In Depth

Heaven scent: Penhaligon's bespoke perfume services

The British perfumer now tailor-makes one-of-a-kind scents with the olfactory geniuses behind some of the most iconic fragrances

Few things are as personal as perfume, holding the power to instantaneously transport us back to a moment in time. But whether your choice changes with the seasons or becomes a more permanent fixture throughout your life, finding your perfect olfactory companion can be challenging among the abundance of designer creations on offer.

Whether looking for something off-the-shelf or personalised, a first stop should be Penhaligon's new boutique in Harrods's charming Salon de Parfums. The historic British perfumer is already known for its handy fragrance profiling sessions, in which its experts can help you pinpoint your perfect pick, narrowed down by carefully examining your personality and preferences. Two new programmes available at the department store take this a step further, inviting you to dream up your own fragrance with bespoke and semi-bespoke services.

Andrew Meredith

The latter, created by renowned nose Fabrice Pellegrin, is the more budget-friendly option, ranging from £300-£425 for a 100ml bottle. Customers are first invited to try out and select a base note, with four of the main olfactory families represented – chypre, woody, amber and oriental. This is layered with one of Penhaligon's signature essences, of which the four to choose from include Rose Centifolia Absolute, Oud Wood Essence, Iris and Sandalwood. The fragrance is then scientifically measured and mixed before your eyes at the lab-like station tucked away at the back of the boutique.

For something completely unique, however, there's Penhaligon's Bespoke by Alberto Morillas, spearheaded by the man behind some of the world's most recognisable scents including Calvin Klein's CK One, Tommy Hilfiger's Tommy and Marc Jacobs's Daisy. Comprising eight months of trial-and-error testing and costing from £35,000, it's a process that requires both a significant monetary and personal commitment, but results in fragrance that is truly one of a kind. 'The customer has to invest time too,' explains Morillas. 'It's like when you buy a house, you need to invest some time yourself to create your style inside. With perfume it is the same.'

Andrew Meredith

It begins with an initial interview, lasting between one and three hours, from which a first suggestion is made six weeks later. Customers are encouraged to wear the fragrance to get a sense of how it changes throughout the day, before the feedback process starts. 'I can take, sometimes, four or five directions before I find the fragrance that makes them feel happiness,' says Morillas. 'The fragrances can be very complex – I use exclusive flowers and unique scientific elements to make a strong creation.'

When the final perfume is agreed, it is delivered in two handmade and custom-designed 200ml bottles, complete with silver travel atomiser and funnel. The formula itself is kept under strict lock and key by Penhaligon's, enabling refills to be easily reordered while ensuring the signature scent will never be replicated.

'My signature style is very recognisable,' says Morillas. 'But when I create this perfume I need to create for the person, I don't want to create for me. It's very exciting, but at the same time extremely challenging.'

penhaligons.com

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