Review by Narth: Penhalgion’s Belgravia Chypre

I hoped that after a while everybody gets used to seeing posts written by my guest-cum-co-bloggers Narth and Portia, but a couple of times recently when Narths posts were mistaken for mine, I decided for a while to add her name to the titles (and Portia is doing something along the line already) – at least until everyone learns to check the By line (Undina).

* * *

I’ve always been someone who likes strong flavours. If a flavour must be delicate, it should be a work of art to make up for its delicacy. I was raised on robustness; mega garlic and onions, chillies, the darkest of pumpernickels. Food was praised in my childhood for how much of a flavour bomb it was. I didn’t eat sliced white bread until I was at least 15 as this was regarded as poison by one parent and pointless by the other. Why would you eat this when you could eat rye with caraway? Don’t people realize white flour is stripped of all its nutrients?

The last time I was travelling, I had a revelation as I sat in the hostel kitchen and ate my free breakfast. A slice of white toast, spread with margarine (an abomination) and some thin, sugary strawberry jam. At home I would have used butter, and my jam would have been either an expensive brand or, more likely, made by myself and intensely flavourful. Here, drinking some over stewed black coffee and munching away at this testament to blandness, I shocked myself by appreciating the very blandness itself. It wasn’t about beautiful simplicity in food, it was a sudden shift in my thinking from an almost religious belief that all food had to be purposefully wonderful. Now you could say this enjoyment of blandness was a byproduct of travelling, we all know that the McDonald’s breakfast you have at 5am in the airport is the best McDonald’s breakfast you’ll ever have. But it was more than that, and since returning home I’ve found myself enjoying food in a different way. Perhaps, the last snobbery of my upbringing has finally dropped off, or maybe I’m just a lame-o hipster. And of course, I’m still overthinking everything, but that’s what perfume people do. So, has this played out in perfume for me? Not as readily as with food, but there have been a few times my hostel breakfast has come to mind as I enjoy a scent.

Penhaligon’s Belgravia Chypre, a limited edition now making rounds of the discounters, has at its very heart a strange staleness. It’s pretty, clean and patchouli minty. A thin rose, it smells like old musk sticks left in the bottom of a paper bag. Musk sticks for the non-Antipodeans are pink, musk flavoured sweets that people are either delighted by or grimace at the sight of. Found in the corner shops for a few cents each, many an Australian childhood included buying this cheap candy and eating it out of little paper bags. Musk is a strange thing to use as a flavour if you haven’t grown up with it. In my perfume swapping days, I would often include some Musk flavoured Lifesavers as the “extras” in an overseas swap because it is such a surprising thing to try if you’ve never had it before. Belgravia Chypre dries down to a stale paper bag infused with the flattest of musks, and I absolutely love it. It’s become my favourite evening simple scent, when I want to wind down. It often makes me laugh because of that not very good musk note, and I would not wish it any other way. I think they were going for a sheer musk, but if they had achieved that, it would have lost all its personality for me and been just another musky rose.

Do you have any scents you appreciate for their failure to be exceptional?


Penhaligon's Belgravia Chypre


Penhalgion’s Belgravia Chypre (Fabrice Pellegrin, 2018)

Top Notes: Raspberry, Pink Pepper
Middle Notes: May Rose, Mate
Base Notes: Patchouli, Cistus labdanum


Image: my own


9 thoughts on “Review by Narth: Penhalgion’s Belgravia Chypre

  1. Hey North,
    So good to see you.
    Can’t believe how differently Belgravia Chypre wears for you than it does me. My ride is dark and peppery patchouli woods with a very robust jammy rose and some smooth basil-like greenery.
    SO BUMMED I don’t get the stale musk lollies, they are one of my favourites but Jin says it’s like eating cheap soap. Next time I wear Belgravia Chypre it will be the thing I look for.
    Portia xx


  2. I think Portia that now that I have said “stale musk lollies” you may rediscover this note in Belgravia Chypre.. interesting you get something robust which I do not but I’m not surprised the scent will have different reactions from people. Some fragrances are more like that than others and I guess the associations we bring is a part of it.


  3. Fascinating. I can’t think of any scents I like for nostalgic reasons despite their being otherwise “bad.” When I saw labdanum in the notes, I wondered if that contributed to the staleness? Labdanum by itself can have a “fusty” smell (it’s a challenging ingredient for me).

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Perfume can be plain or “just nice” if it’s not too expensive. At Penhaligon’s retail price those better be extraordinary. But once they hit discounters, they get more and more attractive with each % drop in price ;)

    I swear those pinky things aren’t food! ;) But I’m sure that in any country, any culture there are their own variations on the awful sweet thingy-s that one can like only if they grew up eating those at the age when there was no such notion as “too sweet” ;)

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Yes these musk sticks are a taste best acquired when very young. Though I didn’t acquire them then and I still like them, the intense musk flavour is very enjoyable. I like perfumey candy. Have had musk gelato too.

    As to Penhalgions.. they have really gotten ridiculous with the latest line IMO. Dramatic bottles for sure but having tried a half dozen of them they seem all pleasant, simple scents for very high prices. I like many of the older Penhalgions though and Duchaufour’s Sartorial is one of my favourite ever scents.


  6. Hello Narth, an insightful and funny review, as always. I haven’t smelled this Penhaligon’s, but I do enjoy many of their scents. Regarding your question, always. A fragrance doesn’t have to be exceptional to be enjoyable.


  7. Musk candy? I can’t even imagine what that would be like. I know salty licorice sweets are popular in some countries, but at least they would have a strong flavor. Oh well, it’s all what we grow up with and are accustomed to. Everyone in the US eats peanut butter and people in other parts of the world often find it disgusting. Vive la difference!

    The notes of the Belgravia Chypre actually sound pretty nice, raspberry, pink pepper and rose.
    I may have to try it. I also find ‘uneventful’ fragrances very nice and comforting from time to time, e.g. Oscar de la Renta’s Bella Bianca.


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