Penhaligon’s, a historic luxury fragrance brand and the perfumer of choice for the British royal family, offers a somewhat secretive fragrance profiling appointment, and I recently got the opportunity to experience it. The appointment feels a little like a psychic reading, with a Penhaligon’s manager conducting a Q&A about your past and future, jotting notes down along the way. By the end of the questionnaire, which lasts about 30 to 45 minutes long, you’ve learned quite a bit about yourself as well as which fragrances are your perfect match. The topics span everything from childhood memories to personal style, and I found some of them surprisingly challenging to answer.
While I’ve never had one signature scent, always preferring to hoard a wide variety of Sephora samples, I’ve always wanted to be the kind of glamorous person that swears by only one scent. When I learned that Penhaligon’s is the fragrance brand of the royal family, I resisted the urge to exclaim “Make me smell like Kate Middleton!” in order to give finding my personal scent a try. Even if I had asked which scent the Duchess of Cambridge uses, the brand can’t reveal which scent belongs to which royal.
At the end of my question and answer period, the manager took me through the four scents that fit me based on my answers. One of my favorite options was Luna, named for the moon goddess in Roman mythology who puts Zeus’s most handsome son into a never ending sleep so she can gaze at him forever. The fragrance combines musks with orange, rose and bergamot. Empressa, another of my options, mixes blood orange, bright pink pepper, dewberry and peach. The fragrance comes from the herbs and spices the women of centuries past would use to keep their silks and furs fresh. Each scent comes with its own colorful story, many of them inspired by mythology or history.
Every detail from the bottle’s design to the tea and macarons served had a magical narrative behind it. Scent, storytelling and memory are all connected, and you can’t have a signature scent without a story of how you found it, and a reason why it’s yours. Penhaligon’s appointment helps you find the scent that suits you by making you tell your story out loud—through describing your memories, and the textures and tastes that can recall them. Which leads me to the question, why use Kate Middleton’s scent when you can find your own?