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When Amanda's MAD decided he wanted to retire early and become an artist, I tried to think positive thoughts about him being happy and creatively fulfilled and not 'Oh dear, I wonder if this means less money for clothes?'
I was lucky, when Amanda Brooke's husband Simon reached 50 something, he decided to resurrect the family perfume house, pretty much from scratch, with all the hard work and new learning curves that entailed.
Simon discovered through his interest in genealogy he was related (great, great grandson) to the founder of the English perfume house Grossmith. After buying up antique samples of what remained of the perfume on eBay and some serendipitous meetings with distant relatives (one of whom still had the original book of perfume formulae) he and Amanda thought they had the makings of something special, so bought back the company name. Through hard work, giant amounts of research, learning and masses of enthusiasm, they have successfully reinvented three of the original best selling scents.
There are many reasons why I want them to do well. Firstly, Grossmith has worked really hard to keep as near as possible to the original formulas, going for (expensive) natural or very good quality synthetic materials. With many of the big brand perfumes (frequently headed up by some celeb we're supposed to want to smell like) keeping the cost of what's in the bottle as LOW as they can get away with, or alter the original formula to get the same smell with cheaper ingredients, it's rather fabulously old-fashioned to think of the quality first.
Because of this, the perfumes lasts and lasts. The sillage (as the waft of smell you leave in your wake is known in the trade -sounds a bit farm like, doesn't it?) is mightily impressive, and it's due to the quality of the ingredients.
Secondly, these are really original, beautiful smells. They are old school, heavyweight proper perfumes, deeply sexy (all three are floral orientals), rich, exotic and really stir the memory when you first experience them. You can't feel ambivilant about them, you will either find them too dramatic, or you'll fall heavily for them (as I have for Shem el Nessim).
The oldest perfume Hasu no Hana was created in 1888, Phul Nana in 1891 and Shem el Nessim in 1906 and all three sold across the world for years, gaining royal warrants (Queen Alexandra) and many fans. Indeed when Shem el Nessim was invented, the perfumers in Grasse (with whom the family worked) were so impressed it started a trend for this type of oriental floral and the Guerlain classic L'Heure Bleue, which was born in 1912, is heavily influenced by the style.
The unusual names date them, Hasu no Hana, which is the scent of the Japanese lotus lily, was invented in 1888 when Japan was just opening up to the West, Shem el Nessim (1906) is named after an Egyptian spring time festival when Edwardians were heading down the Nile for the first travel cruises and Phul Nana, created in 1891, celebrates India when the English considered it and all its wonderful treasures their own.
(For anyone watching Downton Abby, I reckon Lady Mary would have worn Shem el Nessim and Lady Cora maybe Phul Nana, both would have been available).
The perfumes are available at very few stores in the UK (which makes me love them even more), The Roja Dove perfume boutique on the fifth floor at Harrods stocks them, check the website for a closer stockist, but if you are struggling them email Amanda and Simon (under 'contact us') and they will help.
They are slightly different prices because the ingredients in them cost differing amounts, with Hasu no Hana £125, Shem el Nessim £115 and Phul Nana £100 for 50mls. If you are feeling particularly flush, or you have rich relatives needing help with Christmas suggestions the beautifully decorated Baccarat crystal bottle of the perfume is yours for £6000.