Nez à Nez is a newly established niche perfume house located 40, rue Quincampoix in Paris, a street where in the past the members of the maître gantiers et parfumeurs' corporation were located. This particular business is new but the Patout family has been developing perfumes for two generations. Nez à Nez was established by Christa Patout and her husband Stéphane Humbert Lucas and is now distinct from the business owned by Christa Patout's father, Jean Patout, the nose behind Parfums Nadine Patout.
Nez à Nez has developed an edgy style: the store owners propose bird feathers to their patrons instead of the classic paper blotters (actually, a practice already followed by Jean Patout); the line is composed of perfumes with unusual names often based on word plays and creative imagery. Perfume compositions are both traditional and daring through the adjunction of assertive, unusual notes.There appears to be a predilection for trendy gourmand scents and a belief that comfort fragrances play or ought to play a central role in our lives.
There used to be two different lines, one numbered and the other one, named. The latter has remained while the first one has been discontinued by Nez à Nez. The named selection is exported and can be ordered from their site...
My general impression is that the perfumes are more strong than subtle and many are very sweet. One of the scents that I was particularly curious to try is Ambre à Sade (The Marquis de Sade's Amber and a play of words on "embrassade": hugging and kissing, embrace); it is a surprising take on amber because amber here is completely candified and frutified. Bouche Baie (a play of words on "bouche bée": gaping mouth) is both a milky and fruity scent, a fruity toffee if you will, very reminiscent of the new Nina by Nina Ricci (which was created after Bouche Baie) except the drydown is different, more indolic and floral and better in my opinion because it is also less harsh and rounder. Bal Musqué (a play on words for "bal masqué": masquerade ball) also reminded me of another scent: Impérial Opoponax by Les Néréides; it is a warm and sensual powdery skin scent with some skank to it (as Perfume Posse would put it) and with particularly good staying power. Smelling this one made me think that the line is interested in reproducing certain new classics of traditional French perfumery and like to offer their own variations of these. I think that it is perfectly acceptable that a niche perfumery be traditional and it makes me think of Nez à Nez as a neighborhood perfumery-apothecary of the past. Further back in time, when you would have visited the maîtres gantiers et parfumeurs, you would have entered one of the several shops on that same street and taken home the perfume offering the nuances and the price you wanted, just like it is still done in Middle Eastern bazaars where the dry fruit sellers and the copper wares sellers are regrouped each in their own alleys and compete for your patronage selling very similar wares. Likewise I could decide to go either to Les Néréides or to Nez à Nez to purchase a perfume that is a local specialty.
This attachment to tradition seen as the reproduction of a specialty and a recipe repeated with slight variations is further demonstrated when you notice that the line offers two different takes on the idea of a fig perfume. The concept here is clearly influenced by Diptyque Philosykos . (If you ever thought that Philosykos disappeared too quickly on your skin, then 1001 Figues is the answer to your problem.) 1001 Figues is a milky and sweet honeyed fig scent while Figues et Garçons is greener, more herbaceous, and less sweet. Just like you would hesitate between two different kinds of figs, white figs and black figs, at the market's fruit vendor stall, smelling them, making them roll into the palms of your hand, pulling their stems, and squeezing them slightly to assert their degrees of ripeness, you may proceed in a similar manner and lightly waving two scented feathers under your nose ask yourself which one of the two fig fragrances is best suited to your temperament, taste, and current appetite for fig fragrances. Then, back at the market, you may decide to eat them fresh or make a jam. Similarly, the Nez à Nez perfumes are made in such a way that you could either decide to apply them directly onto your skin or use them more liberally as home or pillow fragrances.
Overall, I think that sweet notes are Nez à Nez's forte as several of these sweet scents are satisfying. I also think that they present a synthetic quality that is revealed not through plastic and hairspray smells but through the way the scents stay unnaturally long on the skin all the while maintaining a rather linear presence. Did they develop the perfumes too quickly? Weren't they aged enough? Something in several of them makes me think they are a little "green", smelling more like developed trial mods than fully composed perfumes thus changing the meaning of the trademark uncluttered style of niche perfumes. I would not protest at all if it were a soap line but for personal perfumes I think you expect more complexity and subtlety. I predict that some will hate these perfumes but that others will love them, especially persons who enjoy gourmand and sweet scents. More recently, I have discovered that the perfumes work particularly well when applied onto clothes. Due to their tenacity, they are able to mark their presence on the material while having their strong character toned down. They also smell less synthetic when sprayed on textiles.
A 3.4 oz bottle retails for 79 Euros. You can order a tester kit for 11 Euros including shipment to the US.