Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Blood and Bourbon French

...and the winner of the “La Rose Jacqueminot” sample is: Olenska! Get in touch with me at the email address to the left and I’ll send it out posthaste.

I once wrote that New Orleans wasn’t really America. I still think that, in a more complicated way; it’s the city we almost lost. For some, it’s the Disneyland of debauchery. For me, New Orleans is not so much about debauchery as permission. 
Most of the locals carry a few extra pounds around with them. Here, it’s OK. Have another cocktail; it’s OK. Order your oysters fried; it’s OK. Stay out late, have some sugary fried beignets for breakfast, then go on home and, if you must, flog yourself, but don’t do it here. Guilt is boring. Here, in our nation of “No,” is the city that says “Yes.” That’s one of many reasons why New Orleans is a national treasure.
Some discoveries this time: Commander’s Palace. Can it be possible that I’ve never been there before? I was on a girls’ weekend with my Gulf Coast cousins, five of them, and one from London. We spent hours at brunch. (Why rush?) I had oysters with remoulade sauce, drum fish stuffed with crabmeat in a pool of creamy shellfish-based sauce and bread pudding souffle with whiskey sauce. There were three musicians, playing tableside, as accomplished as any I’ve ever heard, and the very fine trumpet player led us through a Second Line dance around the room -- something I’ll never forget. Later, we went to the the Bombay Club, a genuinely civilized lounge (translation: no loutish frat boys just in from Bourbon Street) with a real jazz trio. We ate at Irene’s, an of-the-moment fine Italian restaurant in the Upper Quarter. And I paid a visit to Bourbon French, the old perfumery on Royal Street in the Vieux Carre.
Royal Street is where the antiques are, fine little stores selling things like art glass and art prints and sets of Cartier silver. Bourbon French is a real perfumery, 167 years old, where the perfumes are mixed and made. They do custom scents as well as their own line of blends. I sampled some of those, and they were gentle, florals, mostly, some spice, the men’s line drier and tending to vetiver, and there were quite a few citrus-based blends. In other words, they were scents of a native’s New Orleans, from these and earlier times. In the brutal summer climate here, one needs citrus. And cooling vetiver. And fresh sweet florals, and lots of it all. These aren’t edgy or challenging perfumes, but clearly they’re meant to be worn, every day, as essential here as patience.
“Kus-kus,” the shop’s signature scent, is a soft and spicy fragrance created by original owner and perfumer August Doussan, in 1843. It goes to powder like a classic Chypre, a powder both soft and fresh. A 2007 blend, “La Vie Nouvelle” is a ladylike mixed floral. Soliflores are also available -- magnolia, gardenia, orange blossom, sweet olive, many others. (I already own their orange blossom perfume, which is wonderful.) All the scents can be mixed in various strengths. 
Supposedly, this shop was the inspiration for the Tom Robbins novel “Jitterbug Perfume,” although the two ladies working there -- everyone who works at this shop knows, really knows, perfume -- are quite modern. The prices are very reasonable.
I stopped by one of the perfume fora  earlier today, and found a discussion of a possible national meetup in New Orleans. If that happens, I might be back there sooner than I’d planned, but, whatever happens, I’ll be there, every year, to be with my family, renew those essential blood ties, and visit the city that’s also part of me now.
The drawing was conducted using random.org as usual.
Click here  to visit Bourbon French’s website. They ship.
Photo © Jennifer Stone|Dreamstime.com


Katy Josephine said...

Ah, the city of 'yes.' Love that! Guilt is always boring, and there is no place for boring in New Orleans. Nice post!

Anonymous said...

All too tempting ... just as well I don't live there or I'd be spherical (but I'd sure smell good too).

cheerio, Anna in Edinburgh

olenska said...

Many, many thanks for La Rose Jacqueminot... and for this wonderful New Orleans travelogue. (I've always enjoyed Tom Robbins' description of the hunger demon that accosts visitors to the city; it can only be vanquished by eating... and eating...) :)

Olfacta said...

Hi Josephine -- Thanks! You could also say, I guess, that it's the city of "Oh, go ahead."

Olfacta said...

Hi Anna -- Uh-huh -- I said "part of me now" but just didn't mention which part.

Olfacta said...

Hi Olenska -- I didn't remember the eating demon. There's also the drinking demon. Followed by the eating demon. And so on.

Brian said...

I never knew this existed. Do you know how many trips to nola I've passed up and wouldn't have had I known about Bourbon French? Aargh.

Olfacta said...

Hi Brian -- There's another one, Hove (with an accent over the e) right down the street, also very old. I only had time to visit one this time, will get to that one next time. You pass up trips to NOLA? Now you have no excuse. I'll let you know next time I'm planning one.

Barbara/Perfumaniac said...

Ahhh, what a beautiful post. I so miss New Orleans and can't wait to get back! "The city of 'yes'" is right!

Unknown said...

Commander's Palace: Best. Bread Pudding. Ever.