Friday, 29 April 2011

Penhaligon's fragrance profile and Opus 1870 review

I recently attended a blogger event held by Penhaligon's in Shoreditch, London, where I was able to experience the Penhaligon's fragrance profiling service, and get a deeper insight into the brand from some of the very knowledgeable staff in attendance.

Gemma previously reviewed the fragrance profiling in Penhaligon's Kings Road store, while my profile was taken in a booth at a rather decadent East London evening venue. Nonetheless, I think it's fair to say that both of us were equally delighted with our outcomes.

The fragrance profiling is a kind of olfactory journey through the Penhaligon's range - which is really quite vast. I didn't realise how many scents were offered until I saw them all laid out together (the picture above shows only part of the range). You sniff your way through a range of scents, guided by a staff member, until you arrive at "your" smell.

My friend and I were encouraged to smell deeply, close our eyes and then give answers from the heart about whether we liked a scent or not. As we sniffed, our guide enriched the experience by talking us through the scents we were smelling. As I inhaled a sample of Bluebell, he said - this is not a direct quote - "imagine you're walking your dog through the woods in springtime. It's a fresh, bright day, cool breeze, the sun is shining, and suddenly you come across a clearing in the wood that's absolutely full of bluebells."

I was surprised to learn that Penhaligon's, which I think of as mainly a feminine sort of perfumer, was originally exclusively a manufacturer of men's cologne. Most of the early scents (Hammam Bouquet, for example) were designed for men, and even now most of the scents are unisex.

The scents I really liked, and which made it to my "final two", were Opus 1870 (on the right, above) and Quercus, both of which are quite masculine scents. Quercus is fresh and bright, while Opus 1870, my final choice, is much more deep and earthy.

I have a sample vial of Opus 1870 beside me now, and I'm amazed at how accurate the "diagnosis" was for me. Even in a crowded bar with the air thick with perfume, it was still absolutely the right choice.

Opus 1870 reminded me straight away of Ormonde Jayne's Orris Noir. It has that same earthy coolness to it (I thought this was the orris root, but I actually don't see orris in the notes for Opus), a kind of steady, calm, level-headed mintiness with a soapy cleanliness on top. Opus is more "peppery" than Orris Noir, which is sweeter. It has a similar calming, comforting effect on me.

If I had to sum up the smell in one word, it would be "undergrowth". That might not sound very appealing, but what I suppose I mean is that it smells of the combination of good mineral-rich soil and fresh herbaceous leaves that you might find growing on a forest floor. There's also a shady, mysterious aspect to it that fits that word too (for me, at least). I would be very happy to wear this myself, or to smell it on a guy. It has a loveliness that isn't really gender-specific.

During the event we also sniffed some forthcoming releases from Penhaligons - a new fizzy, flirty gin-based scent for autumn as well as some gorgeous new (or revisited) smells from their Anthology revival line, which showcases some gems from Penhaligon's 140-year back-catalogue.

Keep your eye out in the coming months!


  1. I'm not huge on perfume as I only have three but I've always wanted to try English Fern.

  2. My favourite so far is Blenheim Bouquet :-)

  3. Out of the ones I've had the fortune of smelling, Artemisia is still my favorite. :)


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