Like Frédéric Chopin, Michal Gizinski is a Pole with soul, one who ultimately journeyed to Paris to pursue his art. Only unlike Chopin, Gizinski’s art is perfume. And, like other art forms, it is Proustian in its effect.
“When you smell a scent, it brings out such strong emotions,” says Gizinski, international fragrance consultant for historic Parfums Houbigant Paris and Perris Monte Carlo, both owned by the Perris family and distributed by Norwalk-based Exclusive Fragrances & Cosmetics Inc.
For Gizinski, perfume is much like his adored theater. (Anton Chekhov is his favorite playwright and “The Cherry Orchard” his favorite play.) “A person can choose many fragrances for many moods.”
He is speaking with great passion — gesturing and emphasizing certain words with a charming, French-laced accent — on Level One of Neiman Marcus Westchester in White Plains, where Houbigant, featured in last December’s WAG, has just launched the universal fragrance Cologne Intense. Despite its name, it is not a cologne but an eau de parfum and a parfum — eau de parfum containing more essential oils than cologne and parfum, the most essential oils.
So why is this called Cologne Intense? Because it is a modern homage to the city of Cologne, Germany, where the Italian Johann Maria Farina created a scent redolent of sun, sea, lavender fields and citrus groves in 1709. French soldiers returning to the court of Louis XV from the Seven Years War introduced this “Eau de Cologne” there.
Cologne Intense is a mélange of Calabrian bergamot, Sicilian lemon, Paraguayan petit grain, Moroccan neroli, Indian jasmine, incense, mate, patchouli, oakmoss, labdanum, amber, lavender, estragon and pink pepper that can be worn by a man or a woman. Gizinski describes it as “smelling citrus but through a leather bag.” It comes in a square glass bottle embellished with “Ts” that is based on a Lalique design.
At the same time, Perris Monte Carlo has launched its Black Collection, featuring four of its fragrances in redesigned, more concentrated forms — Rose de Taif, Oud Imperial, Ylang Ylang Nosy Be and Patchouli Nosy Be. Just how concentrated are these fragrances? As Gizinski says of Rose de Taif — named for the Saudi Arabian city that is the highest place on earth where rose essence is extracted: “We are not smelling a rose. We are being entertained by one. This is a rose fragrance that could’ve been worn by Mae West.” But the San Francisco-based Gizinski also knows a Bay Area baseball player who wears it. “Certain fragrances can be male or female.”
But then there are some that can only be worn by a woman, like the light, luscious Quelques Fleurs L’Original, Houbigant’s signature; Quelques Fleurs Royale; Orangers En Fleurs; and Iris des Champs, whose scent is extracted from the root, a costly challenge. Houbigant is still offering the trio of Quelques Fleurs L’Original, Quelques Fleurs Royale and Orangers En Fleurs in a limited edition set of hand-painted, 18-karat gold-embellished porcelain flacons designed by creative director Elisabetta Perris and realized by Manufacture de Monaco.
Whatever your scent or scents, keep them in a dark, cool place, Gizinski advises, just as you would put wine in a wine cellar.
For that is what perfume is — wine for the nose.
Cologne Intense retails for $600 (3.3-ounce parfum) and $190 (3.3 ounce eau de parfum) at Neiman Marcus Westchester. For more, visit neimanmarcus.com. The Perris Monte Carlo Black Collection — $350 for a 1.67-ounce parfum; and $180 for a 3.3-ounce eau de parfum — is available at select Bergdorf Goodman and Neiman Marcus stores. The Limited Edition Parfums Houbigant Paris set (Quelques Fleurs L’Original, Quelques Fleurs Royale and Orangers En Fleurs) retails for $2,000 at select Bergdorf Goodman, Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom and Saks Fifth Avenue stores. For more, visit houbigant-parfum.com.