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.’
‘Spectacular 1920s Heinrich Hoffmann Czechoslovakian black crystal perfume bottle with Austrian decoration by Turriet & Bardach. Pre-sale estimate $4,500-5,000’
‘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′
‘1912 Rene Lalique et Cie. “Olives” clear glass perfume bottle molded with convex oval cabochons, matching stopper. Pre-sale Estimate $600-800’
‘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′
Have you ever worn a fragrance that made you shiver? I’m not talking about accidentally spraying yourself in an ex’s favourite scent, but deliberately wearing something that unsettled you slightly? Fragrances can send us into reveries of rapture, but they don’t have to be traditionally ‘pretty’ to do so.
There’s pleasure to be found in challenging your perfume habits – delighting in the pricking of your preconceptions, a sharpening of the senses. The Germans use the term unheimlich, which roughly translates to the experience of something feeling weirdly familiar while remaining mysterious, eerie, uncanny.
These seven scents are best worn with a nip of frost in the air, golden sunlight softly streaming through brightly-dressed trees, and sense of delicious mystery swirling through those misty mornings and rapidly darkening nights…
A concoction of woody and fresh notes with hazelnuts, blood oranges and tobacco at its heart, Damn Rebel Witches ‘…commemorates witches burnt at the stake, those prosecuted today for witchcraft and people who identify as witches.’ The toasty nuttiness is shot through with the red juice of those blood oranges, and rich tendrils of tobacco smoke weave their way through the entire composition, making this one of the most addictively unusual fragrances I’ve tried in ages.
Reek Perfume Damn Rebel Witches from £25 for 7.5ml eau de parfum reekperfume.com
Inspired by the destructive and regenerative Australian bush fires, its smoky heart of mysterious spices is spiked with shards of fresh (surprisingly fruity) eucalyptus and citrus to create a wonderful juxtaposition of hot/cold and intriguing textures. A smouldering smoky wood accord underlines this contrast of dark and light, with the house’s signature Australian sandalwood smoothing the seared edges, wonderfully.
Map of the Heart Black Heart v.2 £150 for 90ml eau de parfum harrods.com
A thrillingly dense formula full of overlapping facets, there’s jasmine, warm skin muskiness, dark cracked leather and resionous balsam lapping at white flowers. The concept follows the unsettlingly tense relationship of Agent Clarice Starling and Hannibal Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs, and is named for the moment Hannibal says: ‘You use Evian skin cream, and sometimes you wear L’Air du Temps … but not today.’ Most certainly a wearable shiver, but of fear or delight? Only you can be the judge.
The mere mention of the word oud (sometimes spelled ‘oudh’) causes some to clasp their pearls and screech in horror, jumping on a chair like the maid in Tom & Jerry, and likely fainting clean away. But there’s many types of oud, as perfumer Sarah McCartney discovered, including a softer, ‘white oud’ included here. Beguiling plump plums and fuzzy peaches trickle stickily over rivulets of fresh grapefruit and raspberry flecked with piquant juniper. Overall there’s a hushed leafiness that hides a devil-may-care attitude (and possibly cloven hooves).
4160 Tuesdays Be Careful What You Wish For from £40 for 9ml eau de parfum 4160tuesdays.com
A bewitching concoction that marries the sweetness of toasted marshmallows unctuously melting into an overdose of ginger, with a fluffy heart of jasmine, rose and peony that’s girlish glee personified. Sugar and spice and all things nice? This is the too-perfectly-painted doll whose eyes follow you around the room, the tinkling nursery rhyme in the soundtrack of a horror film, a half-glimpsed lightning flash in a foxed mirror. And that bottle! It looks like something you’d pull out of a purse to surreptitiously drop into a beastly husband’s tea. Beautifully dangerous.
Dior Poison Girl Unexpected from £32.50 for 20ml rollerball eau de toilette johnlewis.com
Frolicking about with the idea of forbidden fruit, you’re first intoxicated by the tumble of ripe peaches placed at your feet in tempting heaps. Just one bite can’t hurt, right? Lychee, blackcurrant and blood orange suddenly fuse into a licentious cocktail, sharp punches of spicy pimento berries and hot pepper slowly making their way to a velvety bed of vanilla and an almond-like, cyanide kiss of tonka beans. With a trail that snakes on the skin for hours, here’s a fruit salad that could easily lead you astray.
By Kilian Playing With the Devil from £250 for 50ml refillable eau de parfum spray bykilian.co.uk
The Serges Lutens collection has something of a reputation for not revealing the notes of the fragrances, preferring them to remain as mysteriously illusive as the creator himself. Here all we know is this one contains a key note of fir balsam, and that it’s like wearing a midnight velvet cloak while standing next to a bonfire eating cinder toffee. Gloweringly inky, smoky as spent fireworks yet cold as starlight – it somehow makes you feel enswathed, becalmed, protected.
Save your cart?
We save your email and cart so we can send you reminders - don't email me.
By browsing our site or closing this message, you agree to store Cookies by us and third-party partners. Cookies enable certain functions on our site, let you access your account, place orders, allow us to analyse website traffic and usage, and personalise content. We also share certain information about your usage of our site with analytics partners. Find out more.