Bridgerton has me feeling regal—these are the 8 perfumes aristocracy actually wear

I've researched it extensively

An old colour photo of Grace Kelly
(Image credit: Getty Images/Archive Photos / Stringer)

The concept of 'posh perfumes' has garnered a lot of attention in 2024. Everyone seems to be talking about rich-smelling scents and 'old money' fragrances. And whether you love or hate the concept (we appreciate the whole trend is rooted firmly in classism), I can't help but feel as though the word 'posh' has lost all of its meaning. Rather than designate a particular group of people, posh has become a byword for what’s best in life. Originating from the acronym "Port Out, Starboard Home", the term originally described wealthy travellers crossing the Indian Ocean who chose the more comfortable, sun-sheltered sides of the ship. So, if we're talking matter of factly, a 'posh perfume' is actually one that only the 0.1% could wear—like, for example, aristocracy.

And it's no coincidence I have recently become fascinated with the concept of posh and aristocratic perfumes, with the likes of Bridgerton and Saltburn firmly cementing themselves in pop culture. Dousing oneself in a posh perfume can make any wearer feel like Bridgerton’s Penelope Featherington during her Season 3 glow up, as she slips on her sequinned shimmering green dress and shimmies out the door—or the resplendent Queen Charlotte if that’s more your vibe. Throughout British history, members of high society have been using scent to show off their wealth and distinguish themselves from those who couldn’t afford basic sanitation aka 'the great unwashed' (the poorer you were, the more pungent). But what kind of perfume were the real-life society ladies and royalty of the Regency Era actually wearing?

Posh perfume house Floris has been mixing up scents for the great and the good since 1730, so I asked their perfumer Caterina Catalani to enlighten me. “In the ballrooms and halls of aristocratic society, debutantes made their grand entrance, adorned in fragrances as symbols of status and elegance,” she explains. “Perfumes of the 17th and 18th centuries were predominantly floral or musky, crafted from flower oils like rose and jasmine or animal-based musks,” she says. Floris has held a royal warrant since 1820 and famously created a perfume for Queen Victoria’s wedding, Bouquet de La Reine.

Another brand to bear the famous royal crest is Penhaligon’s, whose founder William Penhaligon was Court Barber and Royal Perfumer to Queen Victoria. Their first scent, Hammam Bouquet was a favourite of Oscar Wilde’s, while Princess Diana was reportedly a fan of their Bluebell Eau De Toilette. They recently collaborated with King Charles III himself – not too shabby – on Highgrove Bouquet to mark the coronation, with scent notes inspired by the flowers and plants at the King’s residence Highgrove Gardens.

Other fragrance houses with an impressive royal pedigree include Creed, who originally created leather goods for the French royal family (pre-guillotine), and in the 1970s turned their hand to perfume, leaning heavily on their history. Their 1956 scent Fleurissimo was commissioned by Prince Rainier of Monaco as a wedding day gift for his bride Grace Kelly, with notes of tuberose, violet, iris and Bulgarian rose. As dazzling as Kelly’s famous taffeta bridal gown, today it’s still a bestseller.

Many aristocrats had their own custom scents, often blended by their servants. Just like a haute couture dress, having a unique fragrance is seen as the epitome of luxury. On her 21st birthday in 2009, Princess Beatrice received a bespoke perfume named 'Beatrice' from a renowned Parisian perfumer.

However if you don’t have the budget for bespoke there is an alternative, provided by Linda Pilkington, founder of Ormonde Jayne whose Mayfair boutique is frequented by posh clientele from around the world (although she insists that anyone who walks through the door is treated like royalty). “In today’s world, wearing a perfume using ingredients that aren’t commonly used in fragrance still can have this exclusive effect,” she says. “For instance, our signature scent, Ormonde Woman, uses black hemlock absolute blended with cardamom, and as we are the only fragrance house to use this—most people who aren’t clients haven’t encountered this note.”

Some perfumers prefer to distance themselves from the word ‘posh’ altogether, like Swedish-Gambian nose Maya Njie. “For me, a perfume can be very contemporary in its structure and use expensive materials, yet it's not necessarily what I would associate with ‘posh’. Posh is a strange concept. I think of perfumery worn by past generations going back to the early 1900s and onwards. "

For Christopher Chong, director of Thameen London perfumery, the concept of posh perfume is a bit of a contradiction—given the old money tendency for less is more (encapsulated by the recent quiet luxury trend). “It's not seen as being 'proper' or the done thing to show wealth or to be self-obsessed,” he points out. “For those blue bloods who are a bit flamboyant and eccentric, they would traditionally wear barbershop-style scents such as cologne and fougères, but always understated—with a low concentration of no more than 10%. It's all about suggesting, not intoxicating.”

Different cultures come into play here too, as Maya explains: “In some places scent is worn as a status symbol whereas in others it can be attached to religion for example, where scent is part of everyday life and used in ceremonies. I think this is a different way of wearing and appreciating perfume. It's less about outward extravagance and more about connecting with and benefitting from the smells around you.”

Whether you’re a fan of the word or it makes you run for the hills, we can enjoy smelling 'posh' in the same way we might enjoy watching period dramas or visiting stately homes. It’s fun to add a dash of ‘poshness’ in our perfume choices even if we wouldn’t identify ourselves as such. It’s more about wearing fragrance as fantasy, the same way we imagine living out our days in the Saltburn mansion—without the grisly ending.

Aristocratic perfumes

1. Jo Malone London Wild Bluebell

2. Penhaligon's Blenheim Bouquet

3. Bastille Un Deux Trois Soleil

4. Jean Patou Joy

5. Van Cleef & Arpels First

6. Chanel No5

7. Veronique Gabai Lumière D’Iris

8. Thameen Peacock Throne

Viola Levy

Viola is a freelance beauty journalist and copywriter, as well as resident beauty columnist for The Jewish Chronicle—having written for Vogue UK, Glamour UK, Refinery29, Stylist and ES Magazine. She previously won the Fragrance Foundation Jasmine Award for Best Short Piece, reporting on how urban life is damaging our sense of smell. She has consulted for a number of brands such as Aromatherapy Associates, led a nationwide campaign highlighting female hair loss and written global trend reports for WGSN. She was also Editor-in-Chief of Cult Beauty’s commemorative magazine celebrating their 10th anniversary. Her passions include getting her hair done and championing age and body positivity within the industry.