Penhaligon’s Empressa

We lost an Empressa recently, so this review being the next one on my list is fortuitous timing, I think.



  • Wet: apricot, peach, carnation, lily, lavender, bergamot
  • Dry: peach, apricot, lavender, lily, rose, bergamot, patchouli, pepper, orange, sandalwood, cacao, vanilla

This one is lovely. A normal fruity floral from a quick sniff, but just a second more and the fruitiness hits you. I love peach in a fragrance and I get enough of it here to remind me of biting into a huge white peach that was the crown of our summer pickings. Wait a little longer and that creamy, chocolate-y base rises up. The cacao is surprisingly present, though of course the vanilla dominates the bottom.

The whole composition acts a little like a short stack of blocks: spicy pepper and juicy citrus on top, the fruity (and slightly aquatic?) florals right under, and then a hit of sweet, creamy, unmade cocoa underneath, blending, yet utterly separate somehow, randomly to the right as if someone decided to start off a game of Jenga real dangerous. Gorgeous, though not really cohesive. I might have fallen in love if the figures connected better. Even after a few hours, the fruity-floral and the base weren’t quite connected, though they were a fair bit closer together.

My vision of an empress has more spices and smells more warhawk-y. More unisex, maybe a few more spices or a deeper floral, more creamy base, heavier patchouli top, animalic aspects etc. If I were a warrior queen I’d wear non-sugared chai on patch, dirt, blood, and chocolate. Or icewine on cedar. I should contact Mandy Aftelier one day.

I’m not sure if this is an empress’s fragrance for that reason. It’s more princess-y, sweet and flirty and sensual. Clean, too, despite its richness, which I think for an empress isn’t the most appropriate. Perhaps a princess who’s aware of her status and what it means, but hasn’t been thrown in the thick of it and doesn’t have any real responsibilities that she takes seriously yet. Post-movie star Carrie Fisher probably wouldn’t go for this one, though I don’t see her being super into fragrances in general, but maybe 1975 Carrie would have been into it.

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