February 7, 2007

Lea & Perrins

And the men behind the brand are...
John Lea and William Perrins

In 1835 Sir Marcus Sandys returned to England from a stint as governor of Bengal in India. A renowned gourmand, Lord Sandys carried with him a secret recipe for a flavorful sauce. He settled back into his country estate in Worcester and sought the assistance of two chemists in town to conjure up some of the exotic sauce for his personal use.

He selected John Lea and William Perrins, who had been in business since 1823, building a catalog of more than 300 items in their apothecary. Company lore maintains that the original brew from Lord Sandys recipe was so foul it was dispatched to a dark corner in the cellar and forgotten for two years. When it was rediscovered, with great trepidation, the partners tasted the sauce and were greatly surprised.

Lord Sandys began serving the sauce at his extravagant parties and delighted guests soon carried word of his exotic sauce beyond the shire. Lea and Perrins obtained permission to sell some sauce to other customers and by 1839 bottles of Worcestershire Sauce (it was only “Worcester” in England) were finding their way to New York City packaged amid boxes of Lea & Perrins surgical supplies.

Lea & Perrins supplied luxury liners with cases of sauce, helping spread Worcestershire Sauce around the world. The sauce was amazingly versatile; it held its flavor in the hottest jungles and in the coldest tundra. It would eventually be marketed in more than 100 countries - each batch made exactly as it was when it was brought back from India in 1835. Lea and Perrins would go on to become the first Englishmen to open a chain of drugstores but they are remembered today for the sauce “from the recipe of a nobleman in the county.”

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