Hové: The Perfume World’s Best Kept Secret
It’s your birthday and your boyfriend has given you the latest perfume from Givenchy. You’ve heard that Jennifer Anniston is about to put her name on a new perfume, and maybe you were intrigued by that one instead. And as you pass by the cosmetics counter of your favorite department store, you can’t miss the marketers offering their perfume samples unless you avert your eyes, put your head down, and walk fast. The perfume strips in magazines don’t smell like the real thing, and besides that, they stink up your mail box. Sometimes it seems that your olfactory senses are in overdrive. You’re a target of the multi-billion dollar fragrance industry.
But what if you find a perfume store when you aren’t looking? What if you’ve never heard of the place because it doesn’t advertise? What if you’re suddenly charmed by the ambiance of an 18th century shop along the street? Is there something old-fashioned about those scents wafting through the entrance that draws you in like a magnet?
It could happen. And if you like visiting the French Quarter in New Orleans, you may stumble upon Hové Parfumeur at 434 Chartres Street. If you love fine fragrances, prepare to be stopped in your tracks for a while. Because you will be disarmed by their shop.
Hové has been in business continuously since 1931. They’ve made a home in several locations in the French Quarter, but they’ve always been a family-run business. Mrs. Alvin Hovey-King began the business because of her love for creating fragrances, and today, Amy van Calsem Wendel runs the business. Hové offers unique fragrances in many forms, and specializes in mail order. Because of this strong mail order emphasis, their location in the French Quarter, and their loyal customer base, Hové's business survived nicely after Hurricane Katrina. They are an institution.
Standard Line Fragrances
Now let's take a look at the kind of fragrances to be found at Hové.
Hové states that their standard line consists of single floral, bouquet, or woody essences. They are an uncomplicated blend of just a few ingredients preserved by alcohol.
The fragrances might be simple, but they are not easy, at least in terms of putting them into a wearable perfume. Few perfumers are interested in capturing something so simple. They prefer to make their perfumes complex, with several top notes, middle notes, and base notes – and very frequently, they use synthetic ingredients in addition to natural ones in order to make their compositions easier, more consistent, and well-rounded. I think Hové is to be commended for trying to capture something so simple that will invariably be compared to the real thing. Such as? Rose Geranium, Magnolia, Jasmine, Heliotrope – all their creations.
Take a Tour of Hové
A Few Outstanding Standard Line Fragrances
Tea Olive, Their Most Famous Fragrance
Tea olive is also known as the sweet olive. It's a small tree that grows all over New Orleans and fills the air with its intoxicating scent during the Spring.
A late friend of mine always wore Tea Olive, and she remarked that she didn’t smell like anyone else. Maybe it’s the next best thing to having a sweet olive shrub growing in your front yard.
My favorite perfume, ever since 1988, when I first visited their New Orleans store. This type of fragrance is far more trendy now, as there are many perfumers incorporating orange blossoms into their scents. The description of it from Hové reads, “fragrant orange blossoms create a crisp fragrance for those who like bittersweet freshness.”
I have received many compliments on Elan d’Orange over the years. Some say it smells like the best soap they ever smelled, and others comment on the sweetness. Though I’ve never been in an orange tree orchard in full bloom, I feel pretty sure that Hové has perfectly captured the essence of just-opened blossoms with this perfume. A spring flowering tree just has a different essence than does a rose bush. Not better, just different.
Vetivert (or Vetiver)
A dry, woody fragrance that comes from the roots of a grass that is found in India. Nearly all high-end perfumes contain vetiver as a fixative. Some contain more than a little, and when they do, you’ll know it.
Both women and men can wear vetiver, though some might find it creates a strong, polarizing statement. I love it. But for those who don’t want to wear it, I would suggest getting a bar of Hové’s vetiver soap. There is nothing more wonderful to keep in a dresser drawer.
This floral was originally created in the 1940s. The present owner of Hové said the fragrance evolved when Hové wanted to present something that was reminiscent of their mother's backyard in the spring, where the small pink wild azaleas bloomed. Azalea has a pretty undistinguished top note, but as the middle and bottom notes develop, you fall in love with it. At least I did. The fragrance reminds me of White Shoulders, but better. I could never wear White Shoulders well, but Azalea leaves a perfect scent memory for me.
Jardin de Louis
This is a new offering from Hové. You could not find a more evanescent scent—it's the lightest of the light, even in perfume form. Hové describes this one as having notes of citrus and ginger. Wearing it, you'll feel like you're strolling through a grove of orange trees back in the days of Louis IV.
This one seems to wear well. It is quite lasting, but never too heavy. The notes are from a white rose.
Other standard line fragrances might pique your interest. Rue Royale, described thusly: “a hint of musk pervades this basically dry and light fragrance, selected most often by fair brunettes who wish a quiet elegance.” (If you’re a brunette, don’t you just wish you could wear something a blonde cannot?) Also, they offer Grandee, “for those who are outgoing and like bright colors, an elegant and grand blending of florals topped by a fruity note to add a bit of happiness.”
Luxury Line Fragrances
Hové has a more expensive line of fragrances. These are heavier and more costly than the simple standard fragrances. Though I’ve tried very few of them, I have it on the best authority from a woman who lives in New Orleans that some of these fragrances have great staying power on the skin.
Hové is not big on revealing the notes in their perfumes, although a connoisseur could probably sniff the fragrances and come up with a reasonably accurate list. In this line, they offer such perfumes as Fascinator, which is described as “the rich warm notes of oak moss, blended with a hint of musk, and guaranteed to fascinate both men and women.” Also, their description of Casa Miro, “rich, low, and mellow notes blend together to create a medium heavy fragrance both tailored and elegant.”
All of Hové’s fragrances come in both eau de cologne and eau de parfum, and they have a men’s line, too. Their fragrances are also offered in soaps, lotions, powders, body oils, massage oils, and shower gels.
In recent years, Hové has diversified quite a bit. For many years, they have given the appearance of a very conservative company, almost with the dictum, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” They have not introduced many new fragrances, although sometimes they do resurrect old ones (in response to customer requests?). But they’ve got some trendy new things on their web site, such as an anti-aging skin care line. And for the first time, you don’t have to go to New Orleans to visit them. They have now opened a store in Destin, Florida.
If you can’t take a trip to either New Orleans or Destin, you can still sample their perfumes. I recommend getting together with a group of friends to split the cost of a perfume or cologne sampler. Hové will mix and match the samples for your order, and you and your fellow perfume lovers can trade off the samples until you find your perfect match. Hove’ will ship anywhere in the world.
There are 53 Hové fragrances to choose from. I’m a loyal Hové customer, and I think you will be especially impressed by their customer service, marketing philosophy, and rich history. Don’t miss their shop in the French Quarter.
- HOVE PARFUMEUR LTD
Hove Parfumeur is located in the French Quarter in New Orleans. Specializing in perfumes and colognes in 52 fragrances for men and women, And featuring antique quilts and gifts.