Friday, 13 July 2012

Persolaise Review: Peoneve from Penhaligon's (2012) + Sepia (2012) + Secret Garden (2011) from Aftelier

In the catalogue of olfactory families, there’s a sub-set of florals that do everything they should with no unnecessary fanfare. They’re clever without being show-offs. They display excellent tenacity without any stickiness. They smell familiar without descending into cliches. The latest addition to this eternally happy category is Peoneve.

Based largely around a special peony reconstruction (obtained through headspace technology), Olivier Cresp’s creation for Penhaligon’s brings together green notes, a hint of marine breezes (don’t worry: there’s no calone overload here), ginger, rose and an elegant tea facet in a soliflore which is as enjoyable as it is undemanding. Pleasant freshness is difficult to evoke without resorting to predictable citruses or herbs, but Cresp’s expert control of his craft ensures that this charming piece of work never becomes boring or trite. What’s more, the presence of ambroxan in its base pulls its distinctively English, Pimms-in-the-park sensibility straight into the 21st century. The scent may have Cath Kidston aficionados in its sights, but somehow it never becomes totally frivolous.

Penhaligon’s often struggles to balance its olde worlde heritage with edgier aspirations: if you place the gloriously bizarre Amaranthine next to something like Bluebell, it’s not easy to discern quite what the range’s overall creative vision is supposed to be. But Peoneve plays to all of the brand’s strengths. It conveys Britishness, modernity, humour and streamlined cleanliness with good taste and a lightness of touch. More like this, please.

In brief... Sepia has enjoyed a great deal of praise in the blogosphere. It's certainly an interesting composition, mixing razor-edged citruses with tobacco, cedar and Mandy Aftel's signature 'mossy undergrowth' accord. As far as evocations of autumnal evenings go, it's very convincing, but personally, I prefer Secret Garden. For a start, it doesn't display the weak tenacity about which Aftel pre-warns everyone who wears her all-natural work for the first time; on my skin, it lasted for several hours. More importantly, it paints an enchanting, fairy-tale picture of an enclosure in which petals drip vanilla and raspberry juice, bees carry tiny balls of marzipan on their backs and blades of grass burst into green powder whenever someone steps on them. Meanwhile, beneath everything, the damp, heavy soil thrums with wisdom.   

[Review of Peoneve based on a sample of eau de toilette provided by Penhaligon's in 2012; reviews of Sepia and Secret Garden based on samples provided by Aftelier in 2012.]



  1. Thank you for these lovely reviews of Secret Garden and Sepia – I’m delighted by such inspired writing about my work!


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