Discovering your perfect perfume, the one that feels just right for you, can be a surprisingly difficult task.
Overcrowded beauty halls filled with sales staff brandishing scent bottles like weapons are not conducive to fragrant contemplation. In some stores, cupboards have to be unlocked to release trial bottles, which all feels a little uncomfortable if you want to take your time before you commit.
There are some great shops out there, if you know where to look. Always here to help, we’re starting a regular How To Buy feature, which will highlight some the best stores we know, and we’re starting with Penhaligon’s.
Who: Penhaligon’s London, a British fragrance house whose first fragrance, Hammam Bouquet, was created by William Penhaligon in 1872. The brand has a fascinating heritage – it has provided fragrance for Maharajahs, Dukes, Lords and Princes through out its 140 year history. It is not, however, a brand that sits on its heritage laurels. The introduction of contemporary fragrance talents such as Olivier Cresp, has ensured the brand’s new fragrances are relevant to a modern consumer. Its latest, Equinox Bloom, is a truly delightful, softly sweet floral created -we suspect – with an eye on the next generation of young perfume fans.
What: we tried the fragrance profiling service, which took place for us in the quiet lounge space above the Burlington Arcade store in London. The service offers a one-to-one, hour long service where you are matched to your perfect Penhaligon’s fragrance. Layering suggestions are also made for a more personalised fragrance mix. The service is offered in most Penhaligon’s stores, but booking is essential.
Fear Factor: Perfume stores can be intimidating places, sometimes just crossing the threshold of a small shop can be off-putting. For this jewel-box sized Penhaligon’s store, if you were just popping in to browse it could be a little intimidating, just because the space is small and there’s no where to hide. But since we had an appointment for the profiling service, we felt very comfortable walking through the door.
Service With A Smile? Staff were cheerful and helpful, we felt at ease immediately. Our perfume profiler was Katy, who was friendly and exceptionally knowledgeable on each of the Penhaligon’s fragrances. She matched us expertly with two or three that we loved from the 40 strong fragrance range and remained helpful and patient, telling us the ingredients and background on each of the scents we tried, filling us in on the brand’s considerable history as we sipped tea and sniffed. We felt in in good hands. The staff did know we were going to be writing about it, so perhaps they were on their best behaviour, but they felt genuine and sincere.
How It Works: having booked your appointment, you are allotted an hour for your profiling session, you may not need this long, but 45 mins is average. You start by being asked a few trigger questions to learn about your current likes and dislikes, then your host will start picking out fragrances for you to sniff on tester strips. All in the charmingly comfortable lounge space, which -in the Burlington Arcade store at least- was quietly removed from the hustle and bustle of the shop floor. We loved everything we sniffed, which sounds confusing, but with Katy’s help, we narrowed down to around four that we liked enough to try on our skin,
Surprisingly, your nose remains alert. We sniffed around 15 fragrances with ease, but we’re enthusiasts! You may not feel the need to smell so many. When things did get overwhelming, we just sniffed a patch of our own skin -the crook of an unperfumed elbow is perfect- to recalibrate our noses. Once you’re down to four and under, you need to let the fragrance develop on you, but there’s no rushing, you are encouraged to take your time, with tea and coffee, presented in charming Penhaligon’s crockery, on hand to keep your energy up.
We found it very easy to select, but if you don’t, and many people take a while to decide, then there are take- away samples for you to trial at home.
Cost: It’s free, with no obligation to buy and you are sent away with fragrance samples to ‘wear-trial’. Should you find your perfect perfume, the bottles start at £67 – £80 for 50ml and £88 – £150 for 100ml. But we loved the 7ml travel atomisers of any scent for £18, which seemed the perfect way to trial a good quantity of your new scent without breaking the bank.
For those a long way from a store, the brand does a Scent Library discovery box for £18.00, of its ten most popular smells, you could make yourself a cup of tea and do-it-yourself at home.
What You Need To Know: Penhaligon’s has a terrific heritage and has built up a portfolio of beautiful, classy scents that suit men and women, The brand even has a royal warrant.
Katy recommends that you arrive with clean skin and should reschedule if you have a cold. Avoid using menthol chewing gum before you arrive too as this knocks your taste and smell receptors off balance.
As well as fragrance, the brand has recently introduced an excellent mens grooming range, which has been well received and we are big fans of the delightful gift fragrance boxes, four delightfully small bottles of fragrance, which make a great introduction to the perfume, as well as an interesting gift
Our Edit: We fell hard for the richly oriental Halfeti, named after the Turkish village where the black roses used in the scent, are grown. It is a delicious swirl of rose, saffron, warmly uplifting spices and rich woods.
But we also loved Cornubia (the old name for Cornwall) with its softly mandarin opening, moving through to the summery florals of jasmine and freesia and almost buttery vanilla finish. What lovelier way to scent a summer holiday in the South of England than with this charmer?
For further information, check out the Penhaligon’s website here