Tag Archives: Penhaligons












Where many neroli and orange blossom perfumes can tend to be sharp, regal, pungent – rather imposing and a touch over-florid, Lorenzo Villoresi’s delicate, Florentine interpretation is more about love, early summer, and introspection: a tender and lovably enveloping scent that lingers, gentle and close to the skin, with a soulfully comforting drydown. An image comes, at this stage of the Dilmun, of falling asleep in a close friend’s guest room, early evening, as the sun is setting.




































On first spray though, Dilmun is more like an orchard of orange trees in blossom.


















You are at a picnic nearby, the scent hanging in the air with the green of the trees. Citrus notes and laurel leaves, as well as hints of other flower essences such as jasmine and rose, form a wreath of breathful but reticent floralia around which a curious accord, (elemi, cedarwood, opoponax) entwines the orange blossom petals subtlely but quite beautifully. If you like orange blossom, but don’t want it screechy or scratchy, you can’t go wrong with this.

















I have always found the scent of orange blossom flower in full bloom really hypnotic – few scents in nature cast such a spell – but find also that once the essence has been captured and distilled, it loses much of this bewitchment. Orange blossom perfumes sometimes have a lurid, garish quality to them, almost sickly (especially if they are combined with sandalwood and vanilla, which is often the case), and I must say that I myself rarely wear them. For my personal tastes, to do the flower justice, it is important to cradle it with other, gentler essences, to draw out, civilize its raw power, yet let the essence shine, unmistakeably, somewhere at the scent’s palpitating, nerolic centre. Penhaligon’s Castile is a very successful scent in this regard – smooth and clean (soap-like, almost); dry, smiling, and lightly seductive, like orange blossom flowers picked and hidden; nestling secretly behind muslin gauze.



























Filed under Flowers














And, in the top we have : : :  Aldehydes, Ylang Ylang, Galbanum, Violets, Whiskey, Saffron

In the heart: : :  Tuberose,  Carnation, Heliotrope, Incense,  Leather

And In the base: : : : :    Musk, Vanilla, Opoponax, Patchouli, Vetiver…..








I spray on the perfume and I can immediately smell Bertrand Duchaufour. Ah yes, unmistakeably his signature; that familiar, directional, semi-cacophonous dissonance that always, subsequently, coagulates into something more legible – out there – but usually quite  fun. That modern laboratory edginess that sometimes strikes me as being over-intellectualized, never instinctual; over-complicated, even, but still, on the whole, rather undeniably pleasing and bright.



Recently, I have come round to this perfumer more and more. His Traversée Du Bosphore is a luminous slice of cosmopolitan Turkish Delight I can’t help but enjoy; I was amused and somewhat swept away by his recent metallic pineapple-fest Déliria, and as for Sartorial, I think I am going to let Duncan tell his side of the story about that one. On him it is wonderful and straightforwardly gorgeous.


Tralala, a cute name, in a cute bottle (if you ask me; I am always somewhat drawn to the carnival; magic toyshops; puppetry and the grotesque) is not quite what you might expect from the waywardly bizarre list of ingredients. Reading those on paper, I would be expecting a heavy orient; brusque, thick, and dense, whereas in reality, as befits the name, the scent is more of a sweet, dangly legged thing that wants to bop about like an overexcited jack-in-the-box in a toy shop.


On my skin, Tralala opens on an effervescent, cherry-leather uplifting overture of red fruit, tuberose, and aldehydes with just a tiny touch of the pre-mentioned whiskey: this is not a ‘boozy’ type of perfume by any means, not liquourous, oozing or honey-thick. No: this is upbeat, fresh, and zany:  soon, the white musks and vanilla will hook up willingly with the ylang ylang and the violets to become, strangely, a perfume that was the star of the show at Duchaufour’s alma mater L’Artisan Parfumeur; to me, this perfume is essentially the classic Mûre Et Musc gone haywire. A snazzier, more marshmallowy, Mûre for sure (a scent I love and wear myself) but which can be a bit plodding, insistent and one-dimensional. Here, instead, as befits a perfume by Mr Duchaufour, there is always much more olfactorial detail going on; something zizzing, something pinging, then being narrowly pulled back into line so that the whole can then  shine; like his work in the recent rhubarb-tastic Aedes De Venustas, which manages the astonishing feat of turning that tangy, delicious fruit into something regal, plush and austere, this perfume, with its popping, silver-eyed aldehydes bringing all the ingredients up up up, begins stark and fresh and attention-grabbing, yet then attenuates, well-measuredly, into something else; the rhubarb, over there in the Aedes becomes a stately vetiver-incense; here, the bubblicious, almost heady opening of the perfume calms down nicely into a sweet, gentle, and rather sexy, skin scent I am quite happy to carry about with me for the rest of the day, thankye very much.  Whistling while I work.


Tralalala indeed.













Thanks for the sample bottle, Bethan!


Filed under Flowers

THE UNUSUAL AND UNEXPECTED INFLUENCE OF THE UNFAIRLY MALIGNED CHANEL GARDENIA + eight more examples of this exquisite, luscious flower






























The original Chanel Gardénia, available now only very intermittently from vintage, rare perfume web sites, was by all accounts a masterful, creamy floral aldehydic typical of its creator, the genius Ernst Beaux: it was a perfume of its time, now gone forever.


The reformulation and relaunch of the perfume in the late I980’s, exciting as it must have been for those in the know,  was apparently an affront to lovers of the original, however. Where Bois Des Isles, Nº 22 and Cuir De Russie by all accounts retained the essential character and formulae of their original incarnations, the rebooted Gardenia was by far the least faithful to the original formulas of the first four ‘secret’ Chanels, and Luca Turin famously hates it (but really; who gives a damn..)



Knowing only the later version of this perfume myself, though, I have nothing to compare it to, and in any case fell straight in love the moment I smelled it, chiefly because it reminded me very strongly and vividly of my first love: at primary school, the friend who sat next to me every day in class had a wonderful smelling cedar-wood pencil case that fused completely in my mind with her, and to me, this sharp, woody smell, unmistakably  is Rebecca.



I can picture the yellowish interior of that pencil case perfectly; can smell that intense, almost sour scent again and can conjure it up my mind upon demand, as I would sit there in lessons when bored, inhaling it deeply and rapturously and dreaming. I was infatuated; weirdly so for a boy of six. I could hardly sleep at night I was so besotted.






We had little romances at six, at nine, and at fourteen, and are still friends (she now lives in the south of France and has no recollection of this pencil box at all….)




But back to the perfume that jolts this memory. Compared to the soft beauty of those other Chanel extraits, Gardénia is quite an artificial creation, really I suppose, but it is very original in the way it steers away from the standard creamy mushroom. Here, a fresh, piquant gardenia flower is fused with other florals – tuberose, a sharp orange blossom, and jasmine; a very chic, a classic white floral that might be too heady a scent were it not chastened and freshened with a sharp, spiced note of clove, sage and pimiento, on a subtle, wooded base of cedar and sandalwood. To me, the cedar and pimiento are key, resulting in a perfume that is lovely: crystal sharp, like freshly cut flowers placed on a box of brand new pencils in September.

















The Chanel gardenia, though much maligned (why?!have you smelled it in ‘vintage’ extrait?) is perhaps much more influential than we realize, because this beauty by Il Profumo, a company that make very vivid, colourful fragrances, strikes me as smelling very much like the Chanel but transported, illustriously, to the jungle; that same, piquant scent, but denser, greener, more lush. It is a gorgeous and potent blend indeed, with notes of tuberose, jasmine and peony over a rich powdered base that according to the creators, ‘renders a woman sure of her fascination.’





What I like about the Santa Maria Novella exotic florals (Tuberosa, Gardenia, and the frankly bizarre Frangipane) is the sense that the flowers have simply picked at the height of their erotic power, been forcibly submerged by the Florentines in some scent-releasing liquid, and, the liquid saturated, presented to the public as perfumes. Santa Maria Novella’s gardenia fully captures the strange, medicinal, green and fungal side of gardenia and the milky allure of its flowers on a humid, summer night. Tactile, oleaginous, green-brushed and ‘thick’, it is rounded, cool, wide-eyed and fleshy, and in some ways a quite splendid perfume, if a little torpid. Wear it and wilt.






While in theory I relished a more potent version of the first Marc Jacobs gardenia (which saw me through two summers as my work scent), in reality the potent headiness of this gardenia, in its custard-yellow, beautifully designed bottle, did not appeal in the same way, reminding me more of overdone, toilet-freshener gardenias like the one by Crabtree and Evelyn. However, some like to have both Jacobs gardenias (and the bottles are gorgeous); to use this gardenia perfume as a night scent; its voluptuousness certainly working for summer garden parties with its willful, strengthened presence.


















Drunk at a giant mansion looking frantically for the powder room (marbled,  orchid-fringed; elaborate) this gardenia is the obviously self- proclaimed leader of the pack, a gorgeous, sluttish gardenia with shampoo sheen, plush, blooming: unaware that her shoulder strap has fallen down.


A revived classic from the 1920’s (though the formula smells more 1980’s big-haired to me), Isabey’s gardenia is sweet, curvaceous and is unique in supposedly  containing actual gardenia essential oil, one of perfumery’s rarest essences.





Ellenisia is yet another reinterpretation of the Chanel gardenia, but done the English way (ie. utterly unthreatening). I


t is a bright vaseful of perfumed white florals, modern, pretty and very wearable, with a taut shine that shows no thigh. A safe bet.
















Le Galion is an old French company whose old-fashioned perfumes I occasionally get to smell when they wash up in Japanese antique stores and fleamarkets. Their jasmine was truly excellent, and I wish I could find another bottle. Gardenia, an extrait, is very much of the old school; the dark, tweed-suited gardenia of Miss Dior with a fearfully potent surge of fur and scent-soaked anthers – an exciting, if difficult, delving into the perfume past (when women presumably smelled like purring, powdery moths). When this initial flower-smog clears, the perfume steadily attains a very interesting beachy note like rock flowers bathed in midday sun and the hot-sand smell of the air.



In summertime as little kids, my brother and I used to crawl into the canopies of broom on the sand dunes of Bournemouth (for a child, like exploring Borneo), and this curious gardenia brought those exciting times flooding back to me beautifully with a vengeance .






An intriguing scent that is not what you might imagine from this semi-venerable institution, this gardenia perfume is more like one of the power florals of the 80’s than the white and trembling French white floral I was expecting; a beautifully made, adult, and very sexy perfume redolent of the fearless Giorgio Beverly Hills. An interesting option if you want something rich, dusky but not overly sweetened; a glamorous gardenia to get dressed up for, douse yourself in, and marry the night.











All clothes by Coco Chanel.







Filed under Flowers, Gardenia, Perfume Reviews









Charles Baudelaire categorized the dandy as a man who has ‘no profession other than elegance….no other status but that of cultivating the idea of beauty in their own person. The dandy must aspire to be sublime without interruption…. he must live and sleep before a mirror….’

Yet the true dandy was no mere clothes horse. In cultivating a skeptical reserve with his direct opposition to the unthinking bourgeoisie, these beautifully coddled individualists were following a code which ‘in certain respects comes close to spirituality and stoicism’.


Dandyism was also not limited to the male of the species. There was, of course, Beau Brummel, but there was also Marlene Dietrich. And then Cora Pearl, the ‘quaintrelle’ (woman-dandy) courtesan, whose extravagant income was apparently sufficient to allow her to dance nude on carpets of orchids, bathe before her dinner guests in silver tubs of champagne, probably mildly bored as she did so.


Naturally then, the true perfumed dandy wears perfume for the beauty of the perfume alone; trends and petty concerns over seduction are of no concern. He might therefore wear any perfume in the pantheon; the flowers, the musks, the powders; she might pick a scent from the roaring masculines, a brisk citrus aftershave, and carry it off beautifully. This notwithstanding, the more established image of the powdered, exquisite gentle man or woman and her peacock consorts is served pretty well by some of the following scents and their decadent, nonchalant, graceful ambiguity.


“I wish to be a living work of art.’


(Marchesa Luisa Casati, renowned quaintrelle).




James Craven at Les Senteurs told me that there’s a small but steady band of ‘epicureans’ who come to his shop for this obscurity from Creed, a most eccentric seventies’ concoction that is the perfumed equivalent of the decadent’s unlaundered nightshirt. A curious, metallic-noted orange blossom begins; then, ochred-acacia leaves of Autumn; musky, yellowing powders: leather: and a corrupt (but subtlely: this creature has taste) end of civet-hinged musks.




A collection of old-fashioned flowers for the modern dandizette; she or he who wants to spoil themselves in musky, forlorn sweet-peas, those fragrant flowers scaling trellises in summertime. ‘The sweet peas from my garden’ are powdery, rosy, infused with heavy, trembling lilacs.




Trumper is the ultimate emporium for the London gent (really, you have to go), and this, to me, is one of their crowning glories. Echoes of the Empire and tropical malaria cures are conjured up by the curative sounding name, and the scent – a gorgeous, luminous and powdery thing laced with rosemary – is odd and beautiful.














A warm, overripe breeze. A foetid satiety, and a perfume perfect for the bronzed, sybaritic woman who wants nothing more than to lie down flat on her sunlounger with her gin. One can’t help but think of Sylvia Miles in Morrisey & Warhol’s Heat.


A pronounced banana-leaf top note conveys the sense of the tropics: full bananas, unswaying in the dead, still air: champaca flowers with their drowsy torpor, and an apricot-hued osmanthus over a salivated sandalwood/civet, these listless ingredients adding up to the most ennui-imbued scent I have ever smelled. Sira des Indes is smooth yet enticing, almost angry; and devastating on a woman over forty who just doesn’t give a shit.









Recast as Rouge (which see), Parfum d’Hermès, which has the same basic structure, just dirtier, can still be found in various corners of the world, and I know an antiques shop near my school that has a 400ml bottle that no Japanese person would ever touch (I will, eventually). I know they wouldn’t buy it because the rude animalics here are so blatant that all the flowers, spices in the world just can’t hide its intent. It smells of a dirty mouth covering yours; a Sadeian perfume that would work shockingly well on one of his followers, female or male.



Mona di Orio, the perfumer behind Carnation (pronunciation: in the French manner – meaning ‘complexion’ not the flower) seemed to be seeking here the smell of a virgin’s face after a day in the sun – easy prey, perhaps, for the creatures above from Parfum d’Hermès (or Pasolini’s Salò). It is a weird smell at first, something paint-like and sour in among the dirty blooms (wallflower, geranium, jasmine, tinted with musks and styrax), but progresses to a heavenly maiden’s cheek, white; the thick, healthy skin just ready to pinch.



The maiden’s male counterpart is Hammam Bouquet; fresh from the Turkish baths with a blush on his face.

Hammam is musky, powdery and pink, with rose otto, orris and lavender over the more manly exhalations of civet and musk. Once the boy gets his breath back, he dons his white powdered wig, his cape, and rushes back earnestly to the Old Bailey.




One of the lesser known perfumes from the illustrious stable of Caron (surely one of the Dandy’s favourite parfumeurs…)is French Can Can, made especially for the post-war American Market for a bit of imported ooh la la: a strange, naughty, and now rather anachronistic perfume that treads the line between coquettish and coarse without descending to banality. Can Can is of very similar construction to En Avion (a cool, spicy, violet leather) but overlaid with more garish, extravagant bloom: rose, jasmine and orange blossom kick out from under the tulle. Behind faded, musty curtains lies a decadent heart of lilac, patchouli, iris, musk and amber.

Thinking of a candidate for this perfume (who wears tiers of fluffy petticoats that I know?) I hit upon my friend Laurie, who is never afraid to dress up in extravagant numbers – I can even see her actually doing the can-can – and with the slogan ‘Dancers: powder, dusty lace’ presented her with the scent. She came back to me later (after I had sprayed her bag with the stuff) ‘No: greying crinoline’.









Only the dandy would wear a perfume called Pot Pourri. Bizarrely, this has recently become a massive hit with the art crowd in Tokyo (the brand’s reputed naturalness is popular with the refined eco-conscious). It is unusual, androgynous and beautiful: spiced roses, herbs, berries and grasses from the fields of Florence, fermented in Tuscan terracotta urns with darker, interior notes of resins and balsam. The result (medicinal, meditative, aromatic) is very individual; very…..dandy.




What else should be placed in the Dandy’s wardrobe?


Filed under Flowers, Herbal, Musk, Orientals, Perfume Reviews, Powder