I’m not one for gossip ..but, well… I must let you know about the latest intel about new family members, the ‘impudent Cousin Matthew’ and the ‘Ingenue Cousin Flora’, new members of the Portraits collection. Yes, we are talking fragrances by Penhaligons, not my personal family. If only my family were as fabulously trashy as this one (in the best possible way of course). Just in case you are not up to speed with The Portrait Collection from Penhaligons, let us fill you in (after all you don’t want to miss out on some juicy gossip now do you?).
It all started out in 2016, the Portraits series of fragrances created as characters of a very British family, (in a sense) that sort of mad establishment bunch, that fits in the best ever TV soap or multi-paged novel. The head of the household is Lord George, philandering his way through the social circle (Alberto Morillas paid homage to those wood panelled rooms so typical of the stately home, mixed with alcohol, totally tipsy like only a true lord can be). He is set off by his rather scheming wife Lady Blanche ( a bright green fresh floral fragrance), their daughter Duchess Rose, the bell of the ball who has a slightly disappointing marriage (a Christophe Reynaud little woody rose number) and her eccentric husband Duke Nelson., who would far rather be at the theatre than be at home with his wife (a gin-soaked masculine take on a floral rose and woods).
There are now 13 fragrances in the collection all rounded characters that add to the family saga; all glorious on the outside and internally as mad as hatters. Each fragrance brings not only a new delicious fragrance to the story, a bottle with an exquisite cap (each one is a golden covered head reminiscent of a stag head on the wall of a stately home) as well as an eccentric tale. So what do the new cousins Cousin Matthew and Cousin flora have to offer?
Well, the brand describes him thus:-
“The trouble with Matthew seems to be just one of location and timing; wrong place, wrong time. He is, it’s true, never far away when things go awry. Educated, he gallantly takes the blame without contestation and is mildly surprised to cause such a nuisance for the actions of his delightful twin sister. And so he contemplates the sky, a dandelion, or a muddy gate for hours, to forget the latest bother with Nanny. He really can’t remember putting dead frogs in her bed, but if Flora says he did, why argue…?”
Mandarin is at the top for a sparkling bright opening but quickly goes to deep Petitgrain and finishes with dark deep patchouli. So vibrant and then deep and woody reminiscent of Matthew himself all bright and breezy on the surface which belives his depth, power, and cheekiness. Alberto Morillas created this new facet on a cologne and after all, he is one of the greatest perfumers working today. In his sure hands, this is a lovely slightly devious, yet refined character bought to life in a bottle.
And Cousin Flora?
“The wide-eyed innocent of the family, cousin Flora is courteous to the old, punctual for her riding lessons and a smiling angel around her ma-ma. (She is the sweetest and youngest first cousin of Rose.) Always a most valuable witness to the mischief of her twin brother Matthew, she is diligent in her reporting and aims to be as helpful as she can. Her one true virtue, the meticulousness with which she hides her own guilty trail…”
The perfume starts with a burst of citrus followed by soft musks and finishes with the slightly soft metallic amber of Ambroxan. So it invigorates as it opens then goes soft and woody and then finishes warm, comforting and silky soft. It reflects her innocence, her femininity.
In fact, it is a fair point to say that the Portraits collections celebrate the best of British from the not so wonderful colonies to the inbreed mad families circling around royalty to the dark humour that let’s be honest only the English possess. The black humour of fragrances inspired by affairs attempted murders, closeted homosexuality and substance abuse whilst highlighting our nostrils, opening our hearts and allowing us to laugh with, and at, our very own British eccentricity whilst smelling sexy, intriguing, beguiling or whichever facet works for you.
As for the brand and its origins? It all started in sartorial Jermyn Street in London in 1869 as a barbers shop which grew into a fragrance store. Over the years it has gained such a grand reputation it has been awarded warrants from the British royalty. It goes from strength to strength even after all this time with several collections under its banner including the Portraits collection, Trade Routes and Hidden London. The company has collaborated with some of the greatest perfumes working in today’s market including, Olivia Giacobetti, Bertrand Duchaufour and Alberto Morillas. As well as having a magnificent range it offers a Fragrance Profiling Service, to help shoppers explore the collections to find exactly what personally suits.
The company utilises the best of Britsih tongue in cheek humour to explore scents from its home turf to far-flung destinations. The fragrances are still made and bottled in England, with the same reverence for the highest quality ingredients yet is on hand to engage with the most up to date techniques for ingredient extraction; it still uses the bottle shape started by its founder a glass flacon with stopper and ribbon trim.