Grossmith was founded in London in 1835, but its fragrances enjoyed their heyday in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and the company has not traded for nearly 30 years.
Now the business has returned into family hands and three of the original scents re-launched into select perfumeries across the country, along with Fortnum & Masons and the Roja Dove Haute Parfumerie at Harrods.
Managing Director Simon Brooke explained how he felt the company was spearheading a fashion change, away from the ‘cult of the celebrity’ and towards the ‘cult of the perfumer’.
“People are beginning to see through it all. It has become very shallow with products that don’t endure,” he said, referring to an industry that sees more than 800 new launches a year many of which last no longer than a few years on the market.
“We are looking to return to the beauty of a more complex and interesting perfume that a generation ago enjoyed,” he added.
France-based firm Robertet were given the formulae for three of the company’s original scents - Hasu-No-Hana, Phul-Nana, and Shem-el-Nessim - with the instruction to recreate the scents as closely as possible, given the modern palette of ingredients and today’s regulatory constraints.
Asked whether these fragrances were updated to appeal to the modern nose, Brooke gave a resounding no.
“We knew we were bringing forward classic English perfumes, it would have been a complete mistake to produce something other than those classics for the launch,” he said.
Revival of the perfumery
The aim to reclaim something of the old world is also echoed in the company’s choice of distributor, where independent perfumeries win out over the department store.
Perhaps if this is truly a shift in the market we might see the comeback of the independent perfumeries, Brooke mused, adding that he didn’t believe consumers really enjoyed the selling of scents in department stores that consists of a spritz as you walk past the desk.
However, this attempt to revive some of the old ways does not mean the company is trapped by its illustrious past.
The packaging, although taking significant inspiration from past flacons, is not simply a reproduction of the original.
“We did not want to be a novelty brand, producing something that was purely a memory of the past. Our aim is to revive the perfume house as a lasting institution,” he said.
In addition, the company has formulae for a number of other scents and products drafted by the original perfumers John Lipscomb Grossmith and his son Stanley, which it will not be afraid to tinker with if needs be.
“Our ancestors would have played around with formulas to improve things, which is something we also intend to do with future products,” he said.
The products are so far only available in the UK but launches in Europe, the US and the Middle East are planned. Grossmith believes its unique English offering, coupled with the option to purchase the perfume in a hand blown crystal flacon using the original mould from French company Baccarat, will have global appeal.
As Brooke put it: “When you are offering the best of English perfumery and an original Baccarat bottle design, you are not a brand whose horizons stop at the English Channel.”