Can the scent of a hotel-a lobby, a room, a discreet meeting place-actually trigger return visits? Chandler Burr inhales the heady scent of Paris's Park Hyatt Vendôme.
During the construction of the Park Hyatt Vendôme in Paris, a
newspaper article about an obscure perfumer caught the eye of the
hotel's gouvernante générale, Marie-France Rey. It reported
that Blaise Mautin, a 37-year-old Frenchman, had recently created a
scent for a rival establishment. What really got Rey's attention was
this: The fragrance was not a cologne for guests nor was it a spritz to
be sold at the gift shop; it was a scent to be worn by the hotel itself.
In her mission to make Park Hyatt Vendôme one of, if not the most
sumptuous hotel in the world, Rey-like so many others in the business
of top-end goods and services-had obsessively accounted for what she
thought was every possible sensory experience. Architects were hired to
lavish their attention on the sense of sight by calibrating lines and
gauging colors. Designers were enlisted to delight the sense of touch
with satiny tumbled stones and polished woods. Engineers came in to
court hearing with soundproof windows and expensive audio systems;
chefs obsessed over vegetables, meats, and spices. There were even
musicians working to produce a unique sound for the place. But amid all
this spare-no-expense attention to detail, there was a void in the
impending Park Hyatt Vendôme experience, which Rey was now determined
to correct. She immediately tracked down Mautin and asked him to turn
the hotel's atmosphere and interior into a signature fragrance, one
that would become as essential to the hotel's identity as the interior
courtyards and the modern aesthetic designed by Ed Tuttle.
The power of scent to create memory made Mautin a perfumer. Growing
up in the 16th Arrondissement, he often helped out at his aunt's
shop-the legendary Paris toy store Au Nain Bleu, just down the street
from Hermès on the Rue Faubourg Saint-Honoré. "I was twenty-three and
working as a salesman at the store," he recalls. "One day, from a large
limousine I saw descend, as if from a long-ago era, an exquisite little
girl followed by her elegant grandfather. They entered the shop and
stopped before a display of suitcases in seven lovely colors. The
grandfather asked, 'Which do you like?' She said, 'I like them all!' So
he bought all seven. They were two thousand dollars apiece. Then he
added stuffed bears, dolls, toys. I saw the look of utter joy on her
face and I thought, What she needs to remember this experience forever
is the scent of an Au Nain Bleu fragrance. When she is old she'll smell
it again and instantly be brought back to this moment." For the little
girl, it was a perfect Christmas and the best birthday rolled into one.
For Mautin, it was an epiphany: "I understood right then," he says,
"that with time, only scent remains."
Mautin began his creative process for transforming the Park Hyatt
Vendôme environment into a fragrance by viewing the two model rooms.
"They were extremely sexy," he says, "a mix of modern and classic. I
also noticed a slightly Japanese feel in the clean lines and the
quietude. From the first visit I had a very strong sense of the place."
For months he and the hotel team met regularly. The group discussed
design, quality, and the philosophy of pleasure. Mautin absorbed it
all. He knew they were taking a risk on him, a young artisan with a
perfume lab in his apartment. The team asked questions and he answered
them. "They let me create," Mautin says. "'Proposez-nous!' they told me."
And so he did. He presented several possible directions. (To the
team's delight, Mautin brought in his first essai in bottles on which
he had pasted his business card.) One was built on woody, minty
patchouli, in homage to the hotel's rich mahogany details. Another was
a vetiver, a green musky incense with a bit more tang. They chose the
patchouli. "C'est plus nous," they said ("It's more us"). Mautin agreed.
Over a period of several months and multiple meetings, the perfumer
continued to develop the olfactory logo. To soften the patchouli ("It
can be a bit stiff," Mautin admits), he used an extract of sweet
Brazilian oranges from the famed French Scentaromatique in Grasse. He
put in a natural sandalwood as well as a synthetic molecule trade named
sandalor. (Contrary to common notions, synthetics are among the most
beautiful and pure perfume materials on the market. The key to Chanel
No. 5, for example, is one called aldehyde.) Mautin also added ethyl
vanillin and absolue de vanille (the first is synthetic and the
second natural) to impart a subtle powdery amber element and softness,
along with a leathery-scented base from Russia that he compares to the
comforting scent of burning wood. The finished formula, which only
Mautin knows, contains more than 18 materials.
It is a testament to Mautin's artistry that his Park Hyatt Vendôme
scent meshes flawlessly with every aspect of the hotel: the field of
white orchids at reception, the smooth flowing lines of Ed Tuttle's
spaces, the finely textured surfaces, the luxe Thai silks. The
fragrance's brilliance lies in its subtlety; the substance isn't
instantly identifiable-it's not a wood, not a flower. Not that the
scent is beyond description: It smells of fresh cement poured over a
raw oak plank, plus fresh, ever-so-slightly cinnamony pastry dough,
with the olfactory texture of thick, rich tan silk. An unlikely mix to
be sure, but it works. The point, however, is that one doesn't need to
describe it; you simply experience it. The aroma enters you, and if you
somehow ever get even a hint of it, maybe on a street in Los Angeles or
a hillside in São Paulo, you'll instantly be transported back to the
Park Hyatt Vendôme in Paris.
This hotel, it turns out, is but one of a group that has recently
made efforts to address the long-neglected fifth sense. The perhaps
best known example is found on the other side of the Place Vendôme from
the Hyatt. There, the Hôtel Costes has introduced an impressive
luxury-scent experience with three different scents-the original is
red, dark and thickly aromatic and has become rather essential to the
hotel's character. It is also a cult of its own: The hotel sells crate
upon crate of the scented candles, at 45 euros each. A rich, deep,
tropical aroma of full-throated flowers and woods was recently created
and placed in every Mandarin Oriental spa on the orders of Ingo
Schweder, who directs the chain's spas worldwide. "Smell is
underleveraged," Schweder says, "and because of the overload from sight
and sound, people are more receptive and more sensitive to
communication via scent." Martin Lindstrom, a preeminent scent-branding
marketer, agrees: "Sensory branding has shown to be the secret key in
helping companies build an emotional attachment with customers by
systematically targeting all the senses."
Considering how extraordinarily important perfume is to the big
fashion houses, hotels were bound to wake up sooner or later. Mautin's
Park Hyatt scent has now been adopted by the Park Hyatts in Madrid,
Moscow, Zurich, Dubai, and Baku. The demand from hotel guests became so
overwhelming that beginning this year the Park Hyatt Vendôme will, with
some reluctance, start making its scent logo available to the public.
What if guests don't like the fragrance? people often ask. To this
question, general managers who have scent decors respond, "What if they
don't like the color scheme, the music, or the menu?"
Park Hyatt Vendôme, 5 Rue de la Paix, Paris; 33-1/58-71-12-34.
ON THE SCENTED TRAIL
The proprietary fragrance is the latest luxury amenity offered by
top hotels. Here, Chandler Burr's map to the perfumed lobbies of the
THE OBEROI GRAND
Creator Anonymous, found locally and adopted exclusively for the hotel
Scent A revitalizing, refreshing wash of eucalyptus, pine,
lemongrass, and oils from Bangalore. Guests will sense it in the lobby
and in the guest rooms at turndown.
Etc. It's available at the hotel shop and spa as an oil and incense stick. 91-33/2249-2323
Where Monte Carlo
Creator Designed by Maude Lesur and crafted under her direction by perfumer Pamela Prache of Tradition & Parfum
Scent Subtle and stunning due to the fact that there is not a
fruit, flower, or wood you can identify. It is, as literally as
possible, the purest abstract scent of luxury: rich, smooth, silken,
striking without being loud, crystal clear without raising its voice.
It greets guests at reception and every entrance.
Etc. It comes as a candle-wrapped in a pochette designed by Jacques Garcia-obtainable from the concierge. 377/9315-1515
Creator Perfumer Tatsushi Horita of Shiseido
Scent Actually two: Très Vert, which perfumes
the guest-bathroom amenities, possesses thoroughly strange,
contemporary Japanese urban smells, morphing from a
soothing green tea to a new spaceship. Très Noir, scenting
the rooms facing the skyscrapers of Shinbashi and Ginza,
smells of nighttime and Tokyo's glass towers. It is
an essential ingredient in all the guest-room amenities.
Etc. Scented candles can be requested by hotel clients only.
Bath products may be purchased in the Conrad's shop on the 28th floor;
a full package-shampoo, conditioner, body lotion, bath gel, and
soap-costs $39. 81-3/6388-8000
Where New York
Creator Perfumer Lyn Harris of Miller Harris, London
Scent A surprisingly dark, smoky fragrance of deep wood and
green trees. Harris says she constructed it while looking out at
Central Park, but the scent suggests a wild, primitive woodland of a
Byronesque imagination. Clearly present in the lobby, restaurant, and
rooms, which are all scented with candles.
Etc. The candles can be bought at the concierge desk. 212-744-1600; www.thecarlyle.com
PARK HYATT MILAN
Creator Perfumer Laura Tonatto
Scent The lightest veil of amber is blended into a combination
of aromas: a touch of delicious paper-thin caramel toffee on an Italian
pastry, mixed with fresh bread baked in a wood-fired oven that has just
been dusted with flour, the crust so light and transparent it looks
like a crisp gauze ribbon on the dress of a beautiful woman. Guests
will sense it in every inch of the hotel.
Etc. The scent is available for purchase through the concierge. 39-02/8821-1234
Creator Lyn Harris
Scent A lovely fruity fig, clean with a bit of green organic. It is dispersed in the lobby and hallways via the ventilation system.
Etc. The scent is available in a candle from the hotel boutique. 44-207/629-8888
Where Hong Kong
Scent Its name is Ginger Flower, and this delicate, ethereal
scent lives up to the moniker-soothing yet very urban, as if the towers
of glass and steel have been turned into a gigantic spa. It will follow
guests throughout the hotel.
Etc. The hotel's boutique sells it as a home spray. 85-2/2375-1133
Where 15 Mandarin Oriental spas worldwide
Scent A rich scent of tropical Asian flowers, woods, and greens
composed of 25 roots and herbs. It is an essential ingredient in the
massage oil and spa products by E'Spa.
Etc. Products can be ordered directly through the spa. 212-805-8880
Creator Perfumer Olivia Giacobetti
Scent The hotel has created three custom scents, but the
original and signature fragrance is a warm mix of musk, coriander,
laurel, and white pepper. The scent permeates every nook of the
Etc. Scented bath products, room sprays, and candles are sold at the concierge desk. 33-1/42-44-50-02