How to Smell Like a Regency Era Gentleman

I fully admit to having a thing about the way my characters smell. I kinda get a bit obsessive about it. Maybe it’s because I can still recall which cologne each of my ex-boyfriends wore and, if I smell them today, the scent will bring back a distinct memory. And before you question that statement, I’m referring to smelling the cologne, not an ex-boyfriend.

Creating a distinct smell for a female character that lives during the Regency era is much easier than figuring out how I’d like my heroes to smell. I’ve read about so many male characters smelling of Bay Rum, that I was beginning to question whether there were other scents available to men. So during my recent trip to London I was on a mission to find out what scents gentlemen favored during the Regency era. There were two shops, in particular, that I wanted to visit because they’re chemists and perfumers who have been around since the late 18th century and catered more to a male clientele. Lucky for me, each shop had very helpful salesclerks that were happy to show me some of their oldest scents.

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My first stop was D.R. Harris & Co., Chemists and Perfumers on St. James’s Street. This shop was established in 1790. During the Georgian era they gained a reputation as purveyors of Lavender Water, Classic Cologne and English Flower perfumes. While I was there, I sampled some of the men’s fragrances that were around during the Regency era. Here is what I discovered. Classic Cologne is a typically fresh fragrance, Freshening Cologne has a tangy lemon note, and Traditional Cologne is a warmer scent with subtle orange notes.

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Two of their other oldest fragrances caught my eye. They were  Albany, named after the fashionable bachelors’ residence on Piccadilly, and Mayfair, named after the exclusive area of London where the Regency era elite resided. It was surprising to see such a modern technique of naming a product. I liked both of these fragrances so much, that I brought bottles of them back with me. Albany is a blend of lavender and citrus, and Mayfair had a sweeter floral fragrance.

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I also did smell Bay Rum. It was not to my taste at all and, for the record, none of my heroes will smell like it. I expected a very warm fragrance leaning more towards spicy rum. It actually smelled more like bay leaves.

 

 

Another shop I visited is Truefitt & Hill, which is also on St. James’s Street. This is the oldest barbershop in the world and was established in 1805.

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Famous Regency era men who were patrons of this shop include the sons of George III, the Duke of Wellington, Lord Byron, and Beau Brummell. Aside from the services of the barber shop, they also sell men’s cologne and shaving products. Sadly, I was not able to find out which scent was favored by Brummell.

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Statue of Beau Brummell on Jermyn Street in London

 

It was amusing to learn that their Freshmen Cologne was specifically blended in 1805 with fashion conscious Cambridge and Oxford students in mind. According to the shops description, it has “top notes of Lemon, Bergamot, Rosemary, Mint and Orange Blossom surrounding a heart of Clary Sage, Lily of the Valley, Jasmine and Ylang-Ylang which comfortably rest on a base notes of Musk and Oakmoss.”

Their Spanish Leather cologne dates back to 1814. I’ll often have my heroes smelling like leather, depending on what they are wearing or if they’ve been riding. To find a fragrance named leather made me laugh. It is described by Truefitt &Hill as “a rich, but subtle blend, with top notes of Fruit, Bergamot, Orange and Pimento, with a heart of Carnation, Cinnamon, Patchouli, Rose, Orris and woody notes, all resting on a base of Amber, Moss and Musk, Vanilla and Tonka.”

So now I have different scents to distinguish my characters, and you now know what a Regency era gentleman might have smelled like if you were standing beside him under the glittering chandeliers of a London ballroom. And best of all, you can still buy these fragrances today!

If you’re interested in learning more about these shops or buying some of there products, here are the links to their websites:

D.R. Harris & Co.

Truefitt & Hill

 

 

 

 

 

26 thoughts on “How to Smell Like a Regency Era Gentleman

  1. What a lovely bit of research! I have “smell maps” of my characters too, but since they’re not historical I’m not obliged to do the work you’ve done.
    I really like some of the older Penhaligan’s fragrances; some of those go right back to their early days too, in the late Victorian age.

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    • I love that you refer to it as a “smell map”, Viv! Penhaligan’s has a shop not far away from these two stores, located in the Burlington Arcade. They do have such pretty fragrances, and I think their packaging is beautiful with an old world feel.

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      • I have often thought I could find my way round a place by following my nose, so finding my way round people the same way ought to be a doddle. I’ve had a few samples of Penhaligan’s stuff and would love a full bottle of Hammam Bouquet (I have somewhat eclectic and masculine tastes!) I also like their sister company, L’Artisan Parfumeur and have some of those (bought to celebrate personal triumphs, and one was won).

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      • Oh, I’m going to have to check out L’Artisan Parfumeur. Thanks for the tip!It’s great to be able to celebrate life’s special moments with something to remember them by. I like to do that when I can.

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  2. I loved reading this article! Men today seem to eschew cologne, for the most part, and all i ever seem to smell on them is their sporty deoderant! Lol! I would love to sample some of these scents!

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    • Thank you, Cate! I have a teenage son who can drown himself in Axe cologne at times. Sporty deodorant would be a welcome change. lol One of the shops has a sample packet of scents available for sale on their website. I think it is around $16 and a great way to try these scents.

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    • Thanks for the kind comment! I’m glad you enjoyed the article. I love Floris and recently bought their Cefiro fragrance when I was in Town. It’s such a wonderful shop. I’m sure you smell really nice. 🙂

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  3. Smell is always so overlooked in fiction, but you’ve really brought it alive, even in this post! Fascinating to think you can still actually smell what men of the era would have bought.

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  4. It’s never occurred to me to wonder what scent any of my characters would wear, although one of them probably would have worn some sort of perfume, now that you bring it up. But my partner and I did go shopping for her once, since her taste in clothes was completely different from mine and needed some research. It was great fun–and cheap, since we didn’t buy a thing.

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    • Thanks for stopping by, Ellen. I do have a thing about how my characters smell. I think it might be part of how they come to life in my head. Scent shopping with someone else is fun because everyone has their own take on what smells good. I’m glad you two had fun!

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