Penhaligon’s Sartorial Fragrance Review

Is this the quintessential gentleman’s fragrance?

In the first fragrance review that I ever posted – Tom Ford’s Tobacco Vanille – I mentioned a hierarchy of three fragrances that inspired images of London gentry, from subtle to strong. That niche held TV to be in the middle, with Ford’s Tobacco Oud on the extreme side.
On the subtle side was Penhaligon’s Sartorial.

Sartorial is an eau de toilette with a fougere character, created by Bertrand Duchaufour, a perfumer with a distinguished portfolio. Notches on Duchaufour’s belt include works for houses such as Acqua di Parma, Amouage, L’Artisan Parfumeur and many others; his catalogue numbers over 200 entries.

Initial Thoughts

Sartorial is one of those lighter fragrances that fills the room and causes an involuntary ahhhh to escape your lungs when you first smell it. It’s a delight that gives me a mental image of being a sharply dressed London gentleman visiting a botanical garden, with a hint of humidity keeping the plants in ideal conditions.
A mixture of that, a tailoring house and a freshly upholstered leather seat at an upscale lunch club.
It’s very much an image of refinement, housed in a bottle.

The design of the bottle reflects this, too. It has an ornate bearing to it, and is dressed with a bow tie. Penhaligon’s knew exactly the image they wanted to portray with the packaging and the contents of this fragrance, and the packaging side is well executed.
Let’s move on to the olfactory side, to see how well the image comes across to the nose.

The Olfactory Notes

Freshly applied, Sartorial is a light, floral and spicy perfume. It could be characterised as a bit of a dandy’s fragrance, and gives off a character of opulence and refinement.
Ozonic notes contribute the slightly humidified botanical garden effect I mentioned earlier, combining with violet leaf and a host of spices for a sharp – but restrainedly so – opening. I detect cardamom, ginger and black pepper, while the notes list neroli in the mix also.
Something fascinating and immediately apparent in this fragrance is a steam accord. This accord doesn’t just smell like steam, but particularly the steam from a pressing iron like you might find in a tailor’s shop. This does wonders for the London image given its sartorial heritage, and the accord stays present long into the drydown and heart.

The heart is a combination of floral, leather and a hint of beeswax sweetness. Among the flowers are cyclamen and linden blossom, though my nose just characterises both as a general floral since I’ve never smelled either flower separately.
Lavender is also notably present, and works well with the opening spices and the floral counterparts in the heart, imbuing the leather note with the character of the freshly upholstered lunch club chair which I mentioned earlier.

In the base notes, there’s a notable aged wood accord which further contributes to the lunch club chair effect. Also present are spices and woods, with the note list citing gurgum wood, myrrh, cedar, tonka bean, oakmoss and honey.
My nose only distinguishes the myrrh, cedar, tonka and oakmoss from the blend. This is because my nose isn’t that well trained yet, but regardless it’s a lovely blend. The fragrance is quite subtle by the time it has dried down to the base notes.


Longevity: .6/1

I get decent longevity from this scent, given it’s a light and airy eau de toilette, I can’t reasonably expect to wear it all day. I’m fine with that, though, and the base notes of Sartorial provide a great platform on which to layer other fragrances for the evening.

Projection: .8/1

I get surprisingly good projection from Sartorial. It projects quite strongly in the beginning and leaves a solid trail of sillage before tapering off later in the drydown. I was pleasantly surprised by this.

Blend Quality: 1/1

The blend of Sartorial is utterly delightful. I simply cannot fault it.

Presentation: 1/1

I’m also a sucker for the way Sartorial is presented. I think it’s wonderfully presented and cannot fault this aspect either.

Personal Smell Score: 1/1

Sartorial was a case of love at first whiff for me.

Total score: 4.6/5

What Would I Wear This With?

The hint’s in the name here, this is something to wear when dressed up. A suit isn’t a must, but tailored clothing is.
Have fun with it; smart wool jacket and trousers, shirt, tie (or not), turtleneck sweater, anything that might have been characterised as city wear in the last hundred years.

It’s good for all seasons too, so don’t worry about trying to match it with your fabrics or colour story.

I wouldn’t wear this with traditionally country styled items like tweed, corduroy, denim and so on. That’s what Tobacco Vanille and Tobacco Oud are for.

Concluding Thoughts

I think this fragrance belongs in the arsenal of any man (or woman) in tailored clothes.
The composition and character are timeless and elegant, much like a well-tailored suit.
You don’t have to be a wearer of tailoring to wear this, though.
It’s an excellent composition, guaranteed to lend a sense of olfactory elegance to anyone who wears it.

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With content features ranging from appearances on popular menswear hubs (The Rake, StyleForum, Put This On) to French perfume newsletters and university course readings, Sam is a writer, designer and enthusiast in the fields of menswear and fragrance.

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