For the first time, haute perfume maison Henry Jacques remembers 40 years of creating scents for the late Sultan of Oman with his flacons on display at its new Paris flagship boutique.
Desert landscapes flanked by mountainous terrain and sparkling blue waters set the scene for adventure ultimately sealed in a perfume’s crystal flacon. The year was 1962 and perfumer Henry Cremona, future founder of Henry Jacques haute perfume maison (launched in 1975) made his first journey to Oman, discovering its elegant architecture and generous spirit. He returned many times with his wife and three children, among them his daughter Anne-Lise Cremona, current CEO of the maison. In the Eighties, he met Sultan Qaboos bin Said Al Said, “A man of great passion, refinement, and exquisite taste,” recalls Cremona. They would connect when Sheikha Alia bint Khalifa Al Maktoum of Dubai gifted the Sultan a Henry Jacques flacon, which he loved. “He had a deep appreciation for sublime, pure perfumes and crystal work, which he loved to collect, wear, and gift to his entourage. In fact, anyone who encountered His Majesty would later recall the trail of perfume he would leave behind,” she remembers.
From taking his first whiff of a Henry Jacques scent until his passing in 2020, the Sultan commanded more than 100 bespoke perfumes and unique flacons from the maison for both his personal collection and as state gifts. In the earlier days, Henry Jacques would present new creations to the Sultan every five years, but from 2005 onwards, this offering became yearly, usually occurring on the occasion of the Omani National Day — November 18 — which also coincided with Sultan Qaboos’s birthday.
At first, the perfumes were made in accordance with the Sultan’s exacting wishes; the creations bearing names such as Khareef Salalah, Muscat, Salalah Night, Khasab, and Seeb Night. Over time, as trust grew, Henry Jacques was given carte blanche to create perfumes with some of the Sultan’s favorite olfactive notes — iris, hints of wood, Omani frankincense, and notably, rose blends combined with traditional oud. This last blend is particularly difficult to achieve and has since been transported to the brand’s Les Classiques range in fragrances like Rose Oudh, Correspondance, and Onction.
Naturally, the Sultan’s perfumes could not be bottled in just any flacon, but rather in created-to-order crystal decorated with his preferred colors of white, red, and green — those of Oman — and marked with his Royal Coat of Arms. They were further embellished with precious gems such as turquoise, grenat, lapis lazuli, rhodolite, and citrine, along with pure gold.
Henry Jacques would also create scented bath oils for the Sultan. Cremona remembers he particularly liked to use these during his annual desert travels when he would visit and spend time with his people. She divulges that another commission involved the creation of a perfumed shampoo for the horses of the royal stables. These featured a blend of essences including cade oil, a natural insect repellent.
In 2020, in celebration of Oman’s Golden Jubilee, Henry Jacques’s artistic director, renowned French interior architect Christophe Tollemer imagined a momentous fragrance for the Sultan. Intended to honor his passion for perfume and refinement, the plans for a private perfume museum were drawn up. “Inspired by magnificent Omani palaces, it featured bronze sculptures, antique perfume chests, a perfume organ exhibiting his most prized compositions, and a parlor to welcome his guests, set among lush, suspended gardens and water features,” recalls Cremona. Sadly, the project was never realized, as the Sultan passed away on January 10th, 2020.
The unique relationship between the Sultan and Henry Jacques is honored today, in Paris, at the maison’s new flagship boutique on Avenue Montaigne. Considered veritable museum pieces, visitors and clients can view The Jewellery Collection, created in 2000, and acquired by the Sultan of Oman in 2015. Inspired by the desert and Oman’s history, it features eight one-of-a-kind fragrances in flacons covered in 18ct gold, solid silver, jeweler’s enamel, and encrusted with precious and semi-precious stones. There is also the perfume created for the 35th Omani National Day (2005), a chypre woody scent with top notes of geranium from Egypt, and orange blossom, and lemon from Sicily. The heart notes consist of Dehen el Oudh, iris, and Peru balsam, while base notes feature oak moss, sandalwood, and patchouli leaf — a window to the Sultan’s exceptional and experienced nose.
On display is Sultan Qaboos’s perfume travel trunk, offered in 2011, which marries East and West in four unique fragrances adorned with the Royal Coat of Arms. It includes matching crystal jars, holding frankincense and agarwood infused with blends of natural essential oils and a specially designed burner, honoring the Omani tradition of delicately perfuming the home. Meanwhile, the Turquoise Royal Cabinet, created for the 48th Omani National Day (2018), features 45 bespoke perfumes, each crystal flacon uniquely hand-crafted by a sculptor using a gold-oxide technique, which produces a finishing reminiscent of gold leaf. This chest is made of the finest lamb leather and hand-woven velvet and decorated with the Royal Coat of Arms on the outside, carved in yellow gold and encrusted with emeralds. Through the mystery of fragrance, the relationship between the Sultan and the French family-owned perfume house have transformed the ephemeral into lasting symbols of friendship, respect, and savoir-faire.
Originally published in the July/August 2022 issue of Vogue Arabia