The Penhaligon’s Portraits Chapter 1 collection includes two perfumes for women and two for men. Today I'm reviewing the men's offerings: The Tragedy of Lord George and Much Ado About the Duke. I dutifully sniff any Penhaligon's perfumes that come my way (I never go to any trouble to seek them out); I don't feel excitement when the company announces a new perfume because, with a few exceptions (and no matter the perfumer) Penhaligon's perfumes lack pizazz and many recent Penhaligon's releases are downright wishy-washy in character. And now we have an "aristocracy" collection, or chapter.
The Tragedy of Lord George
Perfumer: Alberto Morillas; listed notes of ambergris (Ambrox), fougère accord, brandy (or rum, depending on the info source), shaving soap and tonka bean.
Masculine and elegant – with a hint of rum. Powerful, rich and ever so welcoming — “do come in, I’m sure we’ve met before.” For the well-to-do who are able, stable, reassuring — but also lots of fun. A solid shoulder to cry on (was that a protective hand I felt on my _____?) This is a fragrance for the man whose reputation lives on. Not quite Latin — but full of love nevertheless.
The Tragedy of Lord George goes on smelling boozy, like a smooth, "green" amber-scented brandy cocktail served with a splash of tonka bean syrup. Quickly, the amber-tonka combo takes over and it's combined with a touch of fresh, peppy wood (guaiac?) The Tragedy of Lord George has a comforting/cozy vibe that's perfect for autumn; I like it. But then there's the "luxury" price — for a perfume that does not smell luxurious at all. Unless you love the bottle and MUST have it, you can have a richer, and more interesting, tonka/vanilla-amber experience with Laura Tonnato Amir (100 ml Eau de Parfum, €80) or Speziali Fiorentini Profumo al Tè Nero (50 ml, €20) or any number of woody-amber-tonka bean fragrances. The Tragedy of Lord George is its inflated price and lack of daring; its sillage and tenacity are good (dear ole Ambrox lasted through a hot shower).
Much Ado About the Duke
Perfumer: Daphné Bugey; listed notes of pepper, rose, gin, cumin and leather.
A rose is a rose is a rose. Except when your assumptions are laid bare. Because expectations can only disappoint. When hot is cold and day is night. When florals are exclusively strong and invigorating. When leather is only soft and smooth. And whilst head-turning, whilst decadent, whilst painfully chic we should remember that transgression, (like progress and modernity) is as old as the hills, as classic as Greek and as universal as Man. [Say what?]
Much Ado About the Duke presents an "India"-spiced pepper, cumin and citrus opening, on the sheer side but with distinct body odor scent. Much Ado About the Duke places its bright, light-scented tea rose beneath a heaping helping of spices, but within 15 minutes of application, Much Ado About the Duke has an aroma I'll call "lingering rose scent on a dirty shirt" — a combo of sweat and "tired" soapy rose. I have a hard time with soapy florals, so Much Ado About the Duke's rose was not a hit with me, even with added cumin; as I wore the perfume (as with The Tragedy of Lord George), better perfumes came to mind: Atelier Cologne Philtre Ceylan (also sold at a crazy price, $250 for 100 ml or $130 for 30 ml) and Eau d'Hermès (100 ml, $134); both these perfumes have the guts to go "all the way" with leather and cumin.The Duke has good sillage (too good) and all-day lasting power: though I scrubbed and scrubbed, I could not dislodge its artificial molecules from my arms and chest.
The Tragedy of Lord George and Much Ado About the Duke have animal-head bottle caps and these animals supposedly represent the personalities of the lord and duke (ho-hum fellas with no connection to stags or dogs, unless there's some "hunt" suggestion). What am I saying? None of the PR makes sense! The shiny bottle caps look cheap to me and I wonder why someone didn't suggest a matte or verdigris finish, "bronze" or faux stone instead.
Penhaligon's Portraits Chapter 1 The Tragedy of Lord George and Much Ado About the Duke are available in 75 ml Eau de Parfum, £178. For buying information, see the listing for Penhaligon’s under Perfume Houses.