Douro by Penhaligon’s

I have an absurd love for securing a barbershop scent.

I suspect it’s just a masculine (fragrance) thing, but one of the greatest thrills I have in the morning is waking up and having a shave. The ritual of the lather, the finely honed razor, the steam, all come together in what is usually a slow and certainly ceremonial process.

It’s so charming then to conclude a shave by washing off any residual product, to then carefully clean the razor, and then finally to give a cool bracing slap on the cheeks with an astringent ointment – perfume of course! The overall process including a generous array of spritzes into an open hand, a quick clap, and then a slap all around the face, is, frankly, great! Whilst the shave and its rhythmic processes have depreciated over time, there is no doubt that there still remains a suave, gentlemanly sobriety to a calculated shave.

Is there a criteria for a good after-shave aftershave? No, but it is preferably done in the ‘eau’ format, so more of this fragrant ‘eau’ can be splashed on freely without an overpowering bombardment of scent. And, because this is a typically masculine pursuit attuned to the glories of yesteryear, a really solid and formally-faceted cologne should be used.

This whole experience of barbershop calls to mind sweet and soft talcum powders with a determined fougere quality: deeply aromatic with hints of cool greens. Assertive, assured, astute: Douro (is the word).


Photo by Penhaligon’s

My usual splash on of choice is this ‘Portuguese Water’, filled to the brim with bright, crisp aromatics. Sharp citruses of course to begin, keeping true to the masculine paradigm. But here, the citrus is less tame and very pushing – with a huge sweeping of lime, lemon, bergamot, and mandarin affixed to a refreshing menthol camphor trio of geranium, basil and lavender. So far, it leads in a traditional direction, towards a well-put-together masculinity, typical of intensely green powerhouse fougere scents with the power swapped for a gentle soapy assertiveness found in Duoro. Smelling it closely, I find anise and a fennel-like coolness interlaced throughout with the slightest metallic twinge. Would I be crazy if I said this had a Sartorial impression? I’m not the only one…

To be honest, I have always found it amusing how florals are traditionally associated with feminine scents, when this scent displays a graceful severity achievable only through a citrus and floral interplay. This demonstrates to me the importance of fragrant accords.

The scent softens to a more rounded and powdery quality – with an interesting current of lily of the valley. This lends its usually gracefulness, and more particularly, adds a wholesomeness to the scent. It reminds me of wet gardens and moist soil, crunchy and dewy at the same time. I really enjoy the use of muguet here – it adds a cleanliness and a refined melodious high pitched note with its usual intense brightness cut down in Douro.

Finally, warm and substantial notes of oakmoss, cistus labdanum, and smooth (but not creamy here) sandalwood add a tannic leatheriness to the scent, adding just a hint of masculine callous and roughage against the neroli. It builds into a sweet, eternally sour-hesperidic scent that pulls out and then in for an appropriate amount of time – like a true tonic for the masculine soul. It becomes dry like an action of the sun and pleasingly mellow and smooth with tempered powders and pepper.

Alternatives: Eau Sauvage Extreme by Dior, and Bois du Portugal by Creed.

Intimate barbershop experience  

Subjective rating: 4/5

Objective rating: 3.5/5

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