The City of Roses has a new perfume boutique, and it’s a very welcome addition to Portland and the Northwest region; fragrance brands that have never been seen here before are now available at Fumerie Parfumierie on SE Division Street. Tracy Tsefalas, former longtime manager of The Perfume House, decided to go out on her own when she realized that she really wanted to focus on what is happening in today’s intensely creative world of niche and artisan perfumery, whose makers are doing the best work in terms of originality, artistic concepts and high quality materials. These fragrances were not not approved by penny-pinching accounting departments or tested repeatedly by focus groups until all the interesting parts have been removed, leaving only a scent that smells like a hundred others, with a big advertising budget and no soul. No, these are from a fabulous alternate universe where perfumers and creative directors can play with ideas and take their time until wonderful things happen, unchecked by narrow corporate ideas of what will sell.
Mainstream fragrances will not be found here, and the labels on the shelves will be unfamiliar to many, if not most, casual shoppers. Alongside local favorites like Imaginary Authors and Slumberhouse sit brands with names like Agonist, Papillon, Berdoues, Jovoy, Nasomatto and Escentric Molecules. Some, like Tauer Perfumes and Serge Lutens, have name recognition among serious perfumistas, but even for real aficionados, there will be new and exciting lines to try. I have been to the store twice since its February soft opening, and I have not come close to smelling everything. More brands will be added, but only if they pass Tracy’s high standards of quality and those of her resident fragrance expert, André Gooren. Together they make a formidable team, not only offering some of the best perfumes available today but personal fragrance consultations and customer education. Between the two of them, anyone who walks into this little gem of a store nestled in the heart of Division Street’s bustling shopping district to explore the selection will leave inspired and enlightened. (Phone orders are also welcomed for those who live out of the area.)
What would a fragrance from a company with a strange name like Agonist smell like? Well, fabulous is one description. The brand’s Black Amber is a real surprise, not heavy or sweet like most perfumes with amber in the name, but rather fresh and woody yet deep and mysterious, with notes that include incense, plum, tobacco flower, labdanum, patchouli and cedar. If florals are more your style, the stupendous Péche Cardinal by Parfums MDCI is a must-try – it opens with a divinely fruity blast of peach and cassis and transforms into a lush tropical floral of davana, coconut, lily, and incredibly sexy tuberose. The entire MDCI line is just outstanding – I had been wanting to try them for a long time and they really do live up to their exalted reputation. Smaller brands like Papillon from the U.K and San Francisco’s Bruno Fazzolari have much to offer in the way of creativity – don’t miss Papillon’s sultry Salome and gloriously rich Tobacco Rose, and I can guarantee that you have never smelled anything like Bruno Fazzolari’s Room 237, which has a “vinyl shower curtain” note. His new Seyrig is just about the prettiest floral scent one could ever want, but it does not resemble in the slightest the kind of florals sold in the average department store. And for a leather scent that will knock your socks right off, look no further than the venerable Knize Ten from 1925, justly famous but very hard to find.
Fumerie is holding its grand opening celebration on Tuesday March 8 2016, from 6:00 p.m. To 9:00 p.m., and it promises to be a fantastic party, There will be fragrance raffles, refreshments, personal fragrance consultations, and of course perfume sampling. If you cannot attend, you can enter the raffle anyway via the Fumerie Web site-better hurry!