Art Books Events Grossmith Black Label collection: New Beginings

Grossmith Black Label collection: New Beginings

11/13/12 13:01:41 (2 comments)

by: Suzy Nightingale

While gazing wide-eyed in wonderment at quirky collectors pieces and stunning bejewelled creations on the runway, there comes a point where pretty much everyone—fashion editors included—allows reality to intercede the dream, and the question "...but would you actually wear it?" is answered with a resounding "No!"

The same is true in the world of perfumery, I think, for novices, dabblers and hardened adventurists alike. While in my case I like to experiment wildly and veer from the slightly unusual to the just plain weird, there are many times I long for something that isn't a challenge to wear yet doesn't bore me rigid within half an hour. I'm also aware that not everyone is keen on fragrances that one must grow to love, or only wear on ultra special occasions.

Just as in fashion there is an eternal quest to find that Little Black Dress, the do-everything, go anywhere investment piece that makes you look the best version of yourself in every situation; in fragrance we also search for that Holy Grail, a bottled LBD that can always the right thing to wear.

I am honored to have been invited to a secluded little cocktail bar known as the Fumoir within Claridges, London. The original Lalique glass panel on the door beckons you forth into an Art Deco jewel box of a room, darkly glamorous but with a laid-back cool that makes it feel intimate and welcoming. The perfect location, then, for the revived British perfume house of Grossmith to showcase their newly-created Black Label collection of modern fragrances. The idea was to continue with the original ethos of Grossmith—that of creativity combined with a passion for the finest ingredients. Back in the day, the name of Grossmith stood for originality, so having resurrected this great institution by paying respect to their historical roots and recreating some of their classics, Grossmith are now ready to take the next step, a great stride forward in fact, with this excellent, eminently wearable collection that has literally just hit the shops.

I make no secret of the fact that I was already a huge fan of Grossmith, as can be seen from my article on the release of their Betrothal perfume, and I had worked my way backwards from there, discovering their heritage perfumes and relishing the history. But now is definitely the right time to move ahead, bringing something new to the table and, in doing so, preventing the house being trapped in the past or being known as a kind of museum brand; terribly interesting but perhaps only the reserve of palates already refined.

Simon Brooke, the founder, at the presentation

Spying me across the room, Simon Brooke bounds over to greet me. "Miss Betrothal!" he exclaims, warmly shaking my hand and remembering the card I'd sent him after the previous launch, in which I declared I had finally found my perfect Wedding Day perfume in Grossmith's Betrothal. "Of course I remember, I have the card in my office, I see it every day."

Simon is the history buff who discovered by chance his ancestor had once owned a great British perfume dynasty and set about rebuilding the company from the ground up.

Amanda Brooke at the presentation

"For Amanda and me the revival of Grossmith was all about restoring the House to its pre-eminent position in world perfumery. The natural place to start was with the three fragrances that established Grossmith (Hasu-no-Hana, Phul-Nana and Shem-el-Nessim) which we remastered using the highest quality materials and distinctive, stylish packaging.

The House enjoyed patronage from the British Royal Family and so next we decided to follow the Grossmith tradition of celebrating Royal events. The first of our entirely new modern fragrances, Betrothal was launched on the day of the Royal Wedding and Diamond Jubilee Bouquet, with sale proceeds going to the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust, was introduced earlier this year to mark the Diamond Jubilee of HM The Queen.

The launch of the Black Label Collection—Floral Veil, Amelia, Golden Chypre and Saffron Rose—comes three years into the revival and is the culmination of a year of creative activity to produce a balanced collection of four modern fragrances that broaden our olfactory palette with a white floral, two chypres and an oud. They will soon be available from all 86 of our stockist partners in 26 countries.

Our new Black Label Collection, embodying understated sophistication, positions Grossmith as a truly modern, innovative English perfume house, once again producing perfumes that are amongst the finest in the world."

And so here I am, about to plunge into the unknown, not quite knowing what to expect, and being guided around the room in Claridges, with tables dotted along the walls carrying the beautiful fluted bottles with heavy gold caps and inky black packaging that further distinguishes this collection from the heritage range.

I begin with Amelia—and what an auspicious beginning it is, as a warmly enticing true Osmanthus tickles my nose, wafting lustily but remaining soft in nature, tempered beautifully by the fresher Neroli, and relaxing slowly into the feminine heart of Rose, Peony and Jasmine and Amber, with a fuzzily sexy base of Cashmere Musks, a rich but sweetened Patchouli and a lovely balance of peppery Vetiver and powdery gentle Sandalwood. This is grown up but young at heart, a romantic snuggle under a pure Cashmere blanket, the kiss on the forehead that comes with true, deep love that lasts. I have never yet met an Osmanthus I didn't like, but in Amelia it is pitch-perfect—the embodiment of an easy going sophistication. This is what Americans term a "no-brainer," meaning it's so obviously right that you needn't waste time debating with yourself. Amelia could be worn year-round by practically any age, I think. She's fascinating but not off-putting, self confident but with a softness that leaves you wanting more. Sublime!

Nose attached to wrist, alternating between wafting Amelia and looming at the table ahead of me with the next Black Label perfume, I am all eagerness and enthusiasm and reach for Floral Veil with the greed of a school child let loose in the sweet shop. This one is perhaps the most understated for me, but none the less interesting for that, being cool and mysterious, greenly citrus in contrast to the richness of the Geranium, Rose, Ylang, Tuberose and a Vanilla Orchid. Highly unusual this composition, and unmistakably luxurious. If I wanted to appear entirely at ease with myself, at one with the world, then this is what I'd spritz. It's not in any way that brash, over-bearing false security of those 1980's big hitters—all shoulder pads and snarls, upsetting everyone around them as they try to tell you how important they are. Floral Veil has that corona of exuberance around it that only comes with happiness. After a trip through the refreshingly sap-laden green, sophistication of the waxy florals, we come to rest on a feather bed of Cashmeran, Amber and the softest of musks. Floral Veil is tinkling laughter personified: clear as a bell and just as resonant.

Shuffling forwards in the rapidly filling room, I make my way through the buzzing groups of journalists and beauty insiders to the table with the Golden Chypre. Cardamom and nutmeg rise to greet me through the clean citrus opening and linger throughout the dry down and an intriguing note I later discover is Heliotrope. It's an interesting opening but not as immediately pleading to my personal tastes as the previous two I have described. Settling down as it melds into my skin, the longer I wear Golden Chypre, the more I like it. It's past the vibrant opening and into the gorgeously smoky warmth of the heart I like best, here. The crackling dryness of the Vetiver undulating into an earthy base of sensual Musk, soft woods and an almost Christmas cake whisper that proves very endearing.

I am very glad I came to Saffron Rose last of these four new fragrances, as it's kind of like savoring the dessert at the end of a sumptuous tasting menu. This isn't to say it's my favourite of all—as I think that prize must go to Amelia, who stole my heart, yet Saffron Rose is perhaps the most surprising offspring from this new stable.

At first darkly resinous, a sticky black treacle opening that puts me in mind of ripe figs, stuffed dates and the forbidden heart of winter forests in Russian fairytales, the kind you never leave unless wrapped in the fur of your enemy with a circlet of ivy-wrapped roses, having been crowned Queen of the Fir Trees. Or something.

I do get carried away, don't I?

Truth be told, it's difficult not to with such poetic potions as these. You can call it "a modern, wearable Aoud" if you like, but to me they will always transport me to other worlds—it's half the reason I am so addicted to perfume, after all.

In this particular story, we move from dark to light in double-quick time, and at the heart of this forest we find the most intoxicating yet clean contemporary Rose. So difficult to pull off, that high-wire act, the knife-edge that is a Rose. It can so easily turn fussily frumpy Grandma's knicker drawer, or (equally off putting in my view), all overdone shoulder pads and F- You corporate heels. Here it's a sophisticated sexiness, in the manner of an immaculately tailored blazer with the sleeves rolled up and worn with scruffy jeans that have gently softened with love. The pure rose lasts for just the right amount of time and then beams warmly honeyed, a stunning Saffron glow with a dry dusting of spice cupboard piquancy.

Truth be told, it is hard to plump for just one "favorite" as they are all so pleasing in their own ways. I have nailed my colors to the mast and gone for Amelia, but in these four fragrances we have an entire capsule wardrobe of wearability and personalized charm. These are the kind of perfumes that become part of the person wearing them rather than a luridly colored picture of who they think they should be. Hurrah and thank goodness for a perfume house that's brave enough to venture outside their comfort zone and try new things, welcoming in new fans and still offering enticements to faithful followers who have watched them grow with pride.

Amanda Brooke with Sophie Reeve
who developed the creative brief for the Black Label Collection

Hearing Amanda talk about Grossmith and the hours the entire family pours into each bottle's creation, and seeing his beautiful daughter walk proudly around the room, taking pictures, greeting people, very much a part of this truly family business; you cannot help but feel caught up in their infectious enthusiasm. To be a fan of Grossmith is to become part of their rich tapestry, with feet securely planted in the past, but with eyes on the horizon, discovering new lands together. This is surely the healthiest way for any perfume house to be, and I'm thrilled to be along for the voyage. Not long after the London launch of the Black Label collection, I saved my beautifully presented little sample bottle of Amelia for my birthday. It made the day even more memorable for me, and highlighted what this new range does best—whichever you choose, it becomes part of your day, a fingerprint in your memory; part of who you are when you close the door, kick off your shoes and sigh with relief. Bliss.

New stockist destintations will be: Warsaw (Quality Missala), Rybnik (Perfumeria Ambrozja), Kuwait (Parfumerie d’Exception) and Baku (Emporium) as well as Classic Parfums, Grossmith's new distributors in Germany. Deliveries will also be dispatched to Rome (Campomarzio70), Prague (Madeleine), Kiev (Sanahunt), Romania (Elysee Concept), Paris (Jovoy)….and of course in London Roja Dove Haute Parfumerie in Harrods, Fortnum & Mason, Les Senteurs and a new perfumery in Spitalfields called Bloom. Orders are expected from Bahrain and Qatar.


£150 - £175 for 50 ml Eau de Parfum.
£215 - £250 for 100 ml Eau de Parfum


Author: Suzy Nightingale  (Miss_Nightingale)
Fragrantica Member







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I have never tried any of these fragrances, but I hope I will have a chance sometime soon as they are about to become available in my country. So far, I can say, these are some goregous bottles!


"While in my case I like to experiment wildly and veer from the slightly unusual to the just plain weird, there are many times I long for something that isn't a challenge to wear yet doesn't bore me rigid within half an hour." <====This! THIS! I couldn't have said it better.

Well done as usual, Suzy, and I look forward to trying the Grossmith scents someday! :-)


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