For almost half a century, French high perfumer Henry Jacques has been crafting the world’s finest essences using highly quality natural components sourced responsibly from all four corners of the world. Just a dab on each pulse point of one of its elixirs is all you need to last through the day. This is because each drop contains a super concentrated blend of between 80 and 90 ingredients, sans any alcohol or synthetic materials.
These exquisite essences, encased in jewel-like crystal flacons, don’t come cheap, but one tiny 30ml bottle can last up to one year, even if you use it daily, according to the boutique manager. She claims one bottle’s concentration is equivalent to five standard eau de parfums in the market.
Just to give you an idea of how pure these premium oils are, some of the blends will crystallise or look cloudy in colder temperatures. And depending on the harvest, some batches of lavender, for example, will turn into a smoky black ink — so unique and exquisite. I love the darkened liquid even more as it fills my nose with its relaxing notes.
“At Henry Jacques, the preservation of our savoir faire and heritage is essential. The brand is based around our ability to produce perfumes in accordance with our rules and the rules of the art rather than being influenced by the market. Beautiful materials set the tone, where everything has been designed around the protection of the raw ingredients. We refuse to make any compromises in terms of quality and creativity,” insists its CEO Anne-Lise Cremona.
Crafting extraits of life
Founded in 1975 by her parents Henry and Yvette, Henry Jacques was and remains devoted to the art of bespoke perfumery. Partnering well-known Parisian “nose” Joseph Sassi, from the French School of Haute Perfumery, they created beautiful concoctions dedicated to reviving a new memory and awakening a lost emotion.
For the passionate couple, each perfume holds onto a memory that otherwise would have faded. For them, a perfume should never “mask” the world, but rather reveal its richness like “extracts of life”.
Working out of their tiny apothecary in Grasse in the south of France, widely considered the world’s perfume capital, they toiled laboriously using traditional methods of distillation and blending. They worked with about 1,200 natural essences such as velvety rose, intoxicating tuberose, sunny lavender, sumptuous jasmine, sensual and heady musk. As bespoke offerings grew, an archive of some 3,000 unique scents sporting names such as “Rose Snow,” “Merveilleuse” and “Et Pourtant” was curated, forming the pillars of the Maison.
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As Henry and Yvette entered the new millennium, the Cremonas were ready to hang up their lab coats and retire. But rather than let years of know-how and expertise go to waste, their daughter Anne-Lise decided to take up the mantle in 2011 with a new vision to capture a new market of consumers.
In 2014, she opened the first Henry Jacques retail outlet within a small and exclusive space in Salon de Parfums in Harrods, London, and tied it in with the launch of a commercial line comprising 50 essences under its Les Classiques de HJ collection — a curation and representation of the house’s immense olfactory work. “This was a very important and difficult step for the Maison. It took me about two years, but two years that were essential in my reflection and in the direction that the brand has taken,” recalls Anne-Lise.
She adds: “When I started to think in terms of ‘collections’, I made the decision to honour the history and the beautiful creations of the Maison. I could have started with a blank page, launched new creations, which might actually have been the easier route, but I wanted to pay tribute to the incredible creative work that had been accomplished. For that, I had to dig deep into my memories to find the perfumes that had touched and moved me the most. The olfactory memory is something very powerful and going through this exercise was a very important moment for me.”
Today, Les Classiques has morphed into three forms: Les Essences, oils housed in minimalistic crystal flacons and where just one drop is all you need; Les Brumes, lightweight face, body and hair mists housed in a unique “splash and spray” convertible flacon; and the Clic-Clac, the brand’s innovative take on solid perfumes. These product offerings give the customer both the flexibility to wear them on their own, or allow for layering.
Staying true to bespoke
Despite the brand’s move to retail commercialisation and global expansion with 10 outlets worldwide, such as the Singapore branch at Marina Bay Sands Hotel, Henry Jacques still remains true to its bespoke DNA.
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“Bespoke has represented 100% of our business for years,” says Anne-Lise. “It is something many clients request after they develop an affinity with us. It makes sense because once they test the flavours, they challenge themselves to learn and try new ingredients, then they start collecting and often become perfume connoisseurs who appreciate the uniqueness of Parfums Henry Jacques.
“The art of bespoke continues to develop and is becoming more and more successful. We now have a department entirely dedicated to custom-made and special orders, to allow enough space for our expertise and history in this field.”
To truly luxuriate in this bespoke experience, one should make an appointment at any one of its lavish boutiques designed by renowned architect Christophe Tollemer, who is also Henry Jacques’ artistic director. Every branch is designed to resemble a Parisian apartment to celebrate the French art of living, which involves being surrounded by art, books, and of course, perfumes.
Here, guests will enjoy a glimpse into the Henry Jacques universe, spanning a treasure trove of endless olfactory choices, from the limited edition Les Exceptions masterpieces to the innovative Clic-Clac solid perfumes, and diverse range of Les Classiques, all beautifully encased in exquisite crystal flacons, also designed by Tollemer.
There will be a corner cordoned off for bespoke clients, where a plush sofa beckons them to sit back, enjoy some tea and explore Henry Jacques library of scents and storied past.
Through decades of experience, the team’s experience and ability to understand the desires of its clients has been shaped to near perfection through simple yet detailed conversations. To help the boutique’s advisors map out your olfactory personality, you’ll be asked things like favourite memories or milestones, what mood you’re in, scents or notes you’re drawn to, or what you’d like to feel.
Consultations can take anywhere from mere minutes to an entire afternoon depending on where the conversation goes. “When it comes to bespoke consultations, time is never counted. It can be a very swift process and other times it may take longer. What I love is that, even for us, each bespoke is an incredible adventure,” says Anne-Lise.
Your consultant will generate a detailed report to be sent back to the laboratory in Grasse, which will then craft three olfactory blends for the client to shortlist. More often than not, they would usually get the scent right the first time. In fact, there have been instances where the customer would walk away with two of the blends, instead of one.
The entire process takes a speedy 4–6 months, where a unique name for the scent is chosen and the final product is presented in a beautiful leather chest, designed by Tollemer, that can be customised in a variety of colours and finishes. The best part is that your personalised scent can also be transformed into different forms and sizes — whether it’s Essences (oils), Brumes (mists) or Solides (used for the Clic-Clac device). The scent will also remain in Henry Jacques’ archives forever, giving you the opportunity to re-order them.
“Training our team in bespoke is at the heart of all our attention,” explains Anne-Lise. “First, we had to develop an exceptional bespoke offering, which took us a year and a half of elaboration. We have been able to transfer 40 years of expertise to our 10 worldwide boutiques. In each of our boutiques, we have designated Bespoke Specialists, who go through the training programme. I am personally very involved in this process.
“On the other side, in our laboratory, we have a committee whose mission it is to translate our client’s dreams into reality. It is an exciting exercise that remains very natural for us, and I must say that I personally take great pleasure in it.”
To Anne-Lise, bespoking is for everyone of any age and any occasion, whether it’s a birthday, wedding or an anniversary. Incidentally, one of her youngest clients to date is a man in his early twenties. “Our clients’ requests all stem from the same common desire to have something exclusive and elegantly reinforce their personality.”
Creating the perfect fragrance that is unique to you, a symbol of your identity and expression of your soul, is something special that the Maison constantly strives to achieve. Far from a simple blend or slight adjustment, bespoke fragrances — which start from $135,000 — are truly unique one-of-a-kind creations made from scratch. It’s yours and yours alone.
If you’re a sucker for design, we hear that Tollemer can source for vintage furniture to re-fabricate into a perfume chest. You could even ask him to build a tree with birdcages to house Henry Jacques scents — the sky’s the limit!
In this modern world, where we rush from one place to the next — grabbing cookie-cutter fragrances off the shelves and spritzing ourselves to death — Henry Jacques stays firmly rooted in the tradition of artisanal perfumery and continues to romanticise the nostalgia of perfume wearing, always with a high level of luxury. For that, we applaud it.
Anne-Lise’s ultimate wish is to prove to the world that Haute Parfumerie can be alive, and that it has not lost its mysticism and allure. “To bring beauty to a world that needs it so much; to inspire, share an art-of-living that brings happiness and serenity — that’s our goal.”