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.
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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

BeauFort London continue the intrepid scent adventure with Lignum Vitae…

BeauFort London are one of the most intriguing brands we’ve seen in a long time, so imagine our excitement on discovering they’ve just released their latest fragrance – Lignum Vitae – into the wild blue yonder of the perfume world.

Having first encountered them before they’d even properly launched, sometimes you get a sixth-sense tingle the passion behind the perfume will carry a new fragrance house way further than they’d perhaps ever have imagined. This was certainly the case when we first got our noses around the unique triptych of fragrances that began their story – really, quite unlike anything else around, the ‘fume-heads, bloggers and fragrance-buying public agreed; with 1805 Tonnerre (featured in our Secret Sensations Discovery Box) subsequently chosen by Jo Fairley as the Most Exciting New Brand of 2015 in her Telegraph Online column; praised by big-name glossies and highly respected tomes such as the Financial Times, alike.

Although perhaps not entirely smooth sailing (what new company’s launch is?) appropriately enough, these firecely independent, historically inspired yet utterly contemporary fragrances – named for the famous Beaufort Scale of measuring wind strengths – are themed around the turbulent history and intrepid spirit of the British isles, maritime history and notoriously shady characters who have shaped them. It was clear this niche line had quite an adventure ahead of them – indeed they have recently been lauded by critic Luca Turin as one to watch – and with the brand new fragrance Lignum Vitae just launched, it’s another exciting scent trail we were keen to explore…

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BeauFort London Say: ‘Inspired by the innovative use of materials that allowed 18th Century clockmakers to construct the first truly accurate marine chronometers, Lignum Vitae combines elements of wood, metal and salt to produce a truly unique, transportive fragrance.

In combining unexpected and exotic raw materials, BeauFort London celebrates the innovative spirit which brought to an end the search for lost time, and permitted the safe passage of ships across the world.’

Discussing the various inspirations behind any BeauFort fragrance is like a masterclass in maritime history, literary appreciation and a philosophy 101 with a smattering of art criticism for good measure – but fascinating as these influences are, it’s important as ever to not forget the most important thing of all – what it smells like on your skin! Complex, perhaps even slightly unsettling (because of their singularity) to some, BeauFort are not about one size fits all crowd-pleasing sniff-alikes that put you in mind of such-and-such a scent you used to wear. So what does Lignum Vitae actually smell of…?

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An immediate tang of salty air melts mistily to the scent of madeleines still warm from the oven – a Proustian almost-but-not-quite gourmand sense that feels as though it’s going to get huge, but within a while segues seamlessly to a citrus-tinged, freshly-felled woodiness and the silvered glint of cold metal that keeps the whole concoction bouyantly uplifted. Tenacious in perhaps a more tender way than its predecessors, Lignum Vitae is one of those true ‘scent journeys’ on the skin as it warms and settles. Having sprayed this in the early afternoon we could still smell it the next morning, where now it had dried down to a close, warm skin scent that was comforting but with a wonderful whiff of weirdness to it that you cannot exactly place. It seems to constantly fold back on itself, somehow – you think you have the measure of it and then it switches again, still retaining an image of its former self but with a new layer to explore. There’s a point about an hour in, when all the various threads seem to mingle into an intricate knot – you can trace each one, yet they have transmogrified into a new creation…

Were we to draw a map of this fragrance’s journey, we could cite the salt on the breeze, sweetness wrapped within a shady forest, misty darkness, warm skin huddled close against cool, mossy wood and the ever-present, slightly melancholy but ultimately intensely comforting echo of sweetness, wood and salt that carry you onwards to the trail’s end.

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BeauFort London Lignum Vitae £95 for 50ml eau de parfum
Buy it at beaufortlondon.com (or see their website for other stockists)

Written by Suzy Nightingale

Penhaligon’s launch Luna – the new Goddess scent accompanying a deeper, darker Endymion for a moonlit romance…

Inspired by the mythical Goddess of the Moon, the latest fragrance from the proudly British heritage perfume house of Penhaligon’s is an Homeric ode to a silvery, moonlit romance.

Luna is an enchantingly mysterious floral that opens with freshness and then reminds us of sunsets slowly sinking into warmly misty nights sprinkled with twinkling stars, a glowing warmth to offset the cool, inky depth – oh yes, this moon has a dark side, too…

The Goddess is not alone, for her mythically inspired fragrance partner, Endymion, has been around for a while, but Penhaligon’s have ramped up the intensity to make him positively smouldering – how can Luna (or we?) resist?

Penhaligon’s say:Endymion is a firmly established part of the Penhaligon’s collection, and now we have launched a concentrated new version, an intense eau de parfum. Endymion Concentré is a luxurious interpretation of a classic, still a fragrance of contrasts, bright and sensual, light and dark, grounded by leathery suede; distinctly masculine and deeply romantic.

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“In ancient Greek mythology, Endymion, the most handsome son of Zeus, was placed into a perpetual slumber by the Goddess of the Moon so that she could gaze upon him forever, his stunning face unmarked by the passage of time. The wishes of the Goddess were granted, and Endymion slept on for all eternity, his smile everlasting. And no wonder, for he spent his life forever dreaming that he held the moon, Luna, gently in his arms.”

So to partner Endymion we created Luna, a new fresh floral offers a feminine counterpart to the woody leather notes of Endymion Concentré.  Inspired by the light of a magnificent crescent moon that brightens one’s dreams, this luxurious new fragrance captures the intoxicating spirit of the mythical Goddess of the Moon. Hypnotic and sensual, Luna shines up from the dark water, illuminating the ink-coloured night sky.  Opening with the bitter freshness of orange bigarade, the heart unfolds with the crisp lightness of juniper berry, rounded off with the sensuality of a dark woody base.’

A romance that we hope continues for years to come, this star-struck duo are stunningly packaged, too…

Luna £128 for 100ml eau de toilette and Endymion Concentré £120 for 100ml eau de parfum
Buy them at Penhaligon’s

Chelsea Fringe: Free fragrant talks, from Georgian perfume to the scented room and beyond…

Perhaps seen as a floral equivalent of the Edinburgh Fringe, The Chelsea Fringe Festival is actually entirely independent of The Chelsea Flower Show, though acts with its full support. Intended to extend the enjoyment of gardens and all things verdant to well beyond a show ground setting, there are all manner of events taking place around the UK (and beyond) to celebrate this year.

We were particularly excited to hear about a series of talks focusing on perfume, with subjects ranging from Georgian and 19th Century perfume, the scented room, and the simulation of nature in 20th Century perfume (the last in that list being hosted by our very dear friend, Lizzie Ostrom -aka Odette Toilette!)

Chelsea Fringe say:Stephen Nelson is a plantsman and perfumer who specialises in re-creating historic fragrances. As part of the Chelsea Fringe, Town House will host talks by Stephen Nelson, centred around the English garden and its direct link to perfume over the past four centuries.’

Stephen has been commissioned to create everything from historically accurate pomander beads to perfumed leather from the 16th century, an 18th century spicy pot pourri and a handkerchief scent from the 19th century.

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Working extensively within horticulture and running his own nursery, Stephen breeds a number of fragrant plants including pinks, lilacs and lavender – some of which have been featured in planting schemes at the official Chelsea Flower Show.

What’s more, Stephen personally cultivates many of the ingredients used in his historical perfume re-creations – including damask roses, patchouli, orris, verbena, lavender and many more – putting him in the unusual position of seeing the fragrance through from seed to finished scent.

Have a look at the full range of events happening around the country, as there’s bound to be one near you!

A number of the talks are taking place at the historic Town House in London’s East End, and the series there has been dubbed ‘Garden Extracts’. Here’s the scent-centric talks that we’ll be writing in our diaries – and we can’t wait to get (our noses) stuck in…

TUE 31 MAY, 14:30pm: Free
Perfume in Georgian London – talk by Stephen Nelson.

THU 2 JUN, 14:30pm: Free
The Scented Room – talk by Stephen Nelson.

SUN 5 JUN, 14:30: Free
20th Century Perfume and the Simulation of Nature – talk by Lizzie Ostrom.

Written by Suzy Nightingale

Deco London’s Sophia Fannon-Howell shares her five favourite smells…

Sophia Fannon-Howell is the Founder and Creative Director of Deco London –  a vintage-inspired fragrance house for contemporary gals (and guys) about town. Indeed, you can visit our dedicated brand page to learn all about how she came to launch the company and why she’s personally connected to two of the most interesting (and some may say infamous) characters in British history…

As you might suspect for someone who has now devoted their life to all things scented, Sophia admits to being rather fragrance obsessed, surrounding herself in beautifully perfumed things whenever possible. Some of her revelations we could have expected, but the smell of painting fences and something that reminds her of childhood trips to the supermarket? Well, it’s definitely not the weirdest we’ve come across! We find asking people to connect with five deepest-rooted scent memories can be like a time-travelling psychiatry experiment… what would your top five smells of all time remind you of, we wonder?

Sophia Fannon-Howell:

  1. Creosote – Just because it reminds me of growing up in the 70s/80s and hot summers where the pavements would melt and people would be outside painting their fences. They don’t seem to do that anymore, do they? But in those days everyone seemed to be doing that every summer! As soon as I smell it, I just see bright sunshine – the days when summer seemed to last forever, outside all day on your bike or running wild in the woods with your friends. The smell of freedom!
  1. Grinding coffee – I love this smell, I think it’s because we used to go with my dad shopping to the supermarket on Saturdays, where I grew up in Farnham. It was a big event. Across the road was a little coffee shop and we’d order some, they’d grind it in front of you and put it in a little bag and put a sticker on for you. You can get good coffee all over the place, now, but then it was really quite a special trip.
  1. Lavender – I’ve always adored the smell of lavender but can’t pin it to a specific memory. I put a few drops in my kids bath every night, because it definitely does calm them down. I’d like to think, actually, that I am making scent memories for my kids, and that lavender will be one for them in the future. If they’re upset I put a few drop on their pillow, too. I always have stacks of essential oils around the house but this is the one I use most. I love it in the garden, too. In my last house we lived in the side on Box Hill, right on the chalk – I planted huge swathes of it because it loved the chalk so much. Now we’ve moved I just had to plant loads more – my husband used to keep bees and of course they love it, too.
  1. Roses – Who doesn’t adore roses? I also have a tendency toward rosy perfumes. People can be prejudiced against rose and lavender perfumes because they see them as ‘old fashioned’ but I think you can have classic scents without them being old-lady-ish. I don’t know if there’s a particular rose I love more than any other, but I like to walk around my garden just burying my nose in the roses as often as possible. Heavenly!
  1. Cedarwood – As in the actual wood, and the essential oil. It’s something that’s present in a lot of perfumes but doesn’t necessarily hit the headlines. It’s just so good, so important. We’ve got some drawers at home that the carpenter who made them lined with cedar, and every single time I open a drawer that smell hits me, I love opening those drawers! And it even subtly scents the things inside.