“Like a beautiful piece of music, you’re always discovering notes you had never observed before.”
Tucked away on pretty Seymour Place and a stone’s throw from Amba Hotel Marble Arch, stands Les Senteurs, London's most long-established perfumer. James Craven, the Perfume Archivist of this sweet-smelling family venture, is a captivating and convivial chap, who has zealously poured his heart and soul into this labour of love for the past 3 decades. And boy does it show.
A welcome return to the artisanal shopping experience, Les Senteurs’ philosophy is one built on exploration, encouragement and, crucially, having fun, and the kinship between both Les Senteurs and Amba Hotels is clear. They may take their craft seriously, but they certainly don't expect you to. The staff are attentive, yet laissez-fair, are refreshingly more focused on creating a relaxing ambience than on inciting a sale.
James’s advice? To sample, savour and be seduced by your scent in your own space and time, to get to grips with the complexities within - which is comforting given they stock over 350 scents from around the world (which, to utter delight, includes plentiful national treasures from British perfumers Tom Daxon, Grossmith London and Papillon). So, where to start?
Perhaps with a brief aromatic history tour. Introduced in the late 1880s, scents were rich, dark and unisex and stayed that way until the end of the Great War. What followed was the emergence of industry icons Guerlain and Lalique, complete with lavish packaging and marketing to match. The 20s brought with them unprecedented liberties, the onset of a consumer society, and a penchant for all things androgynous - and perfumery felt a feminine resurgence in scent to compensate. Fragrance trends have, like fashion, felt the rise and fall, with intrinsic ingredients such as fig, oud, violets, lavender and rose flitting in and out of vogue.
Given their unrivalled credentials, Les Senteurs have always been on point with the fragrance houses who come looking for them, eager to give this independent institution the exclusive. As such they have the well-earned privilege of stocking the finest, and most rare creations. Here you can discover the deliciously delicate powdery notes of Lorenzo Villoresi’s ‘Teint de Neige’, and the white tropical scents of ‘Gardénia' by Isabey, embodying orange blossom, jasmine and musk. Austrian archetype Knize Ten, first launched in 1921, is leathery, medicinal and moreish, and its ensuing popularity is a testament to its powerful prowess.
And then there is ‘Portrait of a Lady’, which hails from perfume powerhouse, Frederic Malle, and needs little introduction. If it does, you will find no haughtiness here. Just as you will reassuringly find at Amba Hotels, there’s simply a genuine desire to help and guide you, to offer those personal touches, and create that inimitable experience. Find your signature scent with Les Senteurs either in store, at one of their industry icon-led workshops or by personal appointment. It may not happen on the first day of your stay. But things this good are just worth the wait.
Les Senteurs - www.lessenteurs.com
2 Seymour Place, Marble Arch, London. W1H 7NA
020 7183 5842
Open Monday to Saturday, 11am to 7pm