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Fragrance Profiling @ Penhaligon’s London

Penhaligon’s is the most British of perfumeries. They take tradition and eccentricity and smush them both together in a cocktail that is undeniably British in every way, shape and form. Over recent years, Penhaligon’s have moved away from the stuffy, the prim and the proper to celebrate the quirkier sides of British life, launching eccentric scents inspired by gin (Juniper Sling), furs (Tralala), lady thighs (Amaranthine) and most recently, a fictitious aristocratic family (Portraits). They are a brand that manages to have fun with fragrance whilst making it a serious business at the same time. It’s fair to say that I’m a fan.

I like to think I’m relatively familiar with the offerings at Penhaligon’s but I must admit that I’m not too in touch with their many recent fragrances (they are busy bees it must be said) and i’ve admittedly spent hardly any time with their classic, earlier creations. What’s more, I’ve never really had a formal introduction to the line so I snapped up the opportunity to pop in to Penhaligon’s for a Fragrance Profiling session. I wondered what they would pick for me. Would it be something I love already, or would it be something new and exciting – or maybe it would be an undiscovered classic? My curiosity got the better of me, so off to Penhaligon’s I went…

Episode Three is Available Now!
Episode Three is Available Now!

Grab yourself a coffee, tea or any appropriately-hot beverage because your Sunday fragrance entertainment is here! Episode Three of Fume Chat, the perfumed podcast hosted by Nick Gilbert and me, is available to download. In this episode, Nick and I discuss the subject of niche perfumery. We try to find out where it started it and how’s it change, in addition to posing the key question: is niche really niche anymore? It’s a fun and insightful conversation that we hope you will enjoy.

Endless Reflections
Endless Reflections

The district of Peckham in south-east London isn’t the first place that springs to mind when one thinks of the house CHANEL, but that’s exactly where the world’s most famous couturier decided to host a five-day pop-up scent installation inspired by their fragrances. The location was chosen because it is home to the studio of Es Devlin, the Stage Designer picked by CHANEL for their first collaboration with i-D under their ‘The Fifth Sense’ partnership.

Es Devlin creates “kinetic sculptures meshed with light” and is famous for piecing together elements of the London 2012 Olympic Closing Ceremony, Béyonce’s Formation World Tour (having created a gigantic “monolith” of a video screen for the tour), Adele’s BRIT Awards performance of “When We Were Young”and pretty much all of Kanye West’s performances in recent years. With such an illustrious and frankly fascinating body of work, it’s no surprise that Es was the perfect artist to work with for CHANEL’s very first pop-up scent installation.

Entitled ‘Mirror Maze’ this installation takes themes of navigation, gravity and memory, and links them to fragrance. The physical aspect sees a mirrored maze reminiscent of Coco Chanel’s famous mirrored staircase intertwined with video installations and soundscapes. Fragrance comes into play in the form of a specially-created scent crafted by CHANEL in-house Perfumer, Olivier Polge – a fragrance that scents a special space within the installation. The fragrance and installation (which closed yesterday) will last for five days, after which they will only exist as memory.

“I began to think about scent as a means of finding my way and measuring myself – not in space but through time. I thought about the smells that take me back – burning street tar, Vicks inhaler, Christmas tree resin, freshly cleaned school corridors, printer ink, chlorine, sunscreen, baby milk, mosquito coils, Indian jasmine mixed with street cooking, diesel – and I began to see them as landmarks for who I was when I first and last smelled it.”

– Es Devlin

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Le Parfum de Pluie

Maybe it’s because I’m British and I simply have no choice, but I love the rain. My favourite moments are those cold nights when one is all tucked up in bed as the rain and wind lashes against the house. Not to mention warm summer days peppered by hot showers of rain that bring a welcome breeze through open doors and windows. These rainy moments are some of my absolute favourites and we haven’t even discussed the smell! The odour of rain is mineral, but it’s also an atmospheric adaptor that relies heavily on the landscape around it. Summer rain on hot tarmac smells different from muddy winter downpours, and so on. The one constant however, is the fact that rain always smells and more importantly, feels beautiful.

In this piece I’ve selected five fragrances inspired by the opening of the Heavens, which we’ve certainly seen a lot of in the UK over the last few weeks. They range from the grey nimbus clouds that precede and promise rain through to storms in the summer and the city, all the way to the odours left by the rain as it moves on. Each and everyone presents a different idea of deluge and downpour, crafting through olfaction, the spirit of nature’s temperamental emotions. So prepare yourself for precipitation and a veritable storm of scented rain!

#ScentedStories - Amsterdam
#ScentedStories – Amsterdam

We live in an incredibly fragrant world. The sights and sounds we encounter every day are accompanied by a layer of smell that adds texture, colour and depth. Without this fragrant fourth dimension, our experiences of the planet would be less vivid, and certainly less enjoyable. I therefore, think it’s vital that we stop to smell the roses, as it were, and appreciate the joys that the smells around us, both pleasant and unpleasant (and occasionally revolting, gross and repugnant), bring. Even in our busiest moments, we should take stock of the wonderfully fragrant world we live in.

A few weeks back, I paid a nostalgic visit to the British seaside town of Aldeburgh with my family and to honour the sentimental, and smelly, significance of this particular place, I documented the sights and smells of the trip on my Instagram account, and then later collated them on this blog. A new series, ‘Scented Stories’, was born and over the coming months I intend to further explore this fragrant little place we call Earth with additional instalments that look at the specific scents of interesting places. I encourage you, dear readers, to share your experiences too.

For this latest instalment, I took a spontaneous mini-break to the land of clogs, legalised cannabis, Gouda cheese and trams, so many trams. If you haven’t guessed it yet, I am of course referring to the fascinating city of Amsterdam. So with my iPhone and passport packed, and my husband by my side, I took a short hop across the North Sea for a three day exploration of a picturesque, and laid-back city unlike any another. Below you will find my #ScentedStories snaps, including fragrant captions, as well as some standard holiday selfies, and glamour shots for your viewing pleasure. Enjoy!

#ScentedStories
#ScentedStories

My favourite medium of Social Media is Instagram, so it will be no surprise that my Instagram account (you can follow me here, BTW) is filled with many, many pictures of my favourite things, specifically a variety of images related to perfume, food and my family. You can say a lot with a simple picture and I personally find it to be a fantastic way to represent the spirit, or essence of a fragrance by pairing it with a piece of art, or a carefully-selected background. I’m a bit in love with Instagram, if I’m being honest with you, whether I be using it to flirt with perfume photography or simply stroking my ego with a cheeky, but essential selfie…

One thing I’d like to start doing via my favourite medium is record some of my everyday scented experiences using photography and a smelly commentary. I’m calling the series ‘Scented Stories’, or ‘#ScentedStories’ for the social media savvy amongst us, and I’d like to invite you along with me to explore the smellier things in life. Photos and captions will initially be posted on my Instagram and then collated in a blog post here. But this isn’t just about me (not everything can be, I know…) and I’d like to hear/see your #ScentedStories too! So, tell me about the interesting smells you come across and share your photographs, comment away, and let’s traverse this wonderfully, and beautifully fragrant world together.

For my first Scented Story I have documented a recent trip to that most wonderful of places – the British seaside. When we were kids, my father would take my siblings and me to a small town in Suffolk called Aldeburgh. Unlike many seaside towns, Aldeburgh is quaint, laid back and fairly untourist-y, but it does have all of the things one expects from such a place, namely; a beach with painful pebbles (murder for the feet, let’s face it), plentiful ice cream, tacky gift shops and, most importantly, killer fish and chips. To rekindle fun times spent by the coast, we (as in my siblings, father, step-mother, husband and I) have started taking semi-regular trips back to Aldeburgh with my nephew and below the jump is just a small photo essay, complete with scented commentary, of this year’s trip. Enjoy!