Regency Fragrances

Regency Fragrances

Smell is a word, perfume is literature.”

                                    ~Jean-Claude Ellena, perfumer to Hermès

Regency Fragrances Dennis Jarvis via Wikimedia Commons 

A few weeks ago, I found myself researching perfume and perfume bottles. I always give my Regency Era heroines a distinct fragrance, but I also try to stay period accurate. And, I don’t always want them smelling like roses or lavender, two popular scents of the period. Yes, I know lavender is soothing, but it always reminds me of my great-grandmother’s linens. She kept little hand-sewn lavender sachets in her cupboards and drawers.


Previously, I’ve used scents for my heroines that are slightly citricy, but they are always combined with another fragrance, say, Lily of the Valley or lilac.


I thought I might try to use heather for Isobel Ferguson, since Virtue and Valor (Highland Heather Romancing a Scot, Book 2-June 24,  2015) is set in Scotland, but found that the musky scent was actually more commonly used as a base for men’s colognes than women’s.


Release April 7, 2015 Available for pre-order now Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Ibook

Brooke Culpepper (Wagers Gone Awry, Conundrums of the Misses Culpepper, Book 1-April 7, 2015) is too poor to buy perfume, though her cousin, Blythe, has quite a talent for brewing herbs and could make Brooke a bottle of rose water.


Since I personally can’t abide the scent of violet perfume (and it reminds me of old ladies) I can’t force my heroines to dab that fragrance behind their ears even if all the other ladies of the ton are wearing it. 


Jasmine is a favorite of mine for my Regency heroines, as are vanilla, apple and orange blossoms. I’ve never used spicier scents like mint, rosemary, cloves, or cinnamon-based fragrances, though they were common ingredients in nineteenth century perfumes too.


Hmm, the Culpeppers grow three varieties of mint. Perhaps I’ll have one of the other Culpepper Misses wear a mint-based perfume in one of the other books in the series. Or better yet, maybe one of the heroes, maybe Hawksworth, will.  I read that ginger, mint, and lemon leaf make a nice manly cologne—sounds lickable too. Sandalwood was immensely popular with the gentlemen, and I confess, I do like the smell myself. Tristan, Marquis of Leventhorpe, a hero from the Conundrums of the Misses Culpepper series, wears sandalwood.


What I didn’t know was that, often, there wasn’t a whole lot of distinction between men’s and women’s perfumes. A gentleman was as likely to splash on a dab of rose water as a lady was. I can’t envision my hero, Heath, Earl of Ravensdale, from Wagers Gone Awry doing that, though. I’m thinking a dandy would be more likely to go the flowery route than a Corinthian.


But I digress.

Heart-shaped carved perfume bottle This file comes from Wellcome Images, a website operated by Wellcome Trust, a global charitable foundation based in the United Kingdom.


The art of perfume making was introduced to Europe around the 14th century, and France became the epicenter for perfume production. Originally, only the very wealthy could afford the costly fragrances, and their use was intended to cover body odor rather than to attract the opposite sex. Remember, bathing wasn’t all that popular, especially whole body emersion, and those fancy garments weren’t laundered regularly, so they, too, were, shall we say, less than fresh.


It wasn’t uncommon for noble women to create their own signature scents or have one created for them. I can understand that. I’ve worn the same perfume for over twenty years, and people often tell me they know it’s me before they see me, because they can smell me coming. I do hope they are referring to my Jessica McClintoch and not some other odor! 

“Floris of London perfumery shop” by Sergey Moskalev (talk) Sergey Moskalev – I (Sergey Moskalev (talk)) created this work entirely by myself.. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikipedia –


Floris of London—still in business by-the-way—is a well-known shop whose original owner, Juan Floris, was a barber. He began tinkering with various mixtures and produced scents that were favored by Beau Brummel himself.


I found a supposedly authentic Rose Water Recipe, if you’d like to take a stab at making the concoction yourself. There are only three ingredients: rose petals, water, and ice.


“This file comes from Wellcome Images, a website operated by Wellcome Trust, a global charitable foundation based in the United Kingdom.”
Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Perfume bottles ranged from very simple glass (even clay) with a cork stopper, silver flasks, and to incredibly elaborate cut crystal covered with vermeil overlay.  I’ve got hundreds of vintage perfume bottles on my Her Essence Pinterest Board if you want to take a peek.
So do you have a favorite fragrance you like romance novel characters to wear? Do you have a signature perfume that you wear? Or are you someone that doesn’t like perfume at all. 
















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USA Today Bestselling Author, COLLETTE CAMERON pens Scottish and Regency historicals featuring rogues, rapscallions, rakes, and the intelligent, intrepid damsels who reform them. Blessed with three spectacular children, fantastic fans, and a compulsive, over-active, and witty Muse who won’t stop whispering new romantic romps in her ear, she still lives in Oregon with her husband and five mini-dachshunds, though she dreams of living in Scotland part-time. Admitting to a quirky sense of humor, Collette enjoys inspiring quotes, adores castles and anything cobalt blue, and is a self-confessed Cadbury chocoholic. You'll always find dogs, birds, occasionally naughty humor, and a dash of inspiration in her sweet-to-spicy timeless romances.

23 Responses

  1. Barbara Monajem

    What an interesting post, Collette. I don’t wear perfume. I used to sometimes, but it fades very quickly on my skin. My favorite perfume is lily of the valley — that’s one I used to wear and would probably give a Regency heroine. I do like scented soaps, though — especially lavender, LOL.

    • Collette Cameron

      Scented soaps were a luxury too, Barbara. I still can’t help but think the combination of unwashed bodies, dirty clothes, and fragrance had to be awful.

  2. Vee

    Nice article. I love perfume and don’t have a favourite. But there are some fragrances that are too strong and turn my stomach. I have a bottle of hypnotic poison which I like at the moment 🙂

  3. Maggi Andersen

    Interesting article, Collette. Lavender is a bit old-ladyish nowadays. I like Attar of Roses which was apparently made from rose petals from the Damask rose and the Eglantine, two of the oldest roses in cultivation and the most fragrant.

    • Collette Cameron

      That sounds lovely, Maggi. I love the scent of roses and gather petals from my plants (I have over 40) to make potpourri.

  4. Alyssa Alexander

    Great post! I love the citrusy scents. There’s something bright and cheerful about them. And I do love the scent of lavender for bath salts and candles, but I agree, not necessarily for perfume!

  5. jdh2690

    Very, very interesting, Collette. I love the research you do. Of course, Regency is my fave historical romance and so I love to find out more about it all the time. Thank you for all your in-depth writing.

  6. Lily Maxton

    Really interesting article, and I love the perfume bottles! They’re so ornate!

  7. dholcomb1

    Love this article. I wear Philosophy’s Amazing Grace most of the time. I have a bottle of Jessica McClintock from years ago. Though maybe the perfume was discontinued with the clothing line.

  8. Elinor Aspen

    Regarding the lack of distinction between men’s and ladies’ fragrances, Floris still sells some unisex fragrances. My husband and I were lucky enough to visit last month, but I couldn’t stay long enough to pick something out (one of the floral scents in the shop made me sneezy).

  9. Ally Broadfield

    Great article, Collette. I love the scent of lavender, and also lilac because it grew wild where I lived in Michigan, so to me it is the scent of summer. I didn’t realize rose water was such a simple recipe. 🙂

  10. jessicajefferson

    Sorry I missed this yesterday! I have printed out yet another one of your posts to put in my research binder (don’t mock me – I’m old school and back up my bookmarked pages with actual, real life pages). I once read that writers often forget the sense of smell, so I’ve made it a point to always refer to my heroine’s fragrance and actually look for references to scents when I read because of it. Love that you give everyone a “scent” – very romantic!