Perfume Directory

British Sterling (1965)
by Dana (originally by MEM Company)


British Sterling information

Year of Launch1965
AvailabilityIn Production
Average Rating
(based on 100 votes)

People and companies

Originally byMEM Company
Parent CompanyPatriarch Partners > Dana Classics

About British Sterling

British Sterling is a masculine fragrance by Dana. The scent was launched in 1965

British Sterling fragrance notes

  1. Top Notes
  2. Heart Notes
  3. Base notes

Reviews of British Sterling

dreese Show all reviews
United States
The version from the 1970s was broad, sweet, and dominated by the top and heart notes. Just purchased the current version and the beautiful interplay of those notes now seem drowned out by musk. This is still the manly classic, just somewhat diminished-as are we all.
23rd November, 2018
I picked up 2 vintage splash bottles of the 70s-80s version of this frag.

It says "Essential oils from Great Britain compounded in the USA" "dist by MEM company" in fine print on the sticker on the front of the bottle.
I was quite surprised to find that not only had the fragrance survived the years, but it's still good stuff! It's a fougere with a bit of a metallic vibe.

It sure was pleasing to find that one of my old high school fragrances survived to the present day intact.

From the reviews here I'd steer clear of the modern formulations.

(Will update if I ever have more to say about it)
07th February, 2018 (last edited: 08th January, 2019)
British Sterling by Speidel-Textron (1965) is a staple scent spoken in the same tones as English Leather by MEM (1949), Canoe by Dana (1936), Brut by Faberge (1962), or Old Spice by Shulton (1937), but ultimately perceived as a bit classier than them by most older guys due to the pedigree it once carried. The scent is presented in an interesting whisky flask bottle with a chrome-plated plastic collar that has remained unchanged for over 50 years, outside of slight alterations in available sizes and the fanciness of the applied brand label. Sadly, it has fallen very far from this once pedigreed position thanks to market repositioning to be more like the above, passing into bigger and bigger corporate hands before landing with Dana perfumes as part of the merger between MEM and New Renaissance Perfumes in the 90's. British Sterling launched initially in jewelry stores where Speidel sold it's watches and famous watchbands, with slogans like "Make him a legend in his own time" and "so fine a gift, it's sold in jewelry stores" which lent itself to the perception Speidel already had with it's Twist-O-Flex line of metal wristbands and eventually whole watches. It was even initially possible to get the metal cap engraved with the gift recipient's monogram, which is pretty cool if you ask me, but more important is the scent itself and what it set in motion as literally the grand-daddy of all aromatic fougères. Paco Rabanne Pour Homme (1973) often gets the title of first proper aromatic fougère, which isn't wrong, but the template for a lot of the refinement going into Paco Rabanne's eponymous scent came from this scent, even though British Sterling itself is barely even a fougère. Original Speidel-Textron production runs of British Sterling and the later MEM production pretty much has the same formula, and is the basis for most of this review. I don't often insist on vintage productions when I review older fragrances, but the dry down of post-IFRA versions of British Sterling compared to almost any other version is staggeringly different, and even between pre-IFRA Dana bottles and anything from Speidel or later MEM, there is a notable difference. British Sterling very visibly suffered in quality as it slid downmarket over the decades, if only to the eyes and not the nose.

British Sterling opens with bitter bergamot, a speck of galbanum, muguet, and sage. It's unsurprising for a masculine from the sixties to veer in such a green direction, but what is surprising about British Sterling is the shift away from powdery vanillic bases or heaps of lavender in the heart like a lot of other "green" masculines from the period, that only toyed with the idea of aromatics while they went in either a bone-dry chypre or barbershop fougère direction. Instead of this formulaic development, British Sterling moves out of the "forthright masculine" comfort zone and takes a more mossy, spicy, and rounded route through its woodsy aromatics. Nutmeg, cinnamon, and clove all warm up the heart and help smooth out the sharp green tones above, with some wisps of dry leather squeezing between. The scent quickly develops from this green and spicy overture to some chypre-like base notes such as sandalwood, labdanum, and oakmoss, but continues rounding off with a vanillic amber note and musk. Vintage contains a really fat oakmoss base which ties together all the green aromatics and spice, but in newer versions this moss is missing, making the top and middle much louder and more jagged than it should be, pulling the scent in more of a brighter green chypre direction before ending up in a typical drugstore dry down of amber, musk, and a fake Iso E Super woods note. There's probably a small modicum of coumarin in here which gets British Sterling the fougère label by some, even if a strait-up tonka accord is not detected nor do I feel is the intent of the unknown perfumer behind this. The end result of a vintage wear is nothing short of a totally unique green aromatic semi-oriental chypre hybrid experience, the likes of which we don't really see outside of niche houses in the 21st century, and really has tons of versatility in many weather conditions save maybe extreme heat. I also find British Sterling rather formal and business like thanks to the green moss which takes my brain to the later Polo by Ralph Lauren (1977), so no romantic use here. British Sterling is a cologne, so expect no more than about 6 hours of use out of it with moderate application, but the stuff comes in such huge bottles, you won't feel bad about reapplications throughout a work day.

British Sterling is a very rounded complex scent that truly placed it in a class by itself. Oakmoss lovers will adore vintage as it weighs in very heavily in the overall vibe, just like Chanel Pour Momsieur (1955), which is probably the biggest inspiration source for this. I can easily see why British Sterling became so popular in it's halcyon days, and how it would eventually become so mass-market in succeeding decades. It's rich, smooth, slightly herbal, and very dapper compared to some contemporaries, and although it's not sensual enough for night duty, it's almost a potential year-round signature scent even in the 21st century, and probably was for many guys in decades past. The original Speidel-Textron formula and the subsequent MEM version is the stuff to get, even if it is obsolete in the 21st century for having a deep oakmoss vibrato and lacking any distinct "freshness" that typically defines an all-season day wear scent for men these days, particularly failing in hot weather. Otherwise it's truly of superior stock and a huge precedent for what would come nearly a decade later, being rather iconclast for 1965 compared to everything else out there back then. New British Sterling, as produced by Dana, has an entirely different vibe because of that mossless dry down, which is uncommon for me to say because most perfumers take a stab at replacing it in their reforms, but not Dana, as they literally just left it missing. The new stuff has become quite shrill with the citrus/floral top dominating most of the scent's life, burying even the spicy heart which I feel was also toned down due to expense and/or restrictions. The Iso E synthetic note standing in for the sandalwood too is also very scratchy, even if not to the extent of being unbearable unless over-applied, giving the new stuff a chemical-burn personality which will turn off vintage fans. Since you never really get that smoothness, just lots of green with musk to hold it down amidst the synthetics, Dana's current iteration feels like a different scent carrying the old one's badge. If you like old-school green mossy fragrances from the 70's or 80's, you really need a sniff of British Sterling to see the spark which lit this fire. I think this stuff layers particularly well with minty green after shaves, so if you have a bottle of Skin Bracer (1931) or Proraso (1908) handy, I'd try mixing the two of these after a wet shave, then tell me what you think!
11th December, 2017 (last edited: 30th October, 2018)
My grandfather used to wear this, and always smelled like he was fresh out of the barber shop. I can across a discounted gift set in December and had to jump at it. It's a perfect daily scent, at work or play. So soft and powdery. Not a night owl, but, a pleasant one to wear and smell on yourself. Proudly in my rotation.
01st February, 2016
Forget all the previous reviews bashing BS. They all bitch about its cheap smelling, but that's not true! I've tried a lot of expensive niche fragrances and recent launches and BS knocks half of them down easily. Is It a bit dated? Yes, due to its slightly powdery smell. But if you like well praised old school stuff as Chanel pour monsieur, you'll definitely like this one. It's spicy, sweet and slightly powdery although truly masculine. It's a bargain and won't let you down in casual/office situations.
24th January, 2015 (last edited: 10th April, 2015)
If we're talking about the formulation by Speidel and MEM years (up to the late 1990's) disregard my negative/thumbs down and make it a thumbs up!Even back then this was an inexpensive fragrance found in the display cases at drugstores...smelled pretty good though.

Quoting the original formula I would put British Sterling further down the list of describing this as a clean/barbershop scent.This was not a cool and refreshing fragrance with high use of soap,citrus,and talc...this stuff was warm and different.Just a smidge of lavender and talc fused to a heavy moss note lets the bitter-green qualities shape some sophistication to the base.A moderately heavy spice trio of nutmeg and clove creamed over by vanilla.I always picked up more nutmeg really.A light trace of sandalwood off and on throws in some dryness and goes well with the moss...don't confuse that and think this makes an outdoorsy scent.Linear,fairly low projection and lasts about 6 hours.British Sterling was a good everyday wear fragrance.

The Dana version has obviously been reformulated over the original stuff and I'm very on the fence about it.Had I never smelled British Sterling I'd give it a thumbs up immediately for how good it smells.Still the pleasant and generous amount of moss but a higher degree of lavender making this 'soapy clean and green'.This takes it higher up on the barbershop scent clean factor quite a bit.The spice though has been thinned down or reduced to a whisper.This makes the spice more subtle and smooth but also steals the warmth and richness British Sterling once had.I do think the reformulation will be easier to wear in warm/hot weather versus the original stuff.It's just such a mix of up and down's between the vintage and current formula.
21st January, 2015 (last edited: 28th February, 2018)

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