I knew very little about Crown Perfumery when I first ran across a mention of Crown Bouquet as being “the greenest of green florals.” It was more than a year between the mention and the sniffage, but Crown Bouquet stayed on my To Test list all that time, and when I failed to find a sample source, I just went ahead and bought it unsniffed.
I know, I know, we should absolutely never, never, absolutely never, buy anything without knowing whether it’s going to work or not. Well, I lucked out with this one: it’s beautiful. And if not the very greenest of green florals, certainly a lovely representative of the genre.
A little background on Crown Perfumery, cribbed mostly from basenotes.net and parfumsraffy.com: It grew out of the corset-and-crinoline business begun by William Sparks Thomson, whose son William concocted lavender smelling-salts for ladies whose tight corsets made them swoon (from lack of air, I assume, not surfeit of pleasure). By 1872 Crown Perfumery was producing fine fragrance, having gained permission from Queen Victoria to use the image of her own crown as part of the bottle. The company did well until World War I, when Wm. Thomson Sr. died. By 1939 the company was sold to Lever Bros., and ceased making fragrance. In 1993 the company was revived, and several of its signature fragrances produced using the original recipes. However, the company was sold again in 1999 to Clive Christian, who ceased production of the Crown fragrances and began producing his own scents.
I haven’t smelled any Clive Christian scents, nor am I likely to given their cost structure. But I’ll say now that if Crown Bouquet is anything to judge by, Mr. Christian has probably done the perfume community a disservice by discontinuing all the Crown scents. His own fragrances are probably very pleasant – Perfumes: The Guide found them all acceptable (three stars). But the website is unconscionably pretentious, in the eyes of this thoroughly-democratic-minded American.
Crown Bouquet was first released in 1936 under the name Crab Apple Bouquet. Notes: galbanum, green notes, gardenia, tuberose, hyacinth, and orange blossom. It was reportedly inspired by Wallis Simpson, the American woman whose love prompted Edward VIII to renounce the throne. I admit it seems little odd to me that Mrs. Simpson, who had been divorced twice before setting her cap for the Prince of Wales, and who appears to have been a strong-willed, opinionated, sensual woman, should inspire such a tender, delicate, fresh-faced fragrance. (One of my favorite books, The Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All, describes Wallis as “that gold-digger with a butt like a boy’s.”) Here’s the accompanying ad copy from Crown:
A fragrance to uplift, inspire, and refresh one’s senses, capturing spring white flowers and greens… The greenest of green flower gardens. One should not only smell the pretty flowers of the bouquet, but sense all the characteristics that come with a freshly cut bunch of flowers: green leaves, earthy roots, the freshness of the few remaining water pearls clinging to its cut stems.
For once, the ad copy is appropriate and succinct. Crown Bouquet smells of green, juicy leaves, with a cool damp galbanum breeze, and spring flowers. That is all. Luckily, that is all it really needs.
It does start out with a breath of galbanum, and some very crisp, nearly mouth-watering green notes. I can almost hear the leaves and stems crunching juicily in my hands as I gather them. Hyacinth joins the green notes, and then gardenia. I do smell each of the listed floral notes, one after the other, and it’s not much of a blend, but that doesn’t bother me at all because the progression is so pretty. The orange blossom is a little soapy and the tuberose is a little sweet, but fear not, white-floral-phobes. They are extremely quiet and well-behaved, no indoles at all. There is very little in the way of a base, although I think I smell the ghost of vetiver there at the very end, and possibly a tiny bit of musk. My guess is that these notes are there to provide a vase for the bouquet – not really meant to be smelled on their own, but merely to offer support for the top and heart notes.
Edit: The more I wear this fragrance, the more I’m convinced that there is a big slug of marigold (tagete) in there along with the listed florals. There is a deliciously bitter edge to the greenery, and I’d swear it’s due to marigold.
This is a simple, pleasant scent, utterly unsophisticated, and if you subscribe to Gabrielle Chanel’s point of view that “a woman should not smell of flowers,” this one will not suit you. It smells very natural, and, perhaps consequentially, does not last forever. I get about five hours’ wear out of two spritzes, with the last two hours being rather faint and the perfume only noticeable upon bringing my wrist to my nose. It is an edp but probably wears more like an edt, due to the all-but-unnoticeable basenotes.
One interesting observation: Crown Bouquet reminded me, upon first wearing, of another tender green floral I had worn recently – Jean Patou’s Vacances, frequently referred to, wistfully, as the greatest green floral of them all. It was only upon visiting basenotes.net for background on Crown Perfumery that I found out that Crown Bouquet and Vacances were released in the same year. There is a fresh simplicity about them both that I find affecting. They would both be nostalgic period pieces, unwearable except as costume, if not for the green notes breathing the air of spring over the florals.
Perhaps it’s me. Spring always makes me wistful and labile, dizzy with beauty and the knowledge that time is passing. I’ll leave you with A.E. Housman’s most cheerful poem:
Loveliest of trees the cherry now
Is hung with bloom along the bough
And stands about the woodland ride
Wearing white for Eastertide.
Now of my three score years and ten,
twenty will not come again.
And take from seventy years a score,
It only leaves me fifty more.
And since to look at things in bloom,
Fifty Springs is little room,
About the woodlands I will go
To see the cherry hung with snow.
A. E. Housman
Photo of Crown Bouquet from fragrantica.com. Photo of Wallis Simpson from kissnews.ro. Photo of White Hyacinth from NanciD at flickr.com. Photo of Wild Cherry from Lallee at flickr.com. Housman poem from poetry.eserver.org. My bottle of Crown Bouquet came from perfumecountry.com (not affiliated), but there are still a few other online sources. (Don’t wait too long, though.)