Penhaligon's Trade Routes Collection was inspired by "the luxurious and decadent commodities which were traded through London’s historic docks at the turn of the 19th Century." What comes to mind after reading that teaser? Delicious, fumy liqueurs and spirits, spices and foodstuffs, sandalwood, patchouli, leathers, fabrics and the fabulous plant "discoveries" brought back to England by botanist-explorers. But who knew the ships' hulls had kegs and kegs full of...Iso E Super?!
Halfeti1 was named after the rare black roses that grow near the Turkish village of Halfeti; the perfume opens with strong Iso E Super, with its vague woody aromas. Iso E Super is quickly joined by cumin and saffron (mild, not sweaty). Halfeti does present a leather note with a hint of cypress and a food-y-vegetal-green musk. Halfeti's base smells of tonka beans and vanilla, combined with lingering musk and Iso E Super (together, these notes produce a scent that reminds me of fresh tarragon). No matter how many times I wore Halfeti, its supposed flowers — violet, jasmine, lily of the valley, rose — were in hiding (or blended to near-extinction as "individuals"). Halfeti has SUPER, Iso E SUPER!, projection...it seems the farther away from Halfeti-scented skin you are, the more you smell the perfume. (Halfeti survived on my skin even after a bath.) Overall, Halfeti is a fuzzy, warm-blanket perfume, not exotic in the least, but pleasant; it's not going on my to-buy list because blatant Iso E Super-heavy perfumes don't rock my boat, even when it's moored at "London's historic docks."
Levantium2 does open with an interesting accord: a rose-violet / absinthe cocktail. A creamy rose note begins to dominate almost immediately (if I didn't know better, I would have assumed this was Halfeti). In mid-development, Levantium exudes a dry, almost-smoky jasmine tea scent (it reminds me of the aromas of Chinese curio shops in L.A.'s Chinatown, with their soaps, teas and incense for sale). There's also a fleeting, syrupy peach / ylang ylang combo and a smidgen of guaiac wood. At the end of its development, Levantium smells of sudsy, rosy-perky patchouli. Levantium is a shade lighter / brighter than Halfeti, and it, to my nose, smells more "trade routes" than Halfeti. Levantium reminds me of summer and bath-time. Levantium has a striking similarity (in scent, sillage and behavior on skin) to Tom Ford Private Blend Fleur de Chine (now discontinued); like Fleur de Chine, I find Levantium too feminine for my taste, but I do like the perfume.
Penhaligon's still smells like a niche perfumery, but, for me, nothing extra-special or original has been released by them in a long time. Penhaligon's: please, give us at least one truly eccentric perfume...soon.
Halfeti and Levantium were developed by perfumer Christian Provenzano; Halfeti Eau de Parfum is $200 for 100 ml and Levantium Eau de Toilette is $160 for 100 ml.
1. Halfeti: listed notes of grapefruit, bergamot, green notes, armoise, lavender, cardamom, cumin, nutmeg, saffron, violet, cinnamon, jasmine, cypress, muguet, resins, cedar, leather, oud, tonka bean, sandalwood, patchouli, vanilla and musk.
2. Levantium: listed notes of bergamot, saffron, absinthe, davana, rose, violet, jasmine, clove, cardamom, peach, ylang-ylang, myrrh, amber, guaiac wood, sandalwood, cedar, patchouli, oud, musk, maltol, vanilla.
Note: top images of roses [altered] via Wikimedia Commons.
That’s really too bad. There’s one store near me that carries the whole line but I haven’t had much success with it either. Such a waste of such charming packaging!
CH: I wonder how popular Penhaligon’s is in the U.S.? I’ve never met anyone who wears one of their fragrances!
A really good question. The only times I’ve encountered the line in the hands of mainstream US consumers (i.e., those not stricken with a perfume addiction!), it’s been as souvenirs from UK trips. Now I’m wondering how this store can afford to stock the whole line! It’s otherwise a very expensive leather goods store tho, so maybe its clientele has the cash and inclination to buy the Penhaligon’s bottles as decorative objects as much as anything else.
CH: Here in Seattle I don’t know of one place that carries even a few in the line…and there are plenty of perfume places here.
It would have been really annoying to adore a perfume with the awkward name, “Halfteti,” wouldn’t it? And, of course, the old village was inundated by a dam in the 1990s.
Heh. Wise point, this is an important practical consideration. I’ve been dancing around my most recent purchase with the explanation that it’s from a French vegan organic line called Honore de Press, and hoping no one presses me to tell them the exact name is “Sexy Angelic.”
“Honore des Pres” should be sufficient warning that they are over their heads! I always wished that Chaman’s Party had had the best reviews because I love the name.
Have you tried it? I think Robin liked it! https://nstperfume.com/2009/04/14/honore-des-pres-chamans-party-perfume-review/ But it does sound like one would need to be a big vetiver fan to enjoy it, and most often I am not…
(Meanwhile, holy smokes, “Honore de Press”–autocorrect is not on my side tonight! Luckily yes in person so far the brand’s name and a good amount of hand-waving about the ecocert status has kept anyone from pushing for the exact name of the perfume )
nozkoz: I know…if asked I may have said: “I’m wearing ‘Black Rose.'” HA! In all the articles I’ve read about those roses no one has ever mentioned their SCENT!
I loved the start of this review – who indeed knew ships carried Iso E Super! Haven’t tried them yet but you have made me curious about Levantium by the Fleur de Chine mention. Will try it and see if it is special enough for a purchase. I do like some of their fragrances especially Iris Prima around this time of year. Their Peoneve is also incredibly pretty but I am more than good on peony perfumes and so can’t justify another one…
For once a perfume “story” that would actually justify the inclusion of oud or pink pepper, yet those notes seem to be missing.
Thanks so much for this great review. Reading it ignited my interest in the history of perfume – particularly in places were raw ingredients were hard to come by. The last couple of months I have been tracking down what plants ( if any) were used by Maori in New Zealand for scent and it’s been a really interesting project because it’s highlighted that perfume played an early role….just as music or art does.
I have never tried any Penhaligon as its not available here, plus I’ve always been a bit weird about English brands as I tend to associate them with pearls and corgis….not that there’s anything wrong with pearls or corgis.
This might be of interest? An 1893 article about plants/ perfume in Maori use. It’s written by an explorer in the North Island of New Zealand who famously gathered lots of plant specimens etc.