A Scentury of Luxury
A Beauty News Exclusive Interview With Brian Kurtz, Director of Marketing
By Michelyn Camen
BN: Brian, what drew you to Penhaligon’s?
BK: I am fascinated by the rich heritage of this company. The whole image and character of Penhaligon is so different from anything else out there….it’s traditional English perfumery but with a quirky and interesting twist. We are not old-fashioned; we capture the quirkiness of the Victorian era…that sense of a proper exterior with something very interesting lurking just beneath the surface, not unlike today.
BN: Penhaligon’s has a rich history…how does the Company keep it relevant yet maintain its heritage?
BK: Quality and luxury are timeless. Penhaligon’s has been awarded Royal Warrants by Her Majesty Queen Alexandra in 1903, His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh in 1956 and, most recently, His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales in 1988.
Our fragrances are made with exquisite and rare essences. We use Orris, which is which costs six times the price of gold bullion and comes from the rhizome of the iris. It takes six full growing seasons (growing, blossoming, and dormancy) for Orris to develop and then it’s in very small amounts per bulb.
BN: When was Penhaligon established and by whom?
BK: By 1870, William Penhaligon had a thriving business in London’s famous Turkish Baths. The Turkish Baths, at the foot of Jermyn Street, situated between the houses of government and the gentlemen’s private dining clubs, were at the crossroads of power. Penhaligon’s clients were the great leaders of the country, in an era when the sun never set on the British Empire. In their honor, he created his first fragrance, Hammam Bouquet, in 1872, a rich, exotic, masculine blend William Penhaligon’s inspirations and ideas are over a century old but they are very relevant and current today.
BN: What is the biggest challenge in working with a brand with a regal rather than trendy image?
BK: Our regal legacies (and Royal Warrants) attest to the quality and timelessness of our brand. It’s appealing and easy to share with our clients. That said, our history, limited availability and packaging may seem inaccessible to some clients. Once they try our fragrances though, they’re hooked! It’s easy to promote a brand that is based on excellent quality. I would find it much more difficult to build excitement around a product that doesn’t have a solid base. Many fragrances that are launched today will be withdrawn from the market within 2 years. They’re sold through slick marketing and advertising campaigns but often the actual fragrances just aren’t that special. Customers will only buy into the hype for so long!
BN: Does Penhaligon attract a celebrity clientele?
BK: Oh yes…Blenheim Bouquet was originally blended for the Duke of Marlborough in 1902. His son, Winston Churchill, also wore it and it’s been shared by many other great men since from the late pope John Paul II to Jude Law. Bluebell is a favorite of Kate Moss, Sienna Miller and was Princess Diana’s favorite fragrance
BN: Are there any major initiatives underway?
BK: We are expanding the offerings of Lily & Spice this autumn. Lily & Spice is our latest creation and a perfect reflection of our roots—sweet, fresh white lily with a sensual skin note and spicy saffron and pepper. Lily & Spice is a delicate floral with a very modern and sexy base. This autumn we are introducing a luxurious body creme in a glass and silver jar, talcum powder with a goose down powder puff and soaps. We also are introducing two new limited edition fragrances, 500 of each, that will be housed in extraordinary crystal bottles. They will only be available at our Penhaligon stores.
BN: What is Penhaligon’s most popular scent? Does it vary by country?
BK: In the United States, Blenheim Bouquet for gentlemen and Artemisia for ladies are our top sellers. Quercus (unisex), Endymion (gents) and Malabah (ladies) are also quite strong. In the UK a few of the more traditional scents like Elisabethan Rose and Douro (gents) are stronger sellers than in the American market.
BN: When I wear Quercus, I am stopped by at least a dozen people each time, who ask me “what fragrance are you wearing”. Which scent are you most intrigued with and why?
BK: That’s easy! Hammam Bouquet amazes me every time I apply it. This was William Penhaligon’s first fragrance and we have sold it since 1872. It’s quite an odd perfume—inspired by the sulphur and steam of the Turkish baths in Piccadilly—it contains frankincense, sandalwood, Turkish rose and jasmine among other notes and it develops in the most fascinating way. When I apply it, the initial experience is frankincense. It’s quite powerful, but within minutes it changes dramatically and within about 20 minutes or so it develops into a beautiful jasmine aroma with some woods in the base. It’s a powerful and fascinating fragrance.
BN: Which Penhaligon scent would you recommend to our readers to wear on their wedding day?
BK: Penhaligon’s Ellenisia is a beautiful white floral blend of gardenia, rose and jasmine with a soft base of musk. It’s a wonderfully feminine and sensual fragrance.
BN: Hobby or passion?
BK: I am an avid traveler and am extremely passionate about aviation. I have my commercial pilot’s license and am also a certified flight instructor. I also am a die hard Siouxie and the Banshees fan.
Penhaligon fragrances are available at Saks Fifth Avenue and http://www.aedes.com
870 Madison Avenue
New York, NY 10021
Telephone: 212 249 1771