Eight & Bob – the scented story of the socialite, the president, his brother & a muse

The remarkable story behind Eight & Bob brings together a dashing perfume-lover, a president, his brother and now we’re introduced to a stunning 1930s society muse named Annicke. Settle down and grab a cuppa as you learn the secrets behind the founding of this extraordinary niche house, and the stories which continue to inspre the creation of its contemporary, so-wearable scents..

We begin with the tale of how Eight & Bob got its name: One night during the summer of 1937, so we’re told, in the French Riviera (Côte d’Azur), Albert Fouquet, a young socialite and perfume connoisseur (who loved to blend his own essences), met an American student who was touring France: John F. Kennedy. Within minutes of being introduced, the vain JFK was captivated by the essence that Albert wore. John’s charm and congeniality persuaded Albert to leave him a sample of his cologne with a note at his hotel the following morning:

 

In this bottle, you will find the dash of French glamour that your American personality lacks.’

The shade of it all! Rather daring to address one of the Kennedys in such a manner, but we guess if you were a particular kind of socialite, you could get away with such cutting remarks.

Eight & Bob continue the story by describing how, on returning from vacation, ‘Albert received a letter from JFK thanking him for the fragrance and informing him of its success amongst his friends. He requested that Albert send him eight samples, “and if your production allows, another one for Bob”. (‘Bob’ being Robert Kennedy). And so, the legend of the house begat its name. You can read all the details in our page dedicated to the history of Eight & Bob.

The Eight & Bob Iconic Discovery Set is just £20 to delve into six timeless scents, including (of course) the original signature of JFK. The others are scented snapshopts, if you like, that dive deeper into the era and the characters at play, and you can click on the link to read the notes and full reviews of each.

Though initially put together by the house with men in mind, here at Perfume Society HQ we implore everyone to explore this divine collection and discover the timeless aromas loved by the stars of old Hollywood. We enjoy weraing many of these scents ourselves, so be sure to keep them safely locked away, chaps, if you want to keep them for yourselves!

Cap d’Antibes  – a fragrance that captures the essence of  long summer days

Champs de Provence  – an exquisite fragrance, inspired by the beauty of Provence

Egypt – based on Albert Fouquet’s fascination of ancient Egyptian culture

Eight & Bob Original –  the fragrance that was a great success with both JFK and his friends

Mémoires de Mustique – capturing the magic of this unique Caribbean island

Nuit de Megève – based on mountain air, the smell of wood smoke and elegance.

Now the Eight & Bob history unfurls a little further with the telling of founder Albert Fouquet‘s own tale – or rather, that of the woman who turned his life upside down. One evening in the French Alps, he attended a high society soirée (it seems he was paiting the town varying shades of scarlet almost every night) and at this particular party was introduced to the strikingly beautiful Annicke.

The Annicke Fragrance Discovery Set is also just £20 to explore all six scents, and has been created as a contemporary tribute to Fouquet’s love. The exquisite fragrances are inspired by that single, muse in the 1930s, but the love story lives on today in this line-up of six numbered scents – each exploring a differing facet of her personality. Because yes, Albert, a woman can be drop dead gorgeous but SO much more, as he found out…

Annicke 1 – an ode to the extraordinary beauty and elegance of a woman with feminine floral aromas of lily of the valley, peony and jasmine

Annicke 2 – deliberately sensual and irresistible with harmonious notes of fruity fig and mandarin that uplift the senses, and hazelnut that brings a delicate touch of sugar

Annicke 3 – inspired by the sophisticated and glamorous charm of the early 1920s as white rose unfurls an air of vintage femininity across a dancefloor

Annicke 4 – inspired by an enchanted forest with woody and earthy undertones of Cashmeran and oakmoss, with spring-like floral notes of rose, ylang ylang and jasmine

Annicke 5 – discover the art of seduction via rich notes of full-bodied plum, golden honey with a dash of spicy rum and a base of sensual patchouli

Annicke 6 – personifying the complex dimensions of a woman, through juxtaposing notes of Sichuan pepper, bergamot and carnation.

Whichever scent you first fall for – the iconic original, the world-tour of scented snaphots or the six scented love letters to Albert’s muse – we’re sure you’ll enjoy trying all of the president’s scents…

By Suzy Nightingale

We’re going on The Scent Trail – A Journey of the Senses

As we’re still not able to travel very far physically, so many of us have turned more than ever to fragrance as a way to ‘travel with our nose.’ Today we are traversing time and space with Celia Lyttelton‘s  beautifully written and so-evocative book, The Scent Trail, that follows her journey to discover the secret of scent…

Penguin say: ‘When Celia Lyttelton visited a bespoke perfumers, she realised a long-held ambition: to have a scent created solely for her. Entering this heady, exotic world of oils and essences, she was transported from a leafy London square to a place of long-forgotten memories and sensory experiences. And once drawn into this world, she felt compelled to trace the origins, history and culture of the many ingredients that made up her unique perfume…

And so began a magical journey of the senses that took Celia from Grasse, the cradle of perfume, to Morocco; from the rose-growing region of Isparta in Turkey, to the Tuscan hills where the iris grows wild. And after journeying to Sri Lanka, the home of the heavenly scented jasmine, Celia ventured to India, the Yemen and finally to the ‘Island of Bliss’, Socotra. Here she traced the rarest and most mysterious agent in perfumery, ambergris, which is found in the bellies of whales and is said to have powerful aphrodisiac qualities.

 

From the peasants and farmers growing their own crops, and the traders who sell to the great perfume houses, to the ‘noses’ who create the scents and the marketing kings who rule this powerful billion-dollar industry, Celia Lyttelton paints a mystical, sensual landscape of sights, sounds and aromas as she recalls the extraordinary people and places she encountered on her unique Scent Trail.’

We say: While on the quest for ‘the perfect perfume’, author Celia Lyttelton had a bespoke fragrance made by Anastasia Brozler in London, an encounter that set Lyttelton off on a tour of the world to trace the history and provenence of the ingredients used. From a collection of precious oils contained in an old wooden box to the growing, harvesting and distilling of the materials and exploring cultural responses and mythological beliefs surroung scent, this book is a must-have for anyone who wonders where, exactly their perfume originated. And what a tour to take! With new scent adventures beginning with sentences such as: ‘We arrived on a plateau of dragons’ blood trees and desert roses…’ you will doubtless be Googling far flung fragrant climes, just as we did, while reading this (and now knowing exactly what you’d do following a Lottery win!) Movingly written, and full of the insightful, utterly fascinating pieces of fragrant history that she collected along the way, this book is a deep-dive into perfume ingredients that will satiate your travel-lust until such time we may pack our bags and set off into the scented sunset…

 

 

Celia Lyttelton The Scent Trail: A Journey of the Senses, Bantam Books amazon.co.uk

Looking for a gift or just the next thing you need to get your nose in to? Have a browse of our ever-expanding selection of favourite books – some are exclusively about perfume, others are more scholarly tomes on the history and scientific advancements of smell and the senses; while others still follow a path of examining fragrant ingredients in poetic, funny or awe-inspiring ways. Every page is a journey in itself. What are you waiting for…?

By Suzy Nightingale

Clive Christian – the scented history & fragrant future

We know Clive Christian today as a modern house crafting contemporary and highly inventive scents. But dig a little deeper, and fascinatingly the history and evolution of the house goes back to 1872, and the Crown Perfumery company. Crown was once a thriving fragrance house serving royalty (for which Queen Victoria granted the symbolic use of her crown) – but eventually fell on hard times. Enter Clive Christian – renowned interior designer with a passion for perfume, who then purchased Crown Perfumery in 1999.

In danger of the iconic crowned bottle design being lost forever, the bottles were saved, but rather than slavishly harking back to the past, it was decided the fragrances inside should have a finger firmly on the modern pulse while still retaining a nod to their illustrious heritage. The suitably named Clive Christian Original Collection marked the launch of their now iconic fragrance pairings – a masculine and feminine interpretation of a shared inspiration – with 1872 a fragrant handshake commemorating the brand’s Victorian heritage, X a tribute to the adventures of the silk road, and No.1 artfully blending the world’s rarest spices; famously, the precious formula was famously offered as ‘the most expensive perfume in the world.’

 

 

With a self-proclaimed ‘passion for transforming the expected into the extraordinary’, in recent years the fragrances have also seen a more unanticipated turn. Still resolutely luxurious in nature and (it could be said) retaining a regal bearing, the juices themselves can be inspired by thrillingly exotic and – in the case of the Addictive Arts series – daringly narcotic raw materials.

‘Perfumery is an art form, in the same genre as music and painting. It requires talent, expertise and most of all passion,’ observes Clive (awarded an OBE by Queen Elizabeth II in the 2012 New Year Honours List). As Clive Christian concludes: ‘outstanding perfume creations are forever.’ And now, you are able to delve into the archives of signature and more recent releases in the form of Clive Christian Discovery Sets – hurrah!

Clive Christian Around the World Discovery Set £150
Discover the exquisite fragrances below that will transport you around the world, in generous 7.5ml sizes…

Addictive Arts Jump up and Kiss Me Hedonistic  – oriental gourmand fragrance that opens with citrus notes of bergamot, grapefruit, neroli.

Noble XXI Art Deco Cypress  – zesty bergamot and uplifting basil held by a surging heart of exotic yet warming spices.

Original Collection 1872 Masculine – herbaceous and aromatic.

Clive Christian 1872 Feminine Travel Set £95
The 1872 Feminine Edition citrus perfume for her contains 20% perfume concentration. A floral, fruity citrus that combines clean, crisp top notes of bergamot with the intense bouquet of Rose de Mai, one of the rarest ingredients in nature. A beautifully fresh and familiar sensation for the wearer. Despite being x 3 mini perfumes (7.5ml), it allows for around 100 sprays in each vial. 1872 Feminine combines clean, crisp top notes with the intense bouquet of Rose de Mai.

 

Guerlain Muguet 2021 – legendary lily of the valley

Every year on the first of May, Guerlain release their much-anticipated 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 of the flower that seven 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’. This year, that return has been particularly significant as the easing of Covid-19 lockdown restrictions and rollout of vaccines in many countries has, for we lucky some, meant the ability to meet up with loved ones and see family members missed for so long. But let’s allow Guerlain to walk us through 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!’

 

 

The stunning bottle for 2021’s Muguet Millésime, Guerlain turned to the talents of Lucie Touré, a young Parisian paper and textile designer who won the 2019 Eiffel Tower Design Prize. ‘To reinterpret Muguet, I created a delicate adornment in a fresh, Haute Couture spirit’, she explains.

 

 

Guerlain says: ‘After studying embroidery and textile design, Lucie Touré trained for six years in Parisian embroidery and textile printing studios, collaborating with the most prestigious ready-to-wear and Haute Couture houses. She founded her own studio in 2018, with an initial two-year residency in the Ateliers de Paris. By associating paper with finishing techniques drawn from textile and jewelry, she glorifies the ephemeral material by cutting, weaving, or embroidering it. For this edition, she has imagined a modern, customised 3-D adornment, entirely hand-made in Paris: a stylised representation of sprigs of lily-of-the-valley in full blossom unfurling gracefully onto the dome of the Bee Bottle.’

 

Guerlain Muguet 2021 £450 [4,500 pieces worldwide]

By Suzy Nightingale

Clive Christian Matsukita – a fragrant history, revived

Clive Christian has been searching through the Crown Perfumery Company archives to research ‘some of the most infamous scents from this revolutionary British perfume house; loved by the aristocracy, politicians, artists and actors of the Victorian era and beyond.’

Select perfumes, we’re told, will be ‘uncovered from history, taking inspiration from a unique heritage whilst remaining true to the Clive Christian traditions of concentration, complexity and a dedication to using the finest ingredients.’

 

 

Matsukita was inspired ‘by a fabled Japanese princess who awed the Victorian royal court with her elegance and grace’ – first launched in 1892 by Crown Perfumery, and heavily advertised with lavish, hand painted illustrations.

Today, Matsukita ‘has been reimagined to capture this illusive elegance.’ A deliciously woody chypre, there’s an invigorating freshness wafting around the top notes to keep this breezy and beautiful. Green bergamot, pink pepper and intriguing nutmeg swoop to the floral, woody heart of Chinese imperial jasmine infused with with smokey black tea. The smoke dispersing to reveal an amber-rich base swathed in whisper-soft musk add further to the ‘sense of mystery and grace’ they hoped to capture of the original.

 

Clive Crown Collection Christian Matsukita £325 for 50ml eau de parfum
Available at harrods.com

 

Such a fragrance deserves a fitting presentation, and Clive Christian explain that, ‘The presentation case showcases the unique history, with an archive image hidden for discovery beneath each bottle. The symbol for this new collection is none other than the delicate motif of the Crown Perfumery Company, a symbol guarded by the perfume house as a sign of excellence and perfume quality. As with all Clive Christian perfumes each bottle is topped with our signature crown stopper, a sign of perfume prestige since 1872.’

While fragrance lovers have been swooning at the scent and its packaging, we also lost our hearts completely to the charmingly illustrated film to accompany the launch of this contemporary itteration, which we’re thrilled to share with you, below…

 

Perfume Bottles Auction 2021 – the rare, unique & ravishing!

The annual Perfume Bottles Auction is the most important date in the diary for serious scent bottle collectors around the world. Every year, stunning examples of artistic fragrance flaçons are meticulously sourced and offered to bidders, and it’s a chance to see some of the rarest bottles outside of a museum.

Since 1979, organiser and founder of The Perfume Bottles Auction, Ken Leach, has been working ‘to create public and corporate awareness of the artistry to be found in vintage perfume presentation.’ His antique shop’s show-stopping merchandise ‘has served as a source of inspiration for glass companies, package designers, and celebrity perfumers, before ultimately entering the collections of perfume bottle enthusiasts around the globe.’

Like last year, thanks to the pandemic the auction will be held online on May 1st 2021 – though this offers the opportunity for everyone to join in. The circumstances have made sourcing items more challenging, but Mr. Leach says, although he’s not been able to travel ‘…as I normally would to view collections, fate smiled and among this year’s consignments are some of the rarest and most unusual items I’ve seen.’

 

 

The stunning print catalogue – highly collectable in itself, and an invaluable resource for fragrance fans and historians alike – is now available (and can be sent worldwide).

Mr. Leach is pictured, above, with some of the most important items, and walks us through them, below. Get set to swoon…!
DeVilbiss & Osiris
‘Exceedingly rare 1928 DeVilbiss figural dragonfly perfume atomizer with a pre-sale estimate of $6,000 to $8,000.  Also in this photo is the all important Osiris by Vinolia with a pre-sale estimate of $30,000 to $40,000
Paul Poiret Rosine
‘1919 Rosine Aladin perfume bottle in elaborate box signed Mario Simonis ’19. The box graphics depict Paul Poiret as a Persian King in an imagined Orientalist tableau, the base covered in authentic Moroccan fabric. Pre-sale estimate $2,500-3,500.’
Hoffmann
‘Spectacular 1920s Heinrich Hoffmann Czechoslovakian black crystal perfume bottle with Austrian decoration by Turriet & Bardach. Pre-sale estimate $4,500-5,000’
 
Isabey Lalique
‘1924 Rene Lalique for Isabey A Travers la Voilette (Through the Veil) perfume presentation in collaboration with Alix Ayme. On the box cover and seen through a veil, a beautiful woman smelling a bouquet of flowers is detailed. The lustrous box is finished to appear lacquered while the veil pattern is printed in metallic ink, allowing the embossed flowers to appear to pierce through the veil. Pre-sale estimate $3,000-6,000′
Powder Box
‘1920s Rare Galleries Lafayette “Terre de Retz” highly detailed figural “Pirate Ship” powder box. Pre-sale estimate $1,500-2,000’
Lalique Olives
‘1912 Rene Lalique et Cie. “Olives” clear glass perfume bottle molded with convex oval cabochons, matching stopper. Pre-sale Estimate $600-800’
Ballerina
‘1940’s Marie Earle Ballerina perfume bottle presentation includes a covered plaster ballet shoe stand box. Advertisements for this perfume read “Ballerina perfume for dancing souls.” Pre-sale estimate $3,000-4,000′

Secrets of the Lavender Girls – real-life WWII stories of the women who worked at Yardley

In her novel, Secrets of the Lavender Girls (a book we recently added to our Fragrant Reads shelf of scent-themed tomes), Kate Thompson tells the tale of the women who worked at the Yardley factory during the war. But it turns out some of the stories she discovered suring her research were even more incredible…

‘I love archives and libraries,’ Kate Thompson shares on her Facebook page. ‘Carefully untying the cream ribbon of an old file and catching the scent of 80-year-old dust motes is a thrill. More than once I’ve found hours can slip away leafing through yellowed newspaper reports and witness accounts from the Second World War in the silence of a reading room…’

Revealing her passion for research, and the extraordinary stories she found during her time writing The Secrets of the Lavender Girls, Kate says that ‘nothing beats what historians calls ‘Primary Sources’ and what I prefer instead to call ‘Magnificent Women’.’

The utterly charming novel follows the fragrant history of Yardley, and the remarkable stories of the women who worked there. Though a fictional account, Kate’s genuine fondness for the real life women she found (and who shared their tales with her) truly shines through.

Unravelling the stories of the real-life women who worked at Yardley during the war, she received ‘a beautiful handwritten letter in the post.’

‘I was a wartime lavender girl, I read about your book in a magazine,’ wrote Joan Osborne. ‘Yardley was the most wonderful years of my life. I am now 91.’

The letter was from Joan, who’d desperately wanted to work at Yardley, telling Kate: ‘It must have been the glamour. I remember travelling from Stratford to Ilford on the bus and the conductor opening the window so everyone could smell the lavender blowing from Yardley. Carpenters Road, or Stink Bomb Alley was famous for its smells. Seven different types of air flowed down there depending on which way the air was blowing. I can still smell the lavender,’

 

Kate learned Joan was sent to work in the top floor perfumery department where she was given a broom to sweep the floor. ‘I thought, “I haven’t come here to sweep floors” so they moved me to bottle-filling where I was putting the skin and caps on bottles. They were losing so many girls to the services I don’t think they wanted to lose anymore, so they kept me sweet. I earnt eighteen shillings and something a week and my clocking in number was 157. I’ve still got the card.’

‘They were dangerous times, especially when the flying bombs started up, but being young I didn’t think that much about it. I was more upset by how cold it was in the factory, the heating was rarely on and we were always freezing. They used to give us cups of Oxo to warm us up. Least the room always smelt lovely from the lavender, freesia and April violets perfume.’

 

 

You can read more of the remarkable back-story of Joan and her fellow Yardley girls in Kate Thompson’s touching refelections on researching the book. But we cannot urge you enough to go and buy the book itself – and read it while wearing one of Yardley’s classic fragrances (still proudly in production!) for an extra fragrant waft of history…

By Suzy Nightingale

Schwarzlose Berlin – the heritage fragrance house that survived war by being one step ahead…

From piano-maker to perfumer, the historic Schwarzlose Berlin have been selling scents since 1856, beloved by the royal courts of Europe and Chinese Emperors alike. This always-innovative perfumery has survived war, inflation and changing tastes by always being one step ahead, but their name still may not be known to many. Let’s put that right…

It all began when entrepreneurial piano-maker Johann Friedrich Schwarzlose decided to branch out and establish his own drug store at Markgrafenstrasse 29, beginning with production of perfumes.

 

 

Quickly establishing himself, his next venture to take over the distinguished fragrance manufacturer Treu & Nuglisch in 1858. The company had been purveyor to the Court, and now the aristocracy flocked to the new fragrance shop. By 1897, Schwarzlose had taken on a business partner, Franz Köthner, and together they traded with the added title: ‘Purveyor to the Court of His Majesty the Emperor and King’. Indeed, a flacon found in a collection of Emperor Pu Yi confirms their formidable reputation had already reached as far as China.

Always attuned to the latest innovations, Schwarzlose was quick to adopt the new scientific advances which were then rocking the perfume world, by combining blends of naturals with man-made aroma molecules – discoveries akin to creating a new musical note or gifting a previously unseen colour to an artist. As the J.F. Schwarzlose history documents, ‘Although fashion around 1900 still calls for perfumes imitating the natural fragrance of a blossom as closely as possible (lilies of the valley, violets, roses, or lilac are the dominating scents of that time) the art of composing olfactory fantasies becomes increasingly important.’

Their continuing renown for combining heritage quality with contemporary tastes meant that by 1902, with Ernst Köthner, grandson of Joachim Friedrich Schwarzlose, now sole owner; the company had begun expanding further in foreign markets worldwide – Spain, Asia and Australia just some of the locations their products are sought-after. Continuing their innovative ways, around the turn of the century, they launched their first perfume vending machine to the English-speaking world, with the automat promising ‘to dispense ‘Perfume Soap-Powder’ in the four different fragrances: ‘Eau De Cologne’, ‘Rosa Centifolia’, ‘Lilaflor’, and ‘Melati Radja’ onto a handkerchief held in front of it.’

The crippling inflation of the early 1930’s saw many established houses go under, but luckily J.F. Schwarzlose survived – testament to their wise business-handling and fine perfumery skills. In fact, they’re able to move into a modernised store located on Leipziger Straße 113 in the September 1930. They continued to thrive for well over another decade, but another war was looming, and their fragrant fate was not so kind, this time…

 

 

In 1944 the J.F. Schwarzlose factory and shops were bombed and totally destroyed. That might have been the end of the tale – another proud perfume house lost to history – were it not for the resilience of one Anni Köthner, who restarted the business, first in Hamburg, then moving back to its true home city, Berlin. But the shadow of the Berlin wall now loomed, in 1961 splitting locations of the company East and West Germany, impacting on the business, which ceased trading once again in 1976.

 

 

But what a phoenix this fragrance house is – because the story isn’t finished. In 2012, packaging designer Lutz Herrmann and communication expert Tamas Tagscherer revived it under the name J.F. Schwarzlose Berlin – enlisting brilliant perfumer Véronique Nyberg as the ‘nose’.

Today, this new guard remains ‘in close contact with the last heir to Schwarzlose, Jutta Jank-Trabant, who is delighted to find the brand on display again… and is always a welcome guest in the new office of J.F. Schwarzlose Berlin. And how utterly joyous this important perfumery was saved once again! Now thriving afresh, the modern-day fragrances of J.F. Schwarzlose harness the grandeur of their heritage, and all they learned through history, but still stay true to leading the fashions rather than merely following them.

We think this heritage name deserves to be celebrated the world over – a house that’s so proudly continued and re-invigorated their fragrant catalogue with the most modern innovations. So now, we urge you to continue the Schwarzlose Berlin story by trying their wonderful scents for yourself…

By Suzy Nightingale

 

From harlots & hippies: how patchouli got cool again

Patchouli might as well be called the ‘Marmite of the perfume world’ as those of us who fall firmly in the LOVE IT camp have our passionately held views matched only by those who devoutly HATE IT. But perhaps if you have always languished on the loathing side of the fragrant fence, you might have your mind changed by this book we’ve recently added to our Fragrant Reads bookshelves…?

Part of a series of extremely informative ‘naturals notebooks’ on some of perfumery’s key ingredients, written and published in conjunction with NEZ (the French olfactory magazine) and LMR (Laboratoire Monique Rémy – one of the world’s leading producers of naturals used in the fragrance industry); Patchouli is a fascinating read for anyone who wants to take a deeper dive into their favourite fragrance notes. As confirmed patchouli-heads, here at The Perfume Society, of course we had to begin with this one!

 

‘Once seen as a scent favoured by courtesans and hippies,’ NEZ explain (hello, yes, we feel seen) ‘patchouli has become a key ingredient in today’s perfumery. Its warm, woody and complex fragrance provides the perfect setting for fresher notes to run free, especially in chypre and oriental perfumes.’ (Two of our favourite fragrance families there, so yes and yes again). An easy read, it manages to walk that fine line between interesting snippets of fragrant facts and a more in-depth and technical look at the processes behind how patchouli is produced. Indeed, NEZ say they wanted to ‘Explore every aspect of this exotic plant, from botany, history, art, gastronomy, literature, agriculture and chemistry, to the perfumers who use it and the perfumes they create.’

FYI: If you’re looking to learn more about patchouli, do have a look at our always-useful Ingredients section.

We really enjoyed the quotes from perfumers who adore patchouli – Bruno Jovanovic saying that ‘…if magic had a scent, it would smell of patchouli!’ and describing why he chose some of the other notes he added to his composition of Monsieur for Éditions de parfums Frédéric Malle, ‘To clothe, enhance, envelope the patchouli so it could become a flagship fragrance in Frédéric’s catalogue.’ With diagrams of historical timelines and distillation techniques, along with reviews of key fragrances to try patchouli in, it’s a short but fact-filled book that’s great to dip in and out of rather than read cover-to-cover, perhaps.

Patchouli NEZ + LMR the naturals notebook, £15.99
Buy it from shymimosa.co.uk

By Suzy Nightingale

City of roses – the perfume capital of India

There’s an ancient city that’s become known as the perfume capital of India. Roses, roses everywhere! If ever you needed an excuse to feast your eyes on beauty, these seemingly endless dull, grey days are immediately brightened by reading this fascinating report by Rachna Sachasinh for National Geographic.

‘For centuries Kannauj (pronounced kunh-nowj), in northeast India’s Ganges belt, has been crafting oil-based botanical perfumes called attar using the world’s oldest known distillation methods,’ the piece begins, and as you gaze in wonder at the carpet of pink blossoms – and imagine with great longing the glorious scent in the air – it’s not hard to understand how the fragrances produced from the Rosa damascena shrubs planted there were soon ‘Sought after by both Mughal royals and everyday folk in ancient India’s fragrance-obsessed culture’, so that the ‘Kannauj attar scented everything from wrists to food, fountains to homes.’

We are thrilled to see the region showcased in the national media, now, for their utterly wonderful roses and fragrances produced from them, because Amanda Carr had already travelled to the city of roses, and last year wrote an exclusive report on The Scents of India for our magazine, The Scented Letter, for which she was nominated for a Jasmine Award, and which you can read in full, here!

 

It’s worth reminding ourselves that rose fragrances have been worn by both genders for centuries, too – it’s only Western and European cultures who more recently classed rose as ‘female’, and something the fragrance industry has begun to overturn (thank goodness!) by introducing many more rose-centric scents marketed at men or classed as ‘unisex’. We’ve said it many times before but we’ll go on saying it: smells do not have a gender – they’re for everyone who wants to wear them!

 

Indeed, the more recent National Geographic feature goes on to describe how the rose fragrances produced in Kannauj have proved ‘Equally alluring to men and women,’ because the ‘attars have an androgynous quality. They strike intense floral, woodsy, musky, smoky, green, or grassy notes. Trotted out by season, attars can be both warm (cloves, cardamom, saffron, oud) and cooling (jasmine, pandan, vetiver, marigold).’

I am lucky enough to have a little bottle of the Gulab (Indian Rose) attar from the Saini Blends distillery she visited, and which Amanda very kindly gave me when she returned from her travels. I cannot tell you the utter bliss it has been to wear it – a soft but fully enveloping cloud of powdery, fruity petals that almost smells like Turkish Delight sprinkled with icing sugar. Sheer joy, and a constant comfort to sniff and be reminded not only of our friendship, but of the wider world, of places I want to travel to, of beauty itself.

If you are interested in learning more about attars, I cannot urge you enough to read Amanda’s feature in full – there’s even a section on how to tell the attars apart, and how to order directly from Saini Blends themselves. It’s vital we not only celebrate this ancient art (and the fact that rose fragrances did not bloom unbidden from Grasse, originally) but support those who still work there. Because, as Amanda reported for us, ‘the attar industry in Kannauj has fallen to around 100 artisan makers today, from over 700 at its peak…’

By Suzy Nightingale