Scented Snippets – fascinating facts from the history of fragrance

Following a fragrant trail, we present for your delectation a selection of the choicest scented snippets from history. You don’t have to be a history buff (or anorak – though we proudly claim that title at Perfume Society Towers!) to be bewitched by the history of fragrance. We know it’s been used to communicate with the Gods, to seduce, as a display of wealth – or for pure pleasure – for thousands of years. (And perhaps much longer, even if archaeologists can’t yet find the tangible proof through their excavations.)

Perfume’s fascinating trail leads us from Ancient Egypt to Ancient Greece, to Rome – where rosewater played in fountains – and up to France, where Louis XIV’s court was known as ‘la cour parfumée‘, with the king demanding a different fragrance for every single day…

 Egyptian priests, and their Pharoahs, were entombed with fragrances – and when those tombs were opened by archaeologists, in 1897, the perfumes were discovered to have retained their original, sweet smells.  Important figures in Egyptian history were buried with scented oils, to ensure their ‘olfactory needs’ were fulfilled.

Many of those ingredients are still prized in perfumery today.  Jasmine, hand-picked in the morning.  Frankincense resin, still gathered from the Boswellia shrub, with entire forests cloaking areas of Oman, Yemen, Ethiopia.  (Egyptian Queen Hatsheput was apparently crazy for frankincense:  wall paintings on her temple, showing a large-scale expedition to collect frankincense from the ancient land of Punt.)  They used Nile lotus, myrrh, madonna lilies, honey…

 

 

 

If the art of ancient perfumery was to have a ‘face’, a figurehead, it would surely be Cleopatra.  As legend tells it, she had the the sails of her boat coated with fragrant oils before setting to sea:  ‘The perfumes diffused themselves to the vessel to the shore, which was covered with multitudes.’  Her idea was that Mark Antony would get a waft of her arrival even before he caught sight of her.  As Shakespeare put it:

‘The barge she sat in, like a burnish’d throne,
Burn’d on the water;  the poop was beaten gold,
Purple the sails, and so perfumed that
The winds were lovesick with them…
… From the barge, a strange invisible perfume hits the sense…’

(Which neatly explains the name of a niche Californian fragrance brand, Strange Invisible Perfumes, NB.)

 

 

Public baths were The Big Thing in Ancient Rome, with the affluent classes devoted to body care. Think:  balms, oils, perfumes for skin, hair – and living spaces.  (Food had to appeal to the nose as well as the palate, too, through spicy aromas.)  Even public spaces might be scented:  Emperor Nero was so crazy about roses, he had silver pipes installed so that his dinner guests could be spritzed with rosewater.  (According to legend, he once shelled out £100,000 for a ‘waterfall’ of rosepetals which actually smothered one guest, killing him.  Quite a way to go.)

 

 

Marco Polo brought exotic aromatics and scented goods back to his home city of Venice.  The great explorer returned laden with fragrant treasures from the new civilisations he’d discovered, on his voyage. This major trading hub flourished for a while as the centre of the perfume world. Almost everything was perfumed:  shoes, stockings, gloves, shirts, even coins.  Glamorous women carried or wore a silver version of the pomander, wafting trails of scent through the little perforations, as they moved, helping to block out the fetid smells of the streets and canals.  Meanwhile, doctors wore long robes and bird-like masks stuffed with aromatic herbs to shield themselves against epidemics (including deadly plague).

 

 

 

Queen Elizabeth I beckoned Venetian traders to Southampton to offer their scented wares:  it became fashionable to wear musk- and rose-scented pomanders and sachets, in particular. But soon, the epicentre of perfumery moved from Italy to France – thanks to the influence of Queen Catherine de Medici (above), who married King Henri II in 1533.  Until then, French enjoyment of the scent world was mostly in the form of little scented sachets (called ‘coussines’) or moulded clay bottles (known as ‘oilselets de chypre’).  But Catherine brought with her from her native Tuscany scented gloves, the perfume used to mask the unpleasant aroma of poorly-tanned leather.  At the same time, her personal perfumer set up shop in Paris, where he was besieged by orders.

Want to follow the fragrant trail onwards? Find out much more from every era – and what happened next – on our pages dedicated to the history of fragrance

 

Happy Birthday Chanel N°22!

Incredibly, the iconic fragrance Chanel N°22 celebrates its 100th birthday this year – born one year after the legendary N°5 and creating its own enthused cult of olfactory aficionados (of which our Co-Founder, Lorna McKay is a firm member!) Sparkling with way ahead-of-its-time modernity, it seems only fitting to re-explore, and fully appreciate this so-prescient perfume once again…

The story of Chanel herself has become legend. After growing up in an orphanage, Gabrielle Chanel – born 19th August 1883, in Saumur – went on to open her first Paris boutique, selling hats, at 21 Rue Cambon in 1910. She made her name selling clothes that were not just beautiful and stylish, but comfortable, freeing women from tight corsetry through her innovative use of tweed and jersey, tailored with a nod to men’s clothing – including trousers. She’s also widely credited as first to introduce that essential in a woman’s wardrobe: ‘The Little Black Dress’.

Always an innovator, Chanel also designed costumes for plays (Cocteau’s ‘Antigone’, in 1923), and movies, including Renoir’s ‘La Règle de Jeu’. The clothes – and the fragrances – have been loved and worn by stars all over the world, and the silky effervesence of Chanel N°22 remains effortless, timelessly contemporary.

 

 

 

 

 

Chanel says: ‘Gabrielle Chanel believed in signs from the universe, symbols, and numbers. This year, 2022, CHANEL is pleased to present you with another major number: N°22, a fragrance created by Ernest Beaux and launched in 1922, one year after the legendary N°5. Though the two fragrances share the same olfactory characteristics, each one is unique in its own right.

An uncanny mirror effect that Olivier Polge, CHANEL’s In-House Perfumer-Creator, has interpreted as such: N°22 is like the surprising alter ego of N°5, so similar and yet so different at the same time. With its accord of tuberose, rose and orange blossom, N°22 is a sensual, seductive fragrance. A caressing trail, like an absolute of femininity. The singular history and craftsmanship behind the fragrance will make 2022 a year as exceptional as the last.’

Chanel N°22 £169 for 75ml eau de parfum / £300 for 200ml
chanel.com

Read more of Chanel’s remarkable history in our page dedicated to the house, here; in the meantime, we suggest those of you who already adore N°22 treat yourselves to a birthday gift in honour of the anniversary, and that those of you yet to fall in love with this legendary fragrance acquaint yourselves immediately…

 

Written by Suzy Nightingale

Guerlain World Bee Day initiative & Bee Bottle art (made by bees!)

Without bees, we’d have no future fragrances to look forward to (or, you know, food, or a planet with vital resources we rely on daily), so with this very much in mind, Guerlain is running a major international campaign for bee protection from 20th May (World Bee Day) to 22nd May (International Day for Biological Diversity) ‘to protect and conserve the bee, the sentinel of the House.’

If bees were no longer to exist,’ Guerlain explain, ‘most fruits, flowers and seeds would disappear forever, taking with them an infinite number of irreplaceable colours, flavours and smells. Across the world, intensive farming, vanishing habitats, climate change and so forth are drastically impacting the
health of bees, both wild and domestic.’

So, for the second year running, Guerlain is raising funds for the Guerlain For Bees Conservation Programme, donating 20% of sales to the programme. To celebrate this, Guerlain has collaborated with artist Tomáš Libertíny to create a never-before-seen creation: the iconic Guerlain Bee Bottle transformed into a work of art – entirely made by bees!

 

 

 

The aim, says Guerlain, is: ‘to gather €1 million within three days to strengthen its “Guerlain for Bees Conservation Programme”. So many natural treasures and resources depend on the skilful handiwork of bees. For the House of Guerlain, making a commitment towards their protection means endeavouring to pass on the wonders of Nature to future generations, while safeguarding their future.’

 

 

 

 

 Guerlain’s Bee-autiful History:

‘The founder of the House, Pierre-François-Pascal Guerlain, dedicated a citrus Eau de Cologne to Empress Eugénie to celebrate her marriage to Napoleon III. Naturally, he named it “Eau de Cologne Impériale”. He then entrusted glassmakers Pochet du Courval to create a bottle adorned with his majesty’s coat of arms, the bees, and a festoon pattern, inspired by the Place Vendôme column. The Bee Bottle was born. It would become an icon.The Empress was so impressed with this gift, that she named Pierre-François-Pascal Guerlain “Supplier to the Empress” (“Fournisseur de l’Impératrice”), which helped to rapidly spread Guerlain’s renown throughout Europe’s great royal courts. A legend was born. Today, the emblematic Bee Bottle is still made in the Pochet du Courval ateliers and now lends itself to colour and personalisation. The perfume bottles can be refilled time and time again in a celebration of how luxury can meet sustainable development as guided by Bees. The “Dames de table” continue to seal and hand decorate this historic bottle, creating some exceptional versions that perpetuate tra-ditional craftsmanship, art and artisanship.’

 

 

 

 

In order to preserve a future for bees – and for fragrance – Guerlain remind us thatIt is crucial for us to protect them, but this alone is not enough. We must also raise awareness around the importance of bee conservation for the world of today and tomorrow. This is why Guerlain is committed to teaching children about the cause of bees, thanks to its Bee School. Its programme Women for Bees, in partnership with UNESCO, also aims to train new women beekeepers at UNESCO’s biosphere reserves.’

 

Guerlain’s divine Muguet – lily of the valley, the flower of May & our birthday

It’s now a much-anticipated tradition that, on the first of May, Guerlain release their exquisite Muguet – a limited edition, beautuifully Bee-bottled fragrant homage to legends surrounding lily of the valley. Indeed, we were so taken with the traditions of exchanging bouquets for friendship, and the new begginings represented by the flower, that eight years ago, we officially launched The Perfume Society on that date!

Regarded as a lucky charm ever since its first introduction from Japan to Europe in the Middle Ages, lily of the valley has become synonymous with the month of May and ‘the return of happiness’. With so many of us perhaps preparing to travel again – planning trips to see loved ones or simply the joy of a holiday – that happiness is expressed in fragrant form, and just so beautifully bottled. Here, Guerlain explain the many lovely traditions around the world surrounding lily of the valley, and why they, too, are so taken with the delicate flower…

‘According to legend, if its white bells drop their heads on their stems as though they were weeping, it is because they were born from the tears of Eve when she was expelled from the Garden of Eden. For the Greek, it was the god Apollo who scattered the flowers on the thick green grass of Mount Parnassus, so that the Muses wouldn’t hurt their feet. In the forests of Ireland, their bells chime when fairies climb their poetic ladders to weave their iridescent cradles…

“Gentle fairies, hush your singing:
Can you hear my white bells ringing,
Ringing as from far away?
Who can tell me what they say?
Little snowy bells out-springing
From the stem and softly ringing–
Tell they of a country where
Everything is good and fair?”
Cicely Mary BARKER (1895-1973)

A flower of a thousand tales, lily of the valley owes its French name, muguet, derived from musc or muscade (“nutmeg”), a sweetly scented spice, to its delicate, penetrating fragrance. Evocative of springtime, the season of love, muguet gave its name in the 16th century to young swains who spent their time flirting… As for the custom of offering it on May 1st, it was born in 1561, when King Charles IX of France was offered a sprig during a visit to the Dauphiné. He was so charmed that each year, on the same day, he offered lily of the valley to all the ladies of his court.

 

 

 

 

During the Belle Époque, couturiers gave it on May 1st to their seamstresses and clients… Perfumers strove to capture the scent of the fleeting flower. Among the hundreds of tributes inspired by the white bell over the century, one was authored by a young perfumer called Jacques Guerlain. In 1908, he composed the House’s first Muguet, inaugurating a fragrant tradition that has gone on, from spring to spring, for over 110 years. Recreating the lily-of-the-valley fragrance is a genuine olfactory feat as it is known as “mute”. Composed by the Master Perfumer Thierry Wasser, Guerlain’s Muguet takes on green and rosy facets that form a vernal setting for the lush floral materials that enrich his composition: jasmine sambac absolute, rose essence and absolute. At the heart of the bouquet arises the strikingly olfactory illusion of a freshly picked sprig. A true olfactory jewel, to celebrate the rites of spring at its apogee.

It is the most poetic rendez-vous of spring. An encounter of the art of the perfumer and the very best creators flower. The kind of match that only the House of Guerlain could orchestrate. Each year, the new adornment of the iconic Bee Bottle of Muguet is released: the stunning outcome of innovative artistic collaborations. For its 2022 Edition, a delicate sprig of lily-of-the-valley is turned into a jewel, set with glittering crystals by the magicians of the Parisian jewellery studio Atelier Truscelli.

 

 

 

Italian by birth and Parisian by adoption, Francesco Truscelli has been fascinated by jewellery since his childhood. In 2003, he founded his own studio in Paris, where tourmalines, sapphires, turquoises, garnets, aquamarines, pearls are set into shimmering, colourful hand-crafted designs in many different styles. A specialist in one-off pieces and bespoke jewels, Francesco Truscelli still loves, as he did when he first trained, giving a second life to family jewels by redesigning them.

 

 

 

 

May Day and the heralding of Spring is celebrated in many cultures, but we are especially fond of the French custom of presenting your nearest and dearest with a sprig of lily of the valley. For those that want to go several scented steps further, you’d best not delay. These breathtaking bottles are limited edition pieces for collectors of course – this year there are only 5,000 bottles released worldwide, priced at £540 and available at their Covent Garden Boutique, Harrods, and at Guerlain.com.

Goutal celebrates four decades of fragrance – Camille Goutal & Isabelle Doyen in conversation

The house of Goutal Paris have been celebrating an incredible forty years of fragrancing the world – their scents from the get-go regularly among most-often mentioned in glossy magazines as being worn by celebrities, and their gender-inclusive, forward-thinking fragrances helping to revolutionise the perfume industry before ‘niche’ was a description on anyone’s lips.

Annick Goutal dedicated her early life to playing the piano, with the dream of being a pianist, but turned, instead, to a differing dream that had been denied to her early on – creating fragrances and opening her own perfumery. That dream, as we now know, became a reality, and her legacy lives on through her daughter, Camille Goutal, and Isabelle Doyen – the perfumer who helped shape and bottle those dreams for both mother and daughter.

And it’s quite some legacy. Indeed, I remember the moment my nose woke up in the late ‘80s. I was on a perfume shopping trip in London with my mum, sniffing everything. I came across a bottle of Goutal Eau d’Hadrien and my eyes lit up, it was so vibrant! Unlike anything else I’d smelled. Many years later, now a fragrance writer, I took a trip to Paris with two other journalist friends. We made a beeline for the Goutal boutique on the Rue de Castiglione – it was like walking into a contemporary cathedral of scent! And smelling Eau d’Hadrien again, it was as fresh and new as that first time. It made me smile. I felt like a child in a sweet shop again.

Funnily enough, sweet shops feature in the inspiration behind the iconic Goutal bottles and luxury packaging, just one of the insider secrets I learned while listening to Camille in discussion with the brilliant nose, Isabelle, who’s had that longstanding and deeply rooted working relationship with Goutal since 1985. I could quite honestly listen to these two woemn talk all day, but that would fill a book, and you can learn much more about their history in our page dedicated to Goutal Paris; so, for now, here are a smattering of some of the choicest treats from their fascinating and so-insightful conversation that revealed scented secrets behind the perfumes, where the inspiration for the ribbons came from, and even a battle with Elizabeth Taylor…!

 

 

Annick Goutal

 

Camille Goutal: ‘My mother wasn’t meant to be a perfumer, but there were very few female perfumers in the 1980s. My grandfather was very strict and decided he wanted my mother to be a chemist. Mum rebelled as a teenager and went to London to become a model but got bored of that and came back to Paris. She sold prints in a little shop and wanted to fragrance them – and this is how she first met the world of perfumery. The brand is like her, she was beautiful and full of emotion, sensitivity, but with no compromises. She wanted to make people dream, to make them happy with fragrance. For Eau d’Hadrien, she was inspired by the Emperor Hadrien and his travels through the Mediterranean.’

Isabelle Doyen: “She was always telling me about the cypress brances she loved to crush and smell the leaves of. If you think of ‘dHadrien you can really smell the cypress, a fizziness of citrus with mandarin, but also the woodiness. When it was launched, you really didn’t have any niche brands!’

 

 

Camille: ‘The second shop my mother opened, was on the Rue de Castiglione. My mother would take me to Angelina (a tea and chocolate shop) at teatime when I visited, along with Isabelle. I have such happy memories of these trips. Emotions and memories are at the heart of the brand. My mother created fragrances inspired by love – the main source of her inspiration – and happiness. She found happiness in her life, I could hear her laughing with Isabelle all the time!’

Isabelle: ‘We had such fun together, to me these are ‘smiling perfumes’.’

Camille: ‘Absolutely! There was always fun, and adventures… One time my mother travelled to New York to defend her ‘Passion’ fragrance against the one Elizabeth Taylor had later launched, with the same name. In fact this trial made my mother famous in America because she won the case and it was reported in the newspapers!’

‘The bows on the first and the anniversary bottles were another wink to the past – my father was a chocolatier and at Christmas and Easter he’d get in coloured velvet to tie around the boxes, so I’m sure my mother was inspired by that. Petit Cherie was the name my mother gave me, and I recently found that it was also the name my grandfather called her – I discovered letters to my mother from my grandfather, which all began ‘To my petit Cherie…’ The Petit Cherie fragrance she made for me is actually a younger version of Ce Soir Ou Jamais. They are so important to me, these connections, these threads.’

 

Annick / Camille

 

Isabelle: ‘That thread carries through. It was really easy to work with Camille, right away, it was natural as she is so like her mother to work with. She’s been surrounded by perfume all her life. And after all, I watched her grow up!’

 

By Suzy Nightingale

Spice Up Your Life – the history of spiced scents (and what to wear now)

At this time of year we’re suddenly surrounded by spices – precious ingredients once so rare and expensive they were kept in locked wooden boxes, and have been beloved by perfumers for thousands of years. And ‘noses’ today still love weaving these warmly tingling, simmeringly sensual ingredients into their compositions. So, why are we so attracted to spices, and which fragrances are the best to wear today?

Over the next few weeks we’ll trace them in turn, starting with…

Cinnamon

Even 2000 years ago the Egyptians were using cinnamon in perfumes and incense burned to send scented prayers to the gods (though it probably originates way before that, in China).

Cinnamomum verum is thought to have been an ingredient in the original holy ‘anointing oil’, mentioned in the Bible. The Greeks and Romans used it too, often with its near-relation cassia.  It’s long been considered to have aphrodisiac properties, when eaten – though if spicy scents turn you on, maybe when dabbed onto pulse-points, too.

Cinnamon bark oil ihas to be used very sparingly in a scent – it’s a sensitiser, and as such, you may see ‘cinnamates’ on perfume packaging, as a warning. Where natural cinnamon’s used, it’s likely to have been distilled from the leaves and twigs. But it’s often also synthesised, adding a spicy warmth to amber scents.

Here’s renowned niche perfumer Andy Tauer on the restrictions on using cinnamon, which he shared with The Perfume Society – and why he loves to use it, all the same:

Andy Tauer: ‘Ah… a forbidden fruit. Sensitising cinnamal, potential allergen. So warm, metallic almost, spicy of course, gourmand, hitting the nose with memories of rice pudding with cinnamon sugar, and making your saliva flow. I love to cook with cinnamon. It brings out the flavors of ginger, onions, adds warmth to the cocktail of exotic flavors from clove, pepper, cumin, fenugreek. In my perfumes, I love it – like a synthetic aldehyde – as it switches the light on, brings out the colours and contrasts. One fine day, in perfumery heaven, we will all smell and enjoy cinnamon in heavy doses: Until then, we have to live life with the regulations that we have…’

Here we travel to the land of Assam via the richly resonant aromas of the East. Cinnamon leaf oil and nutmeg make for a lively opening that tingles all the way to wonderfully exotic citrus-fresh elemi oil. Black tea accord marks our fragrant journey with its smoky tendrils slowly opening to the deeper base and that sweet, wet earthiness and smooth wood played out with notes of oudh and vetiver. Honey is drizzled to sweeten the mix but never becomes sickly, the stunningly smooth tobacco accord putting us in mind of freshly-rolled cigars and dense canopies of greenery outlined against mountains beyond.

Molton Brown Mesmerising Oudh & Gold Accord £120 for 100ml eau de parfum
Molton Brown

One of those unforgettable ‘sexy church’ scents, the cinnamon here infused into wafts of sheer smokiness, all shot through with a surprising, champagne-like airiness. Transparent in the opening (definitely more organza than velvet, at this stage), Angelique Encens’s warmth emerges on the skin, kindling notes of pepper, sandalwood, patchouli and oodles of smoothly simmering cinnamon. You shall not only go to the ball wearing this, meanwhile, but perhaps find yourself partying way beyond midnight wrapped in its enduring musk, vetiver and incense embrace.

Creed Angelique Encens £275 for 75ml eau de parfum
creedfragrances.co.uk

This fresher take on cinnamon is inspired by ‘mountain of paper, autumnal hues of corduroy… thoughtful parting words and a reminiscence of dry oil paint.’ It’s golden light on crunchy leaves, rich fabrics in earthy colours gleaming in the honeyed light, a cool, herbaceous breeze of rosemary and basil just sing with the fizz of green peppercorns in the top notes – the cinnamon all the while a link to the deep thrum of oudh, earthiness and smooth woods in the base. One to wear while wrapped up for a country walk, breathing glad lungfuls of air and exalting nature.

Mihan Aromatics Mikado Bark £123 for 100ml extrait de parfum
mihanaromatics.com

Lapped by milk, snuggled by soft blooms of immortelle flower, the cinnamon in this is neck-nuzzle-worthy – you’ll definitely want to move closer to the person wearing it. Inspired by Manos Gerakinis’s Greek heritage, the immortelle is a yellow flower found in Greece, its story dating back to the Trojan war. In myth, during Helen’s capture, she asked Paris to validate her beauty against Venus. Paris replied: “Do you not see this flower? Your hair shares the same golden colour and your body smells like the flower while your skin is as soft as its petals. Your beauty will be everlasting.’ The resonant warmth the cinnamon affords sizzles for hours, beautiful indeed..

Manos Gerakinis Immortelle £145 for 100ml eau de parfum
shymimosa.co.uk

Written by Suzy Nightingale

 

Ways to wear… vetiver

‘A sack of potatoes’ – that’s what legendary ‘nose’ Jean Kerléo told us to close our eyes and think of, when smelling vetiver. While hardly romantic-sounding, it’s SO true: fabulously earthy, damp, woodsy and smoky all at the same time. Just like a hessian sack of potatoes that’s been left at the back of your grandfather’s shed, when you peel back the drawstring and b-r-e-a-t-h-e it in.

It’s almost impossible to believe, actually, that this grounding, dry smell comes from the roots of a perennial grass – also known as Khus-khus grass – rather than a wood. Vetiveria zizanoides grows like crazy in marshy places and riverbanks in places that are drenched by high annual rainfall:  countries like India, Brazil, Malaysia and the West Indies (Haitian vetiver is probably the most famous of its type). In some hot places, vetiver is woven into blinds and matting, which are not only wonderfully fragrant as the breeze wafts through them or they’re trodden underfoot:  vetiver has cooling properties.

Used in perfumes since ancient times, vetiver’s more popular than ever and features very, very widely in the base of fragrances because it works brilliantly as a ‘fixative’ – and so far, nobody seems to have come up with a satisfactory synthetic alternative.

Creed‘s relationship with vetiver goes back a long way – it’s a fragrant note they have built several of their most iconic scents around, in fact…

Creed say: ‘Vetiver is derived from the Tamil word vettiveru – vetti meaning ‘to tear up’, ver meaning ‘root’. From its tropical grass roots in India over 400 years ago, it is now a highly sought-after ingredient by perfumers across the globe as they attempt to capture the essence of a sultry evening with smoky notes of oud, or the mysterious petrichor – the earthy scent arising when rain falls on dry soil.’

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‘Now found anywhere from India, Sri Lanka and Malaysia, to Haiti, Indonesia and Kenya, the vetiver in Creed fragrances is sourced from Haiti, which provides a resinous, slightly sweet variation of the oil. It is grown for up to a year and harvested in the dry season, when quantities of essential oil in the roots are highest, before bundles of its roots are taken to be distilled.’

 

 

‘As an oil, vetiver has a dry muskiness, with hints of leather and nutty notes.Suitably smoky, yet strangely fresh, it’s complexity and versatility, coupled with its fixative powers – no synthetic molecule can mimic it – has enticed perfumers since the 19th Century.’

 

‘Traditionally, it is only this fixative essential oil from the roots that goes into the making of a vetiver fragrance, to give it longevity. However, it is the combination of the fresh, green notes taken from the vetiver leaves and the rich heart, as well as the woody and earthy notes extracted from the roots that you will find in many fragrances from The House of Creed today.’

 

ORIGINAL VETIVER

Dramatically reinventing the traditional vetiver scent, The House of Creed is the only perfume house to infuse all three parts of the vetiver plant in one fragrance with Original Vetiver: the earthy root, the verdant leaves and the rich heart, for an alluring air of invigorating freshness. Grassy, citric notes dance over pepper before diving into the depths of the damp soil for a fresh, green scent that also retains the earthy and leathery characteristics of the complete vetiver plant.

RRP: £175 (50ml), £245 (100ml)

 

VÉTIVER GÉRANIUM

Capturing the majestic landscape of Indonesia’s vetiver adorned mountains, Vétiver Géranium is balanced with the soothing essence of geranium, to create a woody scent with an ethereal freshness that exudes from the vetiver plant and the earthy characteristics of the roots. Citric notes make a luminous debut, whilst rose, cedarwood, patchouli and Creed’s signature ambergris complement the vetiver found in the base, strengthening the fresh, aromatic offering of this fragrance from the Acqua Originale collection.

RRP: £220 (100ml)

 

 

 

BOIS DU PORTUGAL

Taking its name from the word ‘bois’ meaning ‘woods’ in French, this timeless and elegant Eau de Parfum captures a stroll through the forests of the Iberian Peninsula and the aromas that exude from the shaded forest floor in summer. Bottling the rich, woody and earthy air, Bois Du Portugal leans on a base of vetiver, combined with cedar and sandalwood to transport the senses. Citrus top notes spiral together with exotic dry spices for an uplifting opening to this otherwise rich, warm and refined fragrance.

RRP: £175 (50ml), £245 (100ml)

 

VIKING COLOGNE

The latest addition to Creed, Viking Cologne finds rich, woody notes of vetiver nestled into the base of this crisp and aromatic fougère Eau de Parfum. Recreating the energising freshness of a classic cologne, zesty citrus notes and pink pepper combine with warming herbals for an invigorating opening, but it’s the rich, woody base that provides a striking point of difference from traditional colognes. Sandalwood, frankincense, patchouli and cedarwood mingle with vetiver to create lasting depth and strength.

RRP: £175 (50ml), £240 (100ml)

Pssst! You can try a sample of Creed Viking Cologne in our Suave Scents Discovery Box… one of 13 incredible fragrances (plus two fab extras) for only £19 (VIP price) or £23 RRP!

 

Floris – Royalty, Churchill & Marilyn Monroe loved them: here’s why YOU should, too…

Floris have scented everyone from royalty, Florence Nightingale, prime ministers and even Marilyn Monroe, but now you can dip into their incredible history (and try some their more contemporary fragrances) in their newly curated Floris Discovery Collections

The long-distinguished history of Floris first began in the dreams of one Juan Famenias Floris, who in 1730 sailed from his native Minorca to set up in London. Marrying an English girl, he settled in business as a barber on Jermyn Street within the fashionable St. James’s area, first making hair combs and then assuaging his homesickness by blending fragrant oils he’d transported from Europe. Customers soon took to ordering bespoke blends, all recorded in leather-bound ledgers, enabling Floris to re-create them should further supplies be required in the future – and thus a fragrant dynasty was born.

 

Many of those original ledgers, order forms and letters of thanks are still in existence, preserved by successive generations of the Floris family, and offering a uniquely fascinating glimpse of British fragrant taste through the ages. Their books boast orders from Admirals serving under Lord Nelson, Florence Nightingale, George IV, through to Winston Churchill. In 1820, Floris received the first of 16 Royal Warrants and retains the title: Perfumers to HM The Queen Elizabeth II and Manufacturers of Toilet Preparations to HRH The Prince of Wales.

 

 

And then there was Marilyn Monroe. The scent the world’s biggest sex-symbol always made sure to stock up on? In their extraordinary archive (some of which is on display in the rear of their Jermyn Street boutique), Floris happen to have an original form detailing Marilyn’s order for their surprisingly unisex and greenly fresh Rose Geranium. Indeed, she loved it so much she requested SIX bottles at a time be delivered to her in Beverley Hills! (NB: A far more contemporary rose is their A Rose For… in The Private Collection – an intriguingly smoky gossamer embrace).

 

 

 

The original Floris shop still stands on Jermyn Street. (A couple of generations ago, fragrances were actually manufactured two floors below street level, in a basement known as ‘the mine’.) Now beautifully refurbished, the boutique many other intriguing artefacts to discover on display, along with a wide wardrobe of perfumes to explore. Edward Bodenham – an ancestor of Juan Famenias Floris himself – is the current Perfumery Director at Floris, with fragrance clearly in his blood.

Floris Classic Collection Set £35

As he explains: ‘I feel immensely proud to be part of the family business and to have the opportunity to help introduce our perfume house to a new generation. I have such fond memories of visiting the shop from a young age, and it is very nostalgic for me to be around the fragrances that I have grown up with my whole life. They really are like old friends to me.’

No matter how fascinating or notable their past, however, no perfume house could merely trade off their history. So as Edward notes – and more recent creations like sun-drenched Neroli Voyage in the Classic Collection and utterly addictive Honey Oud in Private Collection, prove – Floris are ‘always evolving. We have to be experimental and explorative when working on new fragrances – in just the same way my forefathers were in their day.’ Adding: ‘I hope that they would be proud of our creations today.’

Floris Private Collection Set £35

No question about it, in our minds. And we say: here’s to the next 300 years or so, Floris!

Orange blossom: how to bottle sunshine

Did you ever sleep in a field of orange-trees in bloom? The air which one inhales deliciously is a quintessence of perfumes. This powerful and sweet smell, as savoury as a sweetmeat, seems to penetrate one, to impregnate, to intoxicate, to induce languor, to bring about a dreamy and somnolent torpor. It is like opium prepared by fairy hands and not by chemists.’ ― Guy de Maupassant, 88 Short Stories

Orange blossom is beloved by perfumers in light-filled ‘solar’ scents – a newly emerging category, and a word I’ve found increasingly used for fragrances which aren’t merely fresh, but attempt the alchemy of bottling sunshine.

It’s the bitter orange tree we have to thank for these heady white blossoms – one of the most benificent trees in the world, for it also gives us neroli, orange flower water and petitgrain – all utterly unique in smell, from verdant to va-va-voom depending how they are distilled and the quantity used in a fragrance.

Originating from Asia, the bitter orange was introduced to North Africa by crusaders of the VIIth century, and now it’s just six villages in the Nabeul region of Tunisia that provide the majority of the world’s crop. Women do most of the harvesting, the pickers swathed in headscarves climbing treacherously high-looking ladders to reach the very tops of the trees, typically working eight hours a day and gathering around 20,000 (approximately 10kg) of flowers.

 

 

When the blossoms are hydro-distilled – soaked in water before being heated, with volatile materials carried away in the steam to condense and separate – the extracted oil is neroli, the by-product being orange flower water, while petitgrain is the essential oil steam distilled from the leaves and green twigs.

Long steeped in bridal mythology, when Queen Victoria married Prince Albert in 1840, she chose orange blossom to decorate her dress, carried sprigs in her bouquet and even wore a circlet of the blossoms fashioned from gold leaves, white porcelain flowers and green enamelled oranges in her hair. It firmly planted the fashion for ‘blushing brides’ being associated with orange blossom – but this pretty flower can hide a naughty secret beneath its pristine petals…

 

 

While the primly perfect buds might visually convey a sign of innocence, their heady scent can, conversely, bring a lover to their knees with longing. In his novel The Leopard, Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa chronicles crossing an orange grove in full flower, describing ‘…the nuptial scent of the blossoms absorbed the rest as a full moon does a landscape… that Islamic perfume evoking houris [beautiful young women] and fleshly joys beyond the grave.’

It’s the kind of floral that might signify sunshine and gauzy gowns or veritably snarl with sensuality. Similar to the narcotic addictiveness of jasmine, with something of tuberose’s potency; orange blossom posesses none of that cold, grandiose standoffishness of some white florals: it pulsates, warmly, all the way.

 

Perfumer Alberto Morillas associates the scent of orange blossom with his birthplace: ‘I’m from Seville, when I’m creating a fragrance, all my emotion goes back to my home,’ Alberto told me, talking about his inspiration for Solar Blossom (below). ‘You have the sun, the light and water – always a fountain in the middle of the square – and “solar” means your soul is being lifted upwards.’

Oh, how we need that bottled sunshine when summer fades; an almost imperceptible shifting of the light that harkens misty mornings, bejwelled spiderwebs and sudden shivers…

Why not swathe yourself in these light-filled fragrances to huddle against the Stygian gloom? I love wearing them year-round, to remind me sunny days will return, that things will be brighter, presently.

 

Mizensir Solar Blossom Luminescent, life-affirming, a shady Sevillian courtyard with eyes and hearts lifted to the glorious sun, ripples of laughter and birdsong.
£185 for 100ml eau de parfum harveynichols.com

Sana Jardin Berber Blonde A shimmering haze of Moroccan magic, orange blossom diffused by dusk, a languid sigh of inner contentment.
£95 for 100ml sanajardin.com

Stories By Eliza Grace No.1 Waves of warmth giving way to fig tea sipped beneath the shade of whispering trees, bare feet on sun-warmed flagstones, fingers entwined, forever dancing.
£75 for 30ml eau de parfum elizagrace.com

 

Elie Saab Girl of Now Youthful sophistication via juicy pear and pistachio sway to opulent orange blossom at this fragrances marzipan heart, melding to a carefree, dreamy base.
£42 for 30ml eau de parfum (but try a 2ml sample in the Eau So Fresh Discovery Box)

By Suzy Nightingale

What IS a fougère? Pteridomania & the frenzy for fern fragrances

When describing types of fragrance, the term fougère can seem bewildering – both the meaning and how on earth to pronounce it.

French for ‘fern-like’, you say it ‘foo-jair’ (with the ‘j’ a little soft – almost ‘foo-shair’), when you think of a fern’s smell, what comes to mind? Whatever you think of, that smell memory is quite likely to have been influenced by Houbigant’s Fougère Royale – created in 1882 by Paul Parquet, and much copied by those who clamoured to achieve a measure of its success.

While we might imagine a shady-forest smell emanating from a fern, the majority aren’t fragrant to any great extent. And although the ingredients so key to Parquet’s original accord – oak moss, geranium, bergamot and (most notably) coumarin – are now collectively referred to as ‘fougère’ (often with lavender or other aromatic herbs thrown in for good effect), it’s the alchemy of the perfumer recreating that ‘natural’ smell memory: the whole woodland seemingly wafting from the bottle.

“Gathering Ferns” (Helen Allingham) from The Illustrated London News, July 1871.

Some time before Parquet’s fragrant foragings, ‘fern mania’ was sweeping the nation, and it caused an amount of worry when women began wandering, sometimes alone or – worse! – gambolling with groups of young man in the woodlands, in search of their charms… What business had women convening with nature outside of their perfectly manicured cottage gardens? Well, ‘Pteridomania’, meaning Fern Madness or Fern Craze was the term for this frenzy, coined in 1855 by Charles Kingsley in his book Glaucus, or the ‘Wonders of the Shore’. In it he sought to reassure anxious parents:

Your daughters, perhaps, have been seized with the prevailing ‘Pteridomania‘ … and wrangling over unpronounceable names of species (which seem different in each new Fern-book that they buy) … and yet you cannot deny that they find enjoyment in it, and are more active, more cheerful, more self-forgetful over it, than they would have been over novels and gossip, crochet and Berlin-wool.

So – society’s nerves soothed and the morals of females intact – the time was ripe for fern fragrances to unfurl; but it took a unique olfactory discovery to kickstart that particular perfume craze.

It was the extraction of coumarin ­– one of the first synthetics to appear in perfumery – which made the fougère such a landmark scent. But how many people outside the industry would be able to describe coumarin’s smell? Not many, I’m guessing.

A plate from The Ferns of Great Britain and Ireland, a book from the era of Pteridomania.

Coumarin is found in tonka beans and cinnamon, but also occurs naturally in bison grass and green tea. It’s classed as a ‘lactone’ – (milky, skin-like) – a complex molecule that’s the scent of sweet hay drying in the sunshine with a slight waft of warm horse; a cold glass of fizz sipped on newly-mown grass, a fine cigar fresh from the humidor, a warm cookie dunked in cold milk. All of these things and not one in particular: the scientist’s hand working in harmony with the artful perfumer to create a magical realism. Because the true skill of a perfumer is to take ingredients and transform them into something we think we already recognise, sparking those scent memories and creating new ones to fill the gaps.

In fact, Parquet was called the ‘greatest perfumer of his time’ by no less than Ernest Beaux, the creator of Chanel No. 5, and was the first to truly understand and appreciate the use of synthetic aroma materials in fragrance composition. Previously used as mere substitutes for naturally derived raw materials, Parquet saw a chance to deploy them as unique smells in their own right – adding structure, poetry and space within perfumes that sought not to mimic the natural world but to add to it, to improve on perfection. And so the fougère fragrance family was born.

Traditionally seen as a scent for the chaps – possibly sporting tweed and a monocle – in fact Guerlain’s masterpiece of Jicky, launched in 1889, is a more ‘feminine’ fougère (the first unisex scent, too) which ramped up the crackle of dry lavender, adding sweetly mown hay and toasted almond-like flourishes of coumarin. More recently, we’ve seen an increasing number of gender-fluid fougères striding forth – perhaps chiming with our collective urge to ‘return to nature’ during the pandemic; or simply an urge that preceded Covid-19, a perfumed riposte to political unease?

Whatever the reason, the resurgence of the fougère is to be celebrated. Cooling on steamy days, comforing in more inclement weather, these are the type of scent to boost your spirits while patting your hand and telling you everything’s going to be okay. Wander into the woodland yourself, awhile, and try these fougères – from classical forest to contemporary fairytale…

Houbigant Fougère Royale A sprig of herbs carefully tucked into the lapel of a herringbone jacket, the olive from a dry Martini sucked in a slightly lascivious manner while they’re looking the other way. £130 for 100ml eau de parfum libertylondon.com

Guerlain Jicky Somewhere between breakfast and midnight, fog-shrouded moorland; pale wool blanket clutched close, bare feet on flagstones, forbidden hipflask swigged reading Wuthering Heights. £96 for 100ml eau de toilette houseoffraser.co.uk

Yves Saint Laurent Kouros Freshly-scrubbed and shining with smooth words and practiced simplicity, but clean sheets cannot hide the indiscretion and animal instincts of the night before. £50 for 50ml eau de toilette theperfumeshop.com

Creed Viking Cologne A bountiful burst of freshness leads to explorations of verdant landscapes re-awakening; geranium, herbs, lavender and nutmeg atop glacial lakes reflecting shinshine. £175for 50ml eau de parfum  creedfragrances.co.uk

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Milano Cento HIM A woodland wander with someone dashingly Italian (who knows not to wear sandals with socks), the citrus breeze segues to an herbaceously dappled grove and aromatic amour. £49 for 100ml eau de toilette roullierwhite.com

4160 Tuesdays The Lion Cupboard Ferns pressed between pages of a diary, love letters tied in faded ribbons, a lipstick kiss on a foxed mirror, silk scarves with the faint tang of a gentleman’s Cologne. £55 for 30ml eau de parfum 4160tuesdays.com

Partere Run of the River A bare-foot meander through clover-strewn lawns, budding freshness in the air, lemon-thyme and clary sage encricled by a languorous caress of incense and oakmoss. £95 for 50ml eau de parfum parterrefragrances.com

By Suzy Nightingale