A long overdue dispatch about quite the most civilised afternoon of 2017 spent at the former home of the Duke of Westminster, Bourdon House, in the company of Thomas and Dagmar Smit. Thomas and Dagmar are the patrons of master perfumer Julien Rasquinet whom they invited to create a royal family of exquisite perfumes with no budget imposed and no time limit other than ‘when you have reached perfection, we are contented’.
As you know, I cut my journalistic activities for the international press by about 95% having acknowledged that unless in brilliant company, I tend to dominate the conversation. Well, that and the pitiful fees offered by broadsheets and glossies these days. But I digress. The family had a new member, Chesterfield Club, that Julien was introducing to the press at Bourdon House.
I think we all agree that a new word must be coined for true luxury. I would suggest rarities. The world is saturated with designer fashion, accessories and fragrances that we all know are created in their thousands and marked up similarly. This is not a rarity. The lack of sophistication in the luxury market took my breath away a decade ago and I am, quite frankly, surprised I am still alive to discover the genuine rarity of Elegantes.
Mercifully, listing the notes in a perfume has about as much mystique as describing how many yards of thread go into a Chanel couture gown. Scent is to me the master of the senses. It can take you to a moment in time sometimes decades ago within seconds. The pheromones rush and the happy memories flood the soul.
You may not be surprised to learn that Dagmar, Charlotte, Thomas, Julien and I had conversed eloquently for more than an hour and polished off a couple of bottles of fizz before Chesterfield Club was released from its hand-crafted crystal flacon that reminded me of nothing more than a Madame Vionnet gown from the 1930s.
You may be surprised that the St James’s gentlemen’s club inspiration for Chesterfield Club came entirely from the imagination of Julien Rasquinet. He didn’t visit White’s, Boodles, the Reform or Brooks’s and yet this talented man evoked these eminent organs and their scent of leather, cigar smoke, polished parquet and bouquets of English garden flowers.
Now, when Elegantes PR Lara Mingay said she was finding it difficult to place stories about the fragrances I was not remotely surprised. The people with the sophistication and funds to invest in Elegantes make news. They do no read it. Besides, the press don’t have the autonomy or the intelligence to understand this family of rarities. They may be wearing the latest hideous Prada shoe but they wouldn’t know class if it bit them on the bum.
The wider family of Elegantes fragrances are Oud Exquisite, Orris Vetiver, Cashmere, Amber Wood, Amber Incense and Ultimate Musk. Once again, M’Lud, I am going to plead the pointlessness of listing notes. But one cannot deny the romance of the seductive Haitian vetiver that has the scent of hot voodoo and passion or the triumvirate of bergamot, myrrh and tobacco that romances Oris Vetiver.
I think we are all agreed that the global fashion and beauty conglomerates have about as much integrity as a dope peddler in the souks of Tangier. What they do is a long con largely aimed at unsophisticated emerging markets and Americans with no taste. When I was introduced to Thomas and Dagmar I knew I was amongst friends and intellectual equals if not superiors. Temper this with kindness and humour and you have friends for life.
Pleased to report that Elegantes is stocked in very few doors in London, Milano, Paris and Riyadh. Elegantes’ spiritual home in London is Fortnum and Mason; a family firm established in 1707 by servants at the court of fat Queen Anne. Granted, Fortnums can’t trace its ancestry back as far as Thomas and Dagmar but one can grant a little leeway to a firm that has thrived and survived for over three centuries.
As you may know, Thomas and Dagmar have created some of the most exceptional hotels in the world. I believe they met in Prague. It was their clientele that inspired Elegantes. Right there you have the fundamental difference between Elegantes and other ‘heritage perfumers’ such as Creed or Atkinsons who impose their taste on the client rather than serve a patron.
I believe you know within the first five minutes of meeting whether someone is sympatique or not. You also know whether they have souls that glow and hearts that giggle rather than flinty minds behind eyes like knives. I left Bourdon House reluctantly knowing I had experienced the real deal and was in the privileged position to sense they enjoyed my company as much as I enjoyed theirs.
Contrary to popular belief, there is no honour amongst thieves. But there is empathy between honourable, hard-working people with a passion for the finest qualities in life. Until next time…