Monday, October 26, 2020

Penhaligon's The Favourite: fragrance review

The Favourite is the latest fragrance by British brand Penhaligon's and the story behind it is inspiring. It involves as its protagonist Sarah Churchill, the Duchess of Marlborough (who had an intriguing story), and allegedly the favourite of Queen Anne's in 18th century England. They were formidable women, full of inner strength and conflicting passions, which history does not fully gives credit for. The fragrance is not entirely matching to this background, being more delicate and traditionally pretty than anticipated, though that's not necessarily a problem for those intending to wear it. 

An English courtier, Sarah rose to be one of the most influential women of her time through her close friendship with Anne, Queen of Great Britain. Sarah's friendship and were widely known, and leading public figures often turned their attentions to her, hoping for favor from Anne. By the time Anne became Queen, Sarah’s knowledge of government and intimacy with the queen had made her a powerful friend and a dangerous enemy. She was also married to the general John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough, hence her title, so she was accommodated in powerful relations from all sides, one could claim.

photo by Elena Vosnaki

Perhaps the big velours bow in light, sugared almond pink on the bottle is best translating this effect. It's a cloud of fragrance surrounding you with prettiness, light yet persistent, like a ray of sunshine on a warm morning. Innocuous yet pleasant. 

The formula by perfumer Alienor Massenet lies on a fruity floral chord, with an appealing and sunny aspect of what comes off to me as litchi at first. It's beautifully rendered, never too sweet, never air-headed, on the contrary tender and soft and leading to a beautiful garland of violets. These violets walk hand in hand with the rose in the heart; their temperament is balanced and they do not lean either candy-ish, nor vegetal, like violets swathed in their foliage which hides their character into verdancy. The violet-rose combination in The Favourite by Penhaligon's feels like the softest swan down puff for powdering your nose, which is apparently what lots of the ladies and gentlemen of the era were doing. Of course analytical chemistry is what we have to thank for the perceived association of violet molecules, iononesbeing considered powdery and smelling cosmetic-like in the last 120 years. But it's a small historical detail that would distract from the ethereal character of The Favourite. The copious musk and mimosa/benzaldehyde components, that bring forth an intimate underground for the floral fruity core, are the finishing trail which reveals it was not all fun and games at the royal court. 

Read more on the Perfume Shrine:

Ionones and the Notes of Violets

Penhaligon's Newest Eye and Nose Candy

Penhaligon's perfumebox Elena Vosnaki photo
photo by Elena Vosnaki

 It was inescapable. The new goodies from Penhaligon's have trickled their way to my lap and I'm slowly savouring their delights which I was seeking to try out. 

Babylon (an oriental--spicy-woody, exclusive to Harrods till January 2021), Mr.Penhaligon's (a man's fougere to be launched soon) and The Favourite (a delicate lightly powdery floral, on which I am posting a review next) are included in this delectable box of high aesthetics. 

Penhaligon's perfumebox ElenaVosnaki photo
photo by Elena Vosnaki

The above box of wonders is part of the British firm's celebration of the 150th anniversary of the brand's continuous existence. Yes, it did withhold all those years, in fact I know of a person (older than me, obviously) who was working on their London shop in the 1970s filling the cute bottles. 

"One mustn’t stand in the way of a well-needed celebration, and Penhaligon’s have just the thing! 2020 sees the sesquicentennial of our creation, and you don’t reach your 150th birthday without picking up a story or two. Just ask our founder, William Penhaligon. There was the time he trimmed the Shah of Persia’s beard. Not to mention all those Society scandals that set tongues wagging in the Turkish baths of Mayfair...150 years of dreams, magical places, distinctive characters, and the world’s most extraordinarily unique scents. Each of our fragrances tells a story, too."

It's a great story, I'll give you that, and what's more, in perfumery, it's quite true too, which is not a given with many other brands who invent their past. Cheers for another 150 years ahead, then. 

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

By Kilian Moonlight in Heaven: short fragrance review

Kilian's Moonlight in Heaven is a fragrance I had my eye on for at least a year, nay, more! I took the opportunity to try it out in store with an American colleague, and we both oohed and aahed over its tropical floral glory which spelled summer writ large and in Technicolor. 

pic via

I'm not usually the tropical kind of gal, but there's something in this Calice Beckercreation which smells like frangipani nectar, like the evening air is moist, and warm, and engulfing you in an embrace of pure lust. There's a touch of sweet coconut in the top note, but it soon gives way to that fruity and nectarous quality of the tropical garlands that exude warmth and come hither. 

I kinda see why it's encased in the single blue bottle in a line of black bottles!

Related reading on PerfumeShrine: 

Friday, July 10, 2020

Guerlain Apres L'Ondee: fragrance review

What's in a name? What's in a material? Shakespeare's immortal line has a lot to account for. Lots of scents with heliotrope pose as "almond" or "marzipan" or "powder with tonka". These are all scents with a kinship that runs deeper than initially thought of. The synthesized material that is dosed into compositions that take heliotrope as a starting point is quite strong and can be an overwhelming molecule to work with if one isn't careful and discreet. One of the first major fragrances to make judicious use of it, in a light enough composition, so as to wear it inconspicuously, was Après l'Ondée by Guerlain, "after the spring shower" as the name implies.  

"Ça se porte léger" (this wears lightly) is the motto behind the concept of these Guerlain creations that aim to offer gouaches rather than oil paintings. It's more akin to the pale, hazy colorations on a Monet sky than the almost fauve brushwork and vivid color palette on a Van Gogh, to bring an art analogue. If one were to look for a fauve heliotrope, one would rather turn to Cacharel's Loulou.

Zaira Alfaro on Flickr via

I personally find Après l'Ondée a rather quiet fragrance indeed, almost timid, with a sweetish air that is not immediately thought of as feminine (quite different than the airs that current feminines exhibit!), with lots of heliotropin to stand for cassie, which is the predominant element. Some heliotrope scents also recall cherry pie, or lilac and powder, but not Après l'Ondée. Even the almond is not particularly identified as almond, it's a haze of lightly warmed, blurred, hazy notes, a cloud of a distant scent.

The violets, like you might have heard, are quite fleeting in this Guerlain perfume, especially in more recent incarnations which are warmer and cuddlier than the older ones, notably the extrait de parfum in the Louis XV style bottle. The anisic note on the top note is also a brilliant addition (created through the use of benzylaldehyde, it would be recreated more forcibly in L'heure Bleue some years later), since it brings a chill cooling off the first spray and balances the warmer, almond paste flavor of the heliotrope in the heart.

Après l'Ondée is also rather less known than L'Heure Bleue, so even Guerlain wearers on the street might not identify it right off, which is always a good thing in my books; it would also obliterate your qualms about it being perceived as solely feminine.
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