Tea With the Maharajah – Penhaligon’s Vaara Perfume Review

“Modern and intensely atmospheric, Vaara is a fragrance fir for a Maharajah, full of charm and majesty.”

It seems that Penhaligon’s are in the mood to spoil us with not one, but two new perfumes this year. If you are too impatient to wait for the arabesque of iris that is Iris Prima that is due to launch in September, then worry ye not, as this month the brand have unleashed a brand new Eau de Parfum that most definitely deserves attention.

‘Vaara’ is the name of Penhaligon’s latest offering and it takes inspiration from the Royal House of Marwar-Jodphur in Rajasthan. Created by venerable perfumer Bertrand Duchaufour (also responsible for Amaranthine and Sartorial) Vaara was commissioned by His Highness Maharajah Gaj Singh II to commemorate the birth of his granddaughter, Vaara.

To capture the sights, sounds and scents of Jodphur, Duchaufour took a trip to India (the lucky boy gets to go to all of the best places) and explored the world of the Maharajah. The result is a truly exceptional composition (I’m so smitten I wore it as my graduation scent) that is not only evocative of a geographical location but also captures the spirit of an exotic and lavish way of life.

Graduation Chic
You can’t see it but I am rocking a rather large cloud of Vaara in this picture…

The Notes

Top: Quince, Rosewater, Carrot Seed, Coriander Seed, Saffron
Heart: Moroccan Rose Absolute, Bulgarian Rose, Freesia, Indian Magnolia, Peony and Iris
Base: Honey, White Musk, Cedarwood, Sandalwood, Benzoin Resin and Tonka Bean

How Does it Smell?

Vaara has the most intriguing opening accord of quince and rosewater. The former is tart, zingy and mouth watering whereas the latter is sweet and refreshing. Together, along with a good dollop of saffron cream, the top notes create the image of a delicate, floral milk that is as luxurious as it is delicious.

At this stage one may be thinking; “hey, hasn’t Bertrand taken an olfactory trip to India before?” and that is absolutely correct. M. Duchaufour famously created the three (and soon to be four) India-inspired fragrances for Neela Vermeire Creations but it would be fair to say that he treads entirely new ground with Vaara, and other than a vegetal, almost carroty rose in the core that is has a slightly similar feel to Neela’s Mohur, this new fragrance stands on its own two feet as something entirely new.

Rose really dominates for a lot of Vaara’s development and it is a rose that is rich and complex in character. There is the aforementioned carroty-ness, as well as a soft dustiness & earthiness (accented by iris) and hints of rose-flavoured black tea. Running parallel to the rose is a graceful accord of pollen-filled white flowers in full bloom, adding a rich and fertile quality to the heart.

In the base Vaara gets richer and displays its foundation of robust woods. There is also a syrupy, honeyed texture that sits beautifully on a subtle bed of sweet, delicious tonka bean. The base notes are, unsurprisingly not as vibrant as the notes in the opening, but wearing Vaara one feels as if one has taken a journey through the spectrum of colours; starting with vivid lime greens, maya blue & fuschia pink and finishing with royal reds, purples and browns.

Although it is important not to shower a fragrance with too much hyperbole (I’m always cautious of hyping things up) I cannot help but admit that Vaara is my favourite launch of the year so far. Just like its (absolutely beautiful) packaging, It is vibrant, colourful, & exotic, and simply smelling it one is transported to the lush gardens of Jodphur, sipping tea amongst the palaces and peacocks with the Maharajah. What a life that would be, eh?


Vaara is available in Penhaligon’s boutiques and stockists in 50ml (£85) and 100ml (£120) Eau de Parfum. It will also be exclusively available in India at the Umaid Bhawan Palace Collection Shop.

Sample, image 1 and quotes via Penhaligons. Image 2 my own.