Thursday, 21 September 2017

FLORIS UNLOCKS ITS ARCHIVES

You hear many companies talk about their “heritage” but it sometimes seems a little contrived and exaggerated. Add a celebrity here, change a production date there, and it becomes tricky to separate fact from fiction. One company that doesn't have this problem is Floris. Their biggest challenge is actually what to leave out. With a history dating back two hundred and eighty seven years the list of celebrity clients and perfume releases is immense, and it was always a challenge to share this with their customers. So, along with their recent store refit, Floris decided to open up their archives and reveal a few forgotten treasures.

Juan Famenias Floris and his wife, Elizabeth, founded Floris in 1730 and entries in the original catalogue show that the company began life as a barbers and comb maker, although the fragrances soon followed. Juan chose the fashionable St. James’ area in London to launch the business and, two hundred and eighty seven years later, they are still at that original address, 89 Jermyn Street. Floris has remained in the family, although the surname is now Bodenham through marriage, and sees ninth generation Edward firmly taking the reigns whilst also reintroducing eight of the company’s historic perfumes.

Choosing which scents to re-release from such an extensive archive was tricky but the final line-up would ultimately see six star fragrances from the nineteenth century revived for a new audience. The Ledger Series, as the collection is known, comprises Stephanotis (1786), Red Rose (1807), Malmaison Encore (1830), New Mown Hay (1850), Sandalwood (1870), Vetiver (1873), Rose Geranium (1890) and Florissa Encore (1978). The two “Encore” scents featured ingredients that are now heavily restricted under IFRA regulations and so they have been reimagined by Floris’ talented perfumers, but both still pay homage to the original.

It's hard to pick out a favourite from the eight because they are all beautifully crafted, so I’ll give a run down of them all. Stephanotis was originally created as a bridal perfume but went on to become an established favourite with the ladies. A beautifully green floral fragrance, the jasmine links perfectly with the orange blossom before coming to rest on a powdery sandalwood base. Red Rose by contrast is a bright, lemon-enriched powerhouse floral with exciting woody nuances. This is no simple “rose” fragrance, there is a definite hint of danger.

Malmaison Encore was a favourite of Oscar Wilde and first re-released in 2013 as part of the “By Request” series. The carnation still smiles through, although slightly more gently, but the cinnamon and patchouli make up for its absence. New Mown Hay was created so that gentlemen could remember their country estates whilst in London. It opens with a burst of Galbanum before passing through the hay accord on route to a stunningly crafted earthy base. Sandalwood is not what you would expect, which is probably why Noel Coward was a fan. The star ingredient is wrapped up with cardamom, patchouli and orris to create a truly decadent interpretation.

Vetiver was worn by Lawrence Olivier and its central dry character is pulled in two by a bright citrus opening contrasted with a woody leather aromatic, which is spectacular. Rose Geranium is well know as a bath essence and was a favourite of Marilyn Monroe, but the scent is a welcome return. The geranium is lightly touched by rose and citrus before settling on Floris’ cedarwood accord. The final fragrance is Florissa Encore, which is a modern interpretation of the original that was created by Michael Bodenham. The 1978 edition was an impressive aldehydic oakmoss floral whilst Florissa Encore is more of a delicate violet enriched white floral.
The archive is far greater than just the items on display, or the eight re-releases, it continues into the mahogany lined back offices. It was here that Nicola Pozanni allowed me to fulfill a ten-year dream and finally smell Floris’ Cuir de Russie. Long out of production, but often mentioned, I was handed the only open bottle and was immediately transported back. Originally released in 1920 amid a continuing fascination for “leather” scents, it was a much sweeter interpretation than others I had smelled, due in part to the disappearance of the citrus notes over time, but it still had a solid dose of labdanum, birch tar and evocative aromatics. Any chance of this making a reappearance?

The Ledger Series is available exclusively in the London flagship boutique and, as they are hand poured, stock will always be limited. If I had to choose a favourite … New Mown Hay.

4 comments:

  1. Speechless, thank you for posting about these Stephan. I actually have half of a sample vial of Malmaison from about 2005. I keep having a little sniff. The New Mown Hay (Coup de Fouet???? haha showoff Baz) sound beautiful. Lastly, I must get my nose to sniff the Rose Geranium. I wish that I lived in London, and not in Yorkshire.

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    1. Glad you enjoyed it Barry. If you get down to London then make sure that you visit Floris because the fragrances really are something special. Best, Stephan

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  2. what a wonderful thing to read first thing in the morning, Rose Geranium redux. that news alone has made me most happy, thanks!

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    1. Hi Robert, the next tine you're in the U.K. you'll have to make sure that you visit the store. Best, Stephan

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