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Step into the world of Penhaligon’s Portraits

Penhaligon’s stunning family of fragrances captures, and bottles, the spirit of a Nancy Mitford novel

Lucy Holloway

Lucy Holloway

There are 12 intriguing scents (13 if you include a Harrods exclusive) each representing a guest at a country house party, and any one would be an ideal gift to take to gathering.

At the head of the table is Lord George. We’re told that he is ‘a wealthy and respected man, the archetypal patriarch.’ The lead aristo in the Penhaligon’s tale, you can imagine him head to toe in tweed in search of the stag whose head crowns the bottle of The Tragedy of Lord George. This is a manly fragrance, ‘seemingly traditional, yet with hidden secrets’ say Penhaligon’s. It’s rich and rewarding: the brandy top notes deliver an instant hit that quickly settles into something woodier, and then a little bit mossy too (the tonka bean base notes). Out of the billiard room and into the field, this is eau de gentleman, and the shaving soap heart notes keep it smooth and polished rather than rugged.

Next to Lord George is his society wife Lady Blanche (The Revenge of Lady Blanche: powdery orris, narcissus flower, hyacinth) who we’re told plans to poison her husband, possibly due to his philandering with Clandestine Clara (rhum vanilla, cinnamon musk, ambery patchouli) which has produced the ‘sexy and rebellious’ love child that is Roaring Radcliffe (rum, tobacco and gingerbread).

If this is all starting to sound a little like olfactory Cleudo, the plot thickens as more eccentric characters arrive looking as good as they smell in beautiful bottles with striking tops. The latest additions to the Penhaligon’s party are Blanche’s sister Changing Constance (cardamom, pimento, salted butter caramel, tobacco, vanilla) and a raging bull from America – Mister Sam (cardamom, cumin, black pepper, cedarwood, patchouli).

Before things turned quite so sour, Lord George and Lady Blanche managed one daughter, the Coveted Duchess Rose (mandarin, rose, musky wood) who has a made a loveless match with the quite possibly gay Duke. His fragrance, Much Ado About the Duke is my favourite. It’s complex and flamboyant, difficult to pin down (a masculine floral?) and smells great on both men and women. The first impression is of pepper and gin which develops into a subtle, spicy rose with a sprucy background that comes from the leathery wood base notes. For me it’s like walking into a bazaar of fragrance.

All Penhaligon’s Portraits eau de parfums are available from priced at £185 for 75ml. The Lord and The Duke gift set (£370) brings two of our favourites together.


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