Penhaligon’s Amaranthine

I was pitching around early last week for something to write about as I’m not in London until this coming week (ie, couldn’t yet write about that) and didn’t have something specific in mind, and for some reason Amaranthine popped into my head.

In the middle of writing stuff, Queen Elizabeth II died this past Thursday. We’ve now moved into a 10-day period of ‘national mourning’ which all feels a bit strange and unsettling. The best condolence comments I’ve seen were from an member of Parliament, who simply sent his best wishes to the family and noted that when he spoke to her in the past they discussed grandchildren and gardening, like two relatively regular older people chatting over the garden fence.

Anyway, Amaranthine.

Sadly, I no longer own even a decant of this, but for reasons it’s pointless delving into, it pops into my head periodically – and it always makes me sad I didn’t buy a bottle back in the day even though I was never able to wear it for long (more on that later). Clearly, this has selected a small space in my brain and settled there.

This is fairly long discontinued and was a real anomaly among Penhaligon’s fragrances (March wrote about it in 2010,, referring to it as a “head scratcher”). First off, the nose was Bertrand Duchaufour (does the man sleep?) which really was sort of perplexing for a house that appeared to be as staid and traditionally English as Penhaligon’s. And then people sniffed it and went ‘Whoa, Nelly! Where did that come from????’ Because for many people, even if they didn’t like the fragrance, they did think it sort of smelled like (female) sex in a bottle. What was the house that brought us Bluebell thinking?

Having looked back at the blog posts from the period of its release, I would hazard a guess someone at Penhaligon’s got it into their head that it would be a good idea to ride the niche coat-tails and they brought Duchaufour in. I still wonder what head office thought and if said person managed to hold on to their job.

And the bottle. A weirdness. It was the standard Penhaligon’s bottle (see pic from Wiki — this clearly isn’t Amaranthine, but you get the idea) but with a grosgrain bow tie around the neck. Now, seriously? What was that about? This needed a way different bottle design and certainly a silly frill made no sense at all. Like the company was able to go part of the way but no further.

The house is now owned by Spanish brand Puig, so having a more wide-ranging offer makes more sense.

Amaranthine was released in 2009 and discontinued in 2015 – ie, it wasn’t allowed a terribly long life.

Notes list includes palm leaf, cardamon, freesia, coriander, tea, ylang, carnation, clove, jasmine, orange flower, rose, milk, vanilla, musk, sandalwood and tonka bean. There are a lot of notes I love in that weird soup. However, when it was first reviewed, a number of people mentioned an odd banana aspect (you know, when a banana is a bit too ripe) which put them off.

On me, this was unctuously sweet, unsurprising given many of the notes – a big, panting, weird, beautiful conflagration. And for the first maybe half hour it was possible to glory in that. Then, however, I got overripe banana and whether this was all in my head etc it made it impossible to wear it on skin. And lord knows I tried (different wrists, back of knees – anything to try to make wearing it possible).

At some point I was gifted a decant, but that leaked and I didn’t have the forethought to further decant it or just put the bottle in a plastic bag (who knew it would be gone so quickly). So, all gone.

Interestingly (at least to me) I also had this sort of experience with Frederic Malle’s Une Rose, but with this one it was a mushroom note that made it unwearable. A slightly mildewy scent that just sent the rose running, taking things over in a really unsettling, unpleasant way.

Having written this, I realised I really should have a go on eBay etc to get a sample of this so at least I can maybe satisfy needs with a small sniff every once in a while. But a cursory look shows partial bottles for sale for over £300 – which is just silly. So, maybe a sample but will need some looking.

So, do you remember Amaranthine? Were you among the scratch-your-heads or did you dive in with a vengeance and now have a dozen backup bottles under your bed?

  • Dina C. says:

    I never got my nose on a sample of Amaranthine sadly, but from how you describe it, I’m not sure I missed much. I usually like the things Bertrand Duchafour crafts. His quirky, offbeat scents are amazing. I enjoy the Eau d’Italie, Neela Vermeire, and L’Artisan ones that I’ve sniffed so far. (He is really prolific, isn’t he?!?!) Looking at that list of lovely notes, I’m wondering how they ended up as rotten banana. Yuck.

    • cinnamon says:

      Seriously, I can’t believe he sleeps given his output. It is an incredible notes list but clearly doesn’t give us the full picture. Maybe some combo of cardamon and milk, etc, leads to banana (or, of course, there’s simply something else not listed that does it).

  • March says:

    Amaranthigh! I couldn’t remember what I wrote so I just went back and read it … I liked it, but I thought it was cuddlier than lots of people did. But I didn’t love it enough to get around to buying it.

    • cinnamon says:

      Yours was a wonderful review. I really enjoyed reading it (I expect I also read it when you wrote it…). It really does pop into my head periodically and I’m always frustrated that I don’t at the very least have a sample available.

  • Zazie says:

    Oh I love Amaranthine and bought a FB when it launched, which is still half full.
    Discovered it was discontinued too late for a backup, but I am glad I get to enjoy its banana goodness for now.
    I never understood those claims about it smelling like women thighs.
    It’s a while floral.
    With spices. (Like vamp à New York)
    With a huge unripe banana sliced on top.

    Glorious and, to me, so easy to wear, in that terracotta/golden goddess vein of solar perfumes.
    These fragrances are all a tiny bit too sweet, and often feature a hint (or a huge slice) of tropical fruit (coconut, usually), but they are so fun, happy, summery, and skin like.

    Amaranthine is my favorite in that cohort. My only penhaligon’s.
    Love the cool spiciness of it, cardamom I think, which ties beautifully and elegantly with the floral and gourmand/foody facets.

    Of course, I understand that not everyone would sport a banana perfume out and about.
    I, apparently, have no issues with that. 😉

    • cinnamon says:

      I think Amaranthine is the only one in that cohort I’ve tried. Banana isn’t my thing in perfume, whereas coconut etc would work for me. Somewhere in my perfume history there was a sample of something that was a thing maybe 15 years ago that I loved. No clue now what it was.

  • Portia says:

    Not sure why but Amaranthine was a bit of a flop on me Cinnamon and I sold my bottle onward.
    Now you have me intrigued.
    Portia xx

    • cinnamon says:

      I serially tried it — over and over — because it smelled so good, just not on me, and I thought that somehow I could make it work. Alas, no. And if I recall correctly it wasn’t something to do on fabric because whatever you put it on would always smell like Amaranthine. Forever.

  • ElizaC says:

    I’m lucky, Amaranthine works on my skin – it smells like a sultry evening surrounded by flowers. I would very happily buy a perfume that smells like banana Laffy Taffy, so there is no problem here with the banana note. It reminds me of the some of the Jamaican rums with their intense, ripe apple/banana esters.

    • cinnamon says:

      Ah, you are indeed lucky. Alas, banana toffee was never one of mine. I messed up my teeth as a teenager with other stuff.

  • Alityke says:

    I bought a bottle blind in TK Maxx just after it d/ced. I love EL Amber Ylang Ylang so overripe banana doesn’t scare me. What I didn’t expect was a cross between condensed milk & baby sick. The same effect I got from another Duchaufour creation, L’Artisan Havana Vanille aka Vanille Absolument.

    Now I’m not sure about anyone else but my years of smelling of baby puke were well behind me in 2015 & grandchildren were (and still are) some time off.
    Plus, the only place condensed milk has in my life is in porridge or turned to caramel for banoffee pie. Maybe that’s where the suggestion of banana came from?
    Needless to say Amaranthine met the same fate as Havana Vanille had before it, straight to eBay. Should have held on to them looking at asking prices!

    The only Duchaufour’s I really enjoyed were Seville a l’Aube, Avignon & Ostara. Only Ostara is still in my collection. Seville & Avignon were sold on. Maybe I’m not a fan or maybe his work just isn’t my jam (or condensed milk)

    • Musette says:

      okay – that last line made me BLART!


    • cinnamon says:

      Duchaufour has done great things with Neela Vermeire — I think those are my favourites of his. The banana just makes things impossible for me, as does the mushroom in Une Rose. Really too bad. As to condensed milk: tres leches cake.

      • Alityke says:

        Never tried Tres Leches.
        The baby puke smell might be cos my eldest constantly regurgitated all the time! Just me?
        In the L’Artisan I had put it down to the rum & milk note combined.

        • cinnamon says:

          Ah, babies, and what they get up to. I don’t know where you get Tres Leches cake here. My son made it once for reasons I cannot now recall. It took a long time and was toothachingly sweet, but a small piece was really enjoyable.

    • Tom says:

      I remember trying this and getting that condensed milk thing as well. Plus mushy banana. I didn’t get baby sick but what I did get had me rinsing with Purell pretty quickly, so I might have missed it repeating, as it were.