The experience started with a few slightly strange questions, including asking about my favourite fabrics, which immediately made me feel that this was to be a much more personal fragrance sampling experience than I'd experienced before. Not that that was a particularly difficult task, given that your average department store fragrance hunt for me involves spritzing myself with things I like the look of, until I can barely smell one from the other.
Anyway - as I sat on the red velvet chaise longue, having been presented with a glass of champagne complete with floating strawberry (to cleanse my olfactory senses after five or six sniffings), I was talked through the four loose groupings that the Penhaligon's scents fall into. Then, the real fun began - I was given two perfumes at a time to sniff from pre-spritzed perfumer's paper strips. This, I was told, was to ensure that I got an impression of the dried down scent, as opposed to the immediately smellable headnotes you first smell when a perfume has been freshly sprayed. As I went through, choosing my favourite from each pair, listening to the back story behind each scent, Anne was slowly narrowing down the selection and getting an idea for what I'd like the most.
Anne then took me through the process of layering my favourite scent using the products available. She scrubbed my hand and forearm, applied some scented massage oil, and finished with a spritz of fragrance on one arm, and simply applied the perfume to the other, so I could smell the difference in depth.
Finally, armed with a bag of samples and with a delicious cloud of scent in my nostrils, I went back to work. I've worked my way through a few of the three final contenders in the last two weeks - and I'll be going back to buy Elixir, my very favourite, very soon.
If you're at all interested in fragrance and want to learn a bit more about it, or wish to choose a new fragrance unhindered by the usual marketing hype which goes hand in hand with big fragrance houses nowadays, it's well worth making an appointment with Penhaligon's - not only will you learn lots, but you might just find the perfect fragrance for you. The service is complimentary, and at some locations includes a glass of champagne and a 10% discount on any product you wish to purchase (over £70 - ouch) - check with the individual store before booking.