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Published October 15th 2011
You may not be aware that you're walking past a branch of Penhaligon's, but your nose will soon alert you. It's something like the smell you get when walking through a perfume department in a store, but a little different. This is not just any aroma, this is a very English fragrance, composed of a range of men's and women's grooming products that are still made in Hampshire.
There are currently eleven Penhaligon's branches throughout the UK, but the one I always return to is the shop at Wellington Street in Covent Garden. It still retains its air of earlier times with its brown cabinets and stripped wooden floor, and this is entirely intentional. he business was originally founded in 1872 by William Penhaligon, a Cornishman. His first male fragrance, Hammam Bouquet, was inspired by the Turkish baths around Jermyn Street, where he opened his original barber's shop.
Nowadays the Wellington Street boutique is still very masculine in design, but is not off putting to members of the opposite sex. There is an overall choice of thirty-five different fragrances from Artemisia to Zizonia. Some are purely for men, and include cologne, aftershave, aftershave balm, shaving creams and soaps. There are also shaving sets, brushes and razors. The women's products are offered as cologne, eau de toilette, eau de parfum and solid fragrances. Quite a few of the scents are sold as unisex, and not restricted to either gender. If you can't make up your mind, every fragrance is available to test in store, and the knowledgeable staff are on hand to offer professional advice. My man is convinced that their aftershave balms are the best he's ever used, and I'm still waiting for him to buy a bottle of Artemisia.
You're not restricted to spraying and dabbing the fragrances, many of them are also available as soaps, bath oils, talcum powders and body lotions. If you visit the Covent Garden branch you can try them out by the fab Edwardian sink, washing yourself, and then creaming your hands afterwards.
Even if you don't wear perfume yourself, you can scent your home with their range of candles.
I recommend a visit to Penhaligon's towards the end of the year. In Wellington Street you will find the open fire burning a warm welcome to complement the Christmas decorations. You could even be forgiven for thinking you had journeyed back in time; you may not encounter Queen Victoria, but Prince Philip has patronised them since 1956 and in 1988 the Prince of Wales issued his own Royal Warrant to Penhaligon's.