Penhaligon's (2008)


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Elixir by Penhaligon's

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About Elixir by Penhaligon's

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Fragrance House

Elixir is a men's fragrance launched in 2008 by Penhaligon's

Fragrance notes.

  1. Top Notes

  2. Heart Notes

  3. Base Notes

Reviews of Elixir by Penhaligon's

There are 41 reviews of Elixir by Penhaligon's.

Will-o'-the-wisp rose, an intermittent glisten, a ruby glimmer, this rose, it dances like a sprite in a warmed cedar Turkish bath, eucalyptus and birch leaves floating, and the air is a light steam, causing light through the window to enter in ribbons. There is an incense composed of nutmeg's outer lacy membrane we call mace, warm, savory, married with sandalwood. In an esoteric cellar, a cauldron brews all manners of herbs: tansy, blue chamomile, hyssop, and twigs of Ceylon cinnamon.

I feel wonderfully vague and adrift while wearing Elixir, like it brings to relief the hilarity of life's ins and outs; the absurdity of that which we fixate, perseverate. We just are. We just are, and that is enough for which to be grateful. Not how successful or respected we are, not what we have in our possession: not the fancy equipment that affords us sophisticated videos for our social media platforms, not the number of subscribers and followers we have, not the home we own, not the car we drive, not even all our precious bottles of scented liquids.

Elixir could probably serve the purpose that renders so many other fragrances I cling on to unnecessary, because it somehow whispered to me, "it's attachment." Maybe it's the spirit of rose otto as it fades, pressed-flower like, folding into the groove of my consciousness like a haunting hymn. We just are.

This is an intriguing opening! Cardamom is the strongest part of the first spray, with a lovely orange blossom as a background support. A touch of white cedar is even more in the background, but the most interesting part is a subtle eucalyptus impression that is delicately intertwined with the other top notes. The result is a fairly discreet bright and rather unique commencement of this olfactory journey.

The drydown presents a lovely and quite natural jasmine, which is accompanied by a soft and bright Turkish rose; a small dose of mace enhances the spicy side again.

Towards the base one reaches the forest: rosewood, some sandalwood, guaiac and hints with whitewoods - these are quite restrained, as is the tonka that adds a very discreet sweetness.

I get moderate sillage, adequate projection, and fove hours of longevity on my skin.

The top notes of this spring scent are very impression in their creative approach. The heart notes stimulate by their good quality, but the base remains a bit anaemic on me. Good for the office. Overall 3.25/5

Penhaligon's Elixir (2008) has taken on a semi-legendary status since discontinuation, both for being composed by niche wonder perfumer Olivia Giacobetti, but also for being compared to another lusted-for unicorn: the discontinued Tom Ford Sahara Noir (2013). To be clear, Sahara Noir came out long after this, but had a much smaller production run and gained it's "unicorn status" much more quickly than this once collectors caught the FOMO (fear of missing out) fever, then when this was axed too and reports of it being similar came pouring in, stock dried up and prices climbed into the stratosphere. I personally do not find the core of Elixir to be about incense, even though it is a strong component of it, so I don't know how accurate those comparisons really are. The best way to summarize this is via analogy. This is to a modern dry rose fragrance what L'Artisan Parfumeur Timbuktu (2004) is to transparent woody patchouli fragrances of the same era. I also must admit that I used to be on the hunt for this back when I was trying to collect the brand, but once Penhaligon's doubled their prices and then doubled down on distribution control to enforce them, I lost interest. Circling back to see this one was discontinued right around the time I stopped collecting the house, and having literally become ten times the price of what it was when I gave up the hunt, I'm a bit saddened because I've been allowed to sample and enjoy Elixir, but if $45 was a hard sell to me then, $450 is surely right out. Penhaligon's would continue with even more accurate/authentic oriental rose takes as they became more "niche" as their market repositioning demanded, so this was probably outmoded despite being so lovely of a perfume in its own right. Sad, really.

The opening of Elixir can only really be described as pretty, with dry citruses and eucalyptus. This is a rose scent at the end of the day, so that means the eucalyptus and rose mix may give more of a proper British conservative rose impression rather than the exotica the label promises, which may have been part of the problem with selling Elixir abroad. I won't quite say this falls into the same territory as Creed Royal Mayfair (2015) with the soapiness of the rose, because a different type of rose is present, but the eucalyptus and rose here do similar tricks to keep the rose fresh and semi "platonic" in tone. Neroli and some dry cardamom do what they can to fill in the spaces with light, but the dark Turkish rose heart takes over before long, continuing in a desiccated almost book-pressed manner with rosewood and mace. A sourish frankincense becomes clear right away, and this is probably where comparisons to Sahara Noir originate (helping to drive up price higher as a "second best"), especially considering how lifelike this frankincense note is, and not smelling like the usual woody-amber molecule version of "incense". I am reminded a bit of Déclaration d'Un Soir by Cartier (2012) with the way the red sandalwood base note here comes in to meet the spiced Turkish rose, before Elixir drys down to then-futuristic but now-standard transparent woody base with a bit of ambroxide push. Wear time is about eight hours of average sillage and this could be an all-seasons perfume for lovers of dry oriental accords, particular rose, incense and sandalwood. Elixir smells contrastingly dark, yet fresh, sexy yet also properly adjusted for polite company, and desperately beautiful. Best use for me would be evening or formal use and this comes across completely unisex to my nose. A full bath suite of products for super-fans also exists if you wanna go nuts, telling me there might have been a big commercial push that didn't pan out when it was launched.

The real odd thing about Elixir is how it basically predicted a lot of dry rose fragrances that would come later, all utilizing a similar mix of oriental rose, sharp woods, incense or a synthetic proxy, and some sort of transparent push whether provided by ambroxide or another clean musk type. Elixir reads like an oriental rose perfume processed through the usual cultural whitewashing of the British Empire, but perhaps that was the point of the stuff, to be about as Middle Eastern as London curry is Indian. Regardless of intentions, Olivia Giacobetti predicted (or inspired) the creation of everything from the aforementioned Creed (because even Royal Mayfair's precursor of Windsor came a year after Elixir), to the mentioned Cartier scent and Calvin Klein cK2 (2016), since they all pull the same "trick" with varying degrees of quality and fidelity. Having smelled, fallen in love, and bought all of those, I would have very much loved to own Elixir too, and hindsight tells me I made a grave error in letting my cynicism about Penhaligon's upmarket climb dissuade me from continuing my collection of the house. Oh well, no use crying over spilled perfume now, as I am not paying what vultures want on eBay for a bottle of this, so at least having experienced it, I can draw some closure if nothing more. Elixir is a weird bird in the Penhaligon's canon, as it doesn't feel like a Victorian barbershop and doesn't have the heavy-handed "luxury" feel of a niche fragrance in the market tier the brand now competes, which is probably why it had to go. If you're able to sample this or come across a bottle selling at a reasonable price, don't pass it up like I did. I don't often feel I'm missing out when something "goes unicorn" and moves beyond my reach, but I do here. Thumbs up.

So if you're looking for something similar to TF Sahara Noir, this is definitely a tamed down version. It's not a match by any means, but there are definitely aspects that give off the same vibe....but not as strong or sharp. Elixir is a bit smoother. It seems that it's about equally as hard to find a bottle of this, as it is Sahara Noir, so I'm gonna have an uphill battle. At least I have Sahara Noir.

María Casares (The Princess) in( Orpheus ) by Jean Cocteau 1950

It has grabbed my attention from the start as I didn't know what to expect. It's like smelling a chunk of cedar while near burning incense and eucalyptus leaves. It's also sweet, and I could be tempted to say it's honey, because it does remind me of the honey in Phaedon's Tabac Rouge, but also the vanilla in Tom Ford's Tobacco Vanille; it has the same character as those two and the cinnamon completes the association for me. It's mostly linear on my skin and I would categorize it as a sweet spicy woody oriental.

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