A while ago, I purchased the Penhaligon’s ‘Scent Library’.
It’s a set of ten samples from the Penhaligon’s catalogue, spanning masculine, feminine and unisex fragrances.
Penhaligon’s is a perfumery established by its namesake William Penhaligon in the 1800s, and has long held a Royal Warrant for its fragrances.
The brand’s fragrance Sartorial is a personal favourite of mine, so I was keen to discover more of the range.
I purchased the set with the intention of exploring it together with my partner, and though we took our time with it (mainly because I have way too many other fragrances to sample), we’ve eventually made our way through all of them.
We found that the catalogue had more masculine-leaning scents than feminine ones, but there was ample variety across the ten vials. We were treated to an olfactory buffet that was at times very pleasing, at times boring, occasionally inspired an unhappy surprise (like any buffet when you get adventurous and decide to try that weirdly shaped seafood that happens to taste incredibly strange) and sometimes inspired wonder.
Overall, it was a fun experience for both of us.
The presentation was lovely, as one would expect from a distinguished historical perfumery.
The set comes in a pressed metal tin with flip-lid.
Inside, the vials are well packed and are accompanied by a fold-out paper guide which lists all of the scents and describes their characters.
We found this useful in charting which ones we wanted to try on a given occasion.
Being small samples, they’re all splash bottles rather than atomisers.
My partner Rach prefers only feminine scents, finding even most unisex scents to be too masculine.
This means that I wore more of the samples, though I did convince her to try something different with some of these.
A floriental fragrance with a very citrusy opening, a notably floral heart and a sweet oriental base.
Rach wore this one first. She wasn’t particularly enamoured with it, as she isn’t a fan of citrusy notes in fragrances. I liked it on her though. It’s a classy scent. It had moderate projection and fairly moderate performance on her. Five to six hours.
Despite being billed as a women’s fragrance, I thought this one was more of a unisex scent and tried it on myself. I quite liked it. It was soft, but not so soft as to scream feminine. It has a Serge Lutens vibe, without the complexity.
Unfortunately, my skin devoured it.
Billed as a unisex fragrance, Luna is one of the set that Rach felt was too masculine for her. The note pyramid is right up my alley, however. With citrusy top notes, a heart of rose and jasmine, rounded out with a base including birch and smooth patchouli, I quite like how this one smells. I didn’t get much in the way of projection from it. The longevity was five to six hours.
Rach did take to this one, as it’s quite a soft rose which is right up her alley. It was her pick of the bunch, as the soft rosy character is her favourite scent profile. The character of this one was quite modern, I thought. This scent had good projection and a decent performance of around six hours on her. I didn’t try wearing it, given its overt softness. While I like to wear rose scents myself, I prefer those backed by oud rather than a soapy and clean spine.
A classic fougere fragrance. Blenheim Bouquet was first launched all the way back in 1902, and is one of the oldest recipes still in production. Given that this one was placed with several of the feminine fragrances, Rach tried this one first and immediately regretted it. She considers fougeres to be very masculine, and the citrusiness is a dislike of hers.
After that, I decided to try wearing it. While I respect the classic olfactory aesthetic of it, I don’t find myself particularly excited by this scent. The blend was well executed, the projection was average and the longevity was around three hours.
The Coveted Duchess Rose:
This one was Rach’s second favourite, and the character of it was reminiscent of Elisabethan Rose but less complex.
It’s quite a basic scent, in that regard, and it didn’t show the capability for olfactory excitement that Elisabethan Rose has. Hence it being Rach’s second in line. The performance on her was quite good, and the projection was moderate. A simple scent capable of being worn on elegant occasions.
The Tragedy of Lord George:
Lord George struck me as the most unique scent of the lot. The prominent brandy note in the opening caught me by surprise when I first opened the vial, and I had one of those ‘wow, what is this?’ moments.
I quite enjoyed wearing it, with its heart notes of vetiver and sandalwood (cited simply as shaving soap) following up. The base note was a fairly bland tonka bean. Performance-wise, I got around six hours and the projection was pretty restrained. I liked the rustic character of the scent, and I was quite surprised to see that this one was an Alberto Morillas creation, given that his usual perfume DNA is closer to his better known designer works like Acqua di Gio.
Another classically inspired gentlemen’s scent, this one was far more interesting to the olfactory nerve than the other Penhaligon’s offerings of classic character. Even though its longevity is fleeting, the blend is exceptionally well executed and it’s a very fine example of a chypre fragrance. The projection is good for a short time, but tapers sharply with the longevity. I expect this of a classic scent, and I don’t fault it for that.
Quercus was one of the highlights of the discovery set for me.
The final of the classic scents in this discovery set, Juniper Sling smells very much like gin, as was the intention. I like the novelty of it, but I don’t like the smell of gin after a while of constant exposure. The performance of this one is also fleeting, but the projection is fairly good while the scent lasts, given the sharp bite of the scent’s alcoholic character. I got Rach to try wearing this one as well, but neither of us were particularly enamoured with it.
This fragrance was a strange standout in the set. Why?
Most of the Penhaligon’s stuff has a rustic vibe to it, which fits well with the rustically styled bottles. Endymion, however, has the olfactory character of one of the faceless ultra-modern male designer scents. Sweet, linear, high performance.
Synthetic, good projection, but void of individuality. It doesn’t smell bad – modern masculine designer scents rarely do – but it doesn’t fit the Penhaligon’s bill for me. I wouldn’t want to pay niche prices for a scent with a somewhat generic mass-appeal character.
I’d heard a lot of good things about Halfeti before trying it. It’s one of Penhaligon’s most talked about fragrances. Leather and spice are the descriptors most often used. Unfortunately, the spice was overwhelming for me, and Rach hated it on me too. This was the only scrubber of the whole set for us.
None of these scents was deemed full bottle worthy by either of us.
Is that a bad thing? No.
Why? Two things.
Firstly, $60AUD for 10 different samples is fine value, especially for niche scents. Secondly, we got to have a good time treating our noses to different scents, and trying new things together. I’d chalk that up as a worthwhile investment.