The Art of Perfume: Passed Down 9 Generations

By Jane Werrell

LONDON—Cabinets lined with antique glassware, formula books, and old photographs. The atmosphere in this perfumery on Jermyn Street brings a little magic to the the area.

Passed down for nine generations, the perfumes are still created in the same space tucked away not far from the hustle and bustle of central London.

“There’s some sort of magic in the building, it’s kind of an unknown ingredient that makes something a Floris fragrance,” said perfumery director Edward Bodenham.

“It’s very peaceful and such a lovely place to work on a fragrance,” he said, “Very little has changed since the early days.”

Bodenham is a descendant of the founder of the business, Juan Floris of Menorca, which was part of the British empire back then. Floris visited England, married an English girl and bought a property on Jermyn Street in the 1700s.

It started as a barber shop, but they soon realised their real passion was creating fragrance. It’s a craft that involves patience, discussion, and a lot of smelling.

“They’re like old friends, the fragrances in our range, because I’ve known them for so many years,” said Bodenham.

Bodenham and his team often share opinions on their concotions, drawing from history to inform the present.

“We just open the cabinets, look at old books, and find stories, because what people want to feel when they are smelling something is to feel a story, to feel an emotion, so it needs to be something that touches your heart,” said Nicola Pozzani, bespoke perfumer at Floris.

One of the more famous fragrances they still sell is Special No.127, created in 1890 and named after the page number of the “specials” book that the formula was originally recorded in.

“It was created for a Russian duke who was exiled in Paris and it was his bespoke fragrance,” explains Bodenham. “Then he passed away, he didn’t have a member of the family to carry the fragrance on, so it was decided for the family at the time to launch into the range.”

It’s a scent that became a favourite for Winston Churchill, as shown in a ledger book from the 1930s and 40s. It lists various double pages from Lady Churchill, showing she did the majority of the shopping.

Eva Perón, first lady of Argentina from 1946 until her death in 1952, also took a liking to Special No.127.

Ledgers show customers like British actors Laurence Olivier and John Gielgud, as well as royal families in the UK and Europe.

Inside the shop, perfumes are displayed in cabinets purchased at the Great Exhibition in 1851.

“Even just being here, as you can probably feel, it’s a little bit emotional, because it feels a little bit like stepping back in time,” said Pozzani.