The realm of celebrity-crafted fragrances is often considered, among perfumers, as perhaps unserious—a marketing move; a well-worn rung on the ladder to pop-stardom. So the addition of actor Richard E. Grant, of Downton Abbey, Girls, and Game of Thrones, to the fragrance fray is perhaps surprising. Yet in 2014, Grant indeed joined—launching the unisex Jack Perfume.
As it turns out, the 59-year-old actor has always had an acute interest in scent. His first attempt to craft his own came when he was only 12-years-old in his native Swaziland. “I had a crush on an American girl,” he laughs, “and tried to make perfume for her birthday by boiling up rose and gardenia petals in sugared jam jars, burying them in the ground and hoping that by some osmosis, they would metamorphose into scent.” They didn’t. Grant, however, remained fixated on scents, calling them a “life-long obsession.” It was while vacationing that a friend saw him sniffing everything in sight. She suggested he seriously pursue his passion and create his own perfume.
“It’s been the steepest learning curve of my life!” Grant admits. “Nothing prepared me for the ruthless nature of the business world.” Yet Grant knew exactly what he wanted his perfume to be. “We arrived at two almost-but-not-quite favourites.” Grant says, describing the intense six-month development phase leading to the perfume’s creation. “Finally at 2 a.m. one morning, I mixed these two testers into one bottle and had that longed for eureka moment.” His first perfume, Jack, which is packaged to recall a Royal Mail pillar post box and wrapped in a calico Union Jack sack, is an accord of lime, marijuana, mandarin, musk, and nutmeg. At the 2015 Fifi Awards, it won the title of Best New Independent Fragrance.
Jack Covent Garden, Grant’s second creation, is more floral with notes of rose, orange, iris, ginger, and carrot. “Covent Garden has been the epicenter of the London Theatre for centuries,” he explains of his love for the place. “Actors, singers, and dancers are gifted flowers and fruit on opening nights … that combination of theatrical glamour cheek by jowl with the fruit, vegetable, and flower market in Covent Garden proved irresistible.”
Jack’s third incarnation, Jack Piccadilly, is due to be released autumn 2016. It has been built around notes of petrol, patchouli, bergamot, leather, and wood smoke. According to Grant, one retail executive has already described it as “sex in a bottle.”