Among the bewildering array of sights and sounds on offer, it’s easy to forget that London is also one of the fragrance capitals of the world. As befits its centuries of history, London is home to some of the world’s oldest perfumeries, and is a brilliant place to look whether you’re on the lookout for classic scents or designing a completely new one to reflect your own, unique tastes. Here’s a rundown of the some of the capital’s best and most iconic perfume shops.
Where better to begin than Floris, London’s oldest perfume shop, which has been trading from the same premises on Jermyn Street since its founding over 280 years ago in 1730. Juan Famenias Floris was a native of Menorca, who came to London to seek his fortune. Originally he went into business not as a perfumer but as a barber and comb-maker: when he started making perfume soon afterwards, he was inspired by the heady aromas of his Mediterranean childhood home, which he had yearned for ever since arriving in London. Luminaries of all fields have shopped at Floris for centuries, including Florence Nightingale and Mary Shelley, and its fame has even crossed over into the world of fiction: James Bond, no less, went nowhere without a splash of Floris No.89.
Another of London’s perfumeries with a long and rich history, Penhaligon’s was established in the early 1870s by William Penhaligon, a flamboyant and passionate man whose vision ran over with the excess and wild possibilities of the Victorian era. He devised Hammam Bouquet, the store’s first scent, in 1872, inspired by the heady aromas wafting from the Turkish baths next door. Today, Penhaligon continues its founder’s legacy of creative, innovative perfumery and experimentation, making use of exotic ingredients from all over the world, from hand-squeezed bergamot to jasmine worth twice the price of gold. Alongside the flagship Covent Garden store, there are outlets in the Burlington Arcade, Regent Street, Mayfair, Kings Road, Islington, and the Royal Exchange. All the outlets are easily accessible from The Marble Arch Hotel by Montcalm, which is also just moments away from Park Lane and Oxford Street.
For those who want to avoid the homogenous hustle and bustle of London’s vast department stores, but are looking for more variety than is available in the smaller boutiques, Les Senteurs is perfect. Committed to helping you to try out a variety of scents to find one that’s perfect for you – rather than trying to rush you into a sale in the way only too familiar from department stores – they pride themselves on and are renowned for their personal service and advice. Les Senteurs align themselves with the ‘slow scent’ movement, which is breathing new life back into the perfume market saturated by big companies and mass produced scents. If you only visit one perfumer during your visit to London, make sure it’s this one.