Crafting an extraordinary perfume is a bit like falling in love. And when that perfume is designed for a specific person, it requires more time and soul-searching than a full-blown courtship—plus the cost of a car. Try $60,000 for a start. “It’s an intimate job,” says Ben Krigler, the fifth-generation head of and heir to the renowned perfumery House of Krigler.
The company built its reputation on that level of absolute devotion. It all started in 1879, in Moscow, when a teenage German chemist and perfumer named Albert Krigler gave his French fiancée a floral fragrance of his own creation, Pleasure Gardenia 79. Twenty-five years later, when Albert launched House of Krigler, in St. Petersburg, that same mix of gardenia, mimosa, and jasmine was its marquee scent.
Over the next century, the perfumery opened exclusive stores serving royalty and celebrities around the world. Last fall, a shop opened in the lobby of the Ritz-Carlton Dallas. Ben, also an architect, redesigned the Ritz’s 850-square-foot gift shop with an art deco touch. Lining the walls are headshots of Krigler’s most glamorous customers, and their signature scents are available for purchase in beribboned crystal bottles. But for those who crave bespoke, Ben and the Krigler team will fashion a fragrance informed by the customer’s own psychology.
The initial rendezvous takes place in one of the Ritz-Carlton’s suites, which has been transformed into a private olfactory workshop as part of the store’s scent sommelier program. Prior to the tête-à-tête, clients are given an extensive Proustian questionnaire intended to disclose tastes, values, and core memories. You must understand where the person comes from to understand their aromatic penchants, Ben says.
The responses enable the team to fill a treasure chest with raw materials, extracts from Krigler’s 750-scent archive, and samples of potential combinations. Clients whiff, sniff, and blend and then take vials of the concoctions home to test throughout the seasons. The whole process can take up to two years and starts at $60,000 for 1 to 3 liters of perfume, an antique crystal bottle, a custom trunk, and an NFT of the recipe. You can also order soaps, candles, and lotions in your new scent. Krigler will make as much as the customer is willing to buy. Ben says one couple spent $250,000 on custom wedding perfumes. Another Dallas customer, after crafting five perfumes for herself and her husband, made a sixth scent just for her poodles.
Now that’s true devotion.
Some perfumes have a yearslong waiting list, but the apothecary-style boudoir has dozens of ready-made scents that have been worn by the world’s biggest names. Here’s a sampling.
America One 31
Crafted to celebrate Krigler’s first U.S. boutique in New York’s Plaza Hotel, America One 31 was worn by novelist Ernest Hemingway and President John F. Kennedy. Notes of bergamot, cumin, and mandarin. $615/100ml.
Lovely Patchouli 55
In the 1950s, an aging Albert Krigler visited the Philippines to explore the native patchouli plant. Released posthumously in 1955, his last perfume, Lovely Patchouli 55, was beloved by Jackie Kennedy Onassis. Notes of amber, patchouli, and musk. $615/100ml.
Oud for Highness 75
In the 1970s, Krigler was invited to craft a scent for King Hussein bin Talal in Jordan. In doing so, the perfumery became one of the first Western fragrance houses to work with oud, a prized and rare oil extracted from fungus-infected agarwood that can sell for more than $5,000 per pound. Notes of honey, saffron, and oud. $940/100ml.
English Promenade 19
During World War I, the Krigler family retreated to the South of France; inspired by the local flora, this scent launched in 1919. The perfume was later worn by a young Audrey Hepburn when she filmed 1953’s We Go to Monte Carlo. Notes of grapefruit, jasmine, and neroli. $615/100ml.
This story originally appeared in the May issue of D Magazine with the headline, “The Smell of Luxury.” Write to [email protected].