If you're not familiar with Penhaligon's, they're a stunning boutique brand whose heritage stretches back to the 1800s. The scents themselves are equally intriguing - each as unusual and eccentric as the next, with many classic numbers among them (I'd recommend Blenheim Bouquet and Juniper Sling as two must-try-before-you-die concoctions).
Their boutiques are dotted all over the world, not least in London. I was lucky enough to be invited down to their Burlington Arcade branch to try their fragrance profiling service. This is basically match-making the person with their signature scent - and it's a great deal of fun and far better than aimlessly sniffing out the perfect perfume by yourself.
The profiling takes place upstairs, away from the shop floor in a cosy little lounge dotted with all manner of perfume paraphernalia. This includes vintage photos of the very first Penhaligon's store on Jermyn Street which opened in 1870, as well as giant replicas of the famous apothecary-style bottles.
Settled in with a cup of tea, I was asked various questions which felt a little like I'd walked into a dating agency. ("What are your hobbies? Do you cook? What's your signature dish? What's your favourite colour?") Then I was asked about the types of scents I remembered as a child, what I remember my relatives wearing when I was growing up and which perfumes I wear now. Then it was on to sampling the various scents themselves ...
As I sampled each perfume, I was filled in on the ingredients and story behind each one. Delights wafted under my nose included Luna (named after the mythical Goddess of the Moon), a crisp floral citrus, with a rich musky base. I was also invited to try the adorably pretty Orange Blossom (part of their Anthology collection which revives some of their vintage formulas from their archives - Orange Blossom was originally from 1976), as well as the dazzling Lady Blanche (pretty much spring in a bottle...). And as an alternative to this charming floral fare, I was given Vaara to try - created in honour of the Maharaja's granddaughter, Princess Vaara. A warm, enveloping concoction with soft whispers of honey, Indian magnolia and saffron, it's a perfect 'unisex' scent and nothing like you'd ever be likely to encounter in Duty Free...
And in keeping with their Victorian Heritage, Empressa is taken from their Trade Routes collection - inspired by the exotic goods that were brought to the London docks from the East and highly coveted by Victorian society. Empressa is inspired by the silks conveyed from China and like the fabric which inspired it, it's deeply sensual with rich notes of blood orange, Damascan rose underscored with patchouli and sandalwood.
But for me - I was led back to my all-time favourite Penhaligon's scent - Malabah. Inspired by the East Indian Spice Route, I first encountered it 6 or 7 years ago and have been hooked ever since. Thinking I'd want to try something different, its beguiling bouquet of rose and spices was like a siren call. I can't tell you how happy this perfume makes me, like putting on a perfect shade of lipstick that suits you down to the ground. It just feels 'right' and makes you feel a million dollars.
So for all those years thinking I was a fragrance floozy, it seems there's no escaping The One. I'd definitely recommend booking in and getting "set up" with your own signature scent. The service is available in their Wellington Street, King's Road and Burlington Arcade branches - booking in advance is essential, click here for store details. And if you can't make it to a store, they also do a special online version.
Penhaligon's, Burlington Arcade is located at 16-17 Burlington Arcade, London W1J OPL
Monday - Saturday 09:00am - 18:00pm
Sunday 12:00pm - 18:00pm