Wanderlust has got the better of me again and it’s back to one of my favourite destinations, Biarritz, the invigorating and chic resort on the Atlantic coast in the South West of France.
Today, I’m going to bring you the very essence of the Pays Basque that I discovered several years ago in the personality of Christian Louis, Master Perfumer who set up his laboratory and quaint perfumery in the picturesque and classified village of the Bastide Clairence, in the Pyrenean foothills just behind the magnificent surf-rimmed coastline.
It was quite by chance that a fell up what I can only describe as a regional treasure that has subsequently found fame by exporting the very fragrance of the Basque country worldwide and launching a flagship boutique in the French capital’s beautiful and historical Place des Vosges.
So, how did it all begin?
Christian Louis, Creator and Master Perfumer, was born in Versailles. His life can literally be likened to a perfume and it is hardly surprising to learn that his first steps in the perfume industry were in Grasse where he created his very first olfactory blends.
At the beginning of his career Christian Louis the worked for more than 15 years in the pharmaceutical and cosmetics industry in the USA, and with the group Eli Lilly-Elisabeth Arden, before becoming a student and Master Perfumer in Grasse.
After long studies he took the plunge and created his own perfume company in 1996.
It was in the heart of he Basque Country that he decided set up his perfumer’s “organ” inspired by this place where nature triumphs, everything is about fragrance, essential oils, aromas, scents, in a word, everything is about perfume!
In the wake of iconic perfumers, “nez” or “noses” such as Edmond Roudniska, Jean Paul Guerlain, Coty, Christian Louis rapidly developed his own unique identity and he has developed two brands: « Parfums et Senteurs du Pays Basque » followed by “Christian Louis Maître Parfumeur Paris”.
When asked which fragrances he prefers he admits to having a soft spot for “leather” notes but is quick to stress the importance of always being under the charm of a fragrance. One of his favourite creations is ”Un Amour de Patchouli” that contains only patchouli from the five regions of India … no chemicals … pure and natural!
When visiting one of Christian Louis Basque perfumeries it is impossible to leave empty handed. He has the talent for encapsulating the very essence of the region, a town, a village …
“Espelette” for example, a tribute to the village of the same name is the very first perfume made with pepper leaves. A classic spicy blend with top notes of hot and black peppers, heart notes of cardomom, ylang and peach and ground notes of patchouli, musk, sandalwood and vanilla. Bewitching!
By choosing a Christian Louis classic such as “Un Jour à Biarritz”, “Un Jour à St. Jean de Luz” or simply “Le Parfum Basque” a fragrance that suites both men and women is the guarantee of prolonging your hols …
The Basque Laboratory is also the venue for the prolific perfumer (he has over the years created more than one hundred unique fragrances) to unveil his range of home fragrances available in simple, brushed aluminium bottles and with evocative and reassuring names such as ”Cire et Chiffons” (Wax and Dusters), “L’Armoir de Amatxi” (Grandmother’s Cupboard) characterised by the smell of freshly baked almond and cherry gateau Basque or “Ambience au Temps des Cerises” (Cherry Picking Season), “Madeleine” … the perfect opportunity to revisit the child within you!
Christian Louis has perfumeries in La Bastide Clairence, Espelette, Bayonne and for those in the capital who want to discover the Basque Country “in a bottle” or other unique fragrances, Place des Vosges in the Marais district of Paris.