Hammam Bouquet, Blenheim Bouquet, Fern, Douro (composed between 1872 and 1911). The economic crisis of 1929 and the lack of raw materials forced the company to cease trading in 1940, and in the early 1970's, the designer Sheila Pickles restarted the business with the help of the famous Italian film director Franco Zeffirelli and of a book full of original handwritten formulas. In those years the manly tradition of the brand was opened to the female side, with the introduction of floral fragrances of classic structure, like Violette, Bluebell, Lily of the Valley, Racquets, Cornubia etc.
In 2002 the company was acquired by a finance group, and in the following years, the brand's aficionados began to notice a slight downleveling of raw materials, and the launch of less intriguing scents (Endymion, Ellenisia etc.). In 2007 Penhaligon's was put up for sale again, but apparently is still under the same ownership. In the meantime, from 2007 to present days, something new is happening, since a new set of fresh investments is renewing this traditional English brand, adding a special creative allure. Perhaps, if a brand is unattractive to the market it's because it's "empty" while it should be very much alive and kicking, thus appropriate actions were undertaken in order to revitalize it. Or maybe the owners realized they were underestimating a hen potentially “laying golden eggs”. Or, more simply, it was sold and I didn't notice it, and the new owners have decided to invest in creativity. So much so that the progression of innovative and amazingly well-crafted fragrances over the past 4 years is impressive: in 2008, Elixir by Olivia Giacobetti, the diaphanous Amaranthine in 2009 and the breakthrough Sartorial by Bertrand Duchaufour, in summer 2009 a re-edition of the great Penhaligon's classics called Anthology (Eau de Cologne 1927, Zizonie '30, Eau de Verveine '49, '63 Extract of Limes etc.). This year, the brilliant Juniper Sling composed by Olivier Cresp, and Esprit du Roi, by Bertrand Duchaufour.
During Pitti Fragranze I could test and re-test both (while Eau Sans Pareil remained behind, but I'll test it soon). Even if both fragrances share an extremely modern “push”, they feel somehow restraint, understated in a typically Penhaligon's way, and this makes me think that behind this new approach there's someone who really understood the heritage and traditional values of this brand.
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