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The 10 best shops in the world: #1 Penhaligon’s English Perfume House

April 12, 2013 | 3 min read

Forget the high street doom and gloom and come with us on a journey around the 10 best stores in the world. In this new series, Georgia Barretta-Whiteley, head of design at Saatchi & Saatchi X, introduces us to 10 awe-inspiring stores that are redefining the shopper experience.

Penhaligon’s English Perfume House, LondonAs if anything dreamt up in the 1860s after inhaling the steamy, sulphurous aromas of a neighbouring Turkish baths was going to be anything other than a jovial affront to the constrained moral values of Victorian England. Lo-fi, high-experience and even higher-tech manufacturing make Penhaligon’s English Perfume House a kaleidoscopic piece of ‘sensation design’ ... ahh, the sweet smell of 153 years of just getting it right.All this amidst the needy bun-fight for a shopper's attention down there on Regent’, Penhaligon’s is at once a highly functional space in a high-traffic environment and, well, a transformative Alice's Wonderland - unlocking memories and opening doors.
Designer Christopher Jenner’s Beaux Arts ceiling roses inspired by Westminster Abbey fuse convincingly with Japanese Manga padded walls and English Craft haberdashers drawers - I did say kaleidoscopic. As a result, Pen’s is rewarded with my curiosity, my inspiration to investigate, to momentarily escape into that rabbit hole and identify (monetarily), with one of its scents. To us ‘discerning eccentrics’, or even hopefully, ‘true moderns favouring values of ‘beauty’, this particular 'Aesthetic Movement’ is a seductive one.Luckily, I’m narrated through the heady bouquet of Penhaligon’s trademarked, signature shape bottles by Madam of boudoir Pen’, oops - I mean the store sales woman. Joining the scented and groomed aristocracy that have gone before me, I’m dragging Pen’ scents that trigger recollections of (quote) ‘a dusting or iris, a whisper of clove, a burst of juicy nectarine, a trail of smoky incense, a creamy lick of vanilla’. Don’t mind if I do, customer engagement like this is nothing short of genuinely edifying. I may now have been spritzed into the kind of lady my granny would approve of - now there’s inspiration of an alchemical order! Curioser and curioser.....One of the last traditional perfume houses left in the modern world, Penhaligon’s in my experience cements the relationship between brands, the senses, emotion, luxury and craft and in turn, of course, shoppers.


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