Penhaligon's Ellenisia (2004): Perfume with an Emotional Quotient {Mother's Day 2013 Selection} {Perfume Review & Musings}



 ©Penhaligon's - courtesy picture

As we get closer to Mother's Day 2013 on May 12, we are devoting our pages to proposing a selection of perfumes which are both Sexy & Maternal, a combination which you can find in some compositions, usually unadvertized. Like the secret "bedroom accord" of perfumers, there is a "sexy mother accord" (our own description) which you can find sometimes inserted by industry noses in their perfumes. Indeed, if there is one thing you can learn from perfumes is that you do not have to choose between sensuality and maternity because the magical thinking that is perfume...

...can hold those two sensations neatly tied together like a reminder to overcome harmful cultural dichotomies - one more reason to spray some civilized fragrance on. In a strange way, perfume, which has particularly thrived in Catholic cultures in the modern era, has refused to abide by the famous dual stereotype of the whore and the mother. It would probably be bad business to sell perfume only to sex workers in the end. We jest.  

Penhaligon's Ellenisia (2004) was composed by perfumer Steve de Mercado of Fragrance Resourceswho signs here a beautiful floral composition hinging upon gardenia and other white florals like his Marc Jacobs Blush released the same year. The name of the scent is derived from the Celtic word "elen" meaning a nymph. The mythological vein of inspiration turns the composition into a more poetic and rich rendition of the white floral bouquet than is usually experienced.

Ellenisia is a lovely, "succulent" - is the other word that spontaneously comes to mind - white floral bouquet with indolic accents which manage to be both natural, even a bit raw, yet tailored. When composing a white floral bouquet in perfumery you can choose to inflect it more towards a woman-panther or a woman-butterfly. Ellenisia, the nymph, treads the middle path in a balanced manner where the scent sensuality flashes intermittently beneath a cool and gentle exterior; the perfume is just lovely yet hardly disembodied nor lacking in suggestions of carnal dangerosity.

As the first impression of lush yet fresh white petals morphs further into the course of the development of the fragrance, anisic and carnation-like nuances add both subtle spiciness and powderiness to the scent. At the same time fresh green accents of violet continue to lurk in the background of the fragrance; when smelling Ellenisia more attentively, you realize you have stepped into an English garden which is warmed up by the Tropics.


©Penhaligon's - courtesy picture

Then, oakmoss accents come to the surface which bring a discreet vintage feel to the composition. This is the point where you mutter an inaudible, mental "Wow!". The perfume becomes also moving because, at least consciously, it smells of your mother's perfume in a deep, historical way as it throws back to a lineage of oakmoss-laden perfumes. The nostalgic chord it strikes is further enhanced by the effect of the scent of an English rose evoking rosewater, rose creams, rose potpourris, rose soaps. It is very feminine, suggestive of the hearth and home. Here again, you can detect the manner in which Ellenisia manufactures loveliness. The rose you smelled in the rose soliflore Nahema by Guerlain - it is here like a small droplet of it. This is a white bouquet with roses in its heart.

A peek at the Penhaligon's website indicates that the brand used the word "poignant" to describe the perfume. This is no mere free-wheeling ad copy. It truly is like that, a feeling you echoed spontaneously as "moving"; "voluptuous and secretive" you accept too. 

A quirky, subtle woody and soft facet which is hard-to-describe turns out to be a plum-nectar accord sweetened by vanilla and freshed up by crushed violet leaves.

The next floral phase of the perfume brings out the tuberose more. You can detect its green-mango nuance and voluptuous smell made fruitier thanks to mandarin, a classic pairing since Fracas by Piguet; it does not smell like it however. Re-smelling it more consciously together with the more perceptible tuberose you are struck by the reminiscence of an accord found in Poison by Dior, yet it's an idea of it, not a replica of its smell. The drydown lets through better the scent of fresh violet leaves growing in the shade while the perfume distills a sensual musk which is neither dirty nor clean. It smells of summer's natural musks when fruits, skin and sun conspire to making the atmosphere more redolent and sensual. 

Ellenisia is a beautiful and qualitative perfume. It is a lovely floral opus with intricately woven flowers of gardenia, jasmine from Morocco, tuberose, rose and violet-scented leaves. This is a composition which feels like one to pick if the first word that comes to your mind when you think of your mother is "beautiful", inside and out.

Fragrance notes: mandarin, violet leaves, rose, gardenia, jasmine, tuberose, plum nectar, vanilla. 

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