Old School Whimsy – Penhaligon’s & Meadham Kirchhoff Tralala Perfume Review

Old School Whimsy - Tralala by Penhaligon's, Meadham Kirchhoff & Bertrand Duchaufour

Old School Whimsy – Tralala by Penhaligon’s, Meadham Kirchhoff & Bertrand Duchaufour

Old-school British brand Penhaligon’s has seen a positive renaissance over the last few years. In 2009 they appeared to make a conscious decision to move away from their more staid roots and played to their more risqué side with Bertrand Duchaufour’s masterful Amaranthine – a perfume that was created to smell like the inside of a woman’s thigh (oh my, I’m blushing), and have since set themselves a trend of creating old school perfumes with modern and quirky twists.

Thankfully this is a trend that they seem to be continuing and for 2014, Britain’s most idiosyncratic perfume house is teaming up with the equally unconventional fashion brand, Meadham Kirchhoff, to create perhaps their most whimsical fragrance to date. The result of this collaboration is a fragrance penned by super-perfumer Bertrand Duchaufour (the man also responsible for AmaranthineVaaraSartorial and Orange Blossom) and bestowed with the infectious name ‘Tralala‘.

Launching next week, Tralala is described by Penhaligon’s as being a “beguiling and addictive piece of counter culture couture” and all one needs for proof of this claim is a quick look at the wonderful bottle with it’s clown head and ridiculously huge signature Penhaligon’s bow. The scent itself, is billed as “an opulent, hedonistic blend” that “evokes the interplay of glamour and retrospection favoured by Meadham Kirchhoff”. Having spent quite some time sniffing this new creation, I can wholeheartedly confirm that it does do exactly what it ‘says on the tin’.

Tralala by Penhaligon's & Meadham Kirchoff

The Word on Everybody’s Lips is Going to be…

The Notes

Top: Aldehydes, Saffron, Whisky, Ambrette Seed Butter, Galbanum & Violet Leaf Absolute
Heart: Carnation, Leather, Tuberose, Ylang Ylang, Orris & Incense
Base: Myrrh Resinoid, Opoponax Absolute, Patchouli, Vetiver, Cedarwood, Heliotrope, Musk & Vanilla

How Does it Smell?

Tralala is a richly textured fragrance right from the outset. It opens with a zippy burst of aldehydes and bergamot, giving the impression of yellow clouds of exploding lemon sherbet. There’s a subtle hint of warm spice, namely the clove-y feel of carnation, that turns the image of bright yellow sherbet powder into something entirely more auburn, and this deep sense of varying shades of mahogany carries through most of the fragrance’s development.

Underneath the glitz and sparkle of the opening is a rich and elastic floral accord that has the rubbery feel akin to the squeak of a shoe against a hardwood floor, or the creak of balloon animals being noisily crafted by a clown. The use of flowers is wonderfully old school, displaying an effect that sits somewhere comfortably between tropical headiness and oriental warmth. Perhaps the most enticing part about the use of flowers here, and the whole scent for that matter, is that whilst they have a strong presence, they don’t feel the need to shout. It would be safe to say that Tralala is content to be a perfume with sillage designed to draw people in just one step closer rather than grab them unwittingly by the neck.

For the most part, there’s a whole lot going on in Tralala’s development. Iris powder, blended with warm notes of whisky and leather, creates a comforting layer that glows softly as the perfume moves towards the base. In the far dry down, a dusty vanilla gains prominence and is intercut by sharp slashes of vetiver and patchouli, making for an unusual vanilla accord that feels mostly aromatic with just a tiny dash of sweetness thrown in for good measure.

Tralala takes all of the best parts of old school fragrances (i.e. the aldehydic sparkle, the heady florals and the resinous base materials) and mixes them with a few little and unsettling touches that feel whimsical, mischievous and a tiny bit dangerous. This is no surprise when one considers the nature of Meadham Kirchhoff’s fashion, which is a strange blend of old-fashioned British glamour and child-like kitsch that is immediately attractive yet just a tad unnerving.

But what Tralala does perfectly, is capture the base elements of this stylistic clash and plays them out as something so contrasting that it works on two levels. On the one hand you have a classic floral oriental with a fuzzy feel and the appropriate levels of aldehydes and iris powder, whilst on the other you have a tussle of the juvenile and the mature, where sherbet is chased with a shot of whisky and the crack of a leather riding crop is used to spur on a wooden hobby horse.


Penhaligon’s and Meadham Kirchhoff’s Tralala is available in 100ml Eau de Parfum for £150. It will be exclusive to Harvey Nichols (Harvey Nichols Knightsbridge, Manchester and Beauty Bazaar, Harvey Nichols Liverpool and online) from 21st April 2014-5th May 2014.

Harvey Nichols will be launching a Tralala Pop Up Shop in their Knightsbridge store to celebrate the fragrance’s release, where one can go to pick up a bottle as well as tote bags and t-shirts designed exclusively by Edward Meadham and Benjamin Kirchhoff themselves. There has even been a Tralala cocktail concocted especially for the scent’s residency at the store.

It seems that Penhaligon’s, Meadham Kirchhoff and Harvey Nichols have all gone a bit Tralala mad, and I really cannot blame them…

Samples, images, notes and quotes via Penhaligon’s.


33 thoughts on “Old School Whimsy – Penhaligon’s & Meadham Kirchhoff Tralala Perfume Review

  1. This sounds so appealing – the whole combination of the perfume and the packaging. I’ve had my sights on this from the announcement at NST to the “everything but the kitchen sink” review at the Black Narcissus. As much as I dislike Saks, it is the most convenient store that carries the Penhaligon’s line and I had already asked the SA to call me as soon as it is available in-store. Great review!

  2. Eeek, that bottle looks like something Norman Bates might’ve squirreled away from dear mama’s vanity. 😀 – Not quite sure if I luv it or totally hate it quite yet !?? But I must say, at very least I’m enticed, you’ve made it sound most intriguing. …

    Plus it’s rather nice to see Penhaligon’s finally unbuttoning that top button & just having some fun. 🙂 If this continues it bodes rather promising methinks.

    • Haha, I see where you’re coming from Jules. The bottle does err on the side of creepy, but I like that very much. I’m a modern Norman Bates I guess (without the homicidal tendencies and unhealthy relationship with my mother, of course).

      • 😀 Heh, heh … I don’t know, I actually like the exaggerated bow just not so sure bout the creepy doll head. Still, can’t wait to sniff it as I’m rather liking the sound of it’s base, (even if the dreaded aldehydes scare me a little).

        On a different note, I’m afraid I can’t agree with u on Valentino Uomo – I was the lucky winner of that one (thanx by the way) 🙂 which I very much appreciate, however I’m afraid I just don’t like it much unfortunately. I think it smells far too ‘cheapy-perfumy’ for my liking (tho’ granted, it does improve towards base). Rather a pity really as I really like the bottle. Oh well, if it doesn’t grow on me soon it’s off to fleaBay it goes.

      • Oh that’s a shame! I was quite taken with it, as you know, but ‘different stroke for different folks’ as they say.

        Have you tried the new Lalique yet? That is wonderful stuff.

      • No not yet, but that one does sound far more promising. I’m thinking I might like that one too. … In fact I’d kill for that one’s previous main Lalique bottle – it’s truly gorgeous. (tho’ I don’t think I’d like the actual frag) – However at my budget I’d have to stick to the better flanker anywayz. 🙂

  3. Whether it sounds my kind of thing or not I have to try this because it sounds so quirky. It appears to be a great fit with the fashion brand too.

    Great writing yet again from the squeaky balloon animals to the fabulous final line.

  4. I must say I am a bit afraid of clowns, but you make this sound really good. Exploding clouds of lemon sherbet? A warm fade into auburn and mahogany? Aldehydes and aromatic vanilla? Brilliant!

  5. A sample of this is on its way to me – gloat – thanks for the appetite whetting review T! The only issue I can see is that I hope this scent comes in a spray as I might have to decapitate that creepy little doll’s head lid, it is very Norman Bates-ish. Otherwise, I hope the contents make up for the nightmares I am bound to have…:( I am showing my age here ;), but I had a terrible nightmare when I was a child which I never forgot, where I was chased down the street by these horrid 1960’s shop window mannequins with 1920’s style vampish heads on them that had come to life, complete with marcel wave hair and dolly eyelashes. This nightmare might have been tolerable if they had been exuding vintage Shalimar, but no such luck….

  6. Lol – definitely! You might enjoy my collection of vintage Reuge music boxes, they have spinning ballerinas under a plastic dome with floppy twirly legs and creepy little faces. If you power up a few of them in one go, their little tunes really freak me out, I keep expecting Norman to leap out at me at any minute…:O My sample of Tralala arrived this morning, thank you Penhaligons, excellent service! I have to say it’s love and even that scary dolly isn’t going to deter me. I get powder, Southern Comfort, a hint of eau de skank and there is also something slightly metallic lurking beneath the surface…wonderful stuff! It’s definitely ” Olde Skoole” and I like it!

    • Yep, I think I might just do – they sound fab ! 🙂 … + I luv them 30’s mannequins too. (as above, creepy-kitschtastic.) 🙂

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  14. Love your review! After sampling this for a year I finally found a bottle and purchased just after Christmas. I really like the opulent, slightly decaying, Rococo style. Like a well made cocktail in a old seedy bar, and perfect for cold weather. The first image in my mind on hearing the name was David Bowie as the Goblin King in the Labyrinth saying that line “Nothing, Nothing, tralala.” And upon first sniff I could see that character wearing this in the ballroom scene. A perfect match of visual imagery, and mood, and scent. So thankful I have a positive connotation with the name, rather than what most people seem to get. And that I could score a bottle, since there was a limited number made. 🙂

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