Illustration by Damian
I've always wondered what was the driving desire behind the attirance of the cornucopia of perfume brands lining entire sections of the duty free shops. But when I decided to write about some of my favourite brands, I was suddenly overcome by some instinctive olfactive frenzy.
The selection with dozens of choices, each with marketable names and exquisite notes and sub notes, had me realise how primal this sense makes us and why it is still the major money maker for fashion brands. We are simply unable to resist the urge of attachment to a certain odour. Whether it's from a childhood memories of a favourite moment or of a fantasy ideal we have created in our minds, these mix of precious elixirs trigger our "spider senses" long before the danger is visible.
So how do we go about choosing the scents?
What is the signal we wish to send ahead about who we are or who we would like to be. This said, I must confess that in order to understand my choices, I will have to reveal my background.
Firstly, I am from Jamaica. A small island in the Caribbean Sea that was once a British colony and it still retains many of their customs. Thus teatime, manners and a worldly gentlemanly attitude were forged into me. And now living in Paris, this is the person I have become and wish to be, down to the very scent I choose.
Penhaligons signature bottle
Penhaligons is so the first on the list. William Henry Penhaligon who became the court barber and perfumer to Queen Victoria created this perfume house in the 1860’s. And so to this day, Penhaligons have remained suppliers to the royal family (renewed every 2 years) and to many of the British aristocracy.
Royal Warrant from The Duke of Edinburgh
But the first English retailer of toiletries is Floris; founded in 1730 By Juan Famenias Floris. They hold to this day, also two Royal warrants as perfumers to the Queen Elizabeth II and Manufacturers of Toilet Preparations to HRH The Prince of Wales.
Floris the oldest perfume house in England
Creed, the Froggy in the equation, supplied not toiletries but tailoring articles to Queen Victoria and Empress Eugénie. This Parisian based perfume house, created in 1760 by James Henry Creed, opened The House of Creed in London England.
It wasn’t until almost 150 years later that High Perfumery was created in Paris. Ernest Daltroff opened Caron on 10, rue de la Paix in 1907. Thus Caron’s root to the Belle Époque still lingers today.
Belle Epoque Crystal Decanters
It is during this period of modernity that Acqua di Parma was born in 1916 in a small laboratory. Purity and the use exclusively of natural ingredients, as well as the now famous Art Deco bottle, has made Acqua di Parma an international favourite.
Frescoes by Ghirlandaio in Santa Maria Novella Cathedral
But for last, I leave you with the oldest pharmacy in the world: l’Officina Profumo-Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella. Its official creation is in 1612 suggested by the Grand Duke of Tuscany but l’Antica Farmacia have been known to be supplying the Dominican monks of Florence since 1221! This cathedral situated in the center of Florence, holds testimony to the rich artistic and artisanal expertise that reigned in Florence. Even today, many of the recipes, concocted for Catherine de Medici are still prepared and sit on displays surrounded by monumental frescos and sumptuous antiques in the cathedral transformed into a boutique.
Santa Maria Novella
Frescoes by Ghirlandaio
So Santa Maria Novella merits my warrants as my official supplier of toiletries. Waifering around Paris, me leaving the light refreshing wisps of Melograno as my current calling card. Santa Maria Novella which is still produced solely in the convent, from a time before industrialization, is not yet ready nor I, to grace the aisles of Duty Free.