Magazine article The Spectator

Getting Personal

Magazine article The Spectator

Getting Personal

Article excerpt

I am sure most Spectator readers would agree that Christmas shopping used not to be so stressful. Every Christmas Eve my father, himself a Spectator contributor, would pop into Fortnum & Mason to pick up a reassuringly expensive bottle of Joy for my mother. Annually she accepted it with the grace of someone receiving a bottle of scent for the very first time -- job done.

She preferred Trésor but to admit it was tantamount to treachery.

Today the plethora of smells, assaulting the nostrils of anyone venturing into a perfumery, is enough to destabilise the most loyal brand devotee. The fragrance industry has exploded and now it is de rigueur to switch scent with one's mood or time of day. People discuss scent like connoisseurs describing fine wine.

Foreseeing this trend, perfumer Lyn Harris founded Miller Harris in 2000, specialising in limited editions and personal fragrance.

A visit to the flagship store in Mayfair's Berkeley Square is like walking into a black lacquered jewel box, redolent of luxury and smelling heavenly. Her latest offering, Fleurs de Sel, conjures up a windy day by the ocean.

'This has that salty tang of the Brittany sea marshes that I so love, ' Lyn enthuses. Its ingredients include sea moss, red thyme, clary sage, cistus, wild iris and rose, ambrette seed and vetiver. No wonder Lyn claims that the foundation stone of her brand is its dedication to precious ingredients.

Though Miller Harris is an established brand, Lyn's core business is bespoke scent. 'Personal fragrance is the future.

No one wants to smell like someone else anymore, ' she says. Her waiting-list proves the point. Lyn can only take six customers a year and the process takes months. Then your very own scent's formula is registered in Grasse en Provence, the epicentre of the world's fragrance industry, before being delivered in a bottle engraved with the name you choose for it.

For those with less patience who need something special in time for Christmas, help is at hand. Les Senteurs, in Belgravia's Elizabeth Street, opened its doors in 1984 and is already London's oldest privately owned perfumer, stocking rare and cult fragrances from around the world. James Craven, in-house 'Archivist and Fragrance Adviser', assures me they stock enough great scents to find the perfect fragrance for everyone.

Like Lyn, James has witnessed a huge shift away from the giant, unisex brands that dominated the Eighties and Nineties. …

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