Penhaligon's Lothair eau de toilette is my first major fragrance crush - and major scent investment - for the start of 2016. This unisex composition by Bertrand Duchaufour is based around smoky black tea, which I love.
Aside from this one thing, it's actually pretty darned hard to describe because it is made up of so many contrasting facets. It is bright and luminous in the top, with an almost antiseptic "lavender and greens" men's cologne opening. Then it quickly goes from clean and dapper to something decidedly more exotic and dark as the smoky black tea blooms.
Top notes - juniper, cardamom, bergamot, grapefruit, fig leaf and red berries
Heart notes - fig tree, lavender, magnolia, geranium and black tea
Base notes - vanilla, musk, cedar, ambergris, oakmoss and wood
In cool environments, I find the tea and lavender are the most prominent and stay a long time, tinged slightly by geranium and a mossy woody base. My preference is wearing it in warmer, balmier weather, because that's when the citrus, tea, juniper and oakmoss is quickly balanced and rounded out by a soft sweetness from the combination of florals, fig, and a hint of ambery vanilla, which reminds me of a divine Earl Grey Lavender ice-cream float I once had. A perfect swirl of freshness, fragrance, restrained bitterness, creaminess, and just a hint of sweetness on the tongue.
Even when the warmer notes come through, the scent never crosses the line into outright girliness. What I love best is that it has traits of both typical masculine and feminine scents, but it's not a bland androgynous sexless mush. It's actually seriously sexy - I would love it on either a man or a woman, although as a woman wearing it, I tend to think of statuesque Eva Green in a structured pant suit; angles and curves - introverted, mysterious, and slightly aloof.
Ironically, I find the official reference to old colonial English Tea Clipper ships a bit blah and uninspiring. I mean - it's a perfect representation of exotic tea leaves and spices being transported over the sea in wooden ships - but that's just not a visual I find nearly as fascinating as the scent itself.
Even though it lends itself to both casual and formal settings well, I somehow feel like I shouldn't wear cheap clothes with it. It's sharp, stylish and refined. Something to wear with that Saint Laurent jacket and spike heels.
Lasting power: 4-6 hours, very good for an EDT on my dry skin
Throw: low - after the initial blast of lavender and juniper, this is a scent that mostly wraps around you like a soft throw
Sillage: moderate - this leaves a soft trail for a short distance as you pass