One Thousand Scents

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Scentroulette Day 2: Malabah by Penhaligon's

I very nearly had to resort to a thesaurus to find enough synonyms for "light" when considering Malabah by Penhaligon's, a light, soft, pale, gauzy, and ultimately rather confused scent. It feels like an oriental, but you don't know what kind of oriental it is: floral? spicy? woody? What exactly is it?

The first thing you smell is a cup of tea in a dry-cleaner's shop. Then a small pile of pulverized spices is added to the mix--nothing assertive or hostile, mostly ginger and nutmeg, kept very discreet. And then some roses show up. And then sandalwood, and a wisp of amber, which is where that oriental feeling must come from. And then musk? Malabah doesn't seem to follow the usual rules of perfumery, in which scent elements and accords follow in some kind of progression: more and more scents just keep showing up, and pretty soon the thing is as crowded as the room in Duck Soup. (Eventually the upper notes do get to leave: they can't hang around forever.)

It has a rather eighties feel (despite having been launched in 2003), but with the volume turned way, way down: it is pretty much guaranteed to offend nobody, because most people won't be able to smell it on you unless you bucket yourself with the stuff or they lean in really, really closely.

If you are a man who is not scared away by the pink carton--and that isn't a girly pink, anyway, it's a bold Indian hot pink--then you will find this scent absolutely unisex and absolutely wearable. Despite what must seem like nothing but criticism (it's too light, it's ill-defined, it's an oddly constructed muddle), I like it a lot.

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