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
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
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
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
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
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
© 2001 Elegant-Lifestyle.com
Ltd. All rights reserved.
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