There are signature scents and bespoke fragrances, and then there’s the new perfume experience by Penhaligon’s. The British perfume house has a long history of creating unique scents; in 1902, for example, the house was commissioned by the 9th Duke of Marlborough to produce a fragrance to celebrate his family’s ancestral seat at Blenheim Palace. The resulting citrus cologne, Blenheim Bouquet (£75 for 50ml EDT), is sold today as part of Penhaligon’s range, while the revival of its luxurious bespoke service is headed up by Alberto Morillas, one of the world’s leading master perfumers – whose impressive portfolio ranges from Calvin Klein CK One and Marc Jacobs Daisy to Bulgari Omnia, Panthère de Cartier and Penhaligon’s Iris Prima.
The Seville-born nose will lead clients on a 10-month journey to create their own unique scent, a process that costs £35,000 and starts with an intimate consultation at Harrods Salon de Parfums. “I start with a series of questions,” says Morillas, “such as, how would you describe your personal style? If someone close to you would describe your personality in three words, what would they be? What is your favourite flower and why? In terms of colours, do you prefer warm orange, red and yellow, or cool blue, green and purple? Where do you love to go on holiday – beach or city break?” The one-to-one nature of the meeting is vital, he adds. “Proximity makes all the difference when creating a perfume and almost all my formulas are written by hand. My handwriting is my emotion – when I write the formula, I can smell the perfume.”
This initial in-depth meeting is followed three months later with the presentation of up to three fragrances to help refine the commission. It then takes two rounds of amendments to decide upon the final perfume, which is presented to the client in two handcrafted 200ml bottles and a small travel atomiser, encased within a beautifully carved wooden box. The unique formula will remain a secret and, of course, more can be ordered (at a cost of £3,000) when the unique elixir is exhausted. Alternatively, Penhaligon’s also offers bespoke fittings (£300-£425) of its existing perfumes (containing its rose, sandalwood and iris notes) at its Burlington Arcade outlet – although it cannot compare to such a master perfumer’s “olfactory equivalent of couture”.