Hello, beautiful people. It’s your Scentgourmand Trine here. Welcome back to my channel, and indeed, Happy Holiday’s if you’re watching this around the Christmas season. And because it’s Christmas, I’ve decided to share with you five fragrances from the quintessentially British house of Penhaligan’s.
William H. Penhaligon began his fragrance dream way back in the late 1800s, the journey beginning in combination with barbary. Not aggressive behavior I mean, but the cutting of hair and beards, I mean. According to the website, Penhaligon proceeded to “trim the tresses of many of Mayfair’s bright young things in 1870.” Yes, you can find lots of delightfully lighthearted and decidedly British prose on the website, and much as the branding is not to my taste, I believe it’s good marketing to play up to a long and interesting heritage if you have one. Another great perfume house from France does the same: Oriza L. Legrand. They have some goodies. The branding is so far from here is Japan, where they try to imitate but are sometimes clueless. Unsavvy shop owners shop proudly display subtitles below their business names such as “proudly doing business since 2020.” Those always elicit a giggle from yours truly.
In any case- This is only the second time I’m talking about Penhaligon’s on this channel although I actually have sampled quite a few of their fragrances over the years. I’ve reviewed Potion no. 9 on the channel a while back. And in fact, somewhere around my apartment I have two sample kits from the brand but for the life of me I can’t remember where I put them. I usually keep all my samples in a cupboard, but they are currently not to be found. I’m sure they’ll pop up when I do a solid house clean.
In the meantime, I have this Christmas tin showcasing three fragrances in the British Tales Collection, and two more from Trade Routes Collection. This particular tin is not from this year, however; I believe it’s from 2021. More recently, they have been packaging mini bottle gift sets for Christmas, birthdays, and the like in rectangular box packaging. Less expensive, I presume.
Let’s start with the British Tales fragrances. First in the lineup is Luna, which clearly references a story beyond Britishness, yes? Perhaps the Greek and Roman architectural influences that can be found in the UK?
Luna is “The Moon Goddess’ but this one is not overly feminine I’d say. It’s very soft, cool, and soothing, and it glows with orange, jasmine, soft rose, and fir balsam. This is one to enjoy when you want or need to chillax!
- lemon, bergamot, bitter orange,
- rose, juniper berries, jasmine
- balsam fir, musk, ambergris
When I think of the moon I think of these adjectives: calm, cool, quiet, mysterious, introspective, more yin than yang. What I don’t think of is bright, effervescent, and sharp, and yet this fragrance has those qualities in addition to the former. The risk with lemony fragrances is the household cleaner trope rears its head, and it surely will here for some people. And it does so for me, but happily, the extra lemon serves its purpose when after a few minutes, it seeps into the heart notes, which thanks to the juniper and balsam fir, are very natural and outdoorsy. Yes, one you get past the Pine Sol, you’re transported into a forest lit by moonlight on a cool summer night. Or it could be a warm autumn or spring night. Anyway, I’m there, and it’s been raining some time ago. Even though it’s not cold enough to see my breath, I feel there might be an ultra-thin layer of ice forming on the few puddles left on earthy forest bed. I know there is rose in here, but I think it works with an opposite note – the impressive bitter orange, to whisper some sort of magic spell into the jasmine and aromatics. This is intriguingly watery, still, and beautiful. I can imagine it might last a fair while, but I doubt it would project either strongly or widely. It’s a discreet perfume. Something a ghost would wear. It’s nocturnal, transparent, cold, and haunting. Impressive.
Next, we have Elizabethan Rose, which I suspected was going to me a fresh rose composition, and it certainly is, making sadly it not my cup of tea. Apologies, late Queen E.
This is a simple Rose creation, unsurprisingly with the flower of English – the Tudor rose, and the heart. It was inspired by coming together of houses York and Lancaster, and is a light, harmonious union of notes:
- hazelnut leaves, almond oil, cinnamon
- red lilly, Centifolia rose, rose oil, rose absolut
- vetiver, musk, wood
OK, so Fragrantica calls it Centifolia rose. I know not the difference, but I do know that I get mostly the hazelnuttiness, the rose (whatever kind it is), and the vetiver for the most part, making this blend not uninteresting, to be fair, and rather regal. I’ve read that some people get pickle juice in the opening, but I’ve not had that thought yet, and I like pickles anyway. It’s certainly weird though, and therein lies my appreciation. It’s growing on me. The rose is very authentic and elegant, and the vetiver and hazelnut make it more unisex. That’s interesting to me because fresh rose without agarwood is something I would automatically say leans traditionally feminine. The rose here is dewy, crisp, and refreshing. It’s 100% a daytime scent that could get lost in cooler months, I suspect. But yeah, ultimately, I prefer sweet and jammy roses. Now apparently, there is a discontinued fragrance by the same name and from the same house that smelled completely different. This floral woody fragrance only came out in 2018. I like the Elizabethan collar on the bottle neck – touché, Penhaligan’s! I don’t know the perfumer for this one, if you do, please share in the comments.
Next up is perfumer Alienor Massenet’s The Favourite (correctly spelled, by the way. Yes, I am Canadienne). The Favourite, as it turns out, sadly, is not my favorite. This sweeter one was launched in 2020, and inspired by the Mistress of the Robes and I hear also there was some sort of link to the Duchess of Marlborough for this, but unlikely the current one who is about my age. Comment if you’re English or an Anglophile and have knowledge to share regarding the inspiration for this scent. Anyway, The Favourite is supposed to be a fragrance for an emancipated and powerful, leading lady. It’s a powdery blend of iris, musk, and sandalwood, which I admit now upon sniffing is not at all unpleasant.
- violet, freesia, Mandarin orange
- mimosa, iris, Jasmine sambac
- musk, sandalwood, ambroxan
The mimosa start is bright, shimmery, and powdery. There’s nothing lipsticky about this despite the iris. It’s fresh, powdery, clean, and floral. There is a far-away, faint bubblegum. It gets me thinking of coming-of-age parties for teenagers of the more innocent variety. No emo or grunge or black here. We’re talking eyelet frocks, pastel-coloured bouquets, and iced tea in plastic glassware on the patio near a garden in early bloom with grandma swinging by for hugs and lectures. It’s girls only, no booze, adult-supervised. Maybe some boardgames inside once the light and warmth of the spring sun goes down and the bugs come out. Yes, I have this kind of memory. Christian confirmation of the Norwegian variety – privileged.
This fragrance is sweet and feminine, yes, but personally, I think it’s a little too airy and florally sweet to be labeled as sophisticated or powerful or elegant. It’s certainly well-blended and not in any way syrupy or soapy, but essentially, I would associate this one more with a very young lady than a grown-up with political influence, you know? It’s a soft fragrance. I think another opinion might be needed here though because it’s possible that I am not smelling all the musk, to which I’m often anosmic. And there’s supposed to be a generous dose of that in here which indeed should amp up the umph in this fragrance if you know what I mean. I think it might last longer on some people than it would me as well.
OK, enough of The Favourite. Now we move onto the two Trade Routes fragrances, starting with Halfeti.
Halfeti is a woody-floral fragrance created by perfumer Christian Provenzano and released in 2015. It’s a this in classic oud rose mix with lots of citrus and spices, inspired by precious goods traded by Turkey and named after a Turkish There’s also fruit, herbs, and creamy jasmine in the blend, and it’s considered to be a unisex concoction.
- cypress leaf, saffron, cardamom, artemisia, bergamot, grapefruit,
- Bulgarian rose, nutmeg, jasmine,
- agarwood, cedar, leather, sandalwood, amber, vanilla, tonka bean, musk
This perfume opens with a blast of different citruses accompanied by goodies like saffron, cardamom, cypress needles and something called atermisia. Species included in the atermisia genus are mugwort, wormwood, and sagebrush. Yes, I looked that up. The spicy rose and creamy jasmine come out next, and then gradually you get a sense of all the wonderful olfactory goodness at the base – leather, cedar, sandalwood, agarwood, amber, musk, tonka, and vanilla. I think there is probably casmeran and javanol in here – some modern synthetic compounds that do a fantastic job of expanding, amplifying and elevating fragrances.
This is a more traditional composition as far as it goes, but despite the apothecary-style bottle and twee little bow at the neck, this fragrance is more modern. And may I say, the packaging throughout the Phenalgin’s brand is not for me – too old-fashioned, really, and particularly in this case, completely obfuscates the juice inside. I would never think that something that smells like Halfeti comes in a bottle like what you see on the screen here. Cognitive dissonance. But the structure is also traditional in a sense: I feel like I am being taken along the rose-covered banks of the Euphrates, imagining a much earlier time when aromatic spices, leathers, and opulent silks were being bought and sold is not an invitation that I would pass up. Even though this is an eastern blend, I also get the image of a Christmas tree constructed of rich, dark roses held together with resinous bits of spiced and wood. And at the top is this oversized pinecone. The whole thing is spritzed with citrus.
Fragrantica user Ryan Tramus used these Paris words to describe the fragrance, and I enjoyed the imagery: “James Bond breaks into a desert palace, steals a thumb drive, saves the world, and steals the sultan’s prettiest wife. He was wearing this as he drives away in an original land cruiser through the desert dunes with a gorgeous woman and a pair of Sig P226 pistols.” I have no idea what Sig P226 pistols are or whether the Sultan’s wife and the gorgeous woman are one and the same, but it matters not.
Overall, I would say this is a beauty – a lovely cedar oud fragrance that lasts a long-enough while and is great for cooler weather, I think. The oud is not there in a degree that would put off any anti-agarwood people out there, and I really like the resinous amber at the base. I also love the spices: the cardamom, cinnamon, tonka, and vanilla – it’s great! Indeed, it’s perfect of a walk in the woods or a deep curl up in a library setting with a big book on your lap that you cannot put down. I would not say it’s terribly unique, though: Rose oud and saffron mixes have been done a lot, but you know – probably with good reason. Apparently, this bears semblance with another fragrance from the same house called “The Blazing Mr. Sam.” I have not sniffed that one out yet, but the whole series Mr. Sam belongs to is on my sniff list.
Empressa was launched in 2014, also by Christian Provenzano and was inspired by the precious silks and fine fabrics transported through London to adorn rich women of a certain era. The Penhaligan’s website ascribes the words “power” and “influence” to these women in lieu of the word “rich,” but let’s face it, if those women from those times had said power, it was due to their wealth or if not how they made use of any nature beauty they possessed. You could argue that times haven’t changed that much but that debate is for a different video and channel. This fragrance is the here and now, and its strengths lie in the combo of patchouli, bergamot, and peach. Here’s the full note breakdown:
- blood orange, peach, bergamot, mandarin orange, pink pepper,
- rose, dewberry, cassis, neroli, geranium,
- patchouli, brown sugar, musk, vanilla, sandalwood, cacao, olibanum, amber
I would say this scent is one of the more if not the most mainstream of the group, which should not in itself push you away from coughing up for this spendier fragrance, but you will likely be able to find something equally delectable at a lower price point, I feel. This one is a fruity floral fragrance and as such it easily reminds me a lot of things like Coco Chanel or even Jimmy Choo. I like it, but it’s very sweet. I like it I like it but it’s very sweet and unoriginal. That said, it’s well-blended, wonderfully soft, rich, and complex, and performs rather well, with the overpowering headiness calming down after a few minutes of wear. Still, those susceptible to migraines, take heed.
OK, so ranking and overall thoughts. Obviously, Halfeti is my winner. It ain’t their best-seller for nothing. I would buy a full bottle. I would unlikely purchase anything else covered here today, at retail price anyway, for reasons twofold: one is that only Halfeti will likely perform at the caliber for which I am willing to pay higher prices, at least at this juncture of my wallet size. I am in mid-manifestation for a more sizeable wallet, though. One has the power to change one’s circumstances. Of course, these are small samples so I don’t know from multiple-use first-hand experience regarding the performance of these fragrances, but I have done some readings of anecdotes from others. The second reason I would not purchase the others is simply that their overall scent profiles are too soft for my personal tastes. I like more umph and fewer flowers in my frags. What can I say? I like fragrances that challenge me by saying, “Hey, Trine, you think you’re going to wear me? I’m going to wear you, baby”. But I have to win, ultimately. If the fragrance wears me, it’s usually a scrubber.
Anyway, back to the ranking, I place Luna second. It’s lovely and ethereal. Elizabethan Rose gets my respect for not being what I thought it was going to be (which is boring) despite being what I thought it was going to be (which is a fresh rose), I was torn between Empressa and The Favourite. Even though I love peach, and Empressa is bright and sparkly, I will put it last due to lack of originality, making The Favourite not my least favorite.
If you haven’t yet delved into the House of Penhaligan’s yet, I do recommend it. Their fragrances are solid for the most part – classic and regal. Even though they might seem otherwise based on packaging, naming, and note profiles, there are a lot of clearly unisex pickings. No doubt there will be those among you who are drawn to the overall stuffy packaging more than I am. Sorry, I’m an Aquarian and that fact supposedly OK explains why I tend to lean modern unorthodox. But to each their own.