie, because it plunges us into darkness to watch laser light rays bring the organ to life. Before ending this tour of the senses, don’t forget to visit the museum’s concept store on the first floor where you can buy perfumes – included best-sellers like One Million by Paco Rabanne, and the exclusive Les Liquides Imaginaires collection by Philippe Di Méo – along with books, blooms from flower bar and innovative new products.

The designer décor is so pared back it’s almost clinical, making the Grand Musée du Parfum is the perfect place to get to know (almost) everything there is to know about fragrance.

Closed Monday
10:30am to 7pm, 10pm Friday

€14,50 Teen, €5 Child. 

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By Fabrice Léonard. Photos : D.R / Irene de Rosen - Published the

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