It's our THIRD birthday! To begin the celebrations, we pay homage to our symbolic flower: lily of the valley…

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’. For the French, May 1st traditionally represents the start of gifting bouquets of “muguet” to loved ones to signify the regard in which they’re held and as a token of prosperity for the year ahead. A tradition supposedly begun when King Charles IX was presented with a bunch of the delicate blooms, and decided to gift the ladies of his court, too.

In Europe, ‘bals de muguet’ were historically held – lily of the valley themed dances that offered the tantalising prospect for young singletons to meet without their parents’ permission.

With the young gals dressed in white gowns and the dapper chaps wearing lily of the valley as a buttonhole, we’re sure there was many a ‘return to happiness’ on such evenings… Now the custom is tied in with France’s Labour Day public holiday, and the tradition of giving lily of the valley to loved ones during May still holds strong.

No wonder that three years ago, we chose this delightful, flower-filled date in the calendar to launch The Perfume Society – running hither and thither all over London handing sprigs of lily of the valley to fragrant friends.

And my, how our friends have grown in this short time! With a readership that stretches around the globe and our Instagram followers now topping 21K, we have been delighted with some of the truly beautiful pictures some of our followers have been sharing there. Just feast your eyes on the stunning pictures we’ve sprinkled throughout this post…

With your help we’ve come so far already, and we have so many more exciting things to share with you in the weeks and months ahead. We wish we could come and give every single one of you a sprig of lily of the valley to show our heartfelt appreciation for all your support, but for now, accept this symbol of love and luck, from us to all of you…

Written by Suzy Nightingale
 

The first gourmand: Brillat-Savarin – an 18th Century chemist who knew you are what you eat (and smell!)

Long before ‘gourmand’ foodie-inspired fragrances were even dreamed of and while smell was still perceived as the poor cousin of our other senses, one 18th Century polymath was championing the exquisite pleasures that taste and smell bring to everyday life. And more than mere pleasure alone: in fact, he heralded the proper appreciation and scientific study of these long-foregranted senses…
‘Tell me what you eat and I will tell you what you are.’ So said Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, 1755-1826, a French lawyer and politician whom, apart from law, studied chemistry and medicine, and eventually gained fame as an epicure and gastronome.
 

 
His seminal work Physiologie du goût (The Physiology of Taste), contains Savarin’s philosophies and observations on the pleasures of the food, which he very much considered a science – long before the birth of molecular gastronomy and serious studies of taste and smell had begun. And smell was very much at the forefront of the gastronomique experience, Savarin had worked out; exclaiming:
‘Smell and taste are in fact but a single composite sense, whose laboratory is the mouth and its chimney the nose.’
Previously considered the least important of the senses – indeed, smell remains the least scientifically explored, though technology is making huge leaps in our understanding – Savarin proclaimed that,’The sense of smell, like a faithful counsellor, foretells its character.’
 

 
Published only two months before his death, the book has never been out of print and still proves inspirational to chefs and food-lovers to this day.
 

 
Preceding the remarkable leaps in knowledge high-tech equipment has allowed and revealing how entwined our sense of smell is to the taste and enjoyment of food, Savarin also observed how our noses protect us from eating potentially harmful substances, explaining ‘…for unknown foods, the nose acts always as a sentinal and cries: “Who goes there?”‘ while coming to the conclusion that a person’s character may be foretold in their taste and smell preferences… ‘Tell me what you eat and I will tell you what you are.’
We devoted an entire issue of our award-winning magazine The Scented Letter (now available in print, and with online subscriptions worldwide!) to taste and smell – as of course we are gourmand fans in ALL the senses. And so it is heartening to know that Brillat was on our side here, with this extremely useful advice we selflessly pledge to carry through life:
‘Those who have been too long at their labor, who have drunk too long at the cup of voluptuousness, who feel they have become temporarily inhumane, who are tormented by their families, who find life sad and love ephemeral… they should all eat chocolate and they will be comforted.’
Wise words, indeed. We plan to enjoy all the sweet temptations that come our way, in scent form and in chocolate. Talk about having your cake and wearing it, too!
Written by Suzy Nightingale

Perfume bottle auction set to stun… feast your eyes on these antique flacons!

Imagine a room stacked with the most precious perfume bottles in the world – crystal flacons glinting and variously dipped in gold, lavished with gems, painstakingly enamelled or perhaps a revolving perfume carousel. Such visions are not merely scenes torn from Marie Antoinette’s diary; for once a year, perfume lovers, collectors and dealers from around the world gather to not only marvel at the impeccable selection, as you might in a museum’s display; but to bid on them and take them home….

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Having fallen madly in the love with the extremely rare 1928 Parfums de Marcy, trompe l’oeil presentation “Le Bracelet Miraculeux,” – five scents disguised as an art deco bracelet [see above], which sold for $33,000 (a teeny bit out of our price range, sadly…) we knew they would be special – but these are above and beyond.

This year, the Perfume Bottles Auction will take place at 5pm on Friday, May 5th at the Hyatt Regency in Princeton, New Jersey. We’re aware many readers possibly wont be able to make it there in person, but we absolutely guarantee you’ll want to feast your eyes on the sumptuous bottles as we take a look at some of the highlights submitted thus far. The auction catalogue hasn’t even yet been printed, so we were thrilled they were kind enough to get in touch and ask if we’d like a sneak peek.

Well yes. Yes, we would.

The Perfume Bottles Auction is directed by Ken Leach; each year he seeks out the most desirable and unique perfume bottles. This highly prestigious event is the longest running specialty auction of perfume bottles worldwide, and takes place during the annual three-day extravaganza for perfume bottle lovers annual International Perfume Bottles Association convention with the field’s leading dealers featuring thousands of bottles and an internationally recognized auction.
The convention draws together collectors and dealers from around the world, and this year features 250 lots to tempt prospective bidders. Simply put, each item is fabulous and lust-worthy, so it’s hard to pick a favourite, but some of our choices to watch (or bid on, should the fancy take you!) are as follows:

This elaborate French 1820s Charles X Palais Royal perfume carousel made of gilt bronze mounted on an abalone shell with Baccarat cut crystal bottles is estimated to sell between $10,000 and $20,000.
Perfume bottle made by Baccarat in 1926. Made for perfumer Godet for the “Petite Fleur Bleue” fragrance. The crystal bottle is in the shape of a woman’s skirt, while the frost stopper with grey patina perfectly depicts a woman holding flowers. Estimated to sell between $5,000 and $6,000.

Perfume bottle “Gros Fruits” designed by Rene Lalique in 1919 and was available for purchase at Maison Lalique. The detail of plums on the bottle is molded in high relief and colored by grey patina. Estimated to sell between $10,000 to $15,000.
1920s Czechoslovakian “nude dauber” perfume bottle by Heinrich Hoffmann. The bottle is mounted on gilt metal
and decorated with faux jade crystal. The bottle is topped with a frosted
glass medusa medallion. Estimated to sell btw. $5,000-$7,000

UK based collectors and anyone enthralled by the world of fragrance bottle art will be glad to know here is also a UK branch of the organisation, and you can find out more about their activities at ipba-uk.co.uk
Ken Leach is currently accepting consignments for the 2017 auction to be held in Princeton, New Jersey.
Contact: [email protected]
Written by Suzy Nightingale

Angelina Jolie: Guerlain Parfumeur – a new fragrant personification of iconic, female fortitude…

Since 1828, the French house of Guerlain has been synonymous with perfumes inspired by and created for strikingly strong women. As Jacques Guerlain himself once said: ‘We create perfumes for the women we admire.’ So who better to personify that independent, wilful yet utterly elegant spirit than Angelina Jolie, whom Guerlain have just announced as their personification of their new fragrance… Guerlain Parfumeur Mon Parfum.
Master Perfumer at Guerlain, Thierry Wasser, created Guerlain Parfumeur by drawing direct inspiration from Angelina Jolie, expressing the idea of ‘…the notes of a woman,’ and the embodiment of modern femininity within her choices, emotions and dreams.

Angelina Jolie [photo by Wall Street Journal]
First known as an actress, Jolie is now a filmaker in her own right while also serving as Special Envoy to the UN Refugee Agency, co-founder of the Preventing Sexual Violence Initiative and human rights activist, with many emotional and familial ties to France and the house of Guerlain itself. The deal was struck in 2015, with Jolie having long been a fan of Guerlain since childhood, with evocative scent memories of her mother’s love for a Guerlain powder. But Jolie also represents the continuation of a house that has ever pushed the boundaries while striving for modernity and perfectly executing a timeless, fearless femininity… Indeed, Jolie’s compassion is also at the fore, with her decision to donate her entire salary from the collaboration to charity.
guerlain-are-you-her-type-perfume-1920sThink of Guerlain’s most famous fragrances – scents that have stood the test of time and will likely outlive us all – and a powerful woman will be behind the inspiration for the perfume, somewhere. Such as the exuberantly mysterious Mitsouko from 1919. Composed by Jacques Guerlain the perfume was based on the novel ‘La bataille’ and the eponymous heroine and wife of a Japanese Admiral, caught in the web of a tangled love affair with a British officer. A masterful balance of the juicy peach and rounded oakmoss of the base, Mitsouko retains its ambiguous juxtaposition of alluring warmth and cool reserve – an echo of the story’s heroine who must control her raging emotions with dignity as she awaits news of which, if either, of her lovers will return from the war.
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If Mitsouko represents an attempted control of the vagaries of the human heart, then Shalimar gives free reign to overwhelming passion and devotion – a romance poem written in perfume and representing the legendary love of Emperor Shahjahan and his wife Mumtaz Mahal, meaning “Jewel of the Palace,” and also composed by Jacques Guerlain, in 1925. During their marriage the couple were inseparable, but having given birth to thirteen children, she died during the birth of their gourteenth. Devastated by her death, Shah Jahan had the Taj Mahal built in memory of his wife and their undying love; and Shalimar is named after ‘The Gardens of Shalimar,’ her favourite place. One of the best-selling perfumes in the world to this day, Shalimar seamlessly weaves citrus freshness in to a beguiling floral heart garlanded by gauzy jasmine and may rose, with a charismatic dry down that wavers between the warmth of opoponax, tonka bean and vanilla, and a misty coolness of iris and ambergris.
These scented stories are merely two of the redolent, towering and immediately evocative fragrances in their rich tapestry – and with Jolie at the helm of their forthcoming fragrance – due for release in March 2017 – for Guerlain, the future is definitely a continued celebration of female strength…
Written by Suzy Nightingale

Tired of turkey? Sick of of sprouts? Allow us to transport you to the glam world of 50s & 60s scents…

If you’re anything like us, you’ll have had just about enough of it all by now.
The C word.
It’s lovely and everything – don’t get us wrong – but as it’s been building up for what seems like half the year and we are now all completely exhausted, we think it’s time to sit down, grab a cuppa and wrap your nose around something utterly glamorous (and with nary a mention of tinsel, trees or flippin’ turkeys.)

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Photo credit – carolinehirons.com

In our extensive library of pages to explore here at The Perfume Society, we have filled some of them with the concise histories of perfume from Ancient Egypt to the modern day. But for now we’re going to have a brief flit to the ultra glamorous world of the 50s and 60s perfumes for now – do you happen to know which famous perfume began life as a bath oil…?
Well, as the one and only Estée Lauder told our co-founder, Jo Fairley, one afternoon over afternoon tea at New York’s Plaza Hotel: ‘Back then, a woman waited for her husband to give her perfume on her birthday or anniversary. No woman purchased fragrance for herself. So I decided I wouldn’t call my new launch “perfume”.  I’d call it Youth Dew,’ (a name borrowed from one of her successful skin creams).
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Launched in 1953, Youth Dew had a clever dual-purpose: ‘… a bath oil that doubled as a skin perfume to buy, because it was feminine, all-American, very girl-next-door to take baths. A woman could buy a bath oil for herself without feeling guilty or giving hints to her husband.’  And when Mrs. Lauder declares that women’s status got a boost when ‘a woman felt free to dole out some of her own dollars for scents,’ who can argue with that…?
Fashion designers really began to wake up to the world of perfumery in this vibrant era: the ‘boy wonder’ Yves Saint Laurent unveiled his ‘Y’ in 1964, and Rive Gauche in 1968.  And then came mini-skirts. The Beatles. Pop Music. The Pill. Parents everywhere lay awake at night worrying about their daughters’ virtue in ‘Swinging London’ and beyond – and things would never be the same again: it was as if the whole focus had shifted, through this ‘Youthquake’. And did they wear perfume? You bet…
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Fashion maven Mary Quant launched a range of fragrances – including the aptly-named Havoc. ‘I wanted a truly modern scent. Most of the perfumes are so old-fashioned, I wanted something frankly sexy,’ she said.
And by the sounds of the ‘men found panting’ in the tongue-in-cheek advertising copy, she got it…
Fancy a scent-skip to Ancient Greece or the Roaring 20s…? Step into our fragrant time machine right here!
Written by Suzy Nightingale

A succinct history of scent: would you wear this "Queen's Delight" Elizabethan perfume…?

Imagine the excitement of smelling spices for the very first time, and then realising you could waft fragrantly (and flamboyantly – these were hugely expensive and kept in locked chests) smelling of success and radiating your wealth… The Elizabethan era saw an influx of exotic goods arriving from all over the world – including luxurious, never before seen perfumery ingredients – the valiant explorers bringing a bewitching treasure trove of scented materials to Europe. Men like think Vasco de Gama (1469-1524), Magellan (1480-1521) and Columbus (1451-1506) brought vanilla, pepper, Peru balsam, cardamom, sandalwood, clove, cocoa… Many were used for flavouring, but also found their way intro fragrant creations.
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A growing trade with the East resulted in the transportation of living plants, too: orange trees (producing not just fruit, but that most romantic and innocent of fragrant blossoms), jasmine and rose. With perfect timing, the distillers were getting ever-more-expert: essential oils could soon be distilled from frankincense, pine, cedarwood, cardamom, fennel, nutmeg, agarwood (‘oud’ as we know it today), sweet flag, anise and more.
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Mostly, though, it is supposed that perfumes were still used to mask awful odours – which made lingeringly heady scents like tuberose, jasmine and musk particularly popular. 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.
Here’s another charming snippet from an Elizabethan recipe – remember, most of these fragrances would be made at home, and such recipes were often found in household books along with food and medicine recipes. Could you follow the instructions now, do you think? And more importantly – would you wear it if you could?
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Perhaps our noses are more atuned to complex aromas these days, with modern innovations meaning we can combine the best of nature with purer extractions and headspace technology (digitally analysing the scent of pretty much anything and allowing scientists to recreate the smell synthetically), but isn’t it fascinating how we can time-travel with our noses?
Now, why not continue your fragrant journey by exploring another fragrant era in our section devoted to the history of perfumery…?
Written by Suzy Nightingale

From the scents of ancient Egypt to the olfactory exploration of wine, IFRA Fragrance Forum 2016 got our noses tingling…

Every year, IFRA [the International Fragrance Association] hold a Fragrance Forum, bringing together scientists, perfumers, press and all industry professionals who share an interest in the subject of scent. This year’s forum took the theme of ‘Do You Smell Well?’ with a full day of talks covering the ancient Egyptian’s use of incense and perfume in magical rites through to how babies learn to smell and even a wine-sniffing session.
Discussing therapeutic aspects of fragrance and perfume materials, a number of eminent speakers addressed these topics with gusto and as always, it was fascinating to mix with such a variety of professionals who make the study of how – and why – we smell, their life’s work.
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In the distinguished setting of The Royal Society, we began the day with an historical look at spices, balsams and the incense of temples: the fragrances of ancient Egypt – the Egyptologist and raconteur John J. Johnston from University College London perhaps being familiar to some of you who have seen him speak at Egyptian-themed events with Odette Toilette. Among any number of fascinating tales, we learned how incense was made to specific recipes, with each ingredient serving a magical purpose as an offering to the gods. Stunning perfume recipticals survive, mostly of mystical beasts sticking out their tongues – ‘To wear perfume is as though to be licked by these magical animals.’
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Dr Benoist Schaal from the Centre des Sciences du Goût, Djijon, addressed the audience with a talk entitled ‘Born to smell and smook‘ – “smook” being the way newborn babies smell and look while suckling at their mother’s breast, it turns out. A fascinating series of scientific studies were recounted, in which Benoist and his team have researched the way we are born to react to smell – that some odours do not need to be lerned and mammalian females have evolved the specific ability to highlight their breasts to their offspring by secreting a smell map around the nipples, to guide the babies directly there.
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The next talk took a deeper philosophical topic of ‘the role of smell in consciousness‘ – Professor Barry C. Smith, Director of the Institute of Philosophy – Centre for the Study of Senses, argued that we don’t merely have the five (or six) senses usually attributed to humans – we could in fact have over twenty senses, each of them highly connected and overlapping with the rest. Smith went on to remind us that, historically, we have neglected our sense of smell as being the least important sense, but in fact it adds to and shapes almost every aspect of our lives! We were thrilled to hear this talk, most especially as it confirms everything we teach in our How to Improve Your Sense of Smell Workshops, and have had such great feedback from those who have taken part.
olibanum_resinDr Mark D. Evans of De Montfort University, Leicester was making sense of frankincense – beginning with a truly “lightbulb” moment where he explained how this historically important perfume ingredient got its name: French incense – franc encens. Of course it makes perfect sense when it’s pointed out, but had never occured to us, previously! Herodotus wrote of frankincense in th 5th century BC, Pliny wrote how the Phoenix feasted on it, and in Roman Britian alone, up to 50 burial sites of wealthy citizens have been found to contain traces of frankincense, thought to be used in funeral rites. Indeed, frankincense has always primarily had a religious use, but we were astounded to learn the postive research results currently being investigated on its incredible anti-inflammatory properties, and possible future use in many medical treatments, including some cancers.
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An insightful look at the state of the nation: shoppers and fragranced products followed, with Vitaliy Zhyhun from market research specialists Nielsen UK leading us through a series of charts, facts and figures that revealed the UK shopper is perhaps the most “disloyal” of all, shopping online and looking around for the best deals. Most interesting to us was their research that showed a huge swing toward smaller, independent or local shops – smaller brands also driving growth and far outperforming their larger competitors, and with online sales set to grow even more in the next couple of years.
Carl Philpott, photographed at the Medical School, university of East Anglia. Ear, nose and throat surgeon and director of the Smell and Taste Clinic at James Paget University Hospital in Norfolk, UK. Photography by Jason Bye t: 07966 173 930 e: mail@jasonbye.com w: http://www.jasonbye.com
Mr Carl Philpott, Honorary Consultant ENT surgeon & Rhinologist and Director of The Smell & Taste Clinic at James Paget Hospital led a moving talk on living without smell, looking at the research they’ve done on those people who have lost their ability to smell, and the many psychological implications this has on their lives. Reinforcing how vital our sense of smell is and how little resepct we pay it until it’s lost; Philpott showed the shocking numbers of those patients who developed severe depression and feelings of alienation – and some of the ways they are trying to resolve or help them. In fact, he’s now working with Duncan Boak of Fifth Sense – a charity we have supported and highlighted, for those affected by taste and smell disorders.
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Finally, the always-welcome sound of corks popping heralded the return of Professor Barry C. Smith to the stage, guiding us through an olfactory exploration of wine – with our noses. Discussing the varying ways in which we perceive tastes (and mix them up with our other senses all the time – saying things smell “sweet” or “cold”, for example) and also relate smells and tastes to varying speeds… ‘Everyone in the world thinks lemons are “fast” and bananas are “slow”!’ chuckled the professor, as he also got the entire audience to identify the temperature of water, just by listening to a recording of it being poured. And the subtle but distinct difference between club soda, Champagne and prosecco being poured.
Who knew we had such hidden powers?
As ever, the IFRA Fragrance Forum left us with brains bursting from all the captivating information we’d taken in throughout the day, and noses a-twitch with a plethora of ideas of what to write about for future issues of The Scented Letter magazine…
Written by Suzy Nightingale
 

Clive Christian launch Noble VII duo at Harrods – inspired by the magnificent Queen Anne gardens of his home…

The fragrance world have long known the name of Clive Christian, but perhaps not so much about the man, and we were lucky enough to be treated to an intimate afternoon tea in Clive Christian’s staggeringly beautiful Mayfair office, hosted by the brand’s ambassador; Clive’s daughter, Victoria Christian, and with a visit from the man himself. Over glasses of Champagne and the most elegant sandwiches and pastries, we took a deeper look into the brand’s story – and a unique sniffing session inspired by the rituals of the brand’s historic and royal roots…
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Having rescued the historic Crown Perfumery from ruin and restored its former glory, Clive Christian’s signature fragrance 1872 commemorates the brand’s Victorian heritage – and today the perfume house remains a testament to the artisanal practices of centuries past while still forging ever forwards and creating contemporary fragrances that stand the test of time. The bottle designs and sumptuously heavy crown tops echo that heritage, and the house proudly retains a royal seal of approval to this day.

We were particularly fascinated to learn that the pairs of fragrances are couples in more than name alone – when layered, the masculine with the feminine, if so desired – create your own bespoke blend and harness the interplay of notes between them as they settle on your skin. We tried this ourselves and the results are outstanding. We urge you to play!
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We’re cannot, sadly, re-create the amazing sensation of sitting with your eyes closed and having Victoria waft the scents across a room to you with a large fan [Shhh! VIP Subscribers: do watch our Events page as we are so hoping to make this happen…]
During the talk, Clive Christian spoke of the contentment he finds in tending the magnificent gardens of his Queen Anne house, and the incredible inspiration he’s gained by restoring them to their former glory with a planting scheme that echoes the history of the place. Inspiration that now blossoms fully in the two latest fragrances to be launched…

Noble VII Cosmos Flower

  • Top notes: Pink pepper, rum, mandarin, apple
  • Middle notes: Plum, ylang-ylang, jasmine, osmanthus, cosmos flower
  • Base notes: Benzoin, cocoa, amber, caramel

A delicious forray into a Michelin-grade gourmand, Cosmos Flower exudes all the overt decadence of that magnificent bloom. Mouth-watering fruits get the olfactive tastebuds tingling before melding into a richer plum and and perfectly balanced floral heart, with the peachy delicacy of the osmanthus really showcasing the cosmos flower’s depth. The cocoa of the base is beautifully dry, with smooth benzoin swooning into a bitter caramel that makes for a truly complex and properly grown-up ‘foodie’ fragranced banquet. As a pure perfume, this gave us many happy hours of totally addictive wrist-sniffing…
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Clive Christian Noble VII Cosmos Flower £350 for 50ml pure perfume
At Harrods

Noble VII Rock Rose

  • Top notes: Citrus, bergamot, black pepper, neroli
  • Middle notes: Lavender, violet, herbs, rock rose
  • Base notes: Cocoa, patchouli, amber, vetiver

A classically styled and mistily refined fougére with a surprisingly modern edge, here we find citrus, bergamot and neroli sprinkled with black pepper in the opening, while the heart is composed of superbly dry lavender, violet and the intriguing scent of rock rose. With a base of the darkest cocoa, patchouli and amber, the vetiver seems to sparkle as a cyclical return to the airily fresh beginning. A fragrant journey we’d happily share with any gentleman we deem worthy (if they can wrest it from our grasp!)
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Clive Christian Noble VII Rock Rose £350 for 50ml pure perfume
At Harrods
Written by Suzy Nightingale

The Merchant of Venice Rosa Moceniga – our fragrant voyage to the city of romance…

Imagine how thrilled we were to be invited to a prestigious gathering of press, buyers and distributors from around the world on an enchanting voyage with The Merchant of Venice – to celebrate the birthplace of fine perfumery and the launch of their most recent perfume: Rosa Moceniga – a scent with an intriguing tale of rediscovering the lost rose of Joséphine Bonaparte. Join us – and swoon at the pictures! – as we recount our journey…
Venice is one of the most beautiful cities in the world, and birthplace to perhaps the earliest commercial appreciation of fine perfume – the moment when Catherine de Medici married King Henry II was a turning point in modern culture. Travelling to France with her huge retinue, she imported the taste for previously unheard of Italian luxuries: perfume (and Royal perfumers from her court), a fork for eating with, ballet and extravagant Italian fashions.

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Best taxi ride ever…

With turquoise canals casting shimmering reflections on golden buildings of sun-bleached grandeur, everywhere seems softly lit, as though by candlelight. Arriving at Marco Polo airport and travelling to the city, you’re immediately on the water in a Vaporetto (taxi boat) and living La Dolce Vita. It’s impossible not to be overcome with the incredible romance of it all – surrounded on all sides by history, feeling as though you have stepped straight in to a Canaletto painting.
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The fragrance house put on a special production of The Merchant of Venice in the Jewish Ghetto of Venice – to celebrate #shakespeare400 and their 30th anniversary

Venetians are fiercely proud of their heritage as a great trade route – the destination and meeting point of merchants from all over the new world, desperate to attain shipfuls of oppulence to carry back and trade within their own lands. As such, it’s the perfect home for the perfume house fittingly named The Merchant of Venice. Trading, themselves, not only on the heritage of perfumery but turning that love into exquisitely presented and diverse, contemporary scents.
The magnificent Palazzo Mocenigo

Owned by the passionately perfume-obsessed Vidal family, the brand is one of several distributed by Mavive – established in 1986 by Massimo Vidal, and currently under the careful stewardship of the third and fourth generation of the Vidal family. With their headquarters in Venice, Mavive is intimately connected with this truly unique city – and for us, they threw open the doors to celebrate their 30th anniversary while proudly showing us their fragrant wares.
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Historic perfume-making materials at the Museo del Profumo within the Palazzo

One of the many culturally significant projects the Vidal family have concerned themselves with is the careful preservation of the largest collections of perfume flacons (dating back before Christ!), perfume-making equipment and related materials in existence.
Taking on ownership of the magnificent Palazzo Mocenigo in the heart of Venice, they turned what was once a slightly crumbling textile museum into the Museo del Profumo – displaying perfume bottles, raw materials and ancient manuscripts in themed settings around the palace – most of them on full public view rather than shut away in cabinets.
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Fabulous flacons on display

Touring the Palazzo with the eloquent son of the family, Marco Vidal, was like stepping back in time, with each fabulously evocative room scented as they would have been, with distinctive perfumes made to ancient recipes diffusing the atmosphere with clouds of fragrance.
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An historic diffusing jar for scenting one’s palace…

So significant is this collection, students from ISIPCA – the famous perfume accademy in France – travel to the Palazzo to complete their final studies in the history of perfumery. As do textile students – the Vidal family have maintained and added to the costume collection, with over 35,000 pieces – and makeup historians, for yet another floor is dedicated to cosmetics. Truly a must-visit for any fragrance (or costume/makeup) fantatic!
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Marco Vidal shows us around the museum

After our mind-blowing tour of the luxuriously and sympathetically refurbished rooms, we finally got to hear the story behind their latest launch – Rosa Moceniga. Marco introduced Andrea di Robilant, author of Chasing the Rose, framed by an archway of rambling roses amidst the main hallway of the Palazzo and eager to tell us his part in this intriguing tale…
chasing-1-w960h672Andrea explained that while rummaging through his family’s papers for research during his autobiography of his great-great-great-great grandmother, Lucia Mocenigo, he found genuine treasure: a description of a once-lost rose that smelled of peach and raspberries – symbol of a deep friendship between Lucia and Joséphine Bonapart, the precious cutting a gift to a fellow rose-lover.
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Author, Andrea di Robilant

What began as a light-hearted search for the bloom led to years of further research and finally, stumbling across that very rose in the now completely wild and overgrown gardens in Venice. A chance meeting with Marco Vidal led to the realisation their stories were now intimately connected – the Vidals owned the Palazzo the rose was named for, and not only that – they made perfumes. Their fragrant future was sealed, and now Rosa Moceniga blooms once more with every spritz of this beautiful scent…
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And what does the final perfume smell like? Romantically nodding to the past but with its head firmly in the present, this lush flower bouquet is sheer as the finest silk scarf with fresh Sicilian lime and blackcurrant leaves garlanding the main event – that delicately fruity, luminous rose. Definite notes of peach and raspberry entwine with softly powdered cedar and amber for a magnificently elegant dry down. Venetian history infused with that golden sunlight and bottled.
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Murano glass smelling vessels

The final day included a trip to the stunning flagship store of The Merchant of Venice. Wood-panelled and with historic books and perfume materials dotted around the walls, the perfumes are presented not merely with paper blotters – oh no. Hand-blown Murano glass sniffing jars are proffered, allowing the notes to blossom as they would on skin and offering a more realistic smelling experience.
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The Merchant of Venice flagship store

In the breathtaking surroundings of Teatro La Fenice – the Venetian Opera House – we were shown films on the history of the Vidal family’s involvement with perfume and the many fragrance houses they are custodians of, before the family themselves took to the stage to give thanks to their many supporters for celebrating their anniversary.
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Teatro La Fenice

The evening concluded with an olfactory themed banquet in a private room upstairs, saffron sprinkled throughout the courses with abandon and floral cocktails quaffed.
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The olfactory dinner

We left in no doubt of the huge significance Venice holds in the heart of perfume history, the great care and attention the Vidal family place on preserving this heritage for future generations to enjoy while greatly expanding their diverse fragrance wardrobes, and the fact that we would most definitely be returning to this incredible city drenched in the culture of scent as soon as we possibly could.
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The Vidal family – perfume obsessives, every one…

Until then? We’ll be spraying Rosa Moceniga and sighing dreamily at the memories…
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The Merchant of Venice Rosa Moceniga £120 for 100ml eau de parfum
Buy it exclusively at House of Fraser
Written by Suzy Nightingale

Mint – in cocktails and scents alike, it's the coolest herb to get fresh with…

As the UK is currently experiencing something of a heatwave, we thought we should point you toward our ever-growing Ingedients Page listings, and perhaps the most deliciously refreshing of all herbal ingredients…
Used for centuries the world over to cool, soothe and refresh, mint comes into its own in the sweltering heat of a city, or to splash on while wandering the white beaches of an exotic island (and we know where we’d rather be, right now!)
As predictable as rain during Wimbledon and the entire transport system screeching to halt at every change of temperature, mint is suddenly the must-have herb – in cocktails, cuisine and scents alike.
Mint
But what other ingredients will you love to learn about, next?
Bursting with fascinating facts and hints of perfumes to try with your favourite perfumery notes in, think of them not only as a fantastic resource for learning more about raw ingredients used in perfumery – a walled-garden of fragrant knowledge, if you will – but a great way to find some new ideas to expand your fragrance wardrobe. After you have used our genius fragrance finder, FR.eD, of course!
So kick off your shoes, unbutton that shirt, and let’s get breezy
Written by Suzy Nightingale