Two years ago, I received Penhaligon’s Elisabethan Rose 2018 for Mother’s Day. I’ve mentioned it before, as a rose scent I like to wear around Christmas, but I haven’t given it a review of its own. And this year happens to be Penhaligon’s 150th anniversary, which will be celebrated in various ways throughout 2020, so here we go!
Elisabethan Rose 2018 is a complete remake of Penhaligon’s earlier Elisabethan Rose; i.e., it is really an entirely different fragrance using an identical name, including the “s” in “Elisabethan.” (What’s up with that, by the way? Queen Elizabeth I spelled her name with a “z”). On Penhaligon’s website, there is no 2018 in the name; it appears that way on Fragrantica, to distinguish between the earlier and later scents. The 2018 version, which was very positively reviewed on several blogs, has these notes, according to the brand’s website: top notes of hazelnut leaves, almond oil, cinnamon; heart notes of red lily, centifolia rose, rose oil, rose absolute; base notes of vetiver, musk, and wood. Fragrantica’s list adds to the above a top note of tangerine; heart notes of geranium, black currant, and plum; base notes of violet and orris.
I don’t know how Fragrantica decides to add notes to a scent’s own list, but I think they’re right about the tangerine in the top notes. There is a fruity note that is not sharp like some citrus notes, but it does have that citrusy freshness. It is not in-your-face orange; it could be tangerine, or maybe clementine. The hazelnut leaf and almond notes present themselves right away, and they make the opening something different from the usual rose or floral fragrance, lending a nutty, green woodiness to the start. The heart phase of Elisabethan Rose is clearly dominated by rose notes. I don’t smell any lily, to be honest; but Fragrantica’s list may be right that there is a hint of geranium (roses and geraniums share the substance geraniol, which contributes to their distinctive scents). Other commenters have noted a sweetness to this phase that is not sugary but is a bit “jammy”. It’s hard to put one’s finger on what that means, but to my nose these rose notes smell more tangible, chewier, than the wafting floral notes I usually associate with roses.
Elisabethan Rose has the interesting quality that some other floral fragrances have: there are times when I can clearly smell it quite strongly, but when I lift my wrist to my nose, the scent becomes fainter, not stronger. This is actually a charming quality; it gives the fragrance a slightly elusive aura, an air of some mystery but not too much, just enough to bewitch in a wholesome way, like a beautiful woman wearing a hat.
As the scent dries down, Elisabethan Rose becomes woodier, as expected, but also slightly spicier on my skin. I may pick up a touch of vetiver, but it is quite faint. Some reviewers thought they smelt cardamom, and I can see why. I don’t think it actually has a cardamom note, but there is this cool, vaguely woody spiciness emerging later in Elisabethan Rose’s development that does remind me of cardamom (and the mulled wine I make at Christmastime). I don’t detect any violet or orris, as listed by Fragrantica.
While I do tend to wear Elisabethan Rose more in cooler weather myself, there’s no reason not to wear it year-round. Its spiciness is always light, never heavy; and it’s a great scent for daytime as well as for evening. Given its unexpected sillage, though, it might not be the best option for an office unless very lightly applied. I really like this fragrance a lot, as I’m sure you can tell; at least one other blogger, a man, names it as one of the ten fragrances he has chosen as Penhaligon’s best to mark its anniversary, and I do think this is a truly unisex rose fragrance.
Happy 150th, Penhaligon’s!
Featured image and video from www.penhaligons.com.