Penhaligon's has always been a brand that I've admired from afar, but subconsciously thought rather too posh and grown-up for me. I would pass the shop windows, full of oversized versions of their iconic glass bottles, and feel perhaps a little too intimidated to enter. But last night all these preconceptions were shattered at the brand's bloggers' event, behind the secret wardrobe door at Callooh Callay. By the time I arrived with Dana of Mien Magazine, the room already smelt divine, and we were immediately offered a special cocktail menu, with all the drinks inspired by Penhaligon's fragrances. Now I'm on a stupid diet so couldn't indulge, but nothing could stop me from helping myself to the selection of perfumes spread around the tables for testing. Emily of Penhaligon's came to explain to us the new fragrances, as well as sharing some key tips; for example, when applying perfume to your wrists, you should never rub them together to help it dry as that damages the top notes.Who knew?!I also sampled some of the lovely Vanities range- the handcream's aroma is very subtle so that it can be worn with any fragrance.
Next we had our personal fragrance profiles done by Richard who runs the Covent Garden store. We talked through our scent 'history'- from shameful teenage addiction's to The Body Shop's White Musk (please say this wasn't just me?)to the one perfume that I've stuck to since my late teens. We then tested a number of the Penhaligon's scents; without being able to see their names so as not to form any preconceptions, before narrowing it down to a final few which we then applied to our skin. It was strange, as I thought I was really torn between two scents until I smelt them on my wrists, at which point there was one which I clearly preferred; this is because the fragrance actually smells different on everyone's skin.And the scent that was the most 'me'? Cornubia, which contains vanilla, freesia, orange blossom and jasmine.
I also had a chat with Nicky, the brand's digital manager, who is to thank for enabling anyone to enjoy fragrance profiling on the Penhaligon's website. I have a huge amount of respect for the whole team, who have managed the delicate task of bringing a traditional brand with iconic heritage into the digital age, and translating the vintage glamour of the brand into a fresh, youthful energy. Whilst I have stuck with the same perfume since I was about 18, this is exactly the sort of experience that could convert me to a new scent. I'm particularly drawn to the history of the brand, the vintage feel of the packaging and the fact that I'm not faced with the airbrushed mug of a celebrity paid to flog yet another fragrance churned out by a huge fashion house. Penhaligon's perfumes are sold on the basis of the bottles' contents, which sell themselves,without call for gimmicks or reliance on trends. A rare quality, these days.