Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Victorian Perfumes


During the late Victorian period in Britain there were several perfumes that became quite well known because many pharmacists would make their own versions of them. During the agrarian revolution patents were taken out on several inventions and later during the industrial revolution the cloth industry benefited from several innovations that were likewise patented. However, it seems that during this period pharmacists were able to copy names without fear of legal impediment.

The three most common names for perfumes were Jockey Club, New Mown Hay and Mille Fleurs. The Jockey Club itself was founded in 1715 and I imagine that the association with the sport of Kings would position a fragrance at least in the perception of the consumer as being up market. The perfume was supposed to capture the aromas wafted by a warm late spring breeze from nearby woodland across the enclosure at Epsom racecourse. New Mown Hay was an agrestic blend with optimistic promise of warm sunny days and Mille Fleurs was probably equally optimistic, as assuming the name alluded to variety rather than quantity: even today we would struggle to find perhaps fifty flowers let alone twenty times that number.

The bottle illustrated originally contained Jockey Club and it was a triple distillation along lines described in the previous post, although I have some recipes that also added a small proportion of a finished blended perfume to the distillate.

For the purposes of the TV documentary I looked at late Victorian recipes for the three perfumes named above and decided to use many of those ingredients with the addition of some oils from India. As I was going to call the fragrance Empress of India it should contain some quality aromatics in fitting tribute.

I chose classic Orientals for the base: sandalwood, vetivert Bourbon, frankincense, vanilla, opoponax and patchouli. For the heart: tuberose, jasmines Sambac and grandiflorum, rose Maroc and orange blossom absolute. Citrus top notes of neroli, bergamot and mandarin were complimented by rose Otto, orris root and coriander.

As for the purposes of the television I had three apprentices I got each to experiment with one of the accords before assessing them as a group and blending them in just proportion to produce the finished fragrance.

It was quite engaging and even the guys on sound and camera came to check it when it was finished.