Imagine a perfume house, founded in 1730, which is still operating out of its original premises, run by members of that same family. That’s Floris: an extraordinary chapter in itself in British perfumery. (Even if its founder, Juan Famenias Floris, happens to have been Spanish by birth, travelling to London to seek his fortune.) Step inside the shop at 89 Jermyn Street, then, and you are truly stepping into fragrance history.
And in Floris‘s archive, if you’re really lucky, you might be able to see leather-bound books filled with orders from Queen Victoria, the Duke of Windsor, crowned heads of Europe – and Marilyn Monroe: the receipt for her beloved Rose Geranium Bath Oil is below… (Do watch this space: The Perfume Society will be organising events with Floris, taking subscribers behind the scenes to view this extraordinary treasure trove.)
In the precious recipe books, meanwhile, you can still find the recipe – dating back to the late 1700s – for ‘Limes Perfumes’, a scent which is still in Floris’s portfolio today. And really, that’s Floris: rooted in the finest fragrance tradition, but with its finger on the pulse of what 21st Century perfume-lovers want. Certainly, we’re still buying Limes, still a firm favourite with Floris customers today: as zingy, as refreshing, as uplifting today as ever.
In 1820, Floris received its first of 16 Royal Warrants: Smooth Pointed Comb Maker to King George IV. In addition to offering sought-after scents, Floris’s combs and brushes were hugely popular: Mary Shelley, author of Frankenstein and wife of the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, wrote from abroad asking a friend to send in her next care package ‘two hairbrushes and a small toothbrush,’ from the store. (Today, meanwhile, Floris holds two Royal warrants: Perfumers to HM The Queen Elizabeth II and Manufacturers of Toilet Preparations to HRH The Prince of Wales.)
By the time of the celebrated Great Exhibition, in 1851, Floris offered some 112 different fragrances ‘for the handkerchief’. (Now, that’s a tradition we really think ought to be revived.) After the exhibition, Floris kitted out the shop interior with beautiful Spanish mahogany bookcases which are still in place today, showing archive materials (at the rear of the shop), and scented treats both traditional and contemporary.
So in the collection, you’ll find fragrances that take you from the original Limes through to Edwardian Bouquet, with its notes of hyacinth, jasmine, rose and ylang ylang (and its powdery, mossy base), and on to Floris‘s most recent creation: Soullé Ambar, green with notes of galbanum and lentisque, a rich floral heart, and warm sensual base notes that unfold on the skin.
A new chapter in the Floris story opens with the marriage of Mary Anne Floris to James R.D. Bodenham. They went on to have 16 children, who enjoyed an ‘idyllic’ upbringing full of happy memories – no doubt many of them triggered by a whiff of Floris fragrance; in 1878, Mary Anne and James took over the family business from her brother Joseph.
Throughout the years, Floris has attracted a distinguished clientele. Another gem from the archive: an invoice from 1934 for fragrances bought by Winston Churchill, including for Stephanotis and Special No. 127, which also remain in the collection today. Fast-forward to the 1970s, and a bottle of No. 89 for Men accompanied Sir Ranulph Fiennes and his team on an expedition to the Arctic. (And Ian Fleming’s James Bond always wore No. 89, as it happens.)
For Floris, the key to success has always been staying true to tradition, while keeping a finger on the pulse-point of the fashionable world. So yes, there are contemporary fragrances – but the exquisite soaps (all still made in the Floris factory in Devon which was opened by Princess Diana, in 1989) are still crafted using traditional soap moulds, with their floral border decorations.
And to celebrate their 280th anniversary (how many brands can say that…?), Floris launched just 280 bottles of their new 280 eau de parfum: a sumptuous floral Oriental creation inspired by one of the richest heritages in perfumery, anywhere in the world.
Long before home fragrance became the must-have for the fashionable home it is today, Floris also had a tradition of creating beautiful ways to fragrance your surroundings, as well as your self. Individually hand-poured and using fine fragrance ingredients, they also have quite a following. Comments fashion designer Julien Macdonald, ‘I have always loved Floris candles and particularly this season the abundance of the Hyacinth & Bluebell candles at my Spring Summer 2014 show filled the space and evoked a feeling of a journey through an enchanted garden befitting the mood and aesthetic of the dresses. It truly was a magical experience…’
And today – through scented candles, and all manner of fragrant treats – Floris family members still keep the flame burning, in a unique business with a history other perfume houses can only dream of.
Here’s to the next 300 years or so, Floris…
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