Located in the heart of Mayfair, Burlington Arcade (or perfume alley as it is affectionately known) is an absolute must for perfume lovers and is home to some of the world’s finest fragrance houses.
Burlington Arcade has a long and illustrious history…it first opened in 1819 and was one of Britain’s first shopping arcades. It was commissioned by Lord George Cavendish (and designed by architect Samuel Ware) ‘for the sale of jewellery and fancy articles of fashionable demand, for the gratification of the public’.
The arcade originally housed seventy-two small two storey shops, selling all kinds of hats, hosiery, gloves, linen, shoes, jewellery, lace, walking sticks, cigars, flowers, glassware, wine and watches. Many of the shopkeepers lived either above or below their shops and in the early days, the upper level of the arcade had quite a reputation for prostitution!! The Arcade has the oldest and smallest police force in the world, has survived the chaos of a devastating fire in 1936, sustained considerable bomb damage during the Second World War and has been used as a location for numerous films – impressive stuff! You can find out more about the history of this fabulous shopping destination here.
Today Burlington Arcade has become a destination for those seeking the most beautiful and unusual fragrances, with a number of perfume houses taking up residence in the last few years and more still to open. My recent visit saw the Arcade decked in its festive finery and buzzing with people doing their Christmas shopping – I was only to happy to join them!
First stop was Frédéric Malle whose Editions de Parfums, created in 2000, offer a completely novel concept whereby the world’s greatest noses compose exclusive, creative fragrances to be sold under their own names. I was sorely tempted by a bottle of Carnal Flower, a tuberose power house designed by Dominique Ropion but had to remind myself that I wasn’t shopping for myself (its on my Christmas list though….)!
I actually started my Christmas shopping in the Penhaligons store with a bottle of the brand new The Tragedy of Lord George, a fantastic fragrance for men, rich in notes of brandy, shaving soap and tonka bean. The golden stag’s head on the lid completely stole my heart so I am hoping that the recipient of this very gorgeous gift will love it as much as I do!!
Next it was Roja Dove’s fabulously festive store. The glittery interior was the absolute essence of Christmas and I could have spent hours in there sniffing and soaking up the atmosphere……I was also very interested in trying the new fragrances created specifically to celebrate to launch of this flagship store, aptly named 51. The white flower top notes in 51 Pour Femme made it a really winner for me!
My last stop on this particular trip was the Kilian store. Paying tribute to early 20th Century perfumery methods, but with a contemporary twist, Kilian fragrances are beautifully elegant and I really enjoyed trying them in the company of the very friendly staff – Good Girl Gone Bad is amazing. It ticks all the boxes for me with rush of white flower gorgeousness enlivened by a dangerous edge of animalic base notes – truly addictive!
By this point I was pretty exhausted so stopped for some refreshment at the delightful Laduree Tea Room – I could literally eat those macarons ALL DAY LONG so it was the perfect end to a lovely afternoon of fragranced fun. Whether you still have a few Christmas gifts to buy or you just fancy treating yourself, Burlington Arcade is a real feast for the senses. I didn’t have time to properly explore True Grace and Chanel, and it looks like there may be more fragrance shops coming soon, so watch this space for a New Year update. In the meantime, have a fabulously fragrant Christmas!