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The traditional London perfume maker

Article added on April 1, 2004
Established in 1870, the perfume maker Penhaligon's is one of London's traditional names. They continue to use "the highest quality ingredients" as well as "the original formulae used by William Henry Penhaligon", with the only exception that banned substances, which can no longer be used in order to protect endangered species, have been substituted.

Today's Penhaligon's bottle is a signature shape and trademarked. It originated in the Victorian bottles used by William Penhaligon. They were sealed by waxing them and tying them with ribbons. This method is no longer used, but the ribbons tied around the necks resonate back to the originals.

In the late 1860's, William Henry Penhaligon left his native Penzance, Cornwall and moved to London to establish himself as a barber. By 1870 he had a thriving business supplying perfumes, toilet waters and pomades to the aristocracy.

By the end of Queen Victoria's reign, William Henry Penhaligon had been appointed Barber and Perfumer to the Royal Court. Penhaligon's has been awarded Royal Warrants by her Majesty Queen Alexandra in 1903, His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh in 1956 and His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales in 1988.

The company, which once had famous customers such as Oscar Wilde and Sir Winston Churchill, had its ups and downs. The World Economic Crisis after the 1929 Crash and the lack of raw materials forced the company out of business in the 1940's. What remained was destroyed in the Second World War.

It sounds like a fairy tale, but in the early 1970's, the fashion designer Sheila Pickles restarted the business with a handwritten book full of recipes with the original formulas and a hat box with old labels - the only heritage of William Henry Penhaligon.

With the help of the famous Italian film director Franco Zeffirelli, Sheila Pickles opened Penhaligon's flagship store in Covent Garden, London in 1975. Other shops have since been established in London in the Burlington Arcade, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Windsor and Chester in the UK, in San Francisco and in Madison Avenue and Saks Fifth Avenue in New York City, US as well as in Hong Kong, China. Since January 2002, Penhaligon's is owned by the American Cradle Holdings, which for instance also owns Erno Laszlo.

Scents, fragrances, perfumes by Penhaligon's and their history

Penhaligon's first own fragrance, created in 1872, was named Hammam Bouqet in honor of the famous Turkish Baths in Jermyn Street, St. James. The baths were built by the London & Provincial Turkish Bath Company Limited and continued to be owned by that company until they were destroyed during the London Blitz in 1941 [information by Malcolm Shifrin, added on April 13, 2004]. The scent Hammam Bouqet remained the creator's personal favorite. Its base notes include musk, amber and sandalwood, the middle notes otto of roses, cedarwood, orris and jasmine, and the top notes are lavender and bergamot. Hammam Bouquet with its dark rich blend, generating warmth, intimacy and well being is a very special fragrance, not to everyone's taste, but surely a scent that stands out. It is still one of Penhaligon's bestsellers. Among the famous 20th century people who wear or wore it was the Italian film director Luchino Visconti and is his colleague Franco Zeffirelli.

William Henry Penhaligon secured his reputation by creating scents for the nobility. Scents included English Fern and Lords, both created in 1911 and still available. The Edwardian classic Blenheim Bouquet, created in 1902 for the Duke of Marlborough, was Sir Winston Churchill's favorite. Blenheim Palace, after which the fragrance was named, was the ancestral seat of the Duke of Marlborough and Churchill's birthplace. 

Blenheim Bouquet was one of the first citrus scents, fresh, light, dry, classic and clean, at a time when perfumes were usually rich and floral. Blenheim Bouquet appeals to both men and women of all ages. Its base notes are woody, musk, its middle notes aromatic spices, green, its top notes lavender and citrus. Today, Blenheim Bouquet is one of three fragrances used in the hotel guest amenity program of Penhaligon's.

A new citrus-based scent was formulated in 1996: Quercus. Originally, it was a special creation for a customer and named after an oak tree which had a special meaning for this person; quercus is the botanical name for oak. Quercus has a sandalwood, treemoss and musk base, jasmine and muguet middle notes, cardamom galbanum, lime bergamot, lemon and mandarin top notes. This scent is without gender and age, light, fresh, clean, it becomes woody when warm - amber and oak provide it with depth. It is used in Penhaligon's guest amenity program, e.g. in 2003 in the suites in the Hotel Louis C. Jacob in Hamburg, Germany, one of my favorite hotels (hotel review in German).

The latest Penhaligon's fragrances are Artemisia, Endymion and Malabah. Launched in 2002, the Ladies' scent Artemisia is the first Eau de Parfum by Penhaligon's, named after the 17th century female painter Artemisia Gentileschi (1593-1652). It is a bright and fresh fusion of jasmine tea, flowers, green foliage and vanilla on a bed of precious woods an warm amber.

The men's fragrance Endymion was launched in 2003. The zest of mandarin and the subtle sweetness of bergamot combine with cardamon and a waft of nutmeg, black pepper and vetiver. Lavender, sage and black pepper blends with a lingering hint of amber, leather, musk and myrrh.

Added on April 11, 2004:
Endymion is named after the king in Greek mythology, born rich, beautiful and strong. He sacrificed it all to pursue a lover he saw only in the dreams. Then he discovered that the woman from his dreams did exist. She was Phoebe (also known as Selene), goddess of the moon. He was granted immortality on condition that he spent his life asleep and dreaming of her. He accepted.

The latest scent by Penhaligon's is Malabah. Created in 2003, it offers the Indies in a bottle. Exotic, sensual, cool and confident, its basic notes are sweet, amber, musky and woody, its middle notes ginger, nutmeg, cardamom, rose, jasmine and violet, its top notes lemon, orange, lime and cilantro.

In addition to scents in the form of colognes, eau de toilettes and eau de parfums, Penhaligons also sells bath oils, bath and  shower gels, body lotions, hand and body creams, talcum powders, soaps, shaving creams, shaving soaps and after shave balms in several of the mentioned and other scents.

Added on May 11, 2006: a new book about the legend of Selene and Endymion: Natalia Agapiou: Endymion au Carrefour. Gebrüder Mann Verlag, 2005, 286 p., 55 illustrations. Get the book from

Penhaligon's perfume shop at Covent Garden. Photo © Penhaligon's.

Lily of the Valley (left; 1976), Artemisia (2002). Photo © Penhaligon's.

Lp No:9 for Men (left; 1999) and Lp No:9 for Ladies (1998).
Photo © Penhaligon's.
Quercus (left; 1996) and Endymion (2003). Photo © Penhaligon's.

Malabah (2003). Photo © Penhaligon's.

Deutsch Politik Geschichte Kunst Film Musik Lebensart Reisen
English Politics History Art Film Music Lifestyle Travel
Français Politique Histoire Arts Film Musique Artdevivre Voyages

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© Copyright  Louis Gerber  All rights reserved.