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Wine and cheese, ham and eggs, champagne and caviar, chocolate and. . . perfume? This unexpected pairing has become increasingly popular over the past two years with luxury perfume houses pairing up with gourmet chocolatiers to create evenings of sniffing, nibbling, sipping and dialogue in an atmosphere of elegant decadence.
This winter, I joined luxury London perfume house Ormonde Jayne and Charbonnel et Walker, one of Britain’s earliest chocolatiers, at the elegant Royal Arcade on Old Bond Street for an evening of champagne, hand-made dark chocolate truffles, and exquisite perfumes. It was joyful, indulgent and a night to remember.
Ormonde Jayne founder, the lovely Linda Pilkington, joined Charbonnel et Walker’s charismatic manager Adam and his friendly staff at their shop across the street from the London perfumery in the Royal Arcade to share their companies’ fascinating histories and guide the participants, a blend of both fine chocolate and perfume lovers, through the pairing experience.
Ormonde Jayne, well-known for their handmade fragrances, exceptional ingredients and dedication to embracing the craftsmanship of “the golden age of perfumery”, has recently celebrated their 10 year anniversary. Charbonnel et Walker, founded in 1875, is one of Britain’s oldest chocolatiers and proudly display their Royal Warrant as the chocolate manufacturers to Her Majesty the Queen. It quickly became a playful game amongst the participants of the evening to guess which chocolates and perfumes might be preferred by members of the Royal family.
The evening was comprised of six pairings in total. Linda and the ladies of Ormonde Jayne chose to highlight Osmanthus, Tolu, Ta’if, Ormonde Woman, Ormonde Man, and Orris Noir, while Adam and his staff presented a selection of high quality dark chocolates that complimented and responded to key notes in these refined fragrances. Employees from both shops smiled and told tales of starting their work day by sneaking across the street to exchange light sprays of perfume for sweet sips of hot chocolate. Hmmm, I wonder if they’re hiring. . .
The first paring of the evening, Osmanthus (an effervescent, citrusy floral) with Dark Chocolate Enrobed Orange Sticks (a perfect blend of sweet orange peel and smooth dark chocolate), started the night off with vibrancy and set the tone for the sensorial experience to come.
The paring of Ta’if (Ormonde Jayne’s spectacular rose scent with hints of pink pepper, jasmine and amber) with the English Rose Cream (a dark chocolate treat with essential oils from roses blended into the fondant center and decorated with a sparkling pink crystallized rose petal on top) was a crowd favorite. I suspect this reaction had much to do with an overwhelming appreciation for the craftsmanship that had clearly gone into the creation of these world-renowned specialties from the perfume and chocolate world and an excitement over the success of this pairing in highlighting both houses' shared accomplishments with this stunning floral note.
Skeptics argue that chocolate and perfume pairings make no sense. Many chocolates and perfumes share complex fruit, floral and herbal notes, but is this synthesis of the senses really the best way to experience them? Chocolate lovers want to smell chocolate in their shops and perfume aficionados don’t need sweet treats getting in the way of their fragrance experience – right?
I would strongly encourage these naysayers to try a pairing event for themselves and see if their criticism might just waiver in the atmosphere of delicious flavors, intoxicating aromas and bubbling dialogue. While it may be arguable that these pairings do not greatly enhance the tasting and smelling experience of the individual chocolates and perfumes selected, the rich port flavor in the truffle would have well showcased without the fragrance swatch in my hand and I would have noticed the beautiful rose scent in the perfume without first tasting my elegant sweet, it was the dialogue between lovers of fine food and fragrance that was one of the most exciting pairings of the evening.
At this particular event, it took less than a glass of champagne before a frequent Charbonnel et Walker customer was urging me to sample their favorite truffle from behind the shop’s beautiful glass case and within minutes I was walking my new friend across the arcade to see the entire fragrance collection, beautifully displayed at Ormonde Jayne. By the end of the night, we had each made purchases based on each other’s recommendations and left with a new favorite boutique to visit in London.
The event was also an exceptional value. For only £25 per person participants feasted on champagne and truffles throughout the evening, left with a gift bag that included both chocolate and perfume treats, and received a 20% discount on any products purchased from either shop that evening. And from the arms filled with beautifully wrapped packages leaving from each shop at the end of the night, it appeared as though every participant left with their money very well spent.
Ormonde Jayne and Charbonnel et Walker hosted a beautiful evening of sensorial pleasure, fascinating histories, and entertaining dialogue amongst all. I suspect it won’t be long before perfume and chocolate pairings become a popular notion for bridal showers, first dates and birthday parties for their playful sensorial experimenting and affordable luxury. Just be sure to invite me.
For more information on upcoming Perfume and Chocolate pairings, please contact Ormonde Jayne through their website.
DEIRDRE McLAUGHLIN | London Correspondent