Monday 9 May 2022

SUMARA by Barry Gibson

Sumara bottle from The Art of the Perfumery, which is based on Eau de Lubin
The perfume industry is a fast paced environment where the focus is usually on the future rather than the past. Companies race to find the latest trend or the newest ingredient, and so perfumes from history are often relegated to the archives. Barry Gibson is a name that's familiar to vintage scent lovers as the man who brought back The Crown Perfumery, which later became Clive Christian. He breathed new life into the company’s forgotten fragrances but, once it was sold to Clive, they were forgotten once more. However, Barry Gibson is back with The Art of the Perfumer, and vintage perfume lovers are once again about to go wild.

Barry Gibson’s story begins at a house and contents sale back in the 1990s. He bought some old books, essentially to kit out his library, and there were some real diamonds amongst them. He ended up purchasing perfume formula books that went back centuries, and this was the original foundation for The Crown Perfumery. He recreated the fragrances, for the first time in decades, and even made them IFRA compliant. However, the sale of the company to Clive Christian saw him leave the industry, move to America, and completely retire from public view.

However, in February 2022 Barry contacted me about the upcoming launch of his new company. This time it was in partnership with his daughter Louisa. The Art of the Perfumer had been established with the similar aim of recreating fragrances from history, gently updating them for a modern audience, but working within current IFRA guidelines. They would be using original formulas rather than guess work as their starting point, and heavy doses of natural ingredients would also been used for a more authentic result. There are five fragrances in the debut collection but, before we get to my favourite, let’s quickly visit the other four.

Sumara box from The Art of the Perfumery, which is based on Eau de Lubin
Galena is the new name for Esterhazy Bouquet, which dates from 1370. This aromatic citrus also sees galbanum-like notes combine with a subtle rose, before earthy vetiver and oakmoss accompanies the arrival of civet and labdanum. It stays effervescently crisp rather than veering into heavy resins. Akito is the fabled Bouquet du Marechale from 1678. An incredible rose fragrance, the addition of green and fruity notes emphasises a bright floral aroma. Aromatic touches mix with violet and frankincense nuances, before an oud note adds a darkness to the scent without intruding. There is a complexity, yet simplicity, that is absorbing.

Blue Tabu is a new fragrance and combines a modern aquatic with more traditional qualities. With impressive longevity, a nutmeg latches onto the cyclamen to provide an excitingly unnerving watery spice, before the slightly turpentine-edged cedarwood and sandalwood provide a rich dryness. Caribbean Limes is the second new fragrance and opens with a wonderfully aggressive aromatic citrus. There’s a perfectly balanced clove, which supports the lime, and a geranium and labdanum pairing ensures a true masculine floral aroma. This fragrance is everything you want from a lime cologne. It’s startling, daring, and exciting.

This brings us to Sumara, which is the revived Eau de Lubin from 1798. You are met with an aromatic citrus cocktail but, interestingly for a masculine scent, the floral notes push through the lavender very quickly. This rose and orange blossom pairing is unexpected, but perfectly places Sumara in a different time and style. The patchouli note is expertly balanced with a whisky-like ambrette, and the dry earthiness of the oakmoss offsets the tonka bean to guide the scent towards a more masculine chypre than a regular fougère. Historical scents are often animalic-heavy compositions, so to find one with this level of refinement is extraordinary.

All fragrances are available from The Art of the Perfumer website at priced at £69 for 50ml or £3.50 for 2ml. The full discovery set of all five fragrances is £11. It’s worth noting that, whilst some fragrances are marked as Cologne Intense, they all have the longevity of an Eau de Parfum. [Samples provided by Barry Gibson]


  1. Wow, brought back memories of buying a couple of Crown Perfumery scents when they were in the Burlington Arcade in the 90s. I remember being served by a highly efficient Australian lady. Then I seem to recall that CP scents were copied, given different names, and sold through a German shop.

    You got me going again with the mention of the Sumara. It really sounds wonderful. I thought that Gilles Thevenin owned the rights to the Lubin formula book, or did he sell the company.

    I have a single copy of the French magazine, Parfums & Senteurs from May 2001, with a feature about Lubin, and the amazing perfume bottles. My favourite is Au Soleil from 1909, where the bottle is shaped like a chimney, with a lizard climbing up it, to get to a bug on the cap.

    1. Hello Barry, thanks for the comment. The German copies of the CP scents were not very good, but the new company with Barry at the head is excellent. The Lubin formula is from one of the original books mentioned in the article, although it has been delicately updated for a modern audience. Best, Stephan