Much Ado About the Duke by Penhaligon’s

the duke penhaligons

Notes: rose, leather, gin, pepper, and woody notes.

Penhaligon’s launched their Portraits collection in 2016, and you can tell right away that it’s a little bit different from their regular line. The gorgeous bottles with the gold design caps are showstoppers (the Clandestine Clara peacock cap is my favorite). Penhaligon’s clearly envision their Portraits fragrances as characters. It’s a really clever idea, giving a fragrance a backstory. And you can tell the Penhaligon’s team had fun putting this together. The backstory they’ve given to the Duke here is quite lively. He is married to the Duchess Rose (the Coveted Duchess Rose, another one of their fragrance Portraits) but the rumor is that their marriage has never been consummated because our Duke does not prefer women. It’s fitting, then, that Much Ado About the Duke is a truly unisex scent. This is a rose that can be worn by anyone, no matter your preference.

In reading reviews of Much Ado About the Duke, I’ve seen several people mention that this is a liner fragrance. I can see where they’re coming from. There isn’t a typical opening stage, followed by the heart notes, and leading to the base with this composition. And the rose is certainly always present. I’ve nearly used my sample up already trying to test this one out, and what I’ve concluded is that this is a circular composition. The rose is the constant. The other notes revolve around it, weaving in and out as they please, and circling back again. And it’s never in quite the same order.

The first time I tested the Duke, the gin note stood out right away. The scent was a fizzy, sparkling rose. It was like wearing a rosewater-infused gin & tonic. It was pretty fabulous. I thought my skin chemistry must have changed drastically because my next wearing of the Duke was all about the deeper notes, the leather and the woody notes. The rose was dry and subtle, more of a background player. My wearing of it today has brought out a dry rose once again, and a crackling black pepper note mixed with the woody notes.

It can be frustrating smelling a scent as changeable as this one. It’s also terribly addictive. I keep wanting to test it again to see what will come through this time. The one flaw here is that the wear time can fluctuate with the notes. When the lighter, more playful gin and black pepper notes are dominant, the Duke wears more like an EdT. When the woody notes are dominant, I can still smell this on my wrists as I’m getting into bed for the night. I don’t mind the notes playing a hide and seek game, but I do want more consistent longevity.

There is always some element of playing a game when putting on a perfume. How will this smell on my skin today? What notes will be more prominent? The Duke takes this game to an extreme. Perhaps it’s just my skin chemistry wreaking utter havoc. But this sort of game does seem fitting for the Duke and the backstory Penhaligon’s have given him. I’ll have to sample more from the Portraits collection to see what kind of wear I get and how they compare. This composition does stand on its own though. The Duke himself is rather magnificent. You just have to be ready to play the game.


I ordered my sample of the Duke from Luckyscent

The image is from Luckyscent and the list of notes is from Fragrantica.

4 thoughts on “Much Ado About the Duke by Penhaligon’s

  1. You know I think I sniffed a few of these not that long ago on paper as the SA would not give me samples) and remember one that was a chypre….the morphing and changing over time definitely requires skin testing! I looked at the notes of Clandestine Clara and that sounds interesting as well. Love the purple color of the juice of the Duke, however!

    1. Sigh, another SA being stingy with the samples. Yes, I would definitely recommend testing at least the Duke on skin instead of paper. I’m not sure about the other Portraits though. I’d love to try Clandestine Clara next! And the Duke’s counterpart, Duchess Rose, just to see how they compare.

  2. I liked those stories. Mostly – because they are outright fictional, without any historical or other significance.
    My favorite portrait is The Revenge of Lady Blanche. I look forward to trying Bewitching Jasmin – the bottle looks especially nice on picture.

    I would love to try them all on skin, actually, but I couldn’t get other samples at the store. I didn’t try too hard because I don’t think I’ll be buying any of them. But I will test them all over time.

    1. I just looked up Bewitching Yasmine. If it contains a coffee note, count me in! And the cat cap design looks so chic!

      It sounds like the Penhaligon’s SAs can be stingy with samples but hopefully you’ll get to actually try the Portraits on skin at some point!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.