Whiff of History

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A well-connected Parisian socialite with a nose for the perfect fragrance. A chance encounter with John F. Kennedy on the Côte d’Azur. A tragically early death. A faithful butler sidekick who smuggled bottles of perfume inside cut-out books to conceal their secrets from occupying Nazis…

The legend behind Bob & Eight reads like a novel or at least demonstrates Proust’s assertion that smell is the sense that most directly accesses vivid memories and detailed narratives.

Bob & Eight is a boutique fragrance house that has revived the distinctive fragrances created by the aristocratic Albert Fouquet in the 1930s together with the family butler Phillipe. Fouquet, though a talented autodidact parfumier, never dreamed of going into business with his fragrances. Rather they were meant for his personal enjoyment and to amuse and impress his friends in the elite circles he moved in in pre-WWII France.

The apocryphal story is that in 1937, Fouquet met a youthful JFK, travelling through France at the time. Fouquet left a sample of his self-created fragrance that John F. admired at the hotel reception for him with a typically Parisian note that read: “In this bottle, you will find the dash of French glamour that your American personality lacks.” ( Le ridicule est le seul désastre, n’cest pas ?)

Back in the USA, JFK wrote to Fouquet thanking him and asking if he could send some more samples of his unique fragrance. His friends were in love with it. More specifically he asked for eight samples and, “…if your production allows, another one for Bob.” Albert, misunderstanding the idiom, sent of a box filled with samples in suitably exquisite bottles in boxes matched from memory to the pattern of the shirt the John F. Kennedy had been wearing when they met. The bottles were labelled, “Eight & Bob.”

Through the Kennedy social connections, the fragrance became the must-have item sought after by Hollywood stars like Cary Grant and James Stewart.

But Albert Fouquet died tragically in a motoring accident in 1939 and Philippe was left his position as butler as a circumstance of war and the German occupation of France.

Many years later, as a result of Philippe’s family rediscovering the formula to Eight & Bob, this fragrance and others developed by Albert Fouquet and Philippe in the 1930s have been brought back into production. Each has been as faithfully recreated as possible. And the original Eight & Bob fragrance comes in a cut-out book referencing the books within which Philippe hid these olfactory secrets from the Nazis. Today they can be bought online directly from Eight & Bob or in carefully selected stores around the world.

The cynical may question the veracity of the story. But anyone who tries Eight & Bob or any of the other revived fragrances will soon understand that smell is a sense that creates a truth of its own. Just exactly what occurred between Albert Fouquet, Philippe and John F. Kennedy may forever be shrouded in mystery and speculation. Yet the scent of Eight & Bob lingers with the right after notes of a unique story only shared among the cognoscenti.

 

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