There’s something strange about buying a perfume from the same people who manufacture your toilet bowl and bathroom sink. Imagine Kohler or American Standard coming out with a line of luxury perfumes in the United States — would anyone buy them? U.K. bath/kitchen fittings maker Czech & Speake has had great success with its home and personal fragrances, and today I’m reviewing three of Czech & Speake’s nine perfumes.
California grapefruit, coriander, pepper, patchouli, oak moss
Citrus Paradisi starts with intense grapefruit (smooth and rich) and spices (accent on the coriander); a ‘polite’ patchouli note and some sheer moss comprise the base notes. This is a pleasant, "warm" citrus cologne (and a great replacement for dime-a-dozen sport-type fragrances for men). Citrus Paradisi dries down to talc-y citrus and smells clean without bringing to mind “laundry room.” Citrus Paradisi’s grapefruit note does not become unpleasant on my skin (there is no sulphur, no urine de chat), and the fragrance has good lasting power (for a cologne). Citrus Paradisi is 'seasonless' — it can be worn year-round (it's not too lightweight for winter).
bergamot, geranium, cassie, rose otto, frangipani (plumeria), vetiver, sandalwood
No. 88 smells like an old-fashioned English-made lozenge Nancy Astor might have sucked on as she pondered her next public pronouncement on — women, men, politics, old age (“I refuse to admit that I am more than 52, even if that makes my children illegitimate”1). Like myself, Nancy was a native Virginian, and she felt that birthright put her on higher social footing than anyone in the world, past or present — Adam and Eve included.
No. 88 begins with the scent of citrus oil infused with (rose) geranium leaf (Pelargonium graveolens) and sweet flowers (frangipani); there are hints of rose and menthol too. No. 88 smells rich, and the longer you wear it the more you detect roses — “rose” from the pelargonium and rose from rosa. If you love the delicious scent of rose geranium leaves, try this perfume. No. 88 was Czech & Speake’s first fragrance and remains the company’s best-seller. Lasting power: very good.
Frankincense & Myrrh
frankincense, myrrh, cedar wood, sandalwood, orange, lemon, basil
I wore Frankincense & Myrrh in college; it was one of my first “English perfumes.” I liked it then; I like it now. From the start, you smell sharp, vibrant frankincense and pungent cedar wood, followed by a lovely, almost powdery, myrrh note. Though it is not mentioned in the ingredients list, I smell a note very similar to “ashy” benzoin. The fragrance mellows over the hours but never becomes insipid or dull. If you liked Eau d’Italie Baume du Doge but found it too “spicy,” give Frankincense and Myrrh a try (both fragrances produce “buoyant” wood notes). This fragrance is wonderful from start to finish and has very good tenacity.
If you live in the U.K. you can get 100 ml of Czech & Speake Eau de Cologne for £57 ($94 U.S.) — very reasonable. In the US, prices range from $115 to $185; at the moment, the cheaper prices can be found at Cambridge Chemists. For buying information, see the listing for Czech & Speake under Perfume Houses.
1. Quote via womenshistory.about.com
Note: top right image is Grapefruit Splash by Steven Fernandez at flickr; some rights reserved. Second image is Image of Nancy Astor via Wikimedia Commons. Last image is Mosque Hassan II, Casablanca by amerune at flickr; some rights reserved.