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Photo: Courtesy of Penhaligon's

Whew!  Summer just is a memory now. A blur of long sun-filled days, lazy vacations and outdoor living. And while all this was going on, I missed a few things, like the ongoing story of the fragrances/characters in the Portraits Collection by Penhaligon’s.

The Portraits Collection is a nod to Penhaligons’ Victorian roots when founder, William Penhaligon, moved to London and opened a shop on Jermyn Street, in 1874 selling perfumes, soaps, and other fragranced items.

The Portraits Collection, Chapter 1, was launched in 2016 with four fragrances, each centred on a character in a fictional Victorian aristocratic household. Each character has their own story, making the collection a family of fragrances - literally.

The press release says:
What are the secrets of the British aristocracy? Are they as well behaved, courteous and polite as they seem to be? “Portraits” is a tribute to the English spirit; between establishment, humour and provocation.

There’s the patriarch, Lord George, his wife Lady Blanche, their daughter, the Duchess Rose and her husband, Duke Nelson. Over time, the family of fragrances has grown to ten. Ten! Where have I been? Oh, yeah, see above. But I’ve made up for lost time and really explored each of the fragrances/characters and their playful backstories – Monsieur Beauregard, the overly-familiar French houseguest, Clandestine Clara from the, ahem, unofficial side of Lord George’s dynasty.

The stories are great fun and the fragrances are all winners, and I know I’ll end up buying all of them, but right now, going into autumn, I’m stuck on the Coveted Duchess Rose.

Here’s her story:
“A fresh, sweet Rose — ready for the picking. Ever since her recent marriage (anything but a bed of roses) our demure Duchess is urgently desirous of desire. Her bosom is aching for release from the corsets of Victorian life, she dreams of nothing but Paradise Regained, again and again.
When one’s husband is at the theatre every evening, one does become terribly bored…”

It opens with a sweet, juicy mandarin. It’s beautiful fresh start that calls forward a fragrant rose note. On me, it’s tinged with an herbal greenness that makes it a bit tart and moves me each time I smell it. Then it starts to open up, and the rose starts getting fuller, darker and jammy – it becomes unashamedly seductibve. Musky wood rises up from the base adding spicy, sweet and animalic nuances and a sheer woodiness. The base doesn’t hold the fragrance down, it doesn’t anchor it, instead it lifts it.

The drydown is a seductive, woody rose that best suits women and while it seems familiar in some ways, it’s like no other rose scent I know.

Oh, this Duchess, she’s a beauty all right! A scent to covet and a story I want to smell on my skin for a very long time. As for summer, well, I’ve moved on with the Duchess.

The Coveted Duchess Rose is listed in our Decant Store. Decants are $5.00 for 1 ml.


Organic Ambrosia by Ecco Bella -

Last week, I was walking quickly out of a local store not looking where I was going, and banged someone hard with my shoulder as they came through the entrance. I hate when accidents like this happen, it’s always embarrassing, but it turned out to be an old friend I hadn’t seen in a long while. So instead of apologizing and going through the formal niceties of strangers, we both laughed and gave each other a big hug. As I leaned in and put my arms around her, I got a whiff of something quite wonderful.

“Oooh, you smell so GOOD!” I couldn’t help myself, I had to ask. “What’s that fragrance? What are you wearing?”

“Isn’t is delicious?  It’s called Ambrosia, and  - you’ll like this, Kay – it’s ORGANIC! Finally, a perfume I can wear and feel good about. I love IT!” she whispered.

She knows me well. She knows I’ve been a cheerleader for natural and organic products all my life, especially where food, health, skin, and beauty products are concerned. Even though I collect and write about perfumes, I’m not 100% comfortable with the synthetics used in most fragrances, so I’m always thrilled when I come across artisanal scents made with pure natural ingredients, essential oils of flowers, herbs, spices, grasses, resins. And I’m super-thrilled when these creations also smell fabulous and last on my skin more than thirty minutes.

Ambrosia was created by Ecco Bella, a U.S. company founded by social entrepreneur Sally Malanga. From the website, “Ecco Bella is a pioneer in natural and organic beauty products. ….Since 1992, we have been dedicated to respectful science…  Sally began Ecco Bella, a name that means "Behold Beautiful!" to celebrate the beauty of her customers…[she]realized there was a world of plant-based ingredients including powerful nutraceuticals from ethical suppliers….

The Ecco Bella fragrances are…”made with sophisticated perfumery techniques using only real essential oils from flowers, fruits, herbs, and spices, our Parfums are concentrated as perfume and last longer than cologne.”

Ambrosia smells fabulous. I know this for a fact because, after catching the waft from my friend, I bought a bottle (you can buy online from the Ecco Bella store) and I’ve been wearing it exclusively for the past five days. It is definitely a Certified Organic product.

Well, what does Ambrosia smell like? First out of the bottle, an aromatic earthy accord of Egyptian geranium and black currant bud that melts into balsamic warmth as the herbal lavender note develops. And then ylang-ylang adds an exotic floral sweetness to the accord, like the waft of white flowers in the heat of a langourous summer day, and Ambrosia starts a sensuous journey into the heart.

The heart is warmed by spicy ginger, cardamom, and clove – the aromatic spices controlled with a creamy dark vanilla as Ambrosia begins to slide into the base accords. The vanilla sweetness becomes more honeyed, highlighting the gingery-spice and floral accords, and circling back to spotlight the lavender notes. Never gourmand, the dark vanilla creates aromatherapy magic with the deep patchouli note in the base, giving Ambrosia a sensual and  lingering seductive finish that lasts through several hours. Spicy-floral, vanillic, and earthy, rich but subtle, calming but sensual, I think Ambrosia is a beautiful vision of Nature’s olfactory tapestry

Ambrosia, according to the ancient Greek myths, was the food and drink of the gods. It was always very fragrant so it could be used as perfume, and whoever consumed it could achieve longevity or immortality. I don’t think I could handle immortality, but I’d definitely consider it if I could wear Ecco Bella Ambrosia, because it smells fabulous. And it’s organic.

Ambrosia is listed in our Decant Store. Decants are $5.00 for 1 ml.


Welcome to


"She smelled the way the Taj Mahal looks by moonlight."
                                                                       Raymond Chandler

We are Gwen and Kay, two perfumistas making our scent journey in the cool, clear North.  We are also BFFs - we hang out together a lot, travel together - so we try, buy and share fragrances.
What started out as a shared interest grew into a hobby, and has now become our obsession.

We’ve spent many evenings with a glass of prosecco, a little cool jazz playing in the background, spritzing, sniffing - “How does this smell on you?” and, sadly, sometimes scrubbing.

Over the past few years, we’ve tried hundreds of samples, and when we deem a fragrance ”full bottle worthy” (FBW), one of us has tracked it down and bought it. We now own a lot of really great perfumes, and we continue to buy bottles of what we think is the best of "niche" as new scents are launched.

With so many exciting discoveries, we can’t help but talk about our passion with other friends. Wherever we go, people ask “What is that perfume you’re wearing? Where can I get that?” So we end up sharing a bit of our “juice” with friends. But the circle has grown, so we've started this website to let other perfumistas buy and try samples from our collections, and share their experiences with us, too, through Comments.
We blog
We blog once a week and post an story about a scent from our collections, and add it to our Decant Store. We're not scent experts, so these aren't critical reviews. We love all our fragrances  - that’s why we bought them! But we describe how we think they smell, and share our stories about why we love them - maybe you’ll rediscover an old flame, or fall in love with a new scent.
Or we post "Nose-to-Nose", our conversations about whatever has grabbed our attention over the past week. Or we write about a specific perfume note,  and offer a Decant Pack, which allows you to buy our selection of 3 or 4 fragrances in a special pack at a special discount price.
We sell
We sell 1 ml. decants - .7 ml volume once you allow for the stopper in the vial - filled from our own bottles in our collection because the only way to experience a fragrance is to try it on your own skin. We take the fragrance from its original bottle and decant it into a smaller brand-new, 1 ml sterilized glass vials so that you can try it on your skin to see if you like it.
Through our Decant Store you'll have access to some of the world’s greatest niche scents, hard-to-find fragrances, and classic favourites. 
When you click on the Decant Store tab you’ll find our personal descriptions of each of the fragrances we currently offer from our collection, then you can add them to your Shopping Cart.
Let's be clear (this is a disclaimer!!)

  • We don’t sell full bottles of any fragrance - just .7ml decants. We only sell decants  from the perfumes we've bought.... because we love them.
  • We don't re-sell manufacturers samples.
  • We don’t represent any perfumers or distributors, so we don’t have every scent from a whole line of perfume.
  • We aren’t being paid to promote any product or scent.

If, after sampling a fragrance, you decide that you must have it, i.e. it is FBW (full bottle worthy), and you can’t find it, e-mail us and we will direct you to the best source we know – retailer or online source.

We provide
A place for you to learn about scent, and to share your fragrance experience with others. Click on the section called Resources, under My Perfume Notes (see top right), where  you'll find a Glossary, and fragrance FAQs. You'll also find two great tools we've created - Handmaps and My Sample Perfume Notes - so you can keep track of, and record your own scent experiences.
We hope you enjoy, and visit us often. Leave your preconceptions behind, look around, see what’s on offer, read the Blog, share your experiences and discoveries, and join the circle.

It’s just us.