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8 best Penhaligon’s fragrances: From opulent, smoky scents to fruity florals

The historic perfumery channels English eccentricity with fragrant flair

Viola Levy
Friday 15 April 2022 08:00

Working with some of the finest “noses” in the industry, Penhaligon’s often draws on its unique heritage with a dose of quirky, tongue-in-cheek British charm, which has won the brand fragrant fans worldwide.

Founded in the late 1800s, Penhaligon’s began life as a barbershop – presided over by William Penhaligon, whose first fragrance Hammam Bouquet was inspired by the Turkish Hammam baths where he was barber in residence.

More perfumes followed, including fragrant classics such as Blenheim Bouquet, Bluebell and English Fern which saw Penhaligon’s become one of the UK’s foremost fragrance houses, with boutiques dotted all over the country as well as major international cities.

In the last decade the brand has undergone somewhat of a renaissance, shaking off its “olde-worlde” image thanks to some clever marketing and enlisting some of the finest “noses” in the industry (such as Bertrand Duchaufour and Alberto Morillas) to create some unique, charismatic, and not to mention seriously addictive, blends.

You can go into its boutiques for a “fragrance profiling” where one of the team members will match-make you with a signature scent. But where’s the fun in being limited to just one? Recognisable by its apothecary-style bottles, accessorised with a miniature “bow tie” around the neck, Penhaligon’s is British perfumery at its best. Below are eight scents worth discovering…

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How we tested

We tested how each scent warmed up on our skin, noting the originality of the bouquet (did it smell like every other perfume on the market?). We also sniffed our way through Penhaligon’s Scent Library which showcases their greatest hits, from the lighter, fresher numbers, through to the more opulent smoky scents, to see which ones really proved their fragrant mettle.

The best Penhaligon’s fragrances for 2022:

Penhaligon’s juniper sling, 100ml

Best: Overall

Rating: 10/10

Our tester’s first encounter with this particular fragrance was at a launch party that was being held at an NCP carpark and decked out as an illegal speakeasy. It sounds odd, but given that this perfume is modelled on our British love of gin, it was actually very fitting.

As fresh and uplifting as a gin and tonic, this scent practically jumps out of the bottle doing the Charleston. Its black pepper notes provide a sharp “alcoholic” bite, and has fresh juniper berries and orange which evaporate to reveal a warm base of cinnamon, sugar and cherry. If the scent itself wasn’t inebriating enough, The Great Gatsby-style box and bottle are equally stunning.

Penhaligon’s luna, 100ml

Best: For something glamorous yet unusual

Rating: 9/10

Luna is a fitting name for this sparkly and ethereal fragrance. It has shimmering citrus top notes that pack a zesty punch but it isn’t all sweetness and light – rich jasmine and mossy green notes of fir balsam give this concoction some added bite and a character all of its own. We’d say it’s the feminine counterpart to the seriously sexy Endymion (£115, Penhaligons.com), and it certainly holds its own, being a sexy scent, but not in the obvious way.

It emits a subtle allure that creeps up on you, which in our mind makes it the perfume equivalent of artist Aubrey Beardsley’s otherworldly pen and ink illustrations, of mysterious women with black Medusa-like hair and magnificent billowing gowns. Basically, it’s dazzling enough to wear for a summer’s evening, but also warm enough to cosy up with on a winter afternoon.

Penhaligon’s the world according to Arthur, 75ml

Best: For fans of rich, smoky scents

Rating: 7/10

The latest instalment of Penhaligon’s portraits series (inspired by the foppish characters that appear in Sunday night period dramas), Arthur is somewhat of a black sheep. This spicy, smoky blend is a smooth operator, with an eye-catching red bottle crowned with a dragon’s head to boot. While it says the main note is incense, this isn’t the “churchy” kind of scent you might imagine – instead it’s much more subtle, and artfully blended with warm sage, which is mellowed by sweet notes of tonka bean (a note very similar to vanilla) to give it soul and staying power.

Penhaligon’s the favourite, 30ml

Best: For aspiring ladies of the manor

Rating: 8/10

This has a “vintage makeup bag” quality to it thanks to the powdery iris notes, with added richness of musk and sandalwood giving it some grown up sophistication. Its bottle is adorned with a pink velvet bow and we think it is a sugary sweet olfactory treat, the kind Lady Penelope would wear with her pink twinset and pearls. And it dries down on the skin to a gentle whisper.

It has a bit of a sensual side due to the musks (which have a “skin like” quality), calling to mind Vanessa Kirby as Princess Margaret in The Crown, swanning around in Dior couture accessorised with a glass of whiskey and a sneer. This would make an ideal wedding scent too, especially for any traditional bride wanting to have her “princess for a day” moment. (And why not?)

Penhaligon’s Endymion, 100ml

Best: For a seductive men’s scent

Rating: 9/10

Although it’s been established that “pheromonic fragrance/The Lynx Effect” is little more than marketing spiel, when it comes to scents designed to woo the ladies, this smoky seductive concoction has been a firm favourite with our tester for over a decade. Emerging out the bottle with a zesty hit of bergamot, it opens up like a peacock’s plumage with woods, smoke and leathery undertones.

The name itself comes from Greek mythology, Endymion being the extremely handsome son of Zeus whose dashing features entranced the Goddess of the Moon – to the extent that she put him into a deep sleep so that only she could gaze upon him. While this scent might not have that exact effect, its gentle allure becomes all the more apparent when encountered on a shirt collar. Classic and smart – yet incredibly sexy – if you’re looking for a new go-to gent’s scent, this really ticks all the boxes.

Penhaligon’s Halfeti, 100ml

Best: For smelling “expensive”

Rating: 9/10

One of Penhaligon’s best-sellers, Halfeti is the definition of “intoxicating”. It forms part of Penhaligon’s trade routes collection, inspired by the rare and exotic goods that were traded on the docks of London’s East End back in the early 19th century.

Unlike many Penhailgon’s scents which are lighter colognes, this is an eau de parfum, packing a serious punch and staying power. The bouquet centres on the Turkish rose – an extremely intense and rare bloom that grows on the banks of the Euphrates river – which is given added sparkle with grapefruit and bergamot, before softening down to a rich base of leather, vanilla and sandalwood.

Halfeti is a small Turkish village where the British Levant Company would purchase exotic florals, leathers and spices and bring them back to England for well-bred Victorian society folk to impress their friends with. If you want a scent guaranteed to bewitch loved ones and passers-by, this is the perfume for you. Or, if you’re looking to save a few pennies, the new hair perfume (£40, Penhaligons.com) version is equally covetable.

Penhaligon’s empressa, 100ml

Best: For lovers of sartorial elegance

Rating: 8/10

Another member of the Trade Routes Collection, as the name would suggest, this is a fragrance for ladies who enjoy the finer things in life – think Queen Charlotte and her magnificent frocks in Bridgerton and you’re halfway there. Recently launched as a dry body oil (£60, Selfridges.com), its fruity-floral bouquet stars dazzling Damascan rose and geranium, underscored with sharp blood orange and pepper – settling down to a rich, woody base of patchouli, frankincense and sandalwood.

Empressa is a nod to the rich silk materials brought back from the Far East at the turn of the 19th century. Enveloping but not overpowering, this is like a luxurious fabric you’ll want to wrap yourself up in.

Penhaligon’s Blenheim bouquet, 100ml

Best: For a light and fresh gents’ scent

Rating: 9/10

One of Penhaligon’s oldest and best-loved scents, this was concocted in 1902 for the 9th Duke of Marlborough and has stood the test of time – thanks to its timeless blend of lemon and lavender, set against a warm backdrop of musks and black pepper. It’s a gent’s scent without that typical “after-shave” accord, with a fresh and elegant character that lasts throughout the day. We think it will be perfect for chaps making their first forays into fragrance, or anyone fond of a masculine citrus scent.

The verdict: Penhaligon’s scents

While the equally dapper Endymion and Blenheim Bouquet were strong contenders, we remain bedazzled by the joy and glamour – not to mention sheer originality – of Juniper Sling. A gender-neutral scent that’s bound to please most palettes, the sharp black pepper notes remind us of kicking back with a G&T at the end of a long day, while the pretty juniper berry accord is enough to put us in the party mood. If there was a perfume to mark this new century’s “Roaring Twenties” this one might just be it.

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We’ve also sniffed out the best Tom Ford scents, from black orchid to rose prick and more

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