New Perfume Review Grossmith Sylvan Song- Fortnum & Mason Go Retro Nouveau

I am loath to recommend new perfumes which are exclusive to single points of sale. Then again when they are excellent perfumes I also feel it is my job to bring them to people’s attention. I have also found the ones which I am more pleased to write about are perfumes which actually have something of the exclusive store’s character within the construction. When I was at Pitti Fragranze I had the opportunity to try the new Grossmith Sylvan Song exclusive to London department store Fortnum & Mason.


Amanda and Simon Brooke

Ever since Simon and Amanda Brooke revived the venerable British perfume house of Grossmith in 2005 they have been revisiting a tradition almost two hundred years old. In 1980 it disappeared only to have the Brookes bring it back to life 25 years later. The early releases have been reformulations of the early perfumes Mr. Brooke found and wanted to expose to a new audience. The Grossmith style has a big boisterous presence. If you like your perfumes quiet Grossmith isn’t for you. If you like your perfumes full of extroverted brilliant layers Grossmith is for you. Sylvan Song is a new composition by perfumer Celine Guivarc’h it feels like she is working off of an old recipe but it is an entirely Retro Nouveau.

celine guivarch

Celine Guivarc'h

Mme Guivarc’h makes an exceedingly floral heart which gives way to a smoke laden Oriental base and this is expertly balanced. One of the harder things to do when making a Retro Nouveau fragrance is not to get too caught up in the Retro so it feels “old” and not to get too modern that it loses any sense of having a vintage charm. Mme Guivarc’h lets the florals hearken back to yesteryear while letting the base and the smokiness bring a more contemporary flair to the end.

Sylvan Song opens with a brilliant point of light courtesy of bergamot. It is like a sunbeam across my senses as if to grab my attention. Once it has my focus, rose, ylang, and jasmine form a floral trio singing at the top of their olfactory lungs. This is floral power and each one of the flowers pick a part of the harmony to make beautiful music with. I love the way all of the Grossmith florals have a British stiff upper lip to them as they hold their ground almost defiantly asking the wearer to take them on their own merits. The beauty is found in its unrestrained floralcy. The base is set upon a foundation of incense smoldering and swirling smoke throughout the rest of the notes of vetiver, patchouli, benzoin, and musk. This base is the kind of smoky resinous base which has become popular over the last twenty years. Here it provides the Nouveau to the Retro of the flowers.

Sylvan Song has 12-14 hours longevity and above average sillage.

Sylvan Song is an excellent example of how a brand evolves without losing its heritage. Under the care of the Brookes Grossmith will thrive for many years to come. Sylvan Song proves that the old ways can be turned into new ways without abandoning the past.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample from Grossmith at Pitti Fragranze.

Mark Behnke