Swellboy on… summer fragrances

‘Like Napoleon, I am a slave to smell’

Image: Brijesh Patel

We all have our summer rituals. I once heard that in certain British coastal resorts policemen used to wear white helmets come summer, and New Yorkers have been known to tell the change in season not by the change in weather so much as the change in uniform of the bellmen, liftmen and doormen at the Carlyle hotel.

I change my fragrance come summer; from Ormonde Jayne’s Oris Noir, which I swear by during the majority of the year, to a variety of different eaux de toilette and eaux de parfum that I feel are better suited to the longer and, it is to be hoped, warmer days. There is Ormonde Jayne’s subtle and relaxing Champaca, Creed’s brisk and refreshing Aventus and the mysterious Cuvée Impériale from Charvet, which comes in a small champagne-shaped bottle. I am also experimenting with a further pair of Creeds: Bois de Portugal, and the classic Vetiver, while for dabbing on the wrist where the strap of my watch touches the skin I use Caron’s Coup de Fouet.


The key reason that I like to change my fragrances is that after a while I simply cease to detect them myself and find myself using so much that I achieve the olfactory equivalent of the Ready Brek glow, which can be a bit overpowering for anyone coming within a few metres of me – I was once told I was smelt before I was seen coming down the red carpet at a party given by the watch company IWC.

At least I am not the only person to have required ever greater quantities of fragrance. Even though continental Europe was under his control, Napoleon was a slave to smell, an odomane who, in one year alone, 1810, ordered 162 bottles of a single fragrance, a neroli-based eau de cologne, from just one perfume house, Chardin, while another perfumer patronised by the emperor, Hadancourt, used to supply him with two-litre bottles of perfume for him to use while on campaign. And just in case he required a “hit” while in the saddle or otherwise on the move, he is said to have had his boots equipped with a small holster to accommodate a glass flask or large phial of 4711 Echt Kölnisch Wasser. Somehow I do not think Eric Cook would take at all kindly to me suggesting that he incorporate space for a bottle of Oris Noir into the next pair of shoes that he makes for me.


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