THE CRUEL DESECRATION OF YARDLEY ENGLISH LAVENDER (1913)

 

 

 

BH1949

 

 

 

 

 

Like any other perfume lover, the receiving of bottles of scent for Christmas, or a birthday, or any other special occasion, is reason for excitement. My in-laws are from Norfolk, home of the world’s finest lavender (I prefer it to the French or the Bulgarian, this very English, camphoraceous lavender with just the right balance of purpleness, herbs and fruit) and they generously brought over a bottle of Yardley English Lavender in my Christmas package when they came over in December. I was of course delighted to receive it, particularly as I totally associate where Duncan is from with the scent of this hallowed, ancient plant.  Daphne will always send me sachets of dried lavender flowers from her garden, which I love to put under my pillow, and we even once went on an fascinating lavender tour all together somewhere out in the countryside in Norfolk, being guided through the differing varietals and seeing the distillery plant where the essential oil is produced. I shed a tear as I saw the machine produce a pure drop of extracted lavender, and watched it drip slowly down into the receptacle beneath.

 

 

As for lavender perfumes, while I am not a massive fan of the note on myself, I do love it on the D, from Guerlain’s exquisite Lavande Velours, to Penhaligons’ suavely rendered Sartorial, to Serge Lutens Gris Clair. I have worn Caron Pour Un Homme on occasion, that sultry, musky vanilla fused masculine lavender that is still extremely successful among men back in its homeland (as is that other lavender classic, Eau Sauvage, another one of my youthful favourites when I was seventeen), but as a brilliantly health preserving essence (there is no other essential oil as useful as lavender), I only have the highest veneration for lavender anything in general.   I suppose in comparison to these other lavender kisses, Yardley’s English Lavender was always a very old fashioned scent – if you really want to look at it that way and adopt that tedious mindset-  but for me it was more like timeless.

 

 

 

 

 

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Yardley English lavender, especially in the extrait form you see it above, the one I always bought for myself, was clear, removed from reality, refined, cold, and disdainful almost: unsweetened and unadorned, sharp yet soft; natural, very English, and utterly, utterly dignified. I would sometimes buy it to just wear at those moments where I just wanted quiet and repose, and even picked up a hair pomade once which I sometimes use even now by my bedside to relax me at night.

 

 

 

Sadly, Yardley seems to have gone down the trash-it-in-desperation route common to plenty of perfume manufacturers hoping to stay relevant and modern and in the process have utterly desecrated this once simple but beautiful scent beyond description. My relatives back in Norwich were not to know this of course, and I was still pleased to receive it (as I am virtually any perfume), and I know this is going to come across as me being ungrateful and petulant. Forgive me if that is the case. But the indignation I feel upon smelling this cheap common muck that is imposting in the place of the original perfume does need to be expressed. Where once there was a mauve, muslin clarity; thick glass pools that were dry and healthful, uplifting yet calming, now, once the brief and very incongruous top notes of real English lavender have dissipated, all you have on the back of your reeking hand is a vanillic, inexpensive ‘sexy’ bathroom spray chemical accord that has defiled and sacrileged what was once a pillar of perfumery for those who liked it quiet, dream inducing and classical in an attempt to make it pertinent and somehow ‘sensual’.

 

 

 

 

 

Absent mindedly picking up the new bottle today has suddenly and inexplicably set off this furious rampage, sorry

 

 

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(no!!!! look at it!! Sheer toilet cleaner! Surely the whole point of keeping perfumes like this is actually for the very heritage they represent: surely the olde worlde Anglophilia of the original products were the reason that they were still very popular worldwide in the first place ( I actually picked up my tub of lavender brilliantine in Dubai airport, where there was a huge array of the originally packaged Yardleyy products on display, for people from that region probably appealing as total Anglo-Exotica). But in not only giving us an ugly and unattractive bottle, but also taking away the heart of the original fragrance, with its delicately strewn bouqet garni of rosemary, moss and eucalyptus and replacing it with this ‘puking party slag’ overall vibe, Yardley have created an irreconcilable monster that will be incompatible, I would imagine, with virtually anyone. Who the hell will want this shit? The ‘young’ will still find it boring and old fashioned, or just think that it smells like something that belongs in a toilet. Older devotees will simply mourn the passing of the scent they originally loved, and shun it like the grave. As for me, I am just looking forward to having access to the real thing when I come back to England in August. Those lavender fields still waiting for me, hopefully, if we have time for another visit (Daphne and Rod, can we?), and that perfect, perfect essential oil that I would like to stock up on and bring with me back to Japan, to sprinkle on my sheets or in my morning bath water;  the smell of raw lavender flowers and leaves, sunning themselves in the late evening English summer light…..

 

 

 

This new and ugly bastardisation, on the other hand, can just go and screw itself.

 

 

23 Comments

Filed under Flowers, Lavender

23 responses to “THE CRUEL DESECRATION OF YARDLEY ENGLISH LAVENDER (1913)

  1. Daphne and Rod

    Yes Neil, this was very hard to come by and I totally agree with your comments but what is the alternative? Like my Lancome Magie Noire has changed too, but I still love it. What should we all do – write to the people concerned”””’
    Love Dx

    • Magie Noire has been more leeched out I would say. Cheapened, certainly, but it smells like Magie Noire at the end of the day, just less dense. The essential structure is still in place: I’m sure that if you are wearing it when we see you in the summer it will still smell lovely on you. This new version of English Lavender, though, smells NOTHING like the original whatsoever! Not even vaguely. So weird. I of course noticed when I opened it on Christmas day (and didn’t say anything) but then just put it away until today and then realized that it was actually even WORSE than I had thought initially. It’s a travesty! Thankfully I know it isn’t too costly so Andrew and Louise weren’t ripped off too unbearably but even so, it’s a shame that it ended so ruined.

  2. Holly

    Oh good grief and wtf?
    I’m not a fan of lavender in perfumes for the most part, but this was a staple for me for decades. I think it’s time that we create a perfume cemetery where we can go to mourn the lost ones.
    The good news is that the old version is available on evilbay!

    • I should damn well hope so! I wondered at first if this was an alternative version, in which case I could accept its existence as a pointless and ugly flanker, but from looking at the website it looks as if this vile evil clone has taken over from the original entirely. If I am wrong about this anyone, please let me know!

      It was different to everything else, don’t you think? Pure and untouchable, somehow.

      • Holly

        I think the new version is what they’ll be offering and that’s that.
        It was different from everything else and I’m beginning to feel old and cranky that yet something else has disappeared.

        Yardley also used to do one of my first perfume loves waaay back in the sixties: Oh! de London. I still miss it. Grump…

  3. I completely empathize with that singular feeling of outrage and loss. Glad you let us know! I see that there is some “old packaging” version still out there, so perhaps you could stock up now before it disappears – assuming that old packaging means original formulation. Price is right: twelve bucks USD and change for 1.7 ounces. Here’s one link for you (I have no connection to this business, of course, just use them quite a bit myself):
    http://www.fragrancenet.com/perfume/yardley/yardley/edt#215181

    • Thanks R. Actually, I am not such a lavender lover that I am desperate to get my hands on some bottles, really, but I would have liked the one that I was given to have been how it was intended. I was more infuriated by the general feeling of idiocy and pointlessness of trashing an old classic so mercilessly: this doesn’t even try to smell how it did before, and the balance of the entire composition is extremely off (and I don’t think it’s my bottle: it smells brand new). I offered Duncan it to smell and he wrinkled his nose. It really does smell BAD!.

      • Ah, I see what you mean. Right. Yes, the principle of the thing. Yardley is a chump change player compared to the likes of Chanel (we know what we think about the current No 19) and Dior. Why those houses don’t just scrap the names altogether instead of slapping them on sad/ugly caricatures of the originals baffles me. I suppose they’re just hitching a cheap ride on the reputations of the brilliant seminal compositions. I see that the 2012 reissues of Diorling et al, for example, are supposed to have been “made more contemporary with an intention to achieve balance between the original fragrance and modern fragrance.” Dior has the audacity to call them Les Creations de Monsieur Dior. He is no doubt rolling in his grave.

  4. Nelleke Oepkes aka Booknose

    I have some old bottles that I bought years ago in France. Ma favourite lavender grows in the south of France, the region of the Lot, north side of the river, met on a walk across the Causses, dark mauvish blue and getting across so strong, that I can still smell it!! Never surpassed. I always put lavender among my wool and silk clothing to keep out the moths.
    I mourn for your Yardley. Off with their heads! Hope you will find some on your stay in Norfolk.

  5. rosestrang

    What a disappointment that must have been, incomprehensible why people do this with a decent thing that was originally made in good, high quality but simple taste – unfrilly yes, very English in its way but calming and much appreciated for that reason at times.
    However, though verging on non PC I think ‘puking party slag’ should become part of the lexicon of perfume critique. Your phrase invention? Kudos!

    On a similar subject but in a completely different style – have you tried the reformulation of Coco Chanel? Bingo-wing bling, a weird soup. I never totally loved the original though I wore it in the late 80s briefly, but it did have great personality and impact, perfect for its time.

    • Ugh, has that been wrecked as well? ‘Puking party slag’ – yes, very much mine. I never think about whether things are PC, just whether they express what I want to say (or make me laugh, like that did). How else could I express the muddle at the centre of the perfume?

  6. Such a sad state of affairs when such a simple and iconic fragrance is ruined. I have such fond memories of wearing Yardley’s English Lavender when I was young, I think my father gave it to me, that it makes me saddened to think of it gone forever. I really wish I had purchased a bottle before the whole travesty occurred, just for memories sake. I might just have to go on to EBay and look for a bottle. Good luck finding a vintage bottle also. Damned be these companies and their marketing people.

  7. Tanya

    So I’m not the only one…

    Actually I’m not a perfume/fragrance-person (I get headaches from almost all of them… just from other people wearing them), but the only thing I’ve always loved (adored actually) was Yarldey English Lavender! The original one!
    Last year (after decades of not buying any fragrance at all), I bought some sort of bodyspray, which scent brought me back to beautiful times, so that spray had still something of the old Yardley English Lavender in it. But later that year, I bought an eau de toilette… and it was a strange experience… that was not the one I loved so much… 😦
    Today, in my search for the old one, I came across this page, and I’m so glad to see that there are others like me 😉

    I’ve seen pictures of the original botlle on Ebay, so hopefully I can buy one (I live in the Netherlands, so it will cost me even more), and if I’m able to get my hands on a botlle, I will treasure it for the rest of my life. I wil not use it randomly… I just open the botlle and smell it, just to go back to happy times ❤

  8. teresa Fitzgerald

    Agree. I bought the body lotion recently, expecting it still to be the lovely, unique, fresh, soapy scent that was Yardley English lavender. Not even close. I’ve thrown out my purchase.

  9. Lynn

    I buy my Yardley Eau de cologne when ever i can find it as it is difficult to find the handbag size 50ml.
    I purchases one with the so called new wrapping and OH to my disgust it stank. I thought it was wrongly labelled.
    I took it back to the chemist with the bottle i was still using but running out fast. I was promptly given a refund.
    So I look on the net and alas I find the original bottle and label OR SO I THOUGHT.
    I received my parcel yeaterday with glee only to be TOTALLY disappointed.
    I was enraged to say the least because it had the NEW designed box. I thiught this doesn’t look good. I opened one and PHEW !!!!
    So I investigate. Now I read Yardley is the culprit.
    Please help someone please ??!!
    I can’t stand the smell !!
    Will Yardley ever revert back. I want to return my (over $100) order to the USA

    • I am very pleased that others have reacted as strongly as I have. It really is VILE, isn’t it? I think definitely the worst and most unjustified reformulation in the history of perfumery. And Yardley English Lavender really is, or rather WAS, a beautiful, historical treasure.

      It is nothing short of a travesty.

  10. Patrice

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for speaking my mind so eloquently!
    I emailed complaints to Yardly (as well as a negative review on Amazon). At no surprise I received no reply.
    As a serious Yardly lavender fan, for decades, I was sickened by the fragrance and angry over the lack of warning. Fortunately, I received a refund for what seems to be a cheap Chinese knock-off, smelling nothing like authentic English lavender.
    I will no longer buy ANY product from Yardley! They totally screwed their longtime customers..and, again, without warning.

  11. Annie Cook

    I am sitting here at the end of the comments, reading Patrice’s words, and I note that she received no reply from Yardley. So I need not expect one to mine. I didn’t actually, although I hoped. The desecration of Y’s L has just reached me, in darkest Tasmania. There must have been some old stock they sent down here. Yardley’s April Violets has also been modernised, and, somewhat analogous to a 60 Minute Makeover for your period property, they all smell the same and could double as room freshener. If they are still By Appointment to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, she must be unamused by the change. Yeah, I know, things change, get over it. But why do they fix things that ain’t broke?

    • The Desecration Of English Lavender is clearly becoming a global movement!

      You have such gorgeous lavender in Tasmania, though. Before I went into hospital recently I was at an aromatherapy shop in Tokyo that has a selection of about ten different lavenders and I chose the Tasmanian. Just get some essential oil, put it in rubbing alcohol and spray: the reformulation of the classic Yardley wouldn’t even qualify as air freshener for me. It is disgusting.

  12. I only have vague, pleasant memories of my grandmothers Yardleys English Lavendar (YEL?!) but i recently ordered some Canvey Island Lavendar for my mum and she and i both love it. It strikes me as very uncommercial – made by monks on a tiny Welsh island – and is a very truthful and unpretentous soliflore. I would highly recommend it to lavender lovers but obviously it is no replacement of what has been lost.

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