Plots of perfumes – Joanna of Castile sighed as she found scents of neroli in the bed sheets of Philip the Handsome
Jean-Luc Gardarin and his wife, Marta Tamayo, opened Le Secret du Marais almost twenty years ago. From a France-born passion for perfumes to a store in Madrid, striving to help costumers to find their soul-fragrance.
The Spanish courts were austere. Catholic, and dominated by moralism. While the Italian and French nobles of the Renaissance wore extravagant clothes with low necklines, painted their lips and nipples bright red, and discovered the marvels of perfume, the sovereigns of Castile and Léon treasured their decor by wearing dark robes, no makeup and no fragrance.
This did not apply to the ladies in waiting. Queen Joanna of Castile sighed, cried and gradually started screaming louder and louder as she found scents of neroli, sandalwood and vanilla on the body and in the bed sheets of her beloved spouse Philip the Handsome — signs of his ongoing infidelity and his constant affairs with the Queen’s servants. From Joanna of Castile to Joanna the Mad. More recently, Lady Diana was ‘encouraged’ to wear clothes made by British fashion designers featuring sensible and princess-appropriate designs –instead, her outfits were Catherine Walker, her bags were Dior, and her fragrance Hermès.
Today, Letizia Ortiz, Queen consort of Spain, might as well have been spotted wearing dresses from Zara — thus supporting the brand which contributes the most to the local economy and turning a blind royal eye on the fact that its a fast fashion one — but her perfume is still Lancôme.
Compromises can be made when it comes to clothes, especially if you are a Princess or Queen and the public opinion leaves you no choice; but not when it comes to accessories, and most definitely not when it comes to perfumes.
The Spanish perfumers
When we think of the greatest perfumes houses, and of the noses behind them, we think of Paris or Grasse, and for a good reason — both the production and the consumption of all things fragrance are dominated by France. Other countries also have the right to claim their own fragrant heritage, and Spain among them. The olfactory references in Spanish perfumes are broad and reflect aspects of Spanish culture.
Fragrance expert Michael Donovan recently explained the relationship between Spanish perfumery and Spanish lifestyle on Perfume Society, pointing out an increase of Spanish products made with locally sourced ingredients.
«The Spanish perfumers capture sunshine like no other — their use of citrus is second to none, distilling the vibrant, zesty life force of Spanish oranges and lemons and also, significantly, translating a longevity rarely seen in this fragrance family. Florals too are a specialty of Spain, especially opulent notes like jasmine and tuberose, while vibrant woods and leathers, aromatic herbs and radiant blossoms are captured with their natural vigor intact».
Perfumery of the year
Le Secret du Marais in Madrid offers a wide selection of both Spanish and international brands, with a focus on artistic and niche perfumery. Almost one hundred brands, including Frederic Malle, Diptyque, Perris Monte Carlo, Carthusia, Hierbas de Ibiza, Penhaligon’s and Floris. The onsite Bar à Parfums offers personalized advice thanks to the use of Nose Olfactive Diagnosis, a software developed in Paris for professional perfumers.
Clients can fill in their personal data (gender, age, etc.) and the references of the latest fragrances which they have been using; the software then automatically elaborates a list of ten perfumes for them to try.
Le Secret du Marais has been awarded Perfumery of the Year, primarily because of its customer service, but also because of the efforts put into sourcing new talents in the industry, and because of the attention given to quality of both ingredients and packaging. The boutique, located in the central part of Madrid, also offers olfactory workshops for professionals, amateurs and companies.
Calle de Hortaleza, 75