A fragrance fit for a queen has wafted its way from London to an exclusive Dubai store where it will be on display to the public for just three days, starting tomorrow.
Imperial Majesty No 1 - a creation of British perfume house Clive Christian - is the world's most expensive scent, with just 10 units of its kind ever made.
Seven pieces were sold to anonymous perfume connoisseurs around the world at a price of US$340,000 (Dh1.2 million) each: one is on permanent display in Harrods's of London, while another resides at Bergdorf Goodman's in New York.
"The piece on tour has been elevated to priceless status," says Victoria Christian, daughter of the fragrance and furniture design legend, "and it will be in Dubai for the first time, as a celebration of our 10-year partnership with Paris Gallery."
"Although the Guinness [Book of] World Records named it the most expensive perfume in the world, I must just add that was certainly not the vision," says Christian.
In fact, the price has more to do with the rarity of the ingredients, which includes 50-year-old Indian sandalwood and Tahitian vanilla that takes six months to crystallise before it achieves the desired cherry-like spice. The creative process is equally unique, with a triple-extraction method used to derive the purest, long-lasting scent.
"We refer to it as an absolute," says Christian. "If you take rose, for example, which sits at the heart of all Clive Christian perfumes, in an absolute you've got close to 200 rose heads in a single drop of essence so it's extraordinarily concentrated and therefore very costly and time-consuming to produce naturally."
Threatening to upstage the exclusive fragrance is the bottle encasing it: a Baccarat crystal-cut design complete with a five-carat diamond set in a gold collar, which Christian aptly calls the perfume's "couture showstopper".
"Yes, the visual is always very important, but ultimately it's what's inside the bottle that counts," she says. "You don't need to be trained in top notes to know a good smell. Men and women around the world all want the same thing: we want our soul to be touched by the scent. It has to strike a chord within."
The creations of the fragrance house first struck a chord with Queen Victoria in 1872 and a royal seal of approval swiftly followed.
"The Queen granted [the company], for the first and only time, the image of her crown. It was the mark of British excellence, craftsmanship and quality around the world," says Christian. "The house at that time was creating perfumes for the British crown and visiting nobility from abroad."
During her reign, complimenting scents were created for the Queen and her consort Prince Albert - a tradition resurrected by Christian's designer father, who bought the remains of the archive in 1999.
"My father was commissioned by the haute perfumery in Harrods to create a his-and-hers piece of Number 1 for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge on their wedding day," says Christian. "They were placed together in mini Imperial Majesty bottles with their initials etched on the front in gold. The case was lined in red velvet with their coat of arms embroidered in gold.
"We were very proud Victoria and Albert had crowned the perfume and left their mark for history and that going forward for the next generation, the next marriage of love and our future king and queen of England are taking that scent forward."
Clive Christian's creations remain a best-seller with Hollywood royalty too, with Katie Holmes having chosen one of the famous fragrances for her nuptials to Tom Cruise. Other high-profile clients of the exclusive brand include Victoria and David Beckham, Elton John and Queen Rania of Jordan.
"We have some very special commissions," says Christian, without naming names. "I have clients all over the world who say the same thing: it makes them live up to the perfume, stand a little bit taller, it's a very sophisticated scent. And there are those that wear it every day - that's a delightful thing!"
As the Imperial Majesty Number 1 departs these shores later this week, some of its royal descendants will return to the UAE in February when the perfume house debuts matching male and female Number 1 fragrances in time for Valentine's Day.
"The commission for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge was the first time mini crystal bottles were placed side-by-side in the case, so we've created a mini version of that," says Christian.
However, as with Number 1, where only 1,000 bottles originally went on sale, production will be extremely limited.
"I don't think we could release any more than 500 pieces," says Christian. "It's the ingredients that limit the production and you can only grow so much Arabian jasmine per year. It's limited by its very nature."
Testers of the fragrance will be available for the public to sample.
The Imperial Majesty No 1 fragrance will be unveiled tomorrow at Paris Gallery in Dubai Mall and will be on display until Friday.