"Find your perfume before you turn thirty. Wear it for the next thirty years.” - Caroline de Maigret, How to Be Parisian
Throughout my 20’s I rotated between three fragrances, Chanel No. 5 for evenings and Alien or Flowerbomb for daytime. As much as I still love these perfumes, I felt it was time to find something a little bit more special to take me through my 30s. Unsure of where to begin, I was pleased to learn that Penhaligon’s in Chester offer a fragrance profiling service to help people find their signature scent.
Penhaligon's is an exclusive British perfumery which dates back to 1870. William Penhaligon launched a barbershop in London where the fragrances were sold. The first perfume, Hammam Bouquet, was inspired by the heady, musky aromas emanating from the neighbouring Turkish baths on Jermyn Street.
The original shop disappeared in 1941 when it was destroyed in The Blitz during the Second World War, but the fragrances remained. Many of the original scents have since been modernised and the company remains committed to using the finest perfume ingredients. There are over 32 perfumes in the collection, both men’s and women’s, in addition to several unisex options. All of the fragrances are made in England and have even earned a Royal Warrant. If it’s good enough for The Royals it’s good enough for me!
I was recently invited by Penhaligon’s to visit the Chester store to experience the profiling service. Fragrance profiling explores which scents you like and dislike and then helps you build a profile to establish the exact type of perfume you are looking for.
The store is perfectly situated in the old Chester Rows. I arrived with my friend and was greeted by the lovely Meghann who is a perfume expert. She showed us around the shop and explained the history of the brand before offering us a cocktail each. Walking around the shop was like stepping back in time, old cabinets house candles, soaps and of course the beautiful fragrances.
We were then taken through to a private room at the back of the store where we were seated on a chaise lounge with some Rococos Chocolates to enjoy while Meghann explained Penhaligon’s history and philosophy.
Laid out in neat rows on a table before us were lots of little Penhaligon bottles, each filled with individual scents. The bottles are based on William Penhaligon's original design, clear glass adorned with ribbon, which adds to the apothecary atmosphere.
We told Meghann what our favourite perfumes are, she was then able to decipher which of the scents we would most likely enjoy. She gave us countless fragrances to try, explaining the different notes in each and the history of how they were formulated. One of the most interesting scents was Juniper Sling which was inspired by one of my favourite drinks, Gin!
Meghann summed the experience up perfectly when she told us that fragrance is “liquid emotion”. Each scent unlocked a different feeling or memory, reminding us of people and places from our past. The sense of smell is tied to the centres in the brain responsible for memories and emotions, which is why we are often transported back in time when we smell certain scents.
Whilst we were sampling the fragrances, Meghann paid careful attention to how we reacted and made a note of any we liked. After half an hour or so of oooohing and aaahhing at the beautiful perfumes, Meghann was able to narrow our choices down to four each. She then placed a drop of each on our scent points (wrists and inner elbows) and told us to let the fragrance settle for 15 minutes or so and then come back to them to decide. We ate some more chocolates while we deliberated over our choice.
It’s amazing how fragrances take on completely different characteristics once applied to the skin so it is important wear the scent for a few minutes to see how it works on you. Two of the perfumes I had previously liked just didn’t suit me and I was then left with my two favourites to choose from, Vaara and Equinox Bloom.
Vaara is an Oriental fragrance which can be worn by both women and men. It was launched in 2013 and has top notes of rose water, carrot seeds, coriander and saffron; middle notes of rose, freesia, magnolia and peony. The base notes are honey, white musk, cedar, sandalwood, benzoin and tonka bean.
Equinox Bloom is a recent addition to the collection. It was inspired by high tea and Spring flowers. Notes of Chantilly, Frangipani and Brown Sugar are blended with violet leaves, orange blossom absolute and jasmine sambac, rounded with the deep, Oriental richness of Benzoin Siam and Ambrox.
Having left the scents to settle for some time, there was a clear favourite for me, Equinox Bloom. It has a delicious sweetness to it which then develops into a heavier perfume. Meghann explained that the top notes contain the smallest molecules and are the quickest to evaporate, usually after about 20 minutes. Middle notes generally last about 40 minutes and the base notes, which evaporate the slowest and contain the largest molecules, can last the whole day.
We honestly could have sat there all day chatting with Meghann. She had an incredible knowledge of the fragrances and was able to help us identify our favourite scents. It was such a relaxing and enjoyable experience in beautiful surroundings. Especially so when you have delicious chocolates and cocktails to enjoy at the same time. We left two very happy ladies with a little bit of Penhaligon’s to take home with us wrapped in a lovely gift-bag.
Thank you to Meghann and the rest of the Penhaligon’s team for such a wonderful experience. I can highly recommend fragrance profiling to anyone interested in buying an exclusive perfume. It would make a lovely, memorable gift for a loved one. We thoroughly enjoyed trying the different fragrances. The service is complimentary but is subject to appointment and generally lasts between 45-75 minutes.
01244 318 905