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
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
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
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,
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
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
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.