Initially smelling like drunken rum and vanilla with a bite of alcohol, Penhaligon’s Clandestine Clara Eau de Parfum later developed a more vanilla-forward, honeyed amber scent that was accented with cinnamon.
The penhaligon’s perfume became more linear as time went on because the amber and vanilla became more evenly balanced and acquired a faint musky undertone due to the opening’s extreme brevity and the lack of subsequent progression. With the following notes, the brand characterized it as a “genuine gourmet, spicy and sweet in equal measure”:
- Top notes: vanilla and rum
- Heart notes: musk and cinnamon
- Base notes: patchouli and amber
The top notes of the opening were exactly as mentioned in the top notes: boozy rum and vanilla. After a few minutes, a deeper, heavier rum with sweet vanilla curled over the edges. Over the rum, the vanilla became more pronounced, and just before honeyed amber entered, it became entangled with the hot cinnamon.
When compared to other honey-heavy amber scents i’ve had in the past, this one had an airier, lighter-weight scent. It had a lightning-quick opening, but after that, the projection and strength of the notes waned.
It became lost in a vanilla haze of honeyed amber with moderate richness and depth. The vanilla was most discernible at a distance, while the cinnamon spice drifted in and out of focus (the amber was more present closer to my skin). After eight hours of wear, the drydown was a musky amber-vanilla scent that was difficult to discern on my skin.
I administered two sprays from a 2 ml sample to the top and bottom of my wrist area on my left arm for testing. As this is also my swatching arm (i.e., it is always quite dry), I used an unscented moisturizer before applying the smell because I noticed the scent did not hold well here otherwise.
After an hour of wear, it just hung a few inches over my skin. It had modest sillage and moderate projection for the first half hour. It took around eight hours for me to notice it on my skin.
After searching for more alcoholic scents, I picked up Clandestine Clara and decided to give it a try. It surprised me with its rum note and my favorite components of amber and patchouli. Given the cinnamon, it isn’t as highly spiced as it could be, and the honeyed amber flavor really stood out.
I didn’t detect any strong patchouli, and I believe that if I had, the penhaligon’s perfume would have been more appealing as a whole. Although I like the experience and would wear the smell again if I had a bottle, I won’t be purchasing a whole one!
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