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Parfum V1 -- The ultimate scent

By Paul Sussman for CNN

Parfum V1
Each bottle of Parfum V1 costs a staggering $84,000 (47,500)

LONDON, England (CNN) -- We humans have always placed considerable value on smelling nice, often going to great lengths, and great expense, to acquire the finest perfumes and fragrances with which to douse ourselves.

The Ancient Egyptians traveled far and wide in search of scented oils and unguents; Alexander the Great sent emissaries all the way to Oman to procure Arabian incense; while by the 1st Century AD the citizens of Rome were sniffing their way through an estimated 2,800 tonnes of frankincense and 550 tonnes of myrrh annually (in 54 AD the Emperor Nero spent the modern equivalent of $100,000 on scent for a single party.)

Even the notoriously extravagant Nero, however, might have balked at the cost of Parfum V1, a fragrance that is generally considered to be not only the most exclusive in the world, but also by some distance the most expensive.

Blended by legendary English perfumer Arthur Burnham for fashion house Gianni Vive Sulman, the fragrance -- suitable for both men and women -- was inspired by the Phantom V1 Rolls-Royce. Just as only 173 of the latter were ever made, so Parfum V1 was, on its issue in 1998, limited to 173 bottles, each costing a staggering $84,000 (£47,500.)

"Arfaq Hussain (the founder of Gianni Vive Sulman) came to me and asked me to design a fragrance that would be unbelievably special, totally unique and extreme in every regard," explains Arthur Burnham. "It was the hardest brief I've ever had, but also one of the most rewarding."

Burnham spent five years developing the scent, going back "into the pre-history of fragrances to create something that wouldn't have been out a place in ancient Egypt."

Roses and resins form the base constituents, with only the very purest and most absolute essences combining to create what has been described as "the most enchanting and irresistible symphony; the ultimate symbol of indulgence, of opulence, or truly impeccable taste."

While the cost the perfume's raw ingredients was, according to Burnham "mind-blowing" -- an ounce of pure rose essence costs more by weight than gold bullion -- the scent itself forms just a part of the overall package.

Key
A bottle of Parfum V1 comes in a hand-crafted wooden case with a diamond and ruby key

Parfum V1 is bottled within individually hand-crafted flacons made of ruby-crystal, platinum, 18-carat gold and diamonds, the latter designed by famed Parisian perfume-bottle maker Pierre Dinand.

Each bottle comes in its own exquisite marquetry case -- crafted by the same people who make interiors for Rolls Royce and Bentley -- while each marquetry case comes with its own unique diamond and ruby-encrusted key courtesy of jewelers Graff.

"This isn't something you'd just have sitting on your dressing table," says Lorraine Wilson-Morris, editor of luxury cosmetics magazine Esprit. "It is totally unique, a collector's item."

Getting hold of a bottle of Parfum V1 is no easy matter, which of course only adds to its allure. The 173 original bottles sold out immediately -- buyers included the likes of Michael Jackson, Mike Tyson and, reputedly, Elizabeth Taylor -- and Gianni Vive Sulman has now ceased to exist as a company.

"I could do a version of it that would be more affordable and commercial," says Burnham, "but that would mean losing all its unique aspects."

Don't let your nose despair, however, because it has just been announced that The Hadland Group, the luxury goods organization that oversaw production of the original run of Parfum V1, is intending to re-issue the scent and its accompanying packaging.

"This is a uniquely special product, and we will be re-issuing it according to demand," explains Hugh Hadland. "If 50 people want it, then we will make 50 bottles."

For those with £47,500 to spare, and highly refined olfactory tastes, orders can be sent to hugh.hadland@virgin.net.

Alternatively, if you're prepare to wait a couple of months and really fancy splashing out, rumor has it that an even more expensive scent -- titled Clive Christian No. 1 -- is on its way, costing no less that £115,000 per (diamond encrusted) bottle.

At which price Parfum V1 actually looks like a bit of a bargain.

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