Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Lady's Guide to Perfect Gentility - Regency Perfumes

One of the great things about being a historical writer is the process of discovery. I just finished a Regency Christmas story (that will be available late November) and I needed to know what my hero smelled like – which got me to thinking about scents and smells in general. Who were the Dolce and Gabanna’s and Chanel’s of that day? Or did they only make perfumes at home?

My first discovery led me to Floris London, a quaint little shop on Jermyn Street that sold perfumes, combs and shaving implements. Floris is still in London and still run by Juan Floris’ ancestors.

Here’s where you can find them.

So, I was really excited about their perfume processes. Today they have a unique experience available in their shop: bespoke perfume design. I so want to do this the next time I am in London. “Using rare and precious essential oils and floral essences gathered from around the world, the Floris perfumer will custom blend an exclusive and individual fragrance.

At their website, there is also a Fragrance Finder. Why do I like this? Well, I got to thinking about my hero – a dashing widowed duke. I made my selections and – viola – my hero was a vetiver and sandalwood kind of guy.

They use many other exotic fragrances as well, among them:  bergamot, jasmine, marine, pink peppercorn, oleander, peony, rose, summer berries, musk, patchouli and sandalwood - and this is for just one perfume!

Other famous perfumeries including the French company Roger and Gallet with its Jean Marie Farina perfume launched in 1806: Truefitt and Hill, the oldest barbershop in the world and famous for its Freshman colognes and shaving creams; and another company Carthusia makes a perfume Fiori Di Capri which blends amber and sandalwood and is created from a medieval recipe from 1380.

Naturally there were also many homemade formulations.

Rose water is frequently mentioned in romance novels.

Here’s the recipe: “Put roses into water and add one or two drips of vitriolic acid. The water assumes the color and becomes impregnated with the aroma of the flowers.”

Or this one for perfumed oils: “These are prepared by soaking cotton in fine olive oil and spreading it in layers over which such flowers as violets, jessamine or roses, should be lightly strewn. The oil will thus imbibe the scent of the flowers and should then be pressed from the cotton, and, if necessary, filtered through flannel. Most of the French scented oils are made by this process.”

I won’t be mixing up a batch of perfume on my oven anytime soon but I will be stopping at Floris the next time I am in London. And when you smell Adam, Duke of Sterling, in my Christmas story, you’ll know where he bought his cologne.


Allison Merritt said...

Neat post, Eliza! I love picking scents for my characters.

Eliza Lloyd said...

It was fun! I'm total hooked on the idea of an personalized cologne. I wonder if they will name it for me,too?