HENRY JACQUES PARFUMS

Salon de Parfums
Level 6, Harrods, Knightsbridge, London, UK

 

NB: In the summer of 2015, I met with the brand ambassadors of Henry Jacques Parfums, at their exclusive boutique at the Salon de Parfums, Harrods. Though a store review, it was also an interview of sorts, and therefore will be categorised under both the Interview Series, as well as Store Reviews. 

 

 

“We have no budget.” – Mikaloj, Henry Jacques Brand Ambassador

With those four words, the world of Henry Jacques Parfums should become quite clear. Their clients prefer discretion, their perfumes require intimacy; and for quite some time, Henry Jacques Parfums was only available from Salon Monceau- 14 rue Margueritte, Paris, on a request by invitation basis. So, you can imagine caused quite the stir when it opened an exclusive boutique at Harrods’s Salon de Parfums.

Henry Jacques Parfums was founded by Henry Cremona in 1975. A keen and avid traveller, his work was greatly inspired by Middle Eastern traditions of perfumery; which he combined with the traditions of French perfumery. The mixture of the two styles proved to be a winning combination. Working with clients on a by request basis, Henry Jacques Parfums did not release a collection until 2010, which after over quarter of a century was the summation of company’s most popular fragrances from a library of over 2000 compositions. So far there are four different collections:

  • Les Classiques de HJ (a selection of the 50 classic Henry Jacques perfumes)
  • Collection Couture (most iconic creations in specially selected crystal falcons)
  • Les Caves à Parfums (sets of 10 or 15 flacons, 15ml, housed in a polished wood cabinets, inspired by the tradition of Ladies of the 18thC French Court)
  • Collection Joaillerie (jewelled collection)

It should therefore be of no coincidence at all that they got top billing when the Salon was first designed. Nestled at the rear of the Salon, it is the only boutique with a curtain for privacy.

At first sight you may be forgiven or feeling a little deflated- it is not the shiny or glitzy summation of all the Salon de Parfums boutiques. Lalique crystal does not drip off the walls as it does at Roja Dove, there are no special contraptions for smelling the perfume as there is at Ex Nihilo- no wall of gleaming gold Guerlain bee bottles. However, when you look a little more closely, you’ll being to see something quite special. It is by far the understated neighbour, one whose charms are to be unveiled with every opening cabinet, upon which hidden crystal bottles gleam with the promise of scents unknown.

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Before I start with my review, I feel it is important to state one rudimental fact about Henry Jacques: not everyone gets to have the Henry Jacques experience. With a starting price of £410 for a 15ml bottle of perfume, it is not for the faint hearted. I truly dislike money talk, however it would be remiss of me to not mention the expense of Henry Jacques perfumes, as all avenues of discussion point to the obvious- that not everyone can afford it.

It is simply a matter of economy. When there is no budget, there is an exponential and limitless cost involved. The usual boundaries that govern on 50ml bottle  of Chanel No.5 do not compare to the possibilities of a 50ml bottle of Monsieur HJ.

Firstly, there is the composition, which may be adjusted depending on your particular olfactive preference. Then there is the bottle, this may be bought in their signature crystal bottles, or any design which may take your fancy, and by any make of crystal: Baccarat, Duan Saint-Louis, the shape of a flower etc. The bottles are hand blown by the in house crystal ateliers at the perfumery at Draguignan, Provence, where no one bottle top fits a bottle that is not its own. Should you wish precious jewels set into the design, or have gold paint dance along its curves, the options are limitless.

The services provided by Henry Jacques are paramount to their international clientele, and as such signal the perfumery apart from their peers. should you wish to have your perfume sent to your home in the Middle East, India, China, Brazil or even North America, there isn’t a problem. As the perfumes are pure perfumes, they have no alcohol restrictions applied to them- a thread which often limits perfumeries from branching on to the international market whilst keeping a foothold in one country alone.

I will therefore leave it up to you to make an educated guess to the cost of all that I came in contact with during my time at the Henry Jacques boutique.

I made my way to Harrods for a two o’clock meeting, silently ignoring all other perfumes on display- after all, I was about to step on the other side of the curtain- a world that before now was a mystery (and I suppose it still is). Either way, I was going to sample perfume that yielded a higher power, and thus my senses needed to abstain from the mere vanilla scented trifles that were gleaming before me. It was nearly Eid, and all the boutiques were vying for the Gulf clients.

I met with Corina and Mikaloj, the wonderful brand ambassadors for Henry Jacques Parfums. With their help I was able to decide that Yasminale No.1– sweetpea, honeysuckle and Mirabelle plum, heart notes: broom flower, freesia and jasmine, base notes: sandalwood, vanilla and iris;  took top billing, that for sake of vanity that I really ought to wear Miss De HJ (my initials you see), and I got to smell Ambergris for the first time- and that I would quite happily wear it by itself. I discovered that I had an instinctive affinity for the smell of Tonka bean and beeswax.

I commented to Mikaloj that all the perfumes were very classic- they don’t wonder into genre’s that would be experimental. He said that because of their use of pure perfumes it is in their nature to be traditional, simply put “We try to be timeless- our style is elegance.”

Elegance is by nature a balance that some find hard to execute, however everything  at Henry Jacques was at a level of understated yet exquisite quality. From the hand painted crystal bottles to the antique 19th century chests by the renowned Jean Pierre Alexandre Tehan (1813-1892). Even the small sample bottles that were no bigger than my small finger where immensely beautiful.

The boutique was designed by Christophe Tollemer, as has been impeccably constructed. Timber panels line the walls with gold leaf edging. the perfumes are displayed in the two horizontal cuts that divide the panels half way up, and back lit with warm white LED lights. There are two recessed glass cases where the flavour of the month are displayed- often with the most prized bottles kept safely out of reach. there are places to sit, a rug on the floor, and curtains to maintain privacy. Nothing about this boutique would indicate that it was nothing more than a private salon.

The real gems- the perfumes, are tucked away in secret compartments. There you will find the samples of ambergris, baccarat bottles, and quite possibly the most beautiful and supreme bottle of Rose Snow perfume. It was the size of a 200ml bottle.

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“This is pure rose- white rose,” said Corina, as she turned the bottle against the light; a universe of frozen petals stared back at us. “This is how pure our perfumes are- you only get these crystals from the rose petals.”  Though not quite fossils, I could easily make out the skeletal frame of the once white rose petals. It was as if snowflakes had been suspended mid-motion. “It looks like snow, that’s why it is called Rose Snow” admired Corina. I can’t remember the last time I saw a perfume more beautiful than its bottle- in all honesty, when do we ever really admire perfume for the beauty of its liquid form? It was a sweet reminder that Mother Nature was the true artist.

With a list of notes that read as a mixture of roses for each top, heart and base, and only verbena (top) and iris (heart), I tried to find out which roses made up the perfume. Corina and Mikaloj only smiled, saying that even they were not privy to that information. Clearly the showstopper of the Henry Jacques collection, the formula was a secret worth keeping.

With Mikaloj’s suggestion, I tried his favourite, ‘Rose Bulgare Composee’. “It is beautiful,” he offered, and he was right. The perfume’s top notes are geranium, verbena and honeysuckle, heart notes: ambrette, Damascus rose and clove; the base notes are: cist-labanum, amber and iris. The symphony that plays out is tangible, bold.

As a fan of rose perfumes, I found all sorts of perfumes that proved delightful.

Admittedly, my time at HJ gave me only a glimpse of what the perfumes are like. Two hours were not enough to anointed myself to the olfactive heavens that they unlocked. However, I was surrounded by the most sumptuous collection of perfume I could ever hope to be in company with. To pick one out of the many beautiful perfumes I sampled would be too cruel. The macrocosms that they’re scent conjured painted the most brilliant haze- a haze of that is always produced at the beginnings of falling in love. It’s the most delicious part of falling, because we never know which direction we’ll go.

From my time with Corina and Mikaloj I learnt two things: that for certain clients, Henry Jacques is often a re-education into the ritual of perfume. Those who are unfamiliar with dabbing perfume or oud,  as opposed to spraying perfume, have to accept that these perfumes will not leave a trail behind them.  Where a spray perfume has become almost reflex in its application, pure perfume demands a conscious moment to each person’s day. Whilst their projection is not overwhelmingly vocal (unless applied in copious quantities- which given the price is unlikely to be done) their longevity will always be their shining quality. These perfumes require intimacy to be noticed, and presence of mind when applied, or as Corina put it “Something for you, for someone close to you, dear to you.” 

 

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To visit the Henry Jacques Boutique, you will need to access it via the escalator at Door 3. Whilst there, you may want to   your time there, as a flying visit will not do much to satisfy your interest. For more information, please visit the Henry Jacques website: www.parfums-henry-jacques.com .

For sales, please visit: www.harrods.com/brand/henry-jacques

-THANK YOU-

I would like to say thank you firstly to Corina and Mikaloj for making my first Henry Jacques visit so memorable. I would also like to sincerely thank Phyllis Danielle Benkhelifa and Anne Lise Cremona for helping to arrange the meeting and assisting me afterwords with the press photohraphs. Mille fois merci!