The acquisition and refurbishing of ancient perfumery houses is following its momentous course. We pointed out to the movement - which was never altogether dead - but started with fresh energy in 2007 in our article Resurrecting Vintage Perfume Brands.
This year, in the fall of 2013, an 18th century perfumery named Jean-Baptiste Briard will reopen its doors thanks to the efforts of Ramdame Touhami, the purchaser of Cire Trudon in 2006, now known to connoisseurs as the oldest French candle maker...
Magazine Marianne informs us that the old and new perfumery shortened to JB Briard is about to make a comeback.
While the name of the house is obscure at best today, if not completely forgotten, in its day, it was a Parisian perfumery with a rich catalogue comprising 94 different fine fragrances, plus other beauty and scented products including 82 types of soaps. A Christie's catalogue states that,
"The Briard families connection to the parfumerie business appears to have started in the third quarter of the 18th century. By 1815 there are listings in the Almanach du Commerce de Paris for various family members as marchandamidonier [sic], mercierparfumeur [sic] or marchand parfumeur. It is known that J.B. Briard moved the family business in 1824 from the rue Saint Victor to the 'Canal de Briarre', 189 rue Saint Denis. It would appear however that the move was not a success as he was declared bankrupt in 1828."
1828 is precisely the year in which Pierre-François-Pascal Guerlain opened his own perfumery. Earlier on, in 1817, he had started working as an assistant at Maison Briard before moving on to Dissey and then Piver, the latter which is still extant today.
The Briard perfumery however was still in activity in 1837 under the name "Briard Aîné" according to a source. They were distributed internationally in England as well as in Germany. They continued to carry a number of grooming toiletries for gentlemen in particular and were lauded for their family perfume "Bouquet de Famille".
Within the rich history of French perfumery, a new chapter is about to be reopened. While it is not possible to expect a verbatim reconstruction of ancient smells, there can be creative interpretations of a historical heritage if one is interested in history, or at the other end of the spectrum, the historic name brand can just be used as a raw commercial argument allowing a new owner to claim "est. 17..." and thus appear endowed with the legitimacy conferred by tradition.
With Cire Trudon, we have seen efforts aimed at imagining the past, recreating a long gone universe without pretence at archeology and while taking liberties with it.
It seems we can expect to see more of that Olfactory Historical Imagination (OHI) on display, a useful concept to distance us from claims at resurrecting ancient perfumes as they were and were perceived in the past.