But anyway, all this is a preamble to writing a little more about my recent trip to Paris, because as I wandered from one cluttered counter to another, I found myself thinking, 'This couldn't be more different from Lutens.'
During my pre-Christmas getaway, I did, of course, make my way to the Palais Royal. Even though I've never considered myself to be a devout Serge acolyte, it was with a sense of considerable excitement that I worked my way through the labyrinth created by scaffolding and construction equipment - the Palais is currently enjoying a refurb - and approached what's frequently called the most enigmatic perfumery in Paris.
The first thing I noticed was the gloom. Yes, darkness can be evocative, but it can also be an obstacle; I could've done with a few more light bulbs. Or some Vitamin A tablets. But never mind. As in Guerlain's Champs-Elysees boutique, the most striking feature of the interior design was a staircase, but whereas the former's was shiny and expansive, Monsieur Lutens' version was a narrow, spiral number that wouldn't have looked out of place at Hogwarts. Alcoves in the walls contained exquisitely decorated, limited edition flacons of several well-known perfumes. Knee-high figures of page boys - their limbs stretched to surreal proportions like those of a Dali horse - framed minimalist tableaux containing artfully illuminated lipsticks. All was silent and serene.
Despite warnings to the contrary, the staff were perfectly warm and accommodating, guiding me through the bell jar collection with a smile and a welcome lack of patter. I'd been waiting for quite some time to try Sarrasins and was shocked to discover quite how white its floral accord is. La Myrrhe was something of a surprise too: 'No. 5 goes east' was my initial reaction to its aldehyde opening. I finally got to try the much-loved Iris Silver Mist and although I was impressed with its dryness, I didn't find it as endearing as Apres L'Ondee.
Just in case you're wondering, I didn't buy anything, but then I hadn't planned to. As I've written before, trying several perfumes in a short space of time in a single shop isn't a terribly sensible thing to do - especially if one's on the lookout for a relatively quiet scent - which is why I was grateful when the Sales Assistant opened a drawer and pulled out a handful of samples. She could probably tell that I wasn't the type to make a snap purchase.
So yes, Monsieur Lutens' oasis of scented harmony was miles away from the bargain buzz of London's flashiest department store. But I'm sure there's room - and a need - for both of them in our world of scent. Oh, and for the record, I should say that I didn't buy any perfume in Harrods either, despite the reduced prices. Turning my back on the unpurchased remnants of last Christmas, I nipped into the food hall and picked up a café religieuse for Madame Persolaise and a mille feuille for myself... but then, they were Buy One Get One Free...