perfume

Bohemian Rhapsody

Bohemian Rhapsody

Sarah Rotheram, CEO of Miller Harris – is famed for her offbeat, somewhat maverick approach. We caught up over cheese and cocktails (our kind of girl) to chat all things fragrance...

I first met Sarah when she was Group CEO of Penhaligon’s, at a dinner party held in an NCP car park to launch the brand’s (now well-loved) fragrance ‘Juniper Sling’. They’d decked the place out to look like an underground speakeasy, complete with bathtubs full of gin. Needless to say, it was a memorable evening. Sarah held court, striking with her white-blonde cropped hair and red lips (reminding me of a childhood fixation with Annie Lennox) and knew this was someone I had to get to know better.

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Floraïku, Harrods

Floraïku, Harrods

During a grey, overcast morning (to match my state of mind), I’m trying one of Floraïku’s scents called First Dream of the Year. It’s a cheery concoction of grapefruit and orange blossom oils, as well as iris concrete absolute as the Floraiku assistant explains,  “In Japanese it’s said the first dream of the year is the most important dream, as it indicates how the rest of your year will go. If you dream of egg plants, or the phoenix bird, or Mount Fugi it means you will have a very lucky year ahead of you.”

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Creed, Mayfair

Creed, Mayfair

What do Queen Victoria and David Beckham have in common? Well, aside from a fondness for wearing black? Both can be counted among Creed fragrance's many famous fans. Beckham apparently wears Aventus - a bold number which comes swaggering in with patchouli and cedar, it has a loyal following among aspirational modern dandies (to go with their Ferrari F12 and Gucci loafers...). While the Queen Vic was presented with Fleurs de Bulgarie, a voluptuous concoction of Bulgarian rose and musks. Although we might be living in the age of ‘celebrity scent’ – Creed is one of those stunning, hitherto under-the-radar lines that celebrities actually do wear. They were the perfumery responsible for Grace Kelly’s wedding scent: Fleurissimo – as dreamy and feminine as Kelly’s famous ankle skimming skirts, while one of their best-sellers Green Irish Tweed, was originally concocted for Cary Grant.

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An Evening of Patchouli with The Perfume Society

An Evening of Patchouli with The Perfume Society

Patchouli has been given a bad rep over the years – dismissed as a hippie scent, you’re likely to find some form of oil being flogged from every other stall in Camden Market. Indeed, so strong are the connotations, one whiff makes you want to start singing “My Sweet Lord”, tambourine in one hand, spliff in the other.

But in fact, there’s so much more to this humble herb than covering up the smell of hash. It’s present in so many scents, whether nestled among oakmoss and labdanum to form the enveloping base of many chypre fragrances, or having a starring role in many modern classics (Tom Ford’s White Patchouli and La Labo’s stunning Patchouli to name but a few).  You’ll know patchouli if you smell some – there’s nothing else quite like it, and the potency is second to none, giving it somewhat of a polarising, “Marmite” quality. We were very lucky to be invited by The Perfume Society to an evening they’d dedicated to exploring the history and use of patchouli – aptly titled “Patchoulimania” – to find out more.

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Fenwick, Bond Street + Immunocologie

Fenwick, Bond Street + Immunocologie

You can have a bit of a love-hate relationship with London’s department stores. The better known ones can feel a bit like an amusement park: lengthy queues, jostling crowds, bright lights – you get the idea. If you have the energy for all of this it’s great, but these aren’t places you want to frequent for some relaxing retail therapy.

Luckily there are some stores that are the antithesis of all of that – Fenwick’s being one of them. Tucked away on New Bond Street, as opposed to the busting Oxford Street or Knightsbridge, it’s less of a tourist trap and are all the better for it. 

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Lalique, Mayfair

Lalique, Mayfair

When it comes to romantic perfumery, things really don't get much better than Lalique. The founder René Lalique is arguably responsible for the jewel-like perfume bottles that surround us today – our dressing tables have a lot to thank him for. He pretty much invented the concept of the “beautiful perfume bottle”, as opposed to the plain, medicinal style vessels fragrance used to be kept in. René was already a world-famed designer (considered the best Art Nouveau jewellery and glassware artisan in the world) before his neighbour Francois Coty approached him to create a bottle to go with one of his fragrances - and the rest is history. Perfume bottles became exquisite keepsakes, that people coveted as much as the contents.

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Fragrance Profiling at Penhaligon's

Fragrance Profiling at Penhaligon's

If you're not familiar with Penhaligon's, they're a stunning boutique brand whose heritage stretches back to the 1800s. The scents themselves are equally intriguing - each as unusual and eccentric as the next, with many classic numbers among them (I'd recommend Blenheim Bouquet and Juniper Sling as two must-try-before-you-die concoctions). 

Their boutiques are dotted all over the world, not least in London. I was lucky enough to be invited down to their Burlington Arcade branch to try their fragrance profiling service. This is basically match-making the person with their signature scent - and it's a great deal of fun and far better than aimlessly sniffing out the perfect perfume by yourself. 

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Frederic Malle - Outrageous

Frederic Malle - Outrageous

As much as I love Frederic Malle –  I have to admit, I wasn’t sure about this latest one. Not that I didn’t like it, but it was so different from Malle's previous outings – where there's normally an intoxicating rose or a spiky citrus that knocks you off your feet (Eau de Magnolia and Lipstick Rose I’m talking about you…) Outrageous created by perfumer Sophie Grojsman (the nose behind YSL Paris, Calvin Klein Eternity  and Lalique Lalique plus others) was a bit more … “hmm.” Which is not necessarily a bad thing. It just forces you to think a bit more about them.

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