When Penhaligon’s was bought by Spanish multinational Puig last year, fragrance fans felt their nostrils stiffen. This most storied of British brands, owner of not one but two Royal Warrants, now shared a stable with licensed brands that couldn’t approach its pedigree.
Would its new owners understand exactly what made Penhaligon’s special? Would we see all those elements that clutter mainstream juice – odd bottle design, celebrity campaigns, even *gulp* flankers?
At the same time, Puig bought France’s fragrance icon, l’Artisan Parfumeur, and within months had modernised its signature seven-sided bottles. It was surely a matter of time before Penhaligon’s suffered the same fate.
Though what’s inside has adapted to modern tastes, Penhaligon’s scents still come in glass-stoppered flacons tied with a silk ribbon. It’s a quirk charmingly at odds with the modern fragrance industry, whose soft porn marketing is just an attempt to convince you that, “no spray, no lay”.
Fortunately, the bottles remain. For now. But with Endymion Concentré, we get Penhaligon’s first flanker – a richer, stickier take on 2003’s popular Endymion. The original showcases Penhaligon’s subtlety well; it’s masculine, but gently so, with a fresh, citrus opening butched up by all manner of woods and musks in the drydown.
It encapsulated the house’s approach of finding links where the untrained nose might not, between the soapy notes of lavender and the richness of black coffee. It also had the Penhaligon’s signature of sticking close and leaving quick, a spray in the morning almost gone by lunch. Makes sense, then, for the new management to release a version with more oomph.
And oomph the concentré has, although it translates more to the open than the finish. You’ll still need to store an atomiser in your bag – this isn’t a scent that lingers. But it is worth the investment. The reformulation takes Endymion’s best elements and turns up the heat, for more coffee punch, more amber stickiness, more texture from leather and suede.
It’s less complex, but with fewer ingredients, each hits harder. Which is both good and bad news. Yes, this is a strong, punchy scent – the kind that doesn’t feature often in Penhaligon’s back catalogue. But by concentrating its scents, Puig might just be watering down its new flagship brand.
Available at Penhaligon’s, priced £128 for 100ml of eau de parfum.
Bottle: The classic Penhaligon’s bottle, complete with ribbon and anachronism.
Head notes: bergamot, lavender, sage;
Heart notes: geranium, suede;
Base notes: leather, nutmeg, incense.
Best for: A spray of Penhaligon’s heritage, with a modern spin.