When the House of Creed was founded in 1760, the quality and rare beauty of its perfumes quickly catching the attention of royalty, it was building upon thousands of years of fragrant tradition.
Hieroglyphics in tombs show that Ancient Egyptians and Mesopotamians were making perfume as far back as 3,000 BC. Egyptian priests, thought to be the fathers of modern perfume, used aromatic resins to mask the smell of sacrificial offerings.
They also believed burning incense pleased the gods, grinding up ingredients such as myrrh, sweet rush, wine and juniper each night to ensure the safe return from the underworld of the sun god, Ra.
Today perfume buffs can visit the perfume room at the Edfu temple, where hieroglyphics depict recipes for ointments and inhalations. So strong was the link between scents and the deities that pharaohs, or high priests, were buried in fragranced tombs. And so strong, too, were the scents used that the sweet smells wafted out when archaeologists opened the tombs in 1897.
They prized ingredients that remain key notes in modern perfumery ‒ hand-picked jasmine, frankincense resin, madonna lilies and honey.
Even now, Olivier Creed ‒ a direct descendant of James Henry Creed, Creed’s founder ‒ scours the globe for rose essences from Bulgaria, irises from Florence and tuberose from India. A sniff of one of the uniquely beautiful handmade fragrances these are used to create evokes centuries of history and glamour.
Legend has it that the most famous beauty of all, Cleopatra, had the sails of her boat slicked with fragrant oils before setting out to sea, so that Mark Antony would catch scent of her arrival before laying eyes on her face. In Rome, rosewater trickled from fountains ‒ very much in fitting with the excess and luxury of the empire.
It was the Greeks who created the first perfumes to be worn on the skin. By grinding aromatic plants, resins and herbs and blending them with oils, they created a new trend for aromatherapy and everyday fragrances. Materials for incense and perfumes were as precious as gold, hoarded during Alexander the Great’s conquests in the East.
Indeed perfume has always been a signifier of wealth and power. In 17th-century France, where Louis XIV’s court was known as “la cour parfumée”, the king demanded a different fragrance for every single day. While the aromas we love have little changed, our sourcing of some ingredients certainly has. Ambergris, highly prized for its sweet, ocean-fresh smell, was produced in the intestines of sperm whales, while the word “musk” originates from the potent substance secreted by male musk deer, requiring the endangered animals to be killed.
Nowadays, perfume houses create synthetic blends to mimic these ingredients ‒ a practice born in the late 19th century, along with fragrance offerings from fashion houses and, eventually, cosmetic brands. But while scents became more accessible, the House of Creed remained true to luxurious and ethereal beauty of fragrance.
Beginning life as a London tailoring company, its founder James Henry Creed created a Royal English Leather fragrance in honour of King George III. From the moment it was delivered to the monarch, spritzed on a pair of leather gloves, it caught the attention ‒ and noses ‒ of royalty and aristocrats.
Creed was later appointed official fragrance supplier to Queen Victoria’s household. Courts in Europe followed suit, with Creed wafting through the palaces of Napoleon III and Queen Christina of Spain.
Later, Fleurissimo was launched to honour the marriage of Prince Rainier of Monaco to Grace Kelly, while current master perfumer Olivier Creed created iconic Green Irish Tweed.
Under the patronage of Empress Eugenie of France, the House of Creed moved to Paris’s 8th Arrondissement in 1854, where it continues to blend perfumes coveted by the chic and stylish. And to make fragrance history.