This is not really a vintage perfume blog but I want to share this very special thing that my friend Jo gave me a few months ago. It is a bottle of ‘Goya No 5’, and it had belonged to her grandmother. It was one of three perfumes she owned the time of her death in 1988.
Goya No 5? It turned out to be unexpectedly difficult to find information about the company and the perfume. 1000 Fragrances and the more encyclopedic Cleopatra’s Boudoir, normally my go-to sites for this kind of thing, were no help. Perfume Intelligence is more useful, telling us that the company was owned by an English entrepreneur called Douglas Collins, who established several perfume companies from the 1930s to the 1960s, and died in 1972. ‘Goya’ was the name he gave to the company he owned from 1937. The company did not adopt any kind of exotic Spanish aesthetic, because Collins, oddly enough, had not heard of the famous Spanish artist.
The company does sound very English. Over many years it brought out quite appealing-sounding perfumes, like Gardenia (1937) and Heather (also 1937), and several that suggest that Collins was of a playful or superstitious disposition (or thought his customers might be): Lucky Thimbles (1952), Roulette (1952), Lucky Number (1956), Great Expectations (date unknown). There was a host of others, some with names that would be well suited to the celebuscents of today, such as Light Heart (date unknown), Black Rose (1955), Disturb (1961), and Renegade (1975). But Perfume Intelligence is silent on when No 5 was launched.
Happily, there is a wonderful book by Carol Dyhouse called Glamour: Women, History, Feminism which mentions Goya. Dyhouse references an advertisement from 1952 which proclaimed that Goya No 5 was ‘the perfume for mink-coated evenings.’ My idea of a mink coat perfume would be something like those wonderful old film-noir Lanvins which I have never smelled (but would love to): My Sin, Scandal, Pretexte. Dark, sexy and animalic.
Is Goya No 5 dark, sexy and animalic? Nope, not not a bit. It is a light, sheer, herbal cologne. Perfect as an after-bath splash or for dabbing on a handkerchief. Even before I’d done the research on Goya I was expecting something with more presence, because the cross-hatched effect of the diagonal ridges on the glass make the bottle very striking. But the perfume is modest and unassuming. Jo remembers her grandmother as a modest and unassuming person too. Financially well off (and indeed one of her other perfumes was a Lanvin), her family background was relatively humble.
It is odd that the perfume does not match its image, but according to Dyhouse, Douglas Collins had a way of marketing his inexpensive scents towards women who (he believed) dreamed of fur coats and high-glamour lifestyles. Perhaps he was a poorly educated, working class man who grew up wishing he could have put some romance into the lives of his mother and sisters. I’d love to know.
You do see a few Goya perfumes floating around on eBay occasionally, and Black Rose has a a bit of an internet presence, including two reviews on Basenotes. Personally I’d love to try a perfume called Lucky Thimbles. That sounds adorable. It would be funny, wouldn’t it, if it turned out to be dark, sexy and animalic?