Like the bemused rally of amused rats following the magical tunes of the Pied Piper of Hamelin, sometimes you get drawn into the charming aroma oozing out of either a fine restaurant or a perfumery. Your senses turn on and mind becomes adamant to find out the source of the fragrance to quench your thirst of curiosity. This is exactly what had happened when we went to Bicester Village in an August summer day of 2014 when my beautographer was allured by this fragrance coming out of the Penhaligon’s shop. It goes without saying that they were able to make a first impression with the very product they manufacture and that was perfumes. Enticing people who smell good to smell better and those who smell not so pleasant – to walk into the store with carefully decorated range of British made perfumes. Sadly though we didn’t complete the purchase that time, he explored what they have but shied away from commitment. As if he knew he fell in love, but couldn’t commit on first sight, needed more time to exchange vows. Finally the wait came to an end thanks to his real life amour de la vie, when I insisted that we adorn ourselves with the aroma of a Penhaligon’s perfume and so we obliged.
Fragrance houses with long histories as “royal perfumer to the Duke of this” or “toiletry supplier to Duchess of that” are all very well, but who wants to smell like an old monarch from the Middle Ages? You may change your mind after reading this post! After sniffing their men’s collection in the Penhaligon’s boutiques around London, last Saturday, I finally whisked him off to New Bond Street for perfume shopping. He is turning 35 next month and I have been either placing an online order or shopping in store for his birthday presents for quite some time now. Like always, he resisted buying anything for himself. Confession time: he never buys or want to buy anything for himself. I (pay, and) buy all his outfits, yes, all, including underwear and gym /swim wears. Matriarchy in my household, eh;)
While Penhaligon’s does have that royal reputation (appointed to manufacture “toilet requisites” for both The Prince of Wales and the Duke of Edinburgh), this quintessentially British perfume house — one of the few genuine perfume houses left in the modern world — is anything but old, traditional, or boring. In the last few years alone they’ve produced scents inspired by Savile Row, London Dry Gin and a candle that smells like a gentleman’s club. Rather than conventional advertising, they’ve scented London taxis, held a press event in a car park and embraced social media with aplomb, which sets them apart from the rest!
In fashion industry, Penhaligon’s would be the Alexander McQueen or Vivienne Westwood of the fragrance world — British eccentrics whose brilliance in eccentricity has happily infected the whole world. But that’s how it is at Penhaligon’s. While other perfume companies have ingredient-based stories, each of Penhaligon’s 34 fragrances starts with a real story or a concept, like a bluebell wood after a spring rain shower or the atmosphere of a tailor’s workroom on Savile Row.
The beautiful signature bottles are another story: based on William’s original design of clear glass with a ribbon-wrapped stopper, each bottle is hand-blown, then cut on a diamond wheel to achieve the sparkling facets of high-quality crystal. On your vanity table, they’d look — not like modern, innovative fragrances — but great vintage finds. I heart everything vintage!
Until today, the scents are still made in England with the finest raw ingredients — from hand-squeezed bergamot to jasmine at twice the price of gold. Cologne wise, am I then converting from French to English? We’ll see!
Over the 135 years since Penhaligon’s barbershop first opened on London’s Jermyn Street, the house continues to reinvent itself, working with master perfumers who can bring their ideas to 3D olfactory life, and carrying on the legacy of making unique perfumes for modern perfume connoisseurs like my beautographer and myself(?). So, which ones did we pick?
Endymion (pour my beautographer)
As a ‘woman with choice’ with decidedly more classic tastes in fragrance, I was more drawn to Endymion from Penhaligon’s men’s collection. I, along with the three ladies of the shop were convinced that being such an imposing charmer my beautographer already is, an Endymion will be the perfect addition of attention armoury in his arsenal. It is a masculine cologne, inspired by tales from Greek mythology. One of the notes is lavender, and yet this perfume is supposed to be “charismatic and sensual,” loaded with aphrodisiac notes like incense. Sensuality and masculinity in a bottle, plus lavender? Now you’re talking, Ummmmahhh!
Inspiration: The male partner to Artemisia, in ancient myth Endymion was a mortal who was so loved by the goddess of the moon that she put him to sleep forever so that she alone could visit him every night.
The story: This is the house’s bestseller for men who we often tag ‘manly’.
Notes: Bergamot, mandarin, lavender and sage geranium and coffee absolute, vetiver, nutmeg, black pepper, cardamom, musk, leather, sandalwood, incense, frankincense and myrrh.
What it smells like: A sexy, modern fusion of citrus, spices and leather. A fragrance of contrasts, Endymion is both light and dark, sweet and sharp, but above all sensual, like walking in a moonlit garden thinking thoughts of velvet seduction.
Malabah (pour moi)
Why Malabah? Penhaligon’s offer a wide range of unique and interesting fragrances but to me, it didn’t scream out ‘buy me’ at the first glance. But when I tried on a few I like it more and more. I decided on Malabah. I think a perfume collector should have at least one but perhaps it’s not for every lady. Although the luminescent juice in its crystal bottle looked knockout gorgeous with a bow tied on its neck, the richness of green coriander and tea, meant to conjure up ‘’bold and adventurous’’ and just was me.
Inspiration: Malabah was inspired by an imaginary journey along the East Indian spice route.
The story: This is one of the house’s bestseller accross the world.
Notes: Lemon, earl grey tea, cilantro, ginger, nutmeg, cardamom, rose, sweet amber, orris, sandalwood and musk.
What it smells like: The opening notes of citrus, green coriander and smoky earl grey tea give way to a heart of sublime rose, ginger and aromatic spices. The soft base introduces orris, sweet musks and amber to create a luscious and sensual experience.
So, it’s Malabah for me and Endymion for him or vice-versa. Yes, this is what mesmerised me about Penhaligon’s scents- agender. While the scents for ladies embodies feminine, sensual or exotic; Penthaligon’s perfumes promise to be the scent for bold ladies who like to be different. Then, a really bold lady might like to try something from Gents section.
Oh! We have one more reason to cheer for Penhaligon’s scents- freebies yayyy! They have not only welcomed us as their first-time customers but also appreciated our views as bloggers with a complimentary box of their Scent Library for men and women offering the ideal introduction to the Penhaligon’s fragrance range. Each set contains 10 x1.5ml samples of their most popular scents. Thank … for having an opinion on everything…how much I love blogging!