France and fragrance go hand-in-hand, but the country has so much more to offer than just Chanel No.5. While dedicated scent-lovers can easily find their way to the shrines of Guerlain and Annick Goutal, this handy guide will take you to some of the lesser known boutiques throughout perfume’s holy land.

Image courtesy of Maison Francis Kurkdijan

Naturally you’ll want to begin the pilgrimage in Paris, where fine fragrances waft down the cobbled streets, and boutique perfumeries compose otherworldly scents. Maison Kurkdjian is the home of perfume creator Francis Kurkdjian, whose nose is one of the most valued in the industry. At just 25 he invented the best-selling fragrance Le Male for Jean-Paul Gaultier. If you book a consultation in advance, the maestro himself will create a made-to-order perfume starting from EUR 8,000.

For those in search of more flamboyant fragrances independent parfumerie, Etat Libre d’Orange is a niche shop that creates some of the more risqué and provocative parfums in Paris. The brainchild of marketing maverick Etienne de Swardt, the boutique combines the creations of a dream team of renowned perfumers and the bottles feature quirky names from Putain des Palaces (Hotel Slut) to Delicious Closet Queen.

No perfume pilgrimage would be complete without a visit to the Salons du Palais-Royal Shiseido, the extravagant headquarters of the legendary Serge Luten. The store has attracted a cult following ever since its grand opening in 1992. Luten’s Les Exclusives are scents from his non-export line that are only on sale here.

Image courtesy of Serge Lutens

Jovoy is another essential stop on the perfume trail and is one of the newer additions to the thriving French perfume scene. Owner Francois Henin has created a temple of rare and vintage perfumes, many of which hold prominent roles in history. The signature fragrances Josephine and Le Vainqueur, for example, were thought to have been created for Napolean Bonaparte in the early 19th Century. While one perfume was for Napolean himself, the other was for his beloved Josephine. Though each is distinct in smell, they were specially designed to blend into an entirely new scent when the Emperor and Empress stood together.

The Different Company is another one that’s always worth a sniff. Launched in 2000 by Jean-Claude Ellena, designer Thierry Baschmakov and luxury consultant Luc Gabriel, Ellena’s daughter Celine took over the business when her father became chief nose at Hermès. Showcased in a tiny boutique in the Marais, the sophisticated and elegantly packaged fragrances are designed for both men and women.

Photo courtesy of The Different Company

If you though Paris was the perfume capital of the world, however, you’d be mistaken. To those in the know the title goes to Grasse. The picturesque town in the French Riviera is home to thirty parfumeries, most of them specialising in essences which are then sold to major brands such as Dior, Lancôme and Estée Lauder. Even the flowers used for making the world-famous Chanel N°5 are grown and harvested here.

For a concise history of perfume head to Museé International de la Parfumerie where you can learn about 3000 years of perfumes.

Several of the manufacturers also provide free guided tours of their factories, with the Fragonard Perfumery tour proving to be the busiest. The Galimard and Molinard factories also do tours.

To create your very own haute couture perfume head to the Galimard Perfume Creation Workshop, where you’ll spend two hours concocting a unique scent from your own imagination. With 127 notes to choose from, and a trained nose on hand to guide you, the combinations are almost limitless.  When you’re done you’ll be given a take-home bottle with a custom label and name. And if you really like your scent, they keep the formula on record so you can order more online.

Photo from Galimard