Drom’s 100th Anniversary and Hidden Skin

My first experience with Drom Fragrances was at the launch party for the first three Odin scents: two of Drom’s perfumers had created them for the Manhattan menswear store. I had a nice chat with one of the perfumers, Kevin Verspoor, and learned that we had two things in common—a background in the Twin Cities and a passion for cocktails. Meeting Verspoor was one of the moments when the link between cocktails and cologne was made clear to me, and I’ve been eager to talk with him again ever since.

Unfortunately, that didn’t happen at the Drom 100th anniversary party last week—Verspoor was tending bar, but he was so mobbed with thirsty party goers that I never got to say hello.

Drom is a pure fragrance house. They don’t sell fragrances, they just create them for others. The company began in Munich, Germany in 1911 as Bruno Storp Chemical, Pharmaceutical and Cosmetic Products. Its name changed to Drom (after the hiring of Dr. O. Martens—hence DR. O. M.) in 1921. The company shifted from cosmetics to fragrances in the 30s, and founder Bruno Storp opened a little perfume shop in Munich in 1935. Queen Elizabeth of Great Britain was a customer.

Today, Drom is run by the founder’s grandsons, Dr. Andreas and Dr. Ferdinand Storp. They opened a fragrance studio (not open to the public) in TriBeCa in 2005, and this where perfumers like Kevin Verspoor work.

The 100th anniversary party, held in the same Manhattan warehouse that hosted the Elements Showcase fragrance tradeshow in August, displayed the Storp brothers’ collection of vintage perfume flacons (including at least two shaped like crickets, one shaped like a bulldog, and more than a few risqué shapes) and 11 new fragrances created especially for the event.

At least one of those fragrances, “Hidden Skin,” was being passed around in powdered form, arranged in lines on mirrors like cocaine. Guests would dip a finger in the fragrant powder and rub it into their skin.

Guests took home a gift bag with a very heavy glossy book documenting the company’s past, along with ample photos of the photogenic Storp brothers, a brief catalog of the flacon collection and tributes to the company from others. Under the book in its slipcase are 11 small fragrance bottles, each containing a scent created for the evening by Drom’s 13 perfumers.

Hidden Skin, the one being passed around in powdered form, is described as

Milky scents, sweet, fresh, and light

And suddenly,
Fragrances of skin, animalic musk, oud wood, black wood.

Each scent seems to be created by at least two cooperating perfumers (in this case Barbara Zoebelein and Thomas Crabalona), inspired by a particular flacon from the collection. Hidden Skin’s inspiration was a “porcelain pendant in the shape of a woman’s head wearing a black mask with two glass stones as eyes.”

Hidden Skin is a mild, faintly floral, slightly sweet scent that I’d put in the family of skin scents that Frederic Malle’s Dans Tes Bras belongs to.

I’m not clear whether or not anything will come of these. Why spend so much company time and creativity on eleven scents that won’t ever see real production?

Drom, like its competitors, keeps a relatively low profile as far as the consumer market goes, so I’m impressed at the amount of openness it’s showing (inviting a consumer fragrance blogger, for example). While I do know that Kevin Verspoor created at least one of the Odin scents, Drom still adheres, for the most part, to the old ways: its perfumers don’t list their creations online, and are seldom called out as authors elsewhere.

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