There have been some really weird moments in fragrance’s historical past (who, I’ve at all times questioned, was the primary individual to consider including civet to a scent, or discovering ambergris may add a magical contact to a perfume?) On your olfactory delectation, we thought we’d pull collectively a number of scented snippets, overlaying perfume from the daybreak of perfumery to more moderen historical past. Whereas searching for to demystify perfume since we first launched The Fragrance Society, it’s generally enjoyable merely to look again and marvel. And also you really couldn’t make these fascinating details up…
Egyptian monks, and their Pharoahs, had been entombed with fragrances – and when these tombs had been opened by archaeologists, in 1897, the perfumes had been found to have retained their unique, candy smells. Vital figures in Egyptian historical past had been buried with scented oils, to make sure their ‘olfactory wants’ had been fulfilled.
Hippocrates – ‘the daddy of drugs’ – was massive on hygiene, prescribing fumigation and using perfumes to assist forestall illness. The Greeks embraced aromatherapy, making it sensible and scientific fairly than mystical. Each women and men turned obsessive about ‘the cult of the physique’: girls, at dressing tables of their non-public quarters (often called the ‘gynaeceum’), males extra publicly, anointing themselves on the public baths, after train. (A ritual that endures in at the moment’s gymnasium altering rooms.)
Emperor Nero was so loopy about roses, he had silver pipes put in in order that his dinner friends could possibly be spritzed with rosewater. (In keeping with legend, he as soon as shelled out £100,000 for a ‘waterfall’ of rosepetals which really smothered one visitor, killing him. Fairly a strategy to go.)
When the Crusades kicked off – within the 11th Century – among the many treasures introduced again to Europe by Crusaders from the Center and Far East had been fragrant supplies (and perfumery methods). The celebrated Arabian doctor Avicinna is claimed to have been the primary individual to have mastered the distillery of rose petals, within the 10th Century.
There has at all times been a pure hyperlink between leather-based and fragrance. As Queen Catherine de Medici’s glovemaker understood, it really works brilliantly to disguise the lingering scent of the tannery. And in 1656 the Company of Glovemakers and Perfumers – for the ‘maître-gantiers’ – grasp glovemakers/perfumers) was shaped in France, . (Observe: at that time, glovemaking was deemed extra necessary.)
King Louis XIV (1638-1715) took the development for perfumery to new heights, by commissioning his perfumer to create a brand new scent for every day of the week. He insisted on having his shirts perfumed with one thing known as ‘Aqua Angeli’, composed of aloes-wood, nutmeg, storax, cloves and benzoin, boiled in rosewater ‘of a amount as might cowl 4 fingers’. It was simmered for a day and night time earlier than jasmine and orange flower water and some grains of musk had been added. Like some sort of early material conditioner, it was used to rinse Louis’s shirts.
Napoleon Bonaparte had a standing order together with his perfumer, Chardin, to ship 50 bottles a month. He cherished its cooling qualities and after washing, would drench his shoulders and neck with it. He notably cherished the scent of rosemary, which is a key ingredient in eau de Cologne, as a result of it flourished alongside the cliffs and rocky scrubland in Corsica, the place he was born.
Fashionable perfumery as we all know and adore it has its roots within the Victorian period. It was that century’s intelligent chemists who got here up with breakthrough molecules that took perfumery to a complete new stage. The brand new synthetics had been typically extra dependable and secure – and generally enabled a perfumer to seize the scent of a flower whose personal scent proves frustratingly elusive to extract naturally.
Chanel’s mom was a laundrywoman and market stall-holder, although when she died, the younger Gabrielle was despatched to stay with Cistercian nuns at Aubazine. When it got here to creating her signature scent, although, freshness was all-important. The perfumer Ernest Beaux offered a sequence of 10 samples to indicate to ‘Mademoiselle’. They had been numbered one to 5, and 20 to 24. She picked No. 5 – and sure, the remainder is historical past.
Till the 50s, perfume was one thing girls largely reserved for prime days, holidays – and birthdays. Till one very savvy, go-getting New York magnificence entrepreneur – by the title of Estée Lauder – had a brainwave. So the game-changing perfume Youth Dew started as a shower oil (as Estée Lauder herself as soon as informed us):
‘Again then, a lady waited for her husband to provide her fragrance on her birthday or anniversary. No girl bought perfume for herself. So I made a decision I wouldn’t name my new launch “fragrance”. I’d name it Youth Dew,’ (a reputation borrowed from certainly one of her profitable pores and skin lotions)…’