A supplier to The Red Carnation Hotel Collection’s London properties, perfumer Penhaligon’s is as quintessentially British as it gets. Launched in the 19th century by a Cornish perfumer, the fragrances soon became a favourite among the English aristocracy and the establishment was given its first Royal Warrant. Fast forward almost 150 years, and Penhaligon’s continues to create scents inspired by British history and culture. Here, Penhaligon’s Fragrance Expert, Dominic Collingridge, discusses the evolution of the brand and what Britishness smells like.
What does being a British perfumer mean?
“There are only a handful of British perfume houses in existence. We are very proud to be one of those few. Penhaligon’s was founded in 1870 by William Penhaligon, a perfumer and barber from Penzance in Cornwall. The world is now a very different place but we still continue to make all our fragrances in England.”
Penhaligon’s has had a fascinating history. What are some of the highlights?
“Penhaligon’s has held a Royal Warrant for over a century. William Penhaligon himself was, in fact, Queen Victoria’s Court Barber and Royal Perfumer but we were actually awarded our first Royal Warrant by Queen Alexandra in 1903. HRH The Duke of Edinburgh bestowed our second Royal Warrant in 1956, followed by the Prince of Wales in 1988 and we still supply products to Buckingham Palace today, which are delivered straight from our Burlington Arcade boutique.”
Are there any scents that you think of as being quintessentially British?
“English Fern and Blenheim Bouquet are both classic British fragrances from our portfolio of Eau de Parfums. The fresh and clean scent of English Fern was first introduced in 1910 and it still dazzles thanks to its top notes of geranium and lavender which are balanced by the forest-like fragrances of patchouli, oakmoss and sandalwood.
Blenheim Bouquet was originally created as a bespoke fragrance for the Duke of Marlborough and was inspired by one of England’s greatest country houses, Blenheim Palace. Said to be a favourite of Winston Churchill, it’s an elegant and refined mix of lemon and lime with pine, musk and black pepper.
A more recent addition, Quercus is a fresh Eau de Cologne which was inspired by the British Oak tree and is wonderfully reminiscent of warm summer days.”
What is the inspiration behind your scents?
“Each scent takes its inspiration from a different story or theme, whether it be Greek mythology, Savile Row tailors or British aristocratic history.”
How has the design of the Penhaligon’s perfume bottle changed over the years?
“The original Penhaligon’s bottle, complete with stopper and bow has evolved over time to meet more practical needs like travel, but it retains the integrity of its original design in terms of the shape. The bow included on the bottle nowadays is decorative but it’s also a reference to how the bottles were sealed in the Victorian age. Meanwhile, our Portraits bottles maintain the traditional Penhaligon’s bottle shape but the heads are a representation of the characters from the collection.”
Can you tell us about what you’re currently working on?
“In 2019, we’re really looking forward to some exciting launches next year within our Portraits collection, as well as a new fragrance within our Trade Routes – watch this space!”
Penhaligon’s supplies its quintessentially British amenities to Red Carnation Hotels’ The Milestone Hotel & Residences.
Image credits: Penhaligon's toiletries with towels Red Carnation Hotels. All images other images © Penhaligon's Andrew Meredith.