As regular readers will know, our bench mark for a great shop is 'does it make our hearts beat faster? 'meaning, when we go in, are we so excited by what we see or experience that our hearts literally start pounding. Despite being immersed in retail constantly, it doesn't happen very often, My Sugarland, Anthropologie, Few & Far and Mint are some we've seen lately, well now we have another to add to the list Avery, in Avery Row London.
This is a perfume shop like no other, there's hardly any product on display for starters, and they don't sell much else BUT perfume (there are a few stunning smelling candles but that's about it) so the initial impact is baffling if very pretty (we're talking taxidermy birds, nice furniture and some hi-tech window displays).
As soon as you enter this little space, wafts of intriguing smells hit your nose and the charming Terence Pearce, who manages the store greets you and starts telling stories. This store is ALL about stories, how each of the artisan perfumes houses makes its perfume range (the shop only stocks perfumes from tiny, specialist companies many of whom are either cutting edge in perfume terms or very old and almost forgotten) and the passionate reasons behind why they are so special.
All this before you even begin to start sniffing in ernest. Terence guides you through the ranges -there are 11 brands currently stocked, but much like a fashion range, they are added to and (some) sell out completely, often replaced by other, even more interesting smells. You test the smells on gothic-ish black feathers (Avery/aviary, see?), I stuck mine in my notebook where they still smell beautiful the next day and look extremely stylish (see below).
Us Brits are a little stuck in a rut when it comes to perfume and tend to keep to just one. But why we do this when there are so many amazing ones to choose from I can't work out. Terence says we should all be compiling perfume wardrobes (well, he would I guess) but it's logical, as not every occassion needs the same smell; sometimes you want to be sexy, sometimes interesting, or even a little scary when it suits (Terence told me he has a 'strong' smell he wears when he's in meetings with perfume buyers that gives him an extra confidence).
Not surprisingly, I bought, but not for me, for Middleagedad for Fathers Day (from teenagesons), two smells in fact as both were amazing. Firstly Carthusia's Uomo, which smells like your other half should smell when he's just stepped out of the shower after a long hot day spent at the beach on the Italian Riviera ('Marine' in perfume speak). Gorgeous (£50 for 50ml).
The second is a bit daring, it's black for starters (the only black scent made) and smells hypnoticaly sexy, almost dangerously so and should be handled with care (it is in a concentrate of about 32% which is high powered for an eau de toilette). Called Black Afgano it's made by the Italian perfumer Nazomatto (which means 'crazy nose' in Italian). I also liked the masculine Duro smell and Narcotic Venus, all very strong, so perhaps not to everyone's taste although Terence said that Narcotic Venus always gets amazing reactions from women when he wears it (he didn't divulge what EXACTLY happened but it sounded good....). All these were £98 but a little goes a very long way here.
Take some time and visit this heady emporium if you are in the area, I can't think of a more interesting father's day present than a hand picked perfume. Ask Terence to tell you a story.
For our New York readers check out the other Avery store in the new Limelight Market Place on Avenue of the Americas. We've not been so would love to know if it's as good as the London store. The New York Times wrote about it here
Avery Fine Perfumery, 27 Avery Row, Mayfair, London W1K 4AY. www.averylondon.com