Perfumer Colin Curtis remembered as keeper of a tradition
A tourism ambassador and head of a flagship Bermuda family business has died at 83.
Colin Curtis managed the iconic Bermuda Perfume Factory and Gardens, one of the island’s few manufacturing companies.
The business was founded in 1928 at Bailey’s Bay in Hamilton Parish by his grandfather, W.B. Smith, who created it with his daughter Madeline Scott.
Mr Curtis, a father of three, told The Royal Gazette in 2002: “They strived for a single ideal and that was to produce the finest floral perfumes comparable with the best produced anywhere in the world.”
The two used a French technique, enfleurage, using flowers from the perfumery’s thriving gardens.
An avid gardener and collector of rare plants, Mr Curtis recalled enjoying his first job at the perfume factor, for £1 a week, until a tourist complained he was too young to work.
He remained a steadfast proponent of the tourism industry, and the perfumery’s gardens were an attraction in their own right.
Mr Curtis ran the Hamilton Parish landmark until putting it up for sale in 2004.
Its former site is still distinguished by the towering Acacia trees believed brought from the West Indies by Mr Curtis’s grandfather.
Mr Curtis ran a competition for their names over nearly a decade until a tourist was able to identify them.
The factory was bought by perfumers Isabelle Ramsay- Brackstone and the late Kirby Brackstone.
The perfumery is now in St George’s as the Lili Bermuda Perfumery.
Ms Ramsay-Brackstone said: “He handed on a business that’s my bread and butter now – we are custodians of a beautiful Bermudian tradition.
“The idea is to make it thrive, keep it alive, and reinvent. In his time, he did that, and was able to pass that on to me.”
Mr Curtis told the Gazette: “I have always loved the gardens and the process of manufacturing the perfume.
“I just picked up the scientific aspects from my family
Mr Curtis was also a longstanding member of the St John’s Ambulance Brigade, serving as chairman.
In 1996 he was named to the Commanders of the Order of St John by the Queen, and in 2002 became Knight of the Order of St John of Jerusalem.
He also served as a Master of the Masonic Lodge in St George’s.
His other interests included gems – a hobby that took him all over the world.
Mr Curtis kept to traditions of perfuming but also innovated to keep his business going, forging connections with overseas distributors and, in 1999, pioneering online sales when e-commerce was relatively new to the island.
Colin MacKenzie Curtis, former managing director of the Bermuda Perfume Factory, was born July 29, 1937. He died in December 2020, aged 83.