The very first time I smelled Penhaligon’s Sartorial I thought barbershop and tradition. It opens with a soft powdery smell that reminds me of the Saturday morning/afternoons I waited to get my hair cut, the sound of the clippers, the requests,” let me get X or Y,” those final moments before I got up from the chair; that stinging sensation from the alcohol as my barber went along my hairline and that fresh clean feeling of being a new man. How is it possible to have such details summoned from one smell? That is best answered by something I found on Penhaligon’s website in the “About Us” section and it says, “fragrance is liquid emotion.”
Scents that produced this sort of memory used to turn me off as I felt they leaned too heavily on tradition and the idea that “this is how men are supposed to smell.” But that didn’t happen with Sartorial. Perhaps that can be attributed to my new-found love for LP No 9 or my recent return from Barbados where I spent time with my uncles who are all very traditional in their fragrance and grooming habits and it’s starting to rub off on me. But as I thought deeper about the name and read its supporting press materials that talked about the tailoring tradition that influenced this scent, I began thinking of my own tailor.
Mr. Henry is a Trinidadian tailor I’ve been going to for well over a decade now. He’s old school, he knows my parents, is genuinely interested in how I’m doing, but more importantly, schools me on the finer details of menswear. But that last point needs qualifying. There’s an old adage that says, “rules are meant to be broken.” Mr. Henry is the first to tell me, “no cuff on flat front slacks, but the choice is yours, or the break in your slacks should be here but they are wearing it shorter these day so you tell me where you want them. He allowed me to make a choice that made me comfortable. His willingness to strike that balance, which is an update from the tailors of yesteryear, compliments my feelings toward Sartorial. While the dry down beckons tradition, woody and earthy, it opens with a softness that shaves off the overly masculine edge of tradition. A beautiful balance that speaks to the modern man.
Sartorial is inspired by the scents of the workroom at Norton & Sons, Bespoke Tailors at No. 16 Savile Row. Mr. Henry’s shop didn’t smell like that. It was old, filled with scraps of material; lose pins, chalk, measuring tape, a sewing machine and an old radio that cranked out soca music. But Mr. Henry smelled of a deodorant mirroring Old Spice, Brut or Right Guard. For him that was how a man was supposed to smell, fresh and clean but not frilly. Sartorial embodies the masculinity of today’s man and I think Mr. Henry would say, “Young fella, a man is supposed to smell like that.”
Sartorial by Penhaligon’s will be in stores October 11, 2010.