Then and Now: The Perfumers of Bond Street

By Lucie Muir
Ormonde Jayne's new Royal Arcade boutique

Bond Street has long been home to leading luxury perfumers and beauty brands. Indeed, its historical links to perfume-making can be traced back to the 18th century when the cream of London society would flock here for floral fragrances from some of the finest perfumers of the day.

Among them was Atkinsons, one of the foremost British beauty brands, which set up shop in 1832 on Old Bond Street – in what is now the Salvatore Ferragamo flagship – selling perfume, fragrance and soap. Elsewhere, number 33, now home to the YSL flagship, was once leased to Yardley, famed for its English Lavender scent; while Parisian perfumer Lenthéric ran a shop at number 17, selling fragrances with fashionable brand names including A Bientot and Shanghai. Then, in 1922, American perfume giant Elizabeth Arden opened at 25 Old Bond Street, offering not only cosmetics but hair styling and manicures well ahead of its time.

Today, a clutch of independent perfumers can still be found in and around this celebrated shopping street. Roja Dove’s bijoux boutique sits in the Burlington Arcade, while neighbouring Clifford Street is now home to Lyn Harris’s Perfumer H space, which opened its doors last November. Tucked behind Bond Street and just a stone’s throw from the Royal Academy, the shop is reminiscent of a Georgian apothecary, filled with curiosities including pickled frankincense from Somalia. There are also plans to host seasonal art exhibitions in the basement.

Perfumer Lyn Harris

However, there is one established perfumer that has stood the test of time in The Royal Arcade and that’s Linda Pilkington, the creator and founder of Ormonde Jayne. Last month, she relocated from the store’s home of 22 years at number 12, to a spacious new base, four doors down at number 16.

Linda, whose new store wraps around onto Albemarle Street, has seen plenty of comings and goings over the past two decades. ‘Aside from the wonderful Brown’s Hotel, the whole of Albemarle Street was all greasy spoons,’ she says. ‘But since they’ve moved out, Bond Street brands, including my neighbours Alexander McQueen, Cartier and YSL, have opened the back end of their boutiques so that what were once stock rooms are now beautiful showrooms. Most of their store awnings are all a burnt orangey red and my storefront is orange too, so you have this lovely warm glow about the place.’

At triple the size, her thoroughly modern new boutique features three full-length 150-year-old curved windows and offers innovative new retail experiences such as the new Scent IQ bespoke perfume service launching this spring. As part of this personal service, Linda will give a full briefing on ingredients and perfume making to groups of no more than four at a time. She will then help clients create their perfect scent by asking a list of probing questions ranging from colour preferences to whether they follow a cool, clean diet or prefer hot, spicy dishes.

As for purchasing a new handmade Ormonde Jayne perfume – there are 40 to choose from – the perfumer always advises customers to take their time, especially when trying more than one scent. She also encourages you to take a moment to clear your olfactory system between sniffs by stepping out of the store and taking a breath of fresh air. Says Linda: ‘You might look a bit funny wandering about the Royal Arcade but it works far better than sniffing coffee beans, which are essentially just another smell!’

Ormonde Jayne's new Montabaco perfume series

Meanwhile, her newly launched Montabaco series features a trio of new scents, including Montabaco Cuba, infused with notes of mandarin and vanilla absolute. Montabaco Flor is a glorious bouquet of gardenia, water lily and jasmine, while Montabaco Rio is blended to perfection with the addition of pineapple, rhubarb and caramel.

Speaking of perfume launches, expect a flurry of new releases from Bond Street’s luxury brands this month. Burberry’s new Her Eau de Parfum Petals is a limited-edition fragrance featuring floral notes of violet and jasmine. The perfume comes in a beautiful archive-inspired glass bottle containing floating pink petals that gently flutter when shaken. Then there’s Hermès’ new H24 Herbes Vives for men, the third release under the H24 line, which has a hint of fresh grass after a rainstorm.

Elsewhere, expect something altogether more warming from Juliette Karagueuzoglou, the nose behind Chloé’s new Nomade Nuit D’Egypte Eau de Parfum. Inspired by kyphi, the first fragrance known to humankind, the scent includes base notes of orange blossom, vanilla and myrrh. Finally, Gucci’s newest perfume, The Alchemist’s Garden, The Heart of Leo is also set to land in stores in time to pair with your new-season wardrobe.

So, for a delicious fragrance experience like no other, just follow your nose to Bond Street this spring.

Lucie Muir writes for the Financial Times HTSI