Blog post by Gwen

Route du Quai - aquatic and hay-like and woody


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.

Check out Route du Quai in our Shop.