Shopping in Montréal : Etiket

When I go to a museum, there is nothing I love more than seeing a retrospective. The privilege of seeing someone’s work throughout their lifetime is exciting but equally fascinating is the curator’s eye… the choices that were made to bring together the pieces that make up the exhibition. That’s what I love about Etiket. The owner, Simon Tooley, has literally created a collection of what he considers beautiful… not only the different perfume houses but also the specific perfumes from the different houses. As a perfumista, I LOVE it when someone takes a stand!  And, Simon has surrounded himself with people who not only love perfume but are not afraid to say, “THIS, I love… but that fragrance, although I love it, doesn’t hold on my skin” or “that’s not my cup of tea.” So, in effect, they are more like consultants than sales people and because they are not attached to any one brand, they can easily present you perfumes from L’Artisan Parfumeur to Heeley and from Amouage to Atelier Cologne. Recently, they announced that they will be carrying Tauer Perfumes, launch date is June 2015. As you can see, Etiket is definitely niche… so don’t expect to buy Miss Dior there or Coco Mademoiselle.


Simon sees his role as an educator as well as a retailer.  At a recent event, the staff had grouped the perfumes by family according to the Société Française des Parfumeurs classification… very smart.  For those of us in the know, we knew immediately what we wanted to try (chypres and florals for me) and for neophytes, it was a lesson in perfume classification. As I was sniffing Histoires de Parfums Tubéreuse 2 Virginale, a young man introduced himself and offered me samples of anything I wanted… any brand, any perfume. Can you imagine?  In my 10 years of perfume shopping, I had never seen this kind of service.

Taken at a recent perfume event.

Taken at a recent perfume event.

Etiket is located at 1832 Sherbrooke Street West, maybe a 5-minute walk west of Holt Renfrew.  As you can see from the photos, it is absolutely beautiful and their website ( is extremely easy to navigate.  Special events are always a perfume-lover’s delight and are well attended.  Although I have never used their mail service, I have no doubt it is excellent.

I asked Simon Tooley two questions.  First, why he opened a niche perfume boutique in the first place and what he thought the challenges were in today’s market.

“I opened Etiket because I have always wanted to have my own shop. Fragrance for me has been a quiet life long passion. I am not a collector except perhaps of memories, as that is what fragrance is for me. It brings to mind memories of people or places or things. Walks on the beach. My mother coming down the staircase in chiffon and her Ecusson perfume. The first time I smelled Eau Sauvage from Christian Dior or Jicky from Guerlain or my first waft of Patchouli. With Etiket I saw the opportunity to introduce the world of niche perfume to Montreal and through our on-line store to Canada. When I discovered niche perfumes and what was behind them I fell in love. I think niche fragrance tells stories and if it is a good house, the story that the fragrance tells can be an incredible one.

The challenge of selling niche is opening people’s eyes, or I should say noses to the possibility of what is in those bottles. I think that today with all of the marketing that is behind the big fragrance brands we get lost in the packaging and the hype and that we need to worry less about that and more about how the fragrance makes us feel. What does it do to us? With niche brands the creators tell us a story with each fragrance and it is wonderful to find our own story in what they are telling us. I always encourage people to try something different from what they usually wear when they come to see us, to be open to discovery. I just wish I could bring in all of the fragrances that I want to, but slowly over time I will continually add to the collections that we have.”

If you are a perfumista and are looking for niche  perfumes, Etiket is “incontournable” as the French would say.  If you are somewhat new to perfume, go anyway and discover! The staff is knowledgeable, approachable and just plain fun to talk with. And believe me, that’s not a given in this industry! If you are coming this summer (2015), here’s an idea. Start at Etiket and buy yourself something fabulous and decadent.Then, walk east on Sherbrooke Street and check out the Horst photography exhibit at the McCord Museum.


Horst directing fashion shoot with Lisa Fonssagrives, 1949. Photo by Roy Stevens/Time

Horst directing fashion shoot with Lisa Fonssagrives, 1949. Photo by Roy Stevens/Time

Perfume Shopping in Montréal

When I give my perfumes lectures, I tell the participants up front that I am not there to sell them perfume.  In fact, I don’t even encourage them to BUY perfume.  I am there to talk about the creators and their great potions and to give them an idea of the some of the history, chemistry and vocabulary.  But, I also talk about perfume classification and I wave around my 2012 copy of Michael Edwards’ Fragrances of the World which many consult after the lecture to check for replacements of discontinued perfumes.  And so many questions I get are about what I like, what I don’t like and what is extraordinary… so buying perfume seems to be on everyone’s mind!

I occasionally get asked by people if I would be willing to go to the perfume counter with them because they find perfume shopping downright scary.  It needn’t be… it’s not complicated… it’s about what you like.  It’s only perfume.  With the right approach, it can be a lot of fun.  I prefer places where I don’t feel pressured to buy… and I am in the stores A LOT! Those poor sales associates… they must wonder who this guy is who tries everything, seems to know a bit about perfume… and buys “rarely”. (Disclaimer : I own more than 150 bottles of perfume…but that’s between me, my accountant and my analyst… hi Moishe!)

In Montréal, we have several excellent perfume stores and departments right in the downtown area so if you are coming here this summer, these are my “go to” locations (from West to East)…

1. Etiket
Specialty : many niche perfume houses you won’t find anywhere else in Montréal such as Amouage, Histoires de Parfums and Heeley
1832 Sherbrooke Street West
Montréal, Québec
Tel : 514-687-3886
Toll-free : 1-855-687-3886
Website :

2. Holt Renfrew
Specialty : Chanel’s Les Exclusifs, Jo Malone, among others
1300 Sherbrooke Street West
Montréal, Québec
Tel : 514-842-5111
Website :

3. Ogilvy
Specialty : very large selection of major brands
1307 Sainte-Catherine Street W.
Montreal, Québec
Tel : 514-842-7711
Toll-free: 1-855-842-7711
Website :

4. Sephora
Specialty : serve-yourself experience – great if you know exactly what you are looking for
677 Sainte-Catherine St. W, Space #R04
Montreal, Québec
Tel : 514-849-8484
Website :

5. Hudson’s Bay
Specialty : very large selection of major brands
585 rue Ste-Catherine Ouest
Montréal, Québec
Tel : 514-281-4422
Website :

Histoires de Parfums : Tubéreuse 2 Virginale

Photo by Peter Lindbergh

Photo by Peter Lindbergh

Created by : Gérald Ghislain

Date : 2009

Genre : Effortless tuberose

Concentration : eau de parfum

Do you know who styled the above American Vogue photo?  The great Carlyne Cerf de Dudzeele.  Of this photo, she said :

So, we shot this in L.A. The girls looked, I mean, divine… divine! EASINESS! RRRREAL! Real. This can be today.  Is no season. STYLE DON’T HAVE SEASON! Nothing is démodé when it is great pieces. NOTHING,  NOTHING,  NOTHING IS DÉMODÉ!

The same applies for perfume.  Great perfume never goes out of style and “easiness” is important.  I mean why wear a perfume over and over again trying to get used to it.  If it isn’t easy and you don’t love it after a few tries, give it to a friend… or an enemy that you see only rarely!

Of all the tuberoses I have tried or smelled, I would say this is one of the easier ones.  It is very well balanced with jasmine and vanilla giving it an almost “bouquet” feel.  There are other notes listed on the packaging, such as frangipane, but I wasn’t able to distinguish the famous almond paste, nor was I able to distinguish the patchouli in the bottom notes.

Tuberose is almost always paired with some fresh topnote like the menthol in Serge Lutens’ Tubéreuse Criminelle.  In this case, Gérald Ghislain has paired the tuberose with an ultra-fresh cherry note with a camphorous facet.  It reminds me of those cherry-flavoured cough drops that my mother gave me as a youngster when I had a sore throat. Personally I love what the cherry does to Tubéreuse 2 Virginale but if you don’t like that note, it doesn’t last very long, maybe 20 minutes, unless you spray it one fabric in which case it will hang around a bit longer.

If you are familiar with Germaine Cellier’s Fracas, I find this tuberose fragrance easier to wear… it certainly is fresher and it doesn’t have that butter note.  As I’ve never tested Dominique Ropion’s Carnal Flower on skin, I’m not sure how it would stack up but the odd time I sprayed it on a scent strip, it seemed to me quite a bit heavier than this one. Same goes for Dior’s Poison.

Both men and women can wear it… but go easy on the atomizer.  My concentration is the eau de parfum and it is tuberose afterall.  One spray too many and you might regret it.

Here is a photo of the “easiness” girl herself.

Carlyne Cerf de Dudzeele

Carlyne Cerf de Dudzeele


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