There are over 1,000 new perfume launches a year,” says Nicolas Cloutier, president and co-founder of Nose, a boutique in Paris’s second arondissement that sells some 500 niche scents. “It makes it very confusing for people to choose a scent they like that also suits them. I wanted to approach finding a perfume in a very simplified way.”
Enter the neat Nose diagnosis service created by Cloutier and his co-founders – among them perfumers Romano Ricci (creator of the Juliette Has a Gun line) and Mark Buxton (the man behind many L’Oréal, LVMH and Comme des Garçons scents).
Nose’s complex algorithmic tool asks customers questions via an iPad at the store or on its website to determine their ideal fragrance: they enter information on their gender, home country and age. Why? “In general, women between 15 and 25 wear more floral, fruity scents; from 25 to 45, when it’s all about attracting a mate, musky fragrances come to the fore; then after 45 they return to floral,” says Cloutier. Next the customer submits three current favourite perfumes. Based on this the database suggests five scents from among those Nose carries – from niche perfumers such as Berlin-based “olfactory gallery” Biehl Parfumkunstwerke (Gs03 combines orange blossom with musk notes, €150 for 100ml EDP), to Japanese painter/pianist/perfumer Keiko Mec heri (woody floral Precious Forest, €220 for 50ml EDP) and New York-based Odin (spicy 12 Lacha, €140 for 100ml EDP). Those results are then “sniffed blind” and the samples placed on a scale of approval, from “It’s disgusting” to “I want to bathe in it”.
But there’s more to Nose than a slick algorithm. The modernity mixes with a charmingly old-school aesthetic in the Rue Bachaumont shop, with its vintage mannequins, early-20th-century chairs and brown apothecary-style perfume bottles racked up behind a burnt-wood counter. “When we opened four-and-a-half years ago, the neighbourhood was a no man’s land,” says Cloutier. “Now the Hotel Bachaumont has opened next door and the area is booming.”
Also booming are sales: at the last count 100,000 perfume diagnoses had been carried out in store and online (for a fee of €10, customers can have samples of their five suggested perfumes sent out to them anywhere in Europe). Cloutier shies away from bestseller talk, preferring to highlight his new fnds – from the leathery, sandalwood-laced Radio Bombay (€219 for 100ml EDP) by Brooklyn-based brand DS & Durga to the Unum range (all €175 for 100ml EDP) created by Italian artist Filippo Sorcinelli, who also makes vestments for Pope Francis.
My Nose diagnosis experience, meanwhile, leads me to the extremely floral Fleur des Fleurs (€125 for 100ml EDP) by Une Nuit À Bali and the musky Rajasthan (€122 for 100ml EDP) by Etro. I like them both; as I ponder whether to make a purchase, Cloutier says, “Our technology is like an X-ray: it doesn’t replace the doctor entirely – it’s simply a support tool to improve recommendations.” In the end, it seems, I must be led by my own nose. Beatrice Aidin