Monkey business in the UK

Updated: 2016-02-29 08:13

(China Daily)

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Monkey business in the UK

[Photo provided to China Daily]

"Modern perfumery is based on weight, on grams," he says, "but we still measure out by hand, with a lot of trial and error, in old-fashioned glassware.

"The idea that perfume is for women is fairly new," he says, noting that the shop's fabled customers include James Bond creator Ian Fleming and Britain's wartime prime minister, Winston Churchill. Orders by Churchill and his wife, who had separate accounts here, are carefully recorded by hand in a fine leather volume behind his desk. There is a framed receipt from Admiral Wilson, dated 1810.

"Many of our classic scents are coming back for both men and women," he says.

One of the most durable in the Floris line is Lime, so unisex it's the preferred potion for shower gels and soaps at some of London's most exclusive hotels.

"Of course, back in the 1700s and for a good while thereafter, we made scents much stronger than we do today. People didn't bathe as much then," he chuckles, "so everybody needed a bit of scent if they were going to be social."

Spritzing paper strips as he talks, Bodenham says he walks customers through "families" of scent-floral, citrus, woodsy, Oriental-to see what scents they identify with.

"It can be hard to put smells into words," he says, "but we each have a memory bank of smells, that we identify with our childhood and our experiences in life." You might embrace citrus because it recalls orange trees you loved on your grandfather's farm, he says, or you may avoid a scent because "you don't want to smell like your parents".

When Bodenham visited Shanghai and Chengdu two years ago for British Showcase, he found eager buyers for the scents of cherry blossom and rose geranium, the latter also a favorite of the late movie icon Marilyn Monroe.

He won't tell us what might be in the queen's medicine cabinet, but he says the royals generally don't demand bespoke products.