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Mark Birley for Men

Nina Campbell, decorator of the original Annabel’s, said of its creator Mark Birley that “what makes him so special is that he’s got such an incredible attention to detail. He will not be shortchanged; if something’s not right, he just won’t have it. He just will make it perfection.” In his hedonist’s pursuit of the very best, Mark was known to seek out only the service of anyone who was at the very top of their game. Campbell claimed that he “had a nose like a truffle hound’s”. It is fitting then that in 1996 he released the fragrance range “Mark Birley for Men”. Tellingly produced in collaboration with Frederic Malle who in-turn employed Pierre Bourdon the result was perfect distillation of Mark Birley himself. Depending on reports it took 18 months and between 32 and 180 revisions to create the final fragrance. Apparently featuring Californian Bergamot, Florentine Orris, Chinese Vetiver and Texan Cedar the final scent is an elegant, perfectly starched collar, citrus-forward fragrance, with an underlying tailored-suited warmth. Much like MB-favourite Krug champagne.

At the Sotheby’s pre-sale of Mark’s Thurloe Lodge estate in 2013 the fragrance was sprayed around the saleroom like Catholic incense.

Frederic Malle would go on to create his own fragrance house in 2000 working with Pierre Bourdon and others to create a whole range of scents similarly unburdened by compromise.

A second Mark Birley fragrance “Charles Street” was separately released in 2011. Eponymously named after the home of Annabel’s first sister-establishment “Mark’s Club”. Whilst a fruity, tobacco and Chesterfield-leather esque affair it’s however not up to the perfection of the original.

Sadly for its longtime fans Mark Birley for Men is becoming incredibly hard to source. These are my own remnants. The large bottle is only 1/5 full and the smaller metal Traveller’s bottle down to a 1/4. As a result it’s becoming as exclusive as an audience with Mark at Thurloe Lodge in his heyday. With one spray I can almost hear Elvira, explaining to, no-stranger-to-hedonism-himself, Nick Foulkes that Mark Birley “is unable to come to the telephone because he is busy relaxing.”

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