In August, I met up with a friend at Sous le Parasol, a tiny perfume boutique in a decidedly non-chi-chi Parisian neighborhood. The boutique looks like it hasn’t had a branding update since 1966, and its logo and throwback storefront needs only Jeanne Moreau in a trench coat to shine in a nouvelle vague movie.
Naturally, my pulse leapt at Sous le Parasol’s glorious retro-chic décor. But what really got my heart racing were its shelves of cheap thrills. David Hasson, a Spanish perfumer, founded Sous le Parasol in 1936. He stocked his shop with his own colognes and blended them at his laboratory in Burgundy from materials from Grasse. The founder’s son still makes the boutique’s fragrances, and the granddaughter runs it.
Aside from a few original compositions like Premier Violon, Sous le Parasol’s in-house colognes include classics, such as Fleur de Tabac and Lavande, and soliflores like Muguet, Rose, and Oeillet. They also make a satisfying chypre called, simply, “chypre.” These fragrances smell honest and lovely, and they are a bargain. I bought a 50 ml Chypre Essence de Parfum for 15 €.1 Most of the colognes are 5 € 50 for 100 ml, 10 € for 500 ml, and 16 € 80 for a whole liter.
Besides their house blends, Sous le Parasol sells a few old French brands, including Piver. Piver Rêve d’Or’s old-fashioned bottle and label charmed me instantly, and the saleswoman told us it was an inspiration for Chanel No. 5. I sprayed some from the tester and made a quick decision to bring a bottle home. At 7 € 50, how could I resist?
Rêve d’Or was created in 1889. Its notes include orange blossom, tea rose, geranium, vetiver, heliorope and sandalwood. Although it was — and is — marketed as a feminine fragrance, the internet tells me Rêve d’Or was a popular lotion in barbershops in Morocco and Turkey. Plus, maybe due to its name, low price, or hint of incense, it was used in African santeria rituals and even to clean Buddha statues in Indonesia.
On skin, Rêve d’Or is a warm floral with soft, creamy notes punctuated with spice. I wouldn’t be surprised if ylang ylang joined the heliotrope in its bouquet, along with a helping of carnation or clove. Rêve d’Or has a definite floral signature, its own character. If any part of it inspired Chanel No. 5, it would be the intimacy that its creaminess evokes.
However, more than its spicy floral body, Rêve d’Or’s base of sandalwood, incense and a hint of patchouli stands out for me. It has a touch of the cola that I smell in Dana Tabu, but is more incense-like. I didn’t expect much for persistence, but one spray of Rêve d’Or lasts about five hours on my skin, and sillage-wise, it holds its own.
You can purchase a 140 ml of Piver Rêve d’Or Eau de Cologne in its dressing-table-worthy spray bottle for less than $20 online. But if you get the chance, hop a jet to Paris and buy it at Sous le Parasol.
1. It isn’t exactly Guerlain Mitsouko, but it’s smooth and old school and inexpensive enough to dab on lightbulbs and on the hems of coats.