Vintages The Lost Crown of The Crown Perfumery

The Lost Crown of The Crown Perfumery

03/13/15 16:41:12 (5 comments)

by: Sergey Borisov

photo by Serguey Borisov

Today we will honor another rare and discontinued fragrance, Eau de Russe by the British company The Crown Perfumery. Created by William Thomson, Jr. in pre-war 1911, the cologne was restored in the late twentieth century. Soon The Crown Perfumery lost its transparent crown. Today the crowns are gold-covered and they decorate some very modern and hyperluxurious perfumes—the bottles of Clive Christian.

The history started when The Crown Perfumery company was founded in London in 1872, by William Sparks Thomson, an American-born businessman from Connecticut. He was not a perfumer but was instead a master of high-busted corsets. Sometimes his clients fainted due to the corsets being overly tightened during the fitting and the idea of ​​lavender scented salts (and then, colognes and perfumes) came as a logical extension of the business. And a son, William Thomson, Jr., with his chemistry education, brought his talents and knowledge to the family business.

The Crown was loaned to the perfume business from the corset studio; according to legend, one of Thomson's clients was Queen Victoria—therefore, Crown was adopted as his trademark. That was a great honor for the business and all its customers (there's no evidence as to whether Crown was the supplier of the royal court). In the late 19th century The Crown Perfumery exported its assortment of 47 perfumery and cosmetic items to various countries from their factory warehouses at St. Catherine's Docks. The Crown Perfumery won 20 gold medals at various trade fairs and commissioned perfume bottles made of crystal (Baccarat) and porcelain (Doulton). Nigel Groom believes that The Crown Perfumery was the first to promote the layering idea—mixing several perfumes to get a richer experience. Despite the company's successful work and worldwide fame, after the death of its founder, it was sold to the Lever Brothers (future corporation Unilever) in the 1920s, and was closed in 1939.

The Crown Perfumery revival process was started in 1985 by chemist and perfume enthusiast Barry Gibson, who managed to restore 27 original perfume formulas. In 1993 The Crown Perfumery boutique was reopened in London, but without much success, and the happiness of retro fans was short-lived. In 1999 Clive Christian, a successful manufacturer of furniture for millionaires, bought The Crown Perfumery project and opened the Crown Perfumery Haute Parfum Salon. Soon the production of Crown fragrances was discontinued and the crown-stopper and coat of arms went to the new bottles of the Clive Christian perfume house. By now The Crown Perfumery is represented only by the crown-stopper, coat of arms and historical status “Est. 1872,” with unused archives and rare unsold perfume bottles that pop-up from time to time on e-bay. I managed to buy one of them.

I should confess that the only factor for the Eau de Russe purchase was curiosity.
 After the article on “Colognes Russes” I am still strongly interested in this topic.

While I waited for the mail delivery, I learned little about Eau de Russe. The fragrance was released as a cologne in 1911, revived as eau de toilette in 1993, and discontinued in 1999. The perfume was created by William Thomson, Jr.


I believe our fathers and grandfathers would love Eau de Russe, because the cologne seems to have been designed specifically for sponging-down and washing. Bright sour lemon and bergamot and lavender so resinous that it reminds me of rosemary together form the astringent cologne freshness which cools and burns the face and neck after shaving. Then some lemon drops herald the imminent coming of Her Sweetness and it will not be slow in coming: the citruses fade pretty quickly, as they have no aldehydes for support (the historical reconstruction is perfect!). First we can smell the gradual sweetness of heliotropine's entry contrasted with the green lavender remnants. It smells like an interesting and exciting little-known prequel to the popular Caron Pour un Homme.

Half an hour later no one will remember the lemons: the sweet almond marzipan of heliotropine, heaps of powdery musk, coumarin and transparent amber together form the soft oriental fougère base. There's no birch tar or other Russian leather substitutes. There's no olibanum, myrrh, frankincense or any other church incense mixtures to burn. It's another part of Russia in the basenotes—with barbers and barber shops, with star-filled puddles in the middle of the capitals and villages, with ranks and titles. And the base is so modest that the word “sillage” seems an exaggeration. A mild cologne for a well-educated man (before the Revolution). And the base is not exclusive or very rare—you can smell it in all its glory in several vintages, from Coty L'Origan and Guerlain L'Heure Bleue to Jean Patou Moment Supreme. I am pretty sure these are just the famous fragrances—for sure there were many others.


Seems to me, Eau de Russe by The Crown Perfumery is a male cologne—a Guerlain L`Heure Bleue Pour Homme, if there were such a cologne devoted to London twilight, not Parisian. It perfectly fits the concept of “Russian cologne,” a traditional Kölnisch Wasser with a barely audible whisper of warm amber base.

The cologne is out of this time, and not for modern people. It's for mustachioed men pictured in black and white retouched photographs, sitting and standing, wearing uniforms and starched smiles. It is impossible to be sad for a bygone era which we know from books only—we were not alive then. But nostalgia still is here, because everyone has left something of their own in the past: friends and loved ones, young parents who were strong and beautiful, youthful confidence that our whole lives are ahead of us, bright and happy. And the hope that we will be crowned ones in the future. Sorry, not all of us will be kings and queens.

The Crown Perfumery Eau de Russe

Notes: Bergamot, Cedrat, Lavender, Heliotrope, Coumarin, Musk, Amber.

 

 

Serguey Borisov

Serguey Borisov has been known in the Internet world of perfume under the nickname moon_fish for more than 10 years. Now he writes about perfumes for GQ.ru and Vogue.ru, and contributes on the subject for glossy magazines.

 

 

 

 



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CarolynM
CarolynM

Oh my goodness this article brought back memories! I read about Crown re-opening in the mid 80s & made a point of visiting the shop in London. Crown Ess Bouquet was my signature fragrance until Mr Christian bought the company & halted production - a sad loss indeed.

Mar
16
2015
miracleborgtech
miracleborgtech

A piece of history in a bottle!

Mar
14
2015
GBoo
GBoo

Nostalgia for times and places we cannot know is both romantic and melancholy, like a watercolor depiction of history, here so beautifully expressed in scent! Enjoy your glimpse of pre-war Russia as painted by an Edwardian master, and thank you for another beautifully written article!

Mar
14
2015
relle
relle

Lucky you! Thanks for a very informative topic!

Mar
13
2015
distortech
distortech

Glad to see this gem getting some love. I love everything Crown. :)

Mar
13
2015

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