Taking Notes: Penhaligon’s Blenheim Bouquet

Well it’s that time of year again. Amazon keeps telling me “Amazon Day” is coming up and other places are trying to grab me with promises of 50% off on everything from voice-activated light bulbs to ATV tires. Of course what grabbed my attention was a sale at Penhaligon’s.

Penhaligon’s seems to have a bit of a dual nature: there are the older scents, like Castile and Bluebell that have been around forever and there are new ones with funkier names, funkier packaging, and far higher prices. Since I am, shall we say, financially challenged if not downright parsimonious (OK, I am just damned cheap. Happy?) I tend toward the former, especially at 50% off. Which is how I own bottles of Castile and Bluebell.

Blenheim Bouquet was, according to Fragrantica launched in 1902, with Penhaligon’s stating that it was made the Duke of Marlborough- who apparently liked his gin since they compare the scent to that liquor. I don’t really get that- there isn’t anything like juniper that I can discern and nothing as obvious as quinine taking it into tonic territory. They say lemon, pepper, and pine. The main thing I get is pencil shavings.

Yes, Pencil shavings. With citrus and pepper.

Now hear me out on this: you might be young enough that you never in school had to take one of those stupid standardized placement tests. One upon which your future hung. In America, we had to several times in out academic lives starting early- tests that were designed to tell us whether we would be Captains of Industry or asking “would you like fries with that” in our adult careers. Part of these tests was that it absolutely positively had to be filled out with a No. 2 pencil (I never found out of there was a number 3 pencil and never wanted to- I’m sure using one would mean that you were sent off to Military School or the Salt Mines.) So the scent of a freshly sharpened Faber Columbus is something that I have a distinct (and oddly pleasant) memory of.

Blenheim Bouquet for me has this. So much so that the citrus and the pepper take a backseat and the scent almost goes into CB territory; it could be titled “Memory of Placement Test” or “SAT Dreams.” At ($65 marked down from $95) for 30ML it may not have been the least expensive trip down memory lane I’ve taken, but it’s a nice one.

Blenheim Bouquet is sold out at the Penhaligon’s Website, where I purchased my bottle. Photo of the bottle is mine.

  • Musette says:

    This made me LOL! especially the thought of the Duke of Marlborough squiffing himself nightly with a nicely iced gallon of G&T, secure in the knowledge that someone would clean up after him.

    The pencil shavings… eh. But! Mimeograph ink (ditto ink?) Oh, for a perfume reminiscent of that!


    • Tom says:

      Never really like G&Ts that much until a friend made a bunch on a stifling hot day. Bliss..

      Mimeograph machines! That weird smell and those sticky negatives. I of course grew up in the era of the laser printer, sooo..

      Oh who am I kidding: our pet dinosaurs chipped stone tablets for our tests.

  • Maya says:

    I haven’t had much luck with Penhaligon, except for Ostara which I love. I remember those silly and probably worthless placement tests with #2 pencils. It made me wonder if there was a #3 pencil, but I never found one. lol. Fun little memory romp.

    • Tom says:

      Thank you! I actually looked it up and yes, there are other numbers. Not that any school would have them..

  • March says:

    I feel like there was/is a L’Artisan that smelled strongly of pencil shavings, intended or not … I really liked it. And you dumped me down the rabbit hole of numbered pencils — B (black) vs. H (hard) which makes it confusing because the black pencils used by artists get blacker (which I assume means softer) the higher you go, but the H ones get harder and thus lighter lol. I have a whole range of B pencils… used to use one on my eyebrows! Don’t think I’ve ever tried Blenheim, it sounds great.

  • Holly says:

    LOL! this was a fun read to start the day! And, interesting you have a positive association with standardized testing- BLECH! Does this perfume remind you at all of Dzing! ? For some reason that is what kept coming to mind reading your description with the pencil and paper…?

    • Tom says:

      Huh- maybe it was Dzing! I was thinking of? It does have a little of that smell to it, but more like you were taking the SAT’s in a circus tent.

  • Dina C. says:

    I laughed out loud at your review, Tom! I remember all those standardized tests well. And they seemed to start around age seven. Cedar gives me those pencil shavings scents. Last year for Christmas I gave my son Teddy a Penhaligons sample set from their new portrait line. It’s very cleverly done with little bios for each scent almost like the Clue game. Packaging is very nice even on the sample set. The full bottles have 3-D gold animal and bird heads as bottle toppers. There’s a rhino topped one called Terrible Teddy, thus the cheeky gift to my son. We need to get it out and actually sample them.

    • Tom says:

      I love the idea of Terrible Teddy- I may have to seek it out just for the name. I do like the packaging of the newer ones with the cool caps but they are a bit spendy for me.

  • cinnamon says:

    The only thing I recall about SATs was the question relating to which insect would survive a nuclear war. I do like the smell of pencils, especially the fancy ones for artists. Actually, that might make a good candle …

    • Tom says:

      I used to have a set of fancy colored pencils for art classes (and oddly, geography) Prismacolors? I think my JHS geography teacher must have been receiving kickbacks on every set sold because he made them a defacto requirement.

  • Portia says:

    Hey Tom,
    Years ago while trawling eBay I found a couple of huge glass stoppered bottles of Blenheim Bouquet Bath Oil. Being the only one to bid I got them for a song. Chucked the first bottle when finished but the second one refilled for years.
    I can’t even remember what happened to that bottle. It may have been dropped or broken but it’s long gone.
    It went slightly milky as I poured it in the bath and smelled divine. SO GLAM!
    Portia xx

    • Tom says:

      I don’t think they still make the bath oil. At least i didn’t see it. Too bad. I’d love some.