Penhaligon’s Violetta (1976)

Penhaligon's Violetta © Victor Wong
Penhaligon’s Violetta © Victor Wong

A Facebook group member mentioned today is World Poetry Day! So here’s my first poem, also a “review” for Penhaligon’s Violetta:

Violets are purple but the perfume is blue
Can I trust you with this juice?

Bloom once a year and smell so dear
Captured in a bottle please keep it near

Mingling with the flamboyant is often tiring
Swinging with just you it’s oh so surprising

Is this your true self? Why so humble?
You are pretty especially those little dimples.

Penhaligon’s Night Scented Stock (1976, reformulated 2009)

Penhaligon's Night Scented Stock © Victor Wong
Penhaligon’s Night Scented Stock © Victor Wong

I know to make chicken stock, you need onions, celery stalks, carrots and herbs, but I wonder what’s in Penhaligon’s “Night Scented Stock” (1976)? Maybe vanilla, incense, jasmine, gardenia, amber, tonka bean and some spice? What a wonderful thing to daydream about at work. I went to Fragrantica to find out what’s in it the formula and I wasn’t too far off! But there’s one little thing that bugged me…why did the bottle label show only one stalk of flowers when there were so many ingredients in the perfume? Only later I realized that the name of that flower on the label was actually called night-scented stock.

According to Penhaligon’s, Night Scented Stock is a “soliflore”, a floral composition designed to highlight the beauty of a single floral essence. (Originally I thought it meant designed to mimic the scent of a flower that cannot be extracted.) I have never smelled a night scented stock flower, but I highly doubt that the perfume is going to let me experience the beauty of it when you have cinnamon and cloves in the formula.

I blind bought Night Scented Stock partly because it was on sale at Penhaligon’s website, but the bigger reason was that, for what I’d read, it’s super powdery. Not just powdery, but heavy spicy-floral-powdery, which means Grandma Time™ ! I dearly love this 1/4 Opium + 1/4 flower bouquet + 2/4 Johnsons’ and Johnsons’ Baby Powder perfume. For a good night sleep, a few sprays and the moon descends, the cat walks on the fence and I go zzz.

Penhaligon’s Tralala (2014)

© Victor Wong
© Victor Wong

When I first saw Penhaligon’s Tralala (2014), only one thing had come to my mind: this outrageous packaging is going to be discontinued in a hard way, for it is so fancy, the different factories that made their boxes and crazy ribbons may not have all the parts available when Penhaligon’s decides to make another batch later down the road. It’s just my collector’s gut feeling, I could be wrong.

So I blind-bought the perfume because of the packaging. Penhaligon’s, you win. But the actual surprise, is the perfume itself. Tralala, I have decided, is the perfume of former-glory. It’s a black and white photo that has turned yellow, a showgirl retiring from Moulin Rouge, a neglected face that uses a trowel to put the make up on, an unsatisfying life that needs whisky to resuscitate. I am sure that’s not the mood Bertrand Duchaufour (nose of L’Artisan Parfumeur’s Timbuktu) wants you to feel, but this is the mood that I get when I am smelling it. (You might find it marvellous and uplifting.) In fact, the creatives of Penhaligon’s said it in an interview, ” I wanted the perfume to be heavy and old fashioned, I wanted it to smell glamorous. I love the idea of perfume dominating the space it fills and as a glorious sensory barrier between you and the World, like a deep velvety aura.”

Don’t get me wrong, I like the scent, and I am happy to own this bottle, but it smells delightfully depressing. Whisky, saffron, leather, incense, vanilla, myrrh, all the warm and moody notes paired with some aldehyde who has just lost its stock portfolio. Let me apply some now, I need drama.

Penhaligon’s Hammam Banquet (1872)

© Victor Wong
© Victor Wong

This dapper looking bottle contains a scent that smells like “antiquated baby powder”. When I wear it, I feel like I have been transported to the Victorian era; it’s utterly inappropriate to leave home without wearing a top hat and a monocle or play with your iPad without wearing a pair of white gloves. Hammam Bouquet (1872!) contains lavender, turkish rose and iris, woods and spices, and something else that I can’t describe, and the closest association I can come up with is cooking peanut oil. (An oily smelling perfume.) This perfume is Penhaligon’s first perfume and the founder and perfumer, William Penhaligon got his inspiration from the Turkish bath houses that used Turkish rose oil for massages. My friend told me that he actually had visited a Turkish bath house before and the massager bent and stretched him like a three year kid destroying a Barbie doll, but the comfort and relief after the massage was phenomenal.