The scent 'confessional'
At the press launch for the new exhibition of The Cheapside Hoard, at The Museum of London, we were asked to remove jackets and leave bags in lockers. But they needn’t have worried. We weren’t about to make off with anything from this staggering exhibit of jewels uncovered just over a century ago during rebuilding work in Cheapside, which was once the gold, silver and jewellery heartland of London.
No: what we’d really love to get our hands on is the fragrance created by our friend Roja Dove exclusively for the exhibition, using scent ingredients that were available at the time when it’s believed the hoard was first ‘lost’. (It’s believed that it was stored in the basement of a building destroyed by the Great Fire of London, where it remained until 1912, unearthed by the pickaxes of workmen demolishing an old jeweller's premises.)
For this perfume, Roja drew on the perfume ingredients which were in use in 1666: frankincense and myrrh, black peppercorn and nutmeg (so precious that it would take the equivalent of a year’s wages to buy a single nutmeg), and sublime animalic notes of ambergris, civet and musk. (Obviously in synthetic form, nowadays.)
You can’t buy it at his Harrods Haute Parfumerie. In fact, you can’t buy it at all: the only way to smell the scent is to open the little door in the wall of the exhibition, and breathe. ‘It’s a bit like a “scent confessional”, says Roja, who’s saturated a natural sponge with the scent so it can waft out through a little grille: it’s ‘topped up’ regularly by the museum staff. (He's pictured, right, at the 'scent-door'. And the large feature photo above is a detail of a gorgeous scent bottle from the exhibition.)
You have to believe us when we say this scent is possibly the nicest smell we’ve ever smelled: rich, warm, intoxicating and sexy – so we’ll be back, for a return visit to the show.
It is a truly extraordinary exhibition, with the jewels appearing suspended in mid-air, glimmering and glittering. Though they belong to the Museum of London, they’re not generally on display – so you’ve got till 27th April 2014 to go.
And if they do have a break-in…? It’ll probably be a gang of beauty editors, armed with screwdrivers, looking to get their hands - or rather, their wrists - on Roja's scent.
The Cheapside Hoard, Museum of London, 150 London Wall, London EC2Y 5HN - pre-book tickets for the show here