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Is the Last Great Luxury a Personalised Perfume?

By Renée Batchelor

The Parfums Henry Jacques laboratory in the south of France.
Parfums Henry Jacques
The Parfums Henry Jacques laboratory in the south of France.

Stepping into the Parfums Henry Jacques boutique in the Marina Bay Sands Hotel, is like entering the most exquisitely furnished of Parisian apartments — the kind that boasts a luxurious velvet sofa as the centrepiece, lovingly sourced vintage cabinets and tactile, flannel-clad walls. But here, the sofa is not just a piece of statement furniture, but the heart of the perfumery’s bespoke process, and your consultation begins as you snugly nestle into it.

Each bespoke process starts with a consultation with the experts in the boutique, where a personality map is drawn up from information shared by the client — essentially, his or her preferences — and sent to the Henry Jacques laboratories in the south of France.  Next, the brand’s in-house perfumers create three perfumes that are in the vein of the Henry Jacques tradition, using only the finest components and processes, before they are validated by Anne-Lise Cremona, the president of Parfums Henry Jacques and the daughter of founder Henry Jacques Cremona. From there, the samples are sent to the client for consideration; the client can take as long as he or she needs to decide on the final composition of perfume. And when the dream proposition has been found, the client also gets to name the perfume, the variations that it comes in and the packaging, including the flacon and the perfume chest.

Parfums Henry JacquesA blend-in process.
A blend-in process.

Creating a bespoke fragrance is surely one of the last great luxuries that the (private) jet set gets to experience. “Bespoke fragrances in the true sense of the term, are creations uniquely developed by a perfumer for a single client, based on his or her personal preferences. These are rare and created either for the very rich and famous, or for special occasions such as a wedding or anniversary,” says Michael Carlos, chairman of the International Fragrance Association and a board member of Givaudan. Carlos is right in that the cost of bespoke perfume is usually prohibitive for the average man on the street (Henry Jacques bespoke creations start at £25,000). But for true perfume aficionados there can be nothing more exquisite and personal.

In fact, although the brand branched out to include a commercial range more than three years ago, bespoke was and continues to be the nucleus of its perfumery heritage. “To truly understand what bespoke is for Henry Jacques we need to look back at history. We are a perfume house who was dedicated to bespoke perfume creations for nearly half a century, it was our core business up to very recently. We studied the desires of our clients to create perfume for them and sometimes we conceived entire collections for them, including unique crystal flacons,” says Cremona.

Tung PhamPerfumes from Parfums Henry Jacques’s commercial range that were created in 2015.
Perfumes from Parfums Henry Jacques’s commercial range that were created in 2015.

However, the task is never simple when it comes to pinning down (and bottling) the dreams and desires of the well-heeled. After all, many of us instinctively know what we love and don’t love in a scent, but will be hard-pressed to articulate it in words. Whether it’s the scent of a half- forgotten memory or the expression of a lost emotion, it can be difficult to pin down that which one really connects to on an emotional level. This is where Henry Jacques is better equipped to deal with the unique demands of bespoke perfumery. “Our laboratory is structured for bespoke, our teams are trained to create perfumes out of people’s dreams, this is extremely rare nowadays. Decades of experience have shaped the way we dialogue with clients. This conversation is crucial to understand their emotions and what they deeply want instead of what think they want as fragrance,” says Cremona.

Beyond understanding what the client wants, the brand also has the infrastructure for creating bespoke scents thanks to its expertise and heritage. Although there is no limit to how long it can last, the process can take as little as three months for some clients. “It is largely thanks to our incredible perfume library that we are able to deliver unique bespoke perfume creations in record delays. This is what we call experience. To illustrate, you can compare it to the example of renowned shoe makers. The presence of such a great quantity of inspirations, like treasures from the pasts, stimulates and elevates the creative process,” says Cremona.

Tung PhamPerfumes from the Les Classiques collection.
Perfumes from the Les Classiques collection.

The brand has even started controlling the creation of the accompanying crystal flacons that hold these perfumes, out of necessity. “On [the] one hand, we have an exceptional laboratory, its shelves filled with over 1,200 essentially natural components — it is a wonderful playground. On the other hand, we have come to control our production of crystal flacons. It came naturally as we needed means of producing very limited flacon series. Moreover, it had become impossible to find crystal makers who met our standards [of quality] but who also possess an openness to innovation, which is truly a prerequisite to work with us,” says Cremona.

When it comes to bespoke scents, there are no real trends as compared  to traditional or even niche perfumery, as each scent is part of an individual’s journey. Neither is there a set profile of clients. Cremona shares that Henry Jacques bespoke clients can range from artists to businessmen, and from actors to heads of states. One prolific client has even had 64 bespoke fragrances created with the brand, thus dispelling the notion that your personalised scent has to be the scent that defines your very essence to a T. And it’s not the fairer sex who are the only ones indulging in this luxury. “Men are extremely attracted to the idea of bespoke, this idea of having your own exclusive fragrance that echoes your personality,” says Cremona.

At the end of the day, the relationship with a bespoke client is also very special, “A bespoke perfume is the beginning of a relationship, like a tailor and his favourite clients — he knows their tastes, what makes them happy, and what looks and feels right for them. It is very special to create your own perfume and these clients are treated very specially,” she says.