Since I was driving over to Dolores Park, I thought I'd swing by ZGO Fragrance & Apothecary, a San Francisco gem. The owner, Claude Gratianne, opened ZGO about four years ago as mostly an apothecary and candle shop, but he has more recently been focusing on his love of perfumes by expanding ZGO's selection. I'd say he's doing a very nice job!
I was very pleased that I happened to stop by yesterday in particular because it was the first day that ZGO offered several perfumes from the quality house of Parfums de Nicolaï. I have sampled many perfumes from this house, and I can say that I deeply respected every single one of them. The Guerlain blood is certainly flowing through Patricia de Nicolaï's veins!
Some perfumes from this house that I love are the fresh, minty-green Week-End a Deauville, the green chypre with a vintage twist, Le Temps d'une Fête, the oddly gorgeous Sacrebleu Intense, and her two vanillas: Vanille Intense and Vanille Tonka, both spectacular beauties that are very different from one another. [You can see my reviews on Fragrantica. I don't have a Nicolaï page up here just yet]
All this talk about Nicolaï is making me want to go back and wear all my samples! And since I am a musk freak, I really look forward to sampling Musc Intense on my next trip to ZGO.
One line of perfumes that I have loved for a long time and have been exploring bit by bit for more than ten years comes from the illustrious Italian house, Santa Maria Novella, an apothecary that dates back to the 1600's. I was so happy that ZGO is well-stocked with perfumes from this house. He mentioned that he had always carried a selection of fragrances from SMN, but he recently returned from visiting the Santa Maria Novella museum in Italy, which was so impressive that he decided to expand ZGO's selection. I was glad to see the likes of Melograno (Pomegranate), a superb, classic chypre with an unforgettable opoponax (sweet myrrh) base, as well as Muschio, a delicate, clean, creamy musk, and so many more! I always describe their perfumes as "crafted". They seem less like perfume and more like a strong cologne or personal fragrance. They are typically somewhat simple; their line of fragrances includes many soliflores (rose, carnation, etc.) or one central theme, such as tobacco, but they are created with what smells like some of the finest essences available (don't quote me on this, but I'm pretty sure they make their own essences). I also understand the brand to be cruelty-free, which is awesome! I guess it makes sense that they maybe never needed to do animal testing and just used human-guinea-pigs back in the olden days.
Claude mentioned that Santa Maria Novella has recently changed their packaging. The back of the bottle is shaped to include their monogram. I'm not sure of the exact term for it, but the glass is raised, so it has the texture of the monogram on it that you can feel with your fingers. The name of the fragrance is now easier to read as well, and it is etched into the back of the bottle towards the bottom. I have owned 3 perfumes from SMN, and Claude and I both agreed that it was incredibly difficult to tell what bottle you were handling. I know I put the wrong bottle into the wrong box more than once.
I was very excited to sample some perfumes from a house I have been curious about for so incredibly long, and I simply never got around to ordering decants: Boadicea the Victorious. I went a little crazy trying stuff on my skin. My definition of "crazy" means wearing more than one perfume at a time. I have a firm belief that perfume must be tested on the skin, and in order to fully appreciate the fragrance it must be worn completely alone and must also be worn on more than one occasion. That being said, I spritzed on Ardent, Explorer, and Seductive on different spots on my arm. I will not *technically review* them at this time, as I simply need to get to know them better, but I will provide my initial impressions:
YAAA...needless to say I am falling in love with Boadicea the Victorious. It is not often that a house strikes me as being of such magnificent quality. At $195 a pop, you should be sure you choose the right one, unless you have millions to throw away, and many San Franciscans do...but at the same time I've done worse damage than $195 (Can anyone say three Lutens Bell Jars? =P )
More pretty photos! ;) Click to enlarge individual shots.
So lets please re-cap!
As I first mentioned, in addition to all of these enticing little spectacles I have discussed, ZGO is also an apothecary that carries lots of niche-y goodies such as bath & body care (Diptyque, Santa Maria Novella, Compagnie de Provence, Penhaligon's LAFCO, etc.) as well as men's grooming supplies (Taylor of Old Bond St., Penhaligon's, Archipelago Botanicals, etc.), and many brands of candles and diffusers, for those who love to scent their homes as much as their bodies. They have a very nice online shop, in case you are not lucky enough to live near a boutique such as this. If you are a local, hours are typically 11am-7pm, except for Sundays, when they are shorter. But you can check out ZGO's website for details.
Thanks for taking some time to chat, Claude! Very much looking forward to my next visit.
Link: ZGO Fragrance & Apothecary