Beauty & Scent: The Great Perfume Houses
Founded in the 18th and 19th Century


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The Great Perfume Houses Founded in the 18th and 19th Century
© 2001 Elegant-Lifestyle.com Ltd. All rights reserved.

Perfume is as old as humanity
Myrrh and frankincense, staples of ancient perfume, were already known 3,500 years ago when Queen Hatsheput reigned in ancient Egypt. In ancient Greece myrrh and fankincense were imported from Arabia and exotic new ingredients were added from India. The Romans went to excesses by sprinkling walls, floors, horses, dogs and even victorious armies with perfume. Then, for centuries perfumery was an Arab art with Baghdad - city of the Arabian Nights tales - becoming a centre of the early perfume trade.

Origins of Perfume in Europe
It was the Crusaders who brought back perfume from the Levant. However, not until the 16th century did perfume really became fashionable when Catherine of Medici (1519-1589), daughter of the Medici banking dynasty in Florence, married Henry II the future king of France. René le Florentin, her perfumer, was known not only for creating perfumed gloves, which were fashionable at the time, but was also said to brew poisons. Until the French Revolution in 1789 perfumers belonged to the guild of 'Maitres Gantiers et Parfumeurs' (the makers of gloves and perfumes).

Aqua Mirabilis - Eau de Cologne
Of Italian origin was also 'Aqua Mirabilis' (wonder water), which is supposed to have been invented near Milan by a young Italian called Gian Paolo Feminis. 'Aqua Mirabilis' was a concoction of lemon, orange, bergamot, rosemary, bitter orange and neroli. In 1693, Feminis settled in Cologne in Germany and the scent became known as 'Eau de Cologne'. This fragrance became so popular that Napoleon, Emperor of France (1804-1815), had 60 bottles delivered to him each day from Gian Maria Farina, nephew of Feminis who had meanwhile taken over the business in 1763.

Roger & Gallet
Gian Maria Farina sold the business to Armand Roger and Charles Gallet in 1862 who started selling Eau de Cologne in 1884. Roger & Gallet as the company became known introduced its famous round-shaped soaps in 1879 and became the premier manufacturer for traditional French soaps and toiletries. By 1864, Roger & Gallet were supplier to Napoleon III and official purveyor of soaps to Her Majesty Queen Victoria of England. These days also H.M. Queen Elisabeth II commissions Roger & Gallet for soaps and toiletries.

Muehlhens' Eau de Cologne 4711
Roger & Gallet might have bought the business from Farina, but it was Wilhelm Muelhens who made Eau de Cologne, the oldest fragrance in perfumery, internationally renowned. Muehlhens had received the 'Aqua Mirabilis' formula as a wedding present in 1792 and built a small factory in order to produce the fragrance in greater quantities. When all houses in Cologne received house numbers in 1796, the Muehlhens factory was given the number 4711, which is still part of the Eau de Cologne name these days. Shops were opened in London, Riga in the Baltics, Odessa at the Black Sea and New York and Eau de Cologne 4711 became a much sought-after souvenir for travellers to Germany. www.4711.com/en

Floris of London
Perfumery in England was first introduced through barber shops and Juan Famenias Floris, a young Spaniard from Minorca, was one of the first to open a perfume shop in 1730 in London's fashionable quarter of St. James's. There he created toilet waters of jasmine, orange blossom and 'Lavender', the fragrance that made him famous and which still can be bought today. Floris has been a perfumer to royalty for eight generations. These days Floris holds royal warrants to supply Her Majesty The Queen and His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales whose favourite fragrance is said to be Eau de Toilette No. 89 with a rose and sandalwood note. The elegant Floris shop is still at its original address in No. 89 Jermyn Street; similarly styled shops are in New York and in Kobe in Japan. www.florislondon.com

William Henry Penhaligon, also originally a barber, opened his shop in St. James's in 1870, not far from the Hammam, the Turkish bath. As gentlemen came in for a shave after visiting the Turkish baths Penhaligon created 'Hammam Bouquet' in 1872, a sophisticated fragrance consisting of jasmine, roses and sandalwood. 'Hammam Bouquet' is now the favourite perfume of the Duke of Edinburgh who has given Penhaligon's a royal warrant together with the Prince of Wales. Also members of the Rothschild family have been regular clients over the years. In 1902, Penhaligon created 'Blenheim Bouquet' a homage to Sir Winston Churchill who was born in Blenheim Palace. This scent of green lemon and pine wood is Penhaligon's best selling men's perfume. www.penhaligons.co.uk

Crown Perfumery
This was once one of Britain's foremost perfume houses. Crown Perfumery was founded in 1872 by William Sparks Thomson, a maker of crinolines and corsets. Catering to the high society in London and Europe, he launched a collection of floral fragrances called Flower Fairies. Queen Victoria granted the Crown Perfumery her own crown's image to top the fragrance bottles. By the end of the century, Crown Perfumery was exporting nearly 50 different perfumes and accompanying products to countries all over the world. Mrs. Wallis Simpson, the Duchess of Windsor, was the inspiration for the creation of 'Crown Bouquet'. Other current perfumes include 'Marechale 90', a perfume whose original version dates back to 1669, 'Crown Stephanotis' and 'Malabar'.

The Creed family has been in the perfume business for six generations. The perfume house traces its origins back to the English tailor James Henry Creed, who founded the company in London in 1760. However, it was not until 1854 that perfumery became a main line of business when Creed moved to Paris. Creed has supplied many crowned heads and celebrities during its long history. Queen Victoria, Jacqueline Onassis, Madonna and Naomi Campbell belong to Creed's exclusive clientele. Prince Rainier of Monaco commissioned 'Fleurissimo' for Grace Kelly for their wedding, which is now part of Creed's present range of perfumes. There is a 6 month waiting list for clients who want perfumes specifically created for them; minimum order is 10 litres. 

It was Jean-Francois Houbigant who created the oldest of all the great French perfume houses in 1775. Madame Dubarry, mistress to French King Louis XV, and Marie Antoinette, spouse of Louis XVI, were among his clientele. It is said that at the outbreak of the French Revolution, in 1789, Queen Marie Antoinette first hurried to Houbigant to have her perfume bottles refilled before fleeing. In 1807, Houbigant was appointed personal perfumer to Napoleon and created a special perfume for Empress Josephine, which had strong notes of musk and civet. Queen Victoria, Napoleon III and the Tsar of Russia all made Houbigant their royal perfumer. In 1812, Houbigant creates 'Quelques Fleurs', the first true multifloral scent ever made and which has been so popular that it is still on sale today.

The Guerlain Dynasty
Since the House of Guerlain was founded in 1828 by Pierre-Francois Guerlain, the company has produced over 300 perfumes. Guerlain, who created fragrances for half of the royal houses of Europe, composed 'Eau de Cologne Imperiale' for Empress Eugenie of France, spouse of Napoleon III, in 1853. The perfume, which is still part of Guerlain's current range is a combination of orange, lemon, bergamot, lavender and rosemary. Other illustrious customers included Princess Metternich, the Prince of Wales and Tsar Ferdinand of Bulgaria for whom Guerlain created their own perfumes. Celebrated perfumes from the House of Guerlain, which are still part of the current range are 'Jicky' (1869), 'l'Heure Bleue' (1912), 'Mitsouko' (1919), 'Shalimar' (1925) and 'Samsara' (1989). www.guerlain.com

Founded in 1849 and since 4 generations a family business, Molinard is also one of the major French perfume houses. Situated in Grasse in Southern France, the perfume capital of the world, Molinard had prestigious clients such as Queen Victoria in the past. Molinard's most famous perfume was 'Habanita'. Created in 1921, it was originally introduced to perfume cigarettes, which the garconnes, the emancipated young women of the time, smoked. Just a drop of fragrance on a burning cigarette was sufficient to give the smoke a wonderful scent. The actual Habanita perfume was launched in 1924 in a crystal flacon designed by René Lalique. The bottle design is famous as it features a relief decoration of water nymphs. Of its other perfumes the best known is 'Molinard de Molinard'. www.molinard.com

Parfums D'Orsay
The grand old French perfume houses such as Houbigant, Lubin, L.T. Piver, Sauzé, Roger & Gallet, Coty or Alfred d'Orsay all don't have their own shops  in Paris anymore. However, this does not mean that they have ceased to exist. In fact, only perfumes from Lubin and Sauzé can not be bought anymore. Count Alfred d'Orsay, a dandy during the Napoleonic Wars, was exiled to London for supporting Louis XVIII. There he created a perfume called 'Eau de Bouquet' for his lover, an English aristocrat. The formula was found 50 years later in 1865, when Parfums D'Orsay was established. The perfume 'Eau de Bouquet' is now known as 'Etiquette Bleue'. Other principal perfumes are 'Tilleul' (lime blossoms), 'Chevalier d'Orsay', 'Arome 3' and 'Intoxication d'Amour'.

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