THROW in a dash of British heritage and a few drops of family history, mix in the essence of the Mediterranean and add a client list that includes Her Royal Majesty, and you have a recipe for Floris, the oldest perfume shop in the world.
Historically, all the banknotes in the shop were ironed and the all the change was washed and brushed before being handed to the customer on a velvet change pad. This was originally because it was considered rude to touch a lady or gentleman’s hand.
It’s a story that is almost too charming to be true; Juan Famenias Floris, arrived to England from his birthplace, Menorca, in search fulfilling his dreams and seeking fortune. He secured the current Floris premises in Jermyn Street, old Mayfair in 1730, where he set up his original business as a comb maker. However, he soon missed the exciting aromas and spices of his Mediterranean youth and Floris, the perfumery, was born.
Stepping into the store is like stepping into a Victorian apothecary, or perhaps onto the pages of some Dickensian novel. I’m immediately greeted by a grand mahogany counter, which, I’m told, was purchased from the Great Exhibition at the Crystal Palace in Hyde Park in 1851, and has been used by each of the eight generations of the Floris family ever since. Original, hand-written recipes embellish glass cabinets and a warm, rich mix of spice and sandalwood is in the air.
As I’m led into a small, antiquated backroom, resident perfumer, Shelagh Foyle, welcomes me with a smile. It is clear that not only have the family’s values remained in tact, but so have their traditions. “Being a family business, naturally we are so passionately involved in whatever we are creating and the in the various decisions that have to be taken,” she reveals, “It is incredibly important for us to remain true to our core values and those values of our forefathers whereby quality and attention to detail is paramount.” Historically, all the banknotes in the shop were ironed and the all the change was washed and brushed before being handed to the customer on a velvet change pad. This was originally because it was considered rude to touch a lady or gentleman’s hand. Now, the same system is used; although the money is not washed and ironed anymore, the velvet change pads are still used, just one of the many examples of Floris’ pride in customer service.
Foyle spends her day scouring for new scents for both her bespoke service and Floris’ extensive and constantly evolving range of perfumes, colognes and toiletries. “We do not tend to follow perfume trends, but are always working on new fragrances at our own pace until we are absolutely happy with them. The inspiration can often be from the desire to use exciting ingredients and oils that we that we have not previously used.” She goes on to regale how on her long commute home to the south coast every evening, fellow regular passengers take joy in asking her which scent she is wearing that day and what she has been working on, “We are fortunate enough to still have all our handwritten perfume formula books which have been passed down through the family so sometimes a new fragrance can come from recreating one of these formulas from our past, but ending up with something very different by adding a new fresh twist. From the various handwritten amendments in these books you can see that this is something that many generations of the family have done over the years.”
It was she who re-introduced the bespoke service, and came up with the newer, ‘customisation’ service, which offers individuals of all affluences the chance to create their own, personal scent. “We have always offered a bespoke service right back as far as the 1700s,” she explains, “and it was actually up until the 1970s that all the fragrances were made up to order downstairs below the shop in Jermyn Street. Today we make all our fragrances and products at our factory in Devon. Re-introducing the bespoke service seemed like a very natural step and was really a way of offering our customers an insight into the magical and often mysterious world of perfumery and offering that chance to experience being involved in the creative process to arrive at a bespoke signature scent.”
Floris provides two levels of perfume making; a customised scent based on an existing fragrance (£130), created during a 90-minute consultation, in which the client adds different notes to their chosen base, and also the full perfume design service, which costs £2,750, and is comprised of a series of lengthy meetings between Foyle and the client. With more than 3,000 ingredients at her dispense, Foyle aims to get to know the client better and thus create a truly unique scent that complements their personality. Both services include 100ml bottle of your own scent (the bespoke perfume design also includes five repeat bottles) and allows each customer to name their perfume.
After a lovely and insightful meeting with the talented perfumer, I walked away with my own bespoke blend, which I named Loulouthi (‘flower’ in Greek). Comprised of a base of sakura blossom, complemented by notes of amber, marine, sandalwood and vanilla, the fresh scent was beautifully presented in one of Floris’ traditional cut glass bottles. Whether for your own use, or as a gift to a loved one, I cannot imagine a better way to spend an afternoon, and will most definitely never return to my usual Eau de Whatever is Hanging Around on my Dressing Table.
89 Jermyn Street
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