Penhaligon’s has been around for over 140 years but it’s only recently that the perfume house has become popular. It was founded in the late 1860s by William Henry Penhaligon who quickly rose to become a barber and perfumer to Queen Victoria’s royal court. During the war their establishments were destroyed and the company lay dormant until in 1975 when designer Sheila Pickles and Italian film director Franco Zeffirelli revived the brand. In the last two years I have seen this house’s steady rise while quietly establishing itself in the former British colony of Singapore. They offer a fragrance profiling service and I went to experience it first hand at their newly opened boutique at The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands. This is where my journey of finding a fragrance begins.
It’s hard not to be impressed upon arriving at the boutique. I entered through a tall door and found myself in this visually decadent room of glass and wood lavishly highlighted in royal purple and a creamy avocado green. There are two walls, one for men and another for women, adorned with their signature fragrances. Penhaligon’s proudly displays their two long-standing Royal Warrants above the counter. The first one was granted in 1956 by HRH The Duke of Edinburgh and the second one granted in 1988 by HRH The Prince of Wales.
I scheduled an appointment with Mike Ng prior to my visit and looked for him at the boutique. He would be the one to help me find a fragrance that speaks to me. Before we began sampling fragrances he asked me a question: “What is your relationship with fragrance? There is no right or wrong answer.” It’s not a question one is often asked and I couldn’t immediately answer. When I was able to gather my thoughts I told him that I like my fragrance to reflect my mood and should go in hand with what I was wearing. Mike then asked me to take a sip of water. Penhaligon’s uses water to clear the nasal passages prior to smelling because it is neutral unlike the commonly used coffee beans. Coffee beans have a scent of their own and you wouldn’t want it to influence choosing a fragrance.
After taking a sip of water Mike tells me he would start off with a fragrance that sits on a neutral ground. He picks up Quercus from the table, sprays it on fragrance paper and hands it to me. I take a whiff and agree that it is a fragrance I don’t love nor hate. I sample more fragrances such as Blenheim Bouquet, Opus 1870, and Douro with Mike explaining each one in detail. Essentially, the fragrance profiling service is about trying different fragrances to find out what notes you like and don’t like while being guided by someone experienced and familiar with the scents. At the end of the exercise you should end up with a fragrance that you like and works well with your body’s chemistry.
While I was sampling fragrances Mike talked about the intricacies of perfumery. Penhaligon’s uses high quality ingredients but it does not end there. They have to make sure that a fragrance is stable in that it should smell the same over a long period of time. He also explained that buying a eau de toilette (EDT) vs eau de parfum (EDP) is not about buying a higher concentration but rather one of the tools a perfumer uses to control how a fragrance will smell over time.
Mike also taught me the proper way to apply a fragrance. For men a fragrance should be used liberally by spraying starting from one arm, across the chest then to the other arm. Men produce more body heat than women so we should take advantage of this and not only spray on our pulse points. The heat generated by the body will allow the fragrance to radiate through our clothing.
In the end it came down to choosing between two scents: Endymion and Esprit Du Roi. Each one was sprayed on an arm and I waited for a few moments for the fragrance to settle. I found Esprit Du Roi’s citrus-y scent too strong but at home with Endymion’s richness. But before I made my final decision Mike gave me one more fragrance to sample: Sartorial. This scent is inspired by the workshops of Saville Row in London and naturally I expected that I would like it but didn’t. I did not like the metallic aspect of the scent. So with my head set on Endymion, Mike gives me a background of the scent. Below is the official description from Penhaligon’s:
Created in 2003, Endymion is a sensual fusion of citrus, spices and leather. It opens with a burst of sweetened mandarin wrapped gently in sage and lavender, then settles and smoothes gently into a dark coffee heart. As it warms up, mysterious resins rise up with hints of creamy nutmeg, cardamom and the softest leather. Spicy and fresh, it is a fragrance of contrasts, a seductive night time fragrance.
Endymion was a mortal who was so loved by the Goddess of the Moon that she put him to sleep forever so she alone could visit him every night.
If you are in Singapore (or any part of the world that has a Penhaligon’s boutique) book an appointment to experience this one of a kind service. I thoroughly enjoyed trying the different fragrances Penhaligon’s had to offer and I’m sure you will too.