How the Prince of Wales turned perfumer
“It’s like a dream, a dream of a garden,” says the perfumer Julie Pluchet of the outdoor spaces at Highgrove, the Gloucestershire family home of the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall. “It’s very inspiring for a perfumer, because there are so many flowers and plants. You want to smell everything, but the colours and textures are incredible too. Really, it’s a piece of art.”
When the Prince first took ownership of the estate in 1980, the gardens were largely neglected and overgrown. Now, more than 40 years later, it bursts with colour and life and scent, routinely astonishing the 40,000 visitors to the garden each year. There are the quietly meandering pathways of the Cottage Garden, the tunnelled walkways of the Kitchen Garden, and the four-acre Wildflower Meadow, to which new species are added every year, cut in summer for hay after the wisteria and hornbeams have flowered.
But it is the formal Sundial Garden, with its painterly pinks, purples and blues in which Pluchet found herself three years ago to capture a new scent inspired by, and created with, the Prince of Wales. “His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales was inspired to create a fragrance that captures the scent of Highgrove Gardens in the summer,” says Penhaligon’s CEO Lance Patterson. “As a Royal Warrant holder with a long relationship with HRH, Penhaligon’s worked closely with His Royal Highness to create the fragrance, which will support The Prince’s Foundation and its charitable work.”
At the heart of the perfume are the Tilia petiolaris trees, or weeping silver limes. When their flowers are in bloom, the warm, sunny perfume is so pervasive that it fills not only the gardens but the inside of the house. It not being a scent that was in Pluchet’s vocabulary, she brought with her a technician who could recreate their exact scent using Head Space technology: a bell jar is placed over the flowers to capture the scented molecules, before being taken back to the lab, where their olfactory “blueprint” is decoded and translated into a raw material from which a whole fragrance is crafted.
The finished perfume, called Highgrove Bouquet, is pleasingly multifaceted, with all the elegance and complexity you’d expect from a Penhaligon’s perfume. There’s warmth and depth from tuberose and cedar, a sparkling twist of mimosa and – lest the floral decadence all become too much – a lovely, soapy cleanness from lavender and geranium, which also gives the scent a real Englishness.
Proceeds from the fragrance will support The Prince’s Foundation, including 10 per cent going to the charity’s training programmes involving heritage crafts, horticulture and sustainable food and farming. And in keeping with the Prince’s passionate commitment to the environment, Highgrove Bouquet is the first Penhaligon’s perfume with fully recyclable packaging, and its printing is done with organic ink. It’s a change that will now set the precedent for the rest of the Penhaligon’s line. His legacy, like his gardens, will surely be rooted in the earth.
FTWeekend Festival, London
Join perfumer Lyn Harris for How To Spritz it, an immersive fragrance session at the FT Weekend Festival at Kenwood House Gardens in London on Saturday 3 September. The HTSI programme for the day also includes a whisky tasting with drinks columnist Alice Lascelles and an immersive sound bath with Jasmin Harsono. Book your pass at ft.com/ftwf