crest

A Scent for the Ages

The history of perfume can be traced to the earliest days of civilisation. Clive Christian pays homage to a time when fragrances were exalted and intimately woven into the tapestry of society.


Origins

The practice of summoning deities through the smouldering embers of fragrant herbs and spices was first recorded in Ancient Egypt. By 900 AD, it had evolved at the hands of a Persian doctor, pioneering distillation methods for the purposes of extracting essential oils. The subsequent demand produced trade routes of rare extracts across the Middle East, Northern Africa, Greece, Italy and Hungary. While those capable of balancing their potent elixirs to deliver irresistible scents – the perfumers – were venerated members of society, often compared on account of their skill to the enigmatic alchemist.
Centuries later, great dynasties presiding over Northern Europe fuelled the fashionable demand for perfume, reaching a dizzying crescendo in La cour parfumée (or ‘perfumed court’) of Louis VX of France. Yet while opulence lent France its reputation as the home of modern perfumery, Britain was busy forging its own niche. A boom in industry made once unattainable goods of all varieties available to a wider public, and perfume was no exception. Many perfume houses were established during the reign of Queen Victoria, not least of which was the Crown Perfumery.


‘Perfumery is an art form, in the same genre as music and painting. It requires talent, expertise and most of all passion. Outstanding perfume creations are forever.’
Clive Christian OBE - London, September 1999