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Sunset on the St. Lawrence river at Riviere-Ouelle, Quebec

As summer wanes, we let go of it slowly, reluctantly, reliving the highlights from summers past to keep the season from slipping away. Remember that 40th surprise birthday BBQ with the Hawaiian shirt theme? Or, the summer our son learned to swim at the lake. Then, there was the time we were having a shore lunch, and a storm suddenly came up pelting us with hailstones the size of a cat’s eye marble.

We don’t actually own a cottage, but we are fortunate enough to have several friends who do, and most of those are in northern Ontario. Pristine lakes, rocky shores and windswept pines have been the backdrop for our cottage adventures over the years. But this summer was different. Very dear friends invited us to their country home in Le Bic, on the south shore of the St. Lawrence River.

To get there from Toronto is a long drive, much of it on boring highway, until you start to approach Quebec City. From then on you are driving across the St. Lawrence Lowlands and Quebec’s rich, agricultural heartland. The river weaves in and out of view as the autoroute is never more than five kilometres from it.

Farms, fields, river – this is not the cottage country we know. We drive along the shore through towns and villages with tidy houses and gardens, churches with gleaming, silver bell towers and small restaurants touting Matane shrimp sandwiches. We succumb when we stop for lunch in Kamouraska.

A gorgeous, picturesque town, it’s swollen with visitors, people we saw on the autoroute hauling campers, caravans, trailers and bikes, canoes, kayaks and windsurfers. It’s in this part of Quebec where perfumer Isabelle Michaud’s grandfather bought a cottage in Rivière-Ouelle, a hamlet on the south shore of the Saint Lawrence River. And it’s her childhood memories of summer vacations there that inspired her eighth fragrance, Route du Quai: ‘The “Route du Quai” is the road that leads to the cottage where the perfumer Isabelle Michaud spent her childhood summer vacations. Filled with joy, freedom and excitement for the good times ahead, the perfume tells the story of the fauna and flora and breathtaking landscapes of the Kamouraska region.’ Named by the Algonquin people, Kamouraska means "where rushes grow at the water's edge".

Route du Quai opens with a pop of bergamot, backed by herbaceous clary sage and the freshness of juniper berry. I smell the distinctive basket-like scent of seagrass. My mind shifts as I process it all. I know this smell. I am cast back in time: this is the smell of opening up a summer cottage for the first time since being closed for the winter. It’s beautiful. A note of salty air rises from the heart. Yes, the St. Lawrence is a river, but at Île d’Orléans, south of Rivière-Ouelle, saltwater from the ocean starts to mix with the freshwater of the river. The salty air carries a floral bouquet of fragrant Swamp rose, honeyed lilac, and iris. The smell of the salty, floral air is mesmerizing – I have never smelled anything like it in a fragrance. At the base, a note of driftwood, smelling of water and wood is supported by cedar. They mingle with the distinctive scent of sweetgrass – vanilla faceted and hay-like. Benzoin bolsters the vanilla of the sweetgrass, while myrrh adds warmth to the blend. A note of musk completes the EdP.

It dries down to a beautiful, haunting fragrance of gently sweetened dry grass, warm hay and salty air.

We enjoyed our visit with our friends in Le Bic. Exploring the area, visiting the local craft shops they love, feasting on Matane shrimp sandwiches, walking along shorelines, watching the tide come in, scanning the rocks for seals and then recounting the events of the day over a cocktail before making dinner together. It’s the kind of easy, satisfying pleasure you get being in the company of good people with whom you have honed a deep, affectionate bond over time.

In an interview with La Presse, Mme. Michaud says of Route du Quai: “I am inspired by my travels, my life story to create my perfumes, and I absolutely wanted to create a perfume on this corner of the country,” she says.

I have been to that corner of the country and when I smell Route du Quai, I am there again, reliving treasured memories.

But don’t get too tangled up in the backstory of Route du Quai or other people’s memories. Route du Quai is a well-crafted, standout unisex fragrance from one of niche perfumery’s rising stars. Afterall, Mme. Michaud’s Eau de Celeri was an Art and Olfaction Award winner 2015 and, her Pays de Dogon won the Aftel Award for Handmade Perfume in 2018.

If you’re reading this blog, I bet you’re the kind of person who wouldn’t want to miss out on wearing a gorgeous scent that could travel anywhere.

Thought so.

Route du Quai is listed in our Decant Store. Decants are $6.00 for 1 ml.

Image  - Wikipedia, by Colocho, 2005

How do we find our wonderful fragrances? 

I have an infinite curiosity about the world of perfume so the name of a scent or perfume maker or perfumer I’ve never come across before will trigger a search, and I’ll be gone, lost for hours online. Every mention, every source, every link is followed until I’ve learned as much as possible about this new unknown. Sometimes, sometimes, it reveals a treasure.

Like Acqua di Biella fragrances.  I’d never heard of Acqua di Biella. Obviously, it was an Italian brand, but I want details. How old? Where in Italy? Products?  It turns out to be a very good story:

Acqua di Biella is located in the town of Biella, in the Piedmont area north-west of Milan at the top of Italy, and it’s a company that’s been producing scents for over one-hundred and fifty years. Started by chemist Luigi Cantano who launched his little company in 1871 with a cologne named Acqua di Biella, which is still sold today, Acqua di Biella is now run by fourth generation female descendents of Luigi Cantano, and produces a high-quality line of fragrances, candles, soaps, and body care products for Italy and the EU market.

Consuelo and Chiara Cantono, the grand-daughter and great-granddaughter of Luigi, re-launched the line in 2003 with a new image and packaging, and have since created seven new fragrances which tell the stories of the town of Biella, framed by their family memories.

The original scent from 1871, now named Acqua di Biella N°1, is the historical scent in the line-up. It’s a citrus-floral Mediterranean-style fragrance developed from an eighteenth century convent formula which features aromatic notes of bergamot, lavender, rosemary and mint in the top, followed by floral notes of petitgrain, jasmine and neroli in the heart, laid on a base of white musk. It’s a classic cologne, loved by men and women.

Ca’ Luna from 2007 is the one that intrigues me. Described on their website as as green, spicy, and woody, it was created to evoke memories of the family home. “Faithful and silent custodian of old traditions handed down from generation to generation. On the sunlit terrace the seasons of life's rituals flow sweetly. Magnificently adorned with fragrant flowers, geraniums, old palm trees, massive aloe plants, Ca' Luna lets one see the passage of time though its old walls, covered in lichen and silver-toned ivy. The nights at Ca' Luna, enchanting, silent, adorned by the sound of distant bells and the wind, the moonlight penetrating each room in a slivery shadow, divine.”

The notes are galbanum, fennel, mastic tree, ivy, white pepper, elemi, rum, sandalwood, leather and musk. The very first moments of the opening bring tears to my eyes. The scent of the ivy is unmistakable, silvery green and earthy, aromatic and slightly bitter and resinous, a flood of memories washes through me. Images from my childhood. Colourful fragrant flower beds, tall pines, running on the lawn that sloped to the cliffs above the rocky seashore, turning back to gaze at the house, windows glistening, the stone walls covered with thick green English ivy. Ca’ Luna is my home, too.

The ivy note is sweetened slightly with mild licorice notes of fennel and deepened with more resins –galbanum and mastic, which smell like pine and cedar resins. The heart of resinous elemi, spicy white pepper and dark rum notes add a soft comforting warmth to the green opening, and by the time Ca’ Luna slides into its sandalwoody leathery musky dry-down, I’m completely hooked. MmmMmmm.

I pick up my phone and e-mail my partner in this perfume obsession, who happens to be vacationing with her beloved husband in Tuscany. “Can you find who sells the Acqua di Biella line and buy a bottle of Ca’ Luna for me?”  It seems such a simple request at my end, but turns out to be much more easily said than done, because Acqua di Biella’s Ca’ Luna is sold out everywhere. But my BFF perseveres, because she understands the importance of the perfume hunt. She has it shipped from Milan to her hotel near Florence, and arrives home from her vacation to present me with a 100 ml. bottle, which I’ve been greedily spritzing ever since. Words cannot express my gratitude. 

Ca’ Luna is the most beautiful green fragrance, and has an airy quality that wears lightly on skin, silently wafting for many hours. It has a green soul, but is not overwhelming with herbs or resins. It has a gentle sweetness from the fennel, rum, and sandalwood, as well as a gentle warmth from the woody resins and softly sueded leather notes. And the refined muskiness in the drydown, which works exceedingly well for both men and women, gives Ca’ Luna a sensation of peace, of being rooted in time and tradition. 

Any perfume that can transport me to happy memories is a gift. In this case, with Acqua di Biella and Ca’ Luna, the gift is also a treasure. 

Ca’ Luna is listed in our Decant Store. Decants are $6.00 for 1 ml.

Note: Ivy, or Hedera helix, has been around for millennia and is claimed to be the only plant that can grow just about anywhere and does not make walls damp. It has intrigued many cultures. Ancient Romans dedicated the ivy plant to Bacchus and the grape harvest. It was regarded as a symbol of fertility by the Greeks – newlyweds were crowned with wreaths of ivy to symbolize fidelity and devotion. The medieval English connected ivy with virtue and prosperity and believed that it will not grow on the grave of an unhappy soul. Wikipedia.com.

Image - acquadibiella.it

Welcome to perfumeniche.com

"She smelled the way the Taj Mahal looks by moonlight."

                                                                       Raymond Chandler

We are Gwen and Kay, two perfumistas making our scent journey in the cool, clear North.  We are also BFFs - we hang out together a lot, travel together - so we try, buy and share fragrances.

What started out as a shared interest grew into a hobby, and has now become our obsession.

We’ve spent many evenings with a glass of prosecco, a little cool jazz playing in the background, spritzing, sniffing - “How does this smell on you?” and, sadly, sometimes scrubbing.

We’ve tested and tried hundreds of samples over the years, and when we deemed a fragrance ”full bottle worthy” (FBW), one of us has tracked it down and bought it. We now own a lot of really great perfumes, and we continue to buy bottles of what we think is the best of "niche" as new scents are launched.

Also, we include many perfume "classics" that are the foundations of modern perfumery - like Shalimar, Chanel No.5, Eau Sauvage - plus other perfume "gems" that have been discontinued, or were ahead of their time when launched but now fit perfectly in the Niche category. 

With so many exciting discoveries, we can’t help but talk about our passion with other friends. Wherever we go, people ask “What is that perfume you’re wearing? Where can I get that?” So we end up sharing a bit of our “juice” with friends. But the circle has grown, so we've started this website to let others buy and try samples from our collections and experience the fragrant beauty we write about.

WHAT WE DO

We blog

We blog once a week and post a story about a scent from our collections, and add it to our Decant Store. We're not scent critics, so these aren't negative reviews. We love all our fragrances  - that’s why we bought them! But we describe how we think they smell, and share our stories about why we love them - maybe you’ll rediscover an old flame, or fall in love with a new scent.

Or we post conversations about whatever has grabbed our attention recently. Or we write about a specific perfume note,  and offer a Decant Pack, which allows you to explore new territory by trying 3 or 4 fragrances in a special pack at a special discount price.

We sell

We sell 1 ml. decants - .7 ml volume once you allow for the stopper in the vial - filled from our own bottles in our collection because the only way to experience a fragrance is to try it on your own skin. We take the fragrance from its original bottle and decant it into a smaller brand-new, 1 ml sterilized glass vials so that you can try it on your skin to see if you like it.

Through our Decant Store you'll have access to some of the world’s greatest niche scents, hard-to-find fragrances, and classic favourites. 

When you click on the Decant Store tab you’ll find our personal descriptions of each of the fragrances we currently offer from our collection, then you can add them to your Shopping Cart.

Let's be clear (this is a disclaimer!!)

  • We don’t sell full bottles of any fragrance - just .7ml decants. We only sell decants  from the perfumes we've bought.... because we love them.
  • We don't re-sell manufacturers samples.
  • We don’t represent any perfumers or distributors, so we don’t have every scent from a whole line of perfume.
  • We aren’t being paid to promote any product or scent.

If, after sampling a fragrance, you decide that you must have it, i.e. it is FBW (full bottle worthy), and you can’t find it, e-mail us and we will direct you to the best source we know – retail store or online source.

We provide

A place for you to learn about scent, and to share your fragrance experience with others. Click on the section called Resources, under My Perfume Notes (see top right), where  you'll find a Glossary, and fragrance FAQs. You'll also find two great tools we've created - Handmaps and My Sample Perfume Notes - so you can keep track of, and record your own scent experiences.
 
We hope you enjoy perfumeniche.com, and visit us often. Leave your preconceptions behind, look around, see what’s on offer, read the Blog, share your experiences and discoveries, and join the circle.

It’s just us.