Fashion Forward – Review: Penhaligon’s Tralala

By Tara

Tralala; what a fantastic name for a perfume. It’s very hard to say it to yourself in anything other than a sing-songy voice. It’s what a young girl would trill while skipping through a meadow on a sunny day picking daisies and lacing them into her hair.


Carefree and more than a little kooky, this unusual moniker combined with the clownish doll’s head bottle with oversized bow-tie, means that expectations for this fragrance are definitely set to “kitsch”.

Tralala is the product of a collaboration between Penhaligon’s and off-beat British fashion house, Meadham Kirchhoff.

The clothing label was established in London in 2007 and is known for mixing old-fashioned vignettes with modern aesthetics to come up with something frivolous and fresh. Their style is opulent, idiosyncratic and darkly romantic.

Penhaligon’s have scented the Meadham Kirchhoff catwalk shows for the past nine seasons, so this joint perfume project seems like a natural progression. The fragrance is intended to represent “the surreal and fantastical world their designs represent”.

Tralala has just been launched as a 100ml EDP and as with several other recent releases from Penhaligon’s (Vaara, Sartorial), the perfumer is Bertrand Dauchaufour.

Top notes; aldehydes, whiskey, ambrette seed butter, galbanum, violet leaf
Heart notes; leather, tuberose, ylang ylang, incense, orris, carnation
Base notes; patchouli, cedarwood, opoponax, vetiver, heliotrope, myrrh, musk and vanilla.

This varied assortment looks like it’s been spewed out by a random note list generator. Again we begin to suspect the result will be suitably bizarre.

The opening is definitely on message. It’s an oddball mix of clashing accords. There are lots of aldehydes, quite a bit of spicy saffron, a splash of whiskey and for a while, the cool metallic twang of violet leaf.

The aldehydes are very soapy and airy, creating a retro haze over the more edgy top notes. Unlike the customary fizzy aldehydes which shoot up and then disappear like fireworks, this bright mist hovers above the skin for the best part of an hour.

I suspect that with so much going on, different skin types (and noses) will pick up different facets. On me, the heart is chiefly a very supple suede underneath sweet florals with a few fronds of saffron left-over from the opening. The effect is soft, girly and lightly powdered.

This stage is not dissimilar in feel to Bertrand Dauchaufour’s Traversée du Bosphore for L’Artisan Parfumeur.

The warm base is resinous with vanilla, some fluffy heliotrope and a spiral of smoke from the opoponax, á la Shalimar. It’s a very conventional ending, but I guess even fashionistas like to pull on a pair of comfy jogging pants come the end of the day.

Despite some weighty ingredients, Tralala tinkles away at a high register. It makes a style statement but never feels remotely loud or base heavy. It has very good longevity, lasting about eight hours on me.

Although it’s not going to be everyone’s cup of (English Breakfast) tea, I wouldn’t call it challenging. That somewhat strange and soapy opening is the quirkiest it gets. Like that classic British foodstuff, Marmite, you’ll either find the perfume’s whimsical nature endearing or you won’t.


Penhaligon’s describe Tralala as “counter culture couture” and that’s what it is for the most part: a refined and feminine mélange of differing elements in a fragrant game of mix and match. It juxtaposes vintage with modern, hot with cold and childishness with sophistication.

It could prove to be this season’s must-have accessory for those fashion mavens who like to stand out from the crowd without pushing the boundaries too far.

Have you tried Tralala yet? Are you tempted?


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43 Responses to Fashion Forward – Review: Penhaligon’s Tralala

  1. cookie queen says:

    Hmmmmmm. Not tempted. But I do like Marmite. 😉 xxx

  2. Undina says:

    I’m curious to try it but won’t go out of my way to do so: most likely, it won’t be love – they why to bother for the perfume that comes in 100 ml bottle (even if it’s cute)?

    • Tara says:

      Maybe it’s because my collection is relatively small but I don’t worry about bottle size as much as others, although I do completely understand. I’m more concerned about price per ml.

      I guess Penhaligon’s availability is not great in the Bay Area but it’s worth trying. I’m getting a lot of sueded safron today which is lovely.

  3. Vanessa says:

    You capture the contrasting facets of this quirky new release brilliantly and very amusingly – love the ‘random note list generator’ and ‘comfy jogging pants’ – and I speak as someone who hasn’t tried this, but is very curious to do so now!

    • Tara says:

      That’s a lovely compliment, thanks V.

      You should definitely check this one out. It’s quirky but wearable and the sillage is really nice.

  4. Sabine says:

    I had a sniff and was a bit confused by it, but my husband liked it.(May be the whiskey…?) I will try to get a sample for him and see how it works. Loved the random note generator.

    • Tara says:

      Sabine, the opening is a bit masculine with the whiskey but I find it quite girly after that, so good idea to get a sample.

  5. Sandra says:

    Tara, you make this quirky perfume sound quite appealing. I will try certainly try it if I come across it.

    • Tara says:

      I think you might like this Sandra, depending on how you find the beginning. If it throws you, do hang around for the rest because it’s lovely.

  6. Michael says:

    I’ve never found a Penhaligon’s that I truly like, to be honest. Most of the recent releases have faded away to nothing on my skin extremely quickly.

    • Tara says:

      You didn’t get on with Sartorial? That was really well done and lasted well on me.

      I really want to try Juniper Sling next.

  7. ladywinther says:

    Not tempted either. Right now my nose and eyes are both on ROZY!!! And a little bit on the new Malle—-

    • Tara says:

      I understand how you feel – Rozy doesn’t leave much room for anything else 🙂

      I had a little dab of Malle’s Eau de Magnolia on the weekend and I loved it at first sniff. Nothing groundbreaking but gorgeous and top quality. I could imagine wearing it loads. Must get a sample on Saturday.

  8. Asali says:

    Very interesting to read your opinion, I see we have quite a similar view on this, except I actually don’t find the accords clashing. I got to test vaara, which was simply too rosy for me, unfortunately. I had no idea the Malle was already looking forward to hearing more of it 🙂

    • Tara says:

      I only really find them clashing in the first hour. It’s more of contrasting after that.

      Vaara is very rosy after that stunning opening. That’s too bad.

      Not sure if Eau de Magnolia is officially out yet – a friend in the business had a sample.

  9. Asali says:

    That should read ‘was already out’

  10. Ariane says:

    I meant to comment the other day on your inspired review of Rozy,it was quite something-but anyway,Tralala,I am a bit disturbed by the controversy around this release,which had Meadham and Kirchhoff mentioning that the name was a reference to a character from the film /book “Last Exit to Brooklyn”,Tralala is a prostitute who gets gang-raped and murdered in what has been described to me as one of the most gruesome scenes in a film ever!Now Smell This had an article on it in January,Penhaligon’s has since tried to hush it up by withdrawing the article in which the reference was made,anyway I cannot face even trying this number-sorry to bring this up here,but it disturbed me a bit!

    • Tara says:

      Hi Ariane,

      Very happy to hear you enjoyed the Rozy review, that’s great. I really enjoyed writing about it.

      As for Tralala, please don’t feel disturbed! I read about the controversy and spoke to someone from Penhaligon’s. The fact is that Meadham Kirchhoff never stated that they named the perfume after the film character. It was an idea brought up by someone at a press event which had not occured to them prior to that. Here the designers themselves explain why they actually chose the name –

      Matt: Why did you choose the name Tralala?
      Benjamin: We thought long and hard about a name, some were good but didn’t fit the context of a perfume. Edward came up with the name Tralala one day and it stuck – I like it because it is nonsensical. It doesn’t apply to anything specific.
      Edward: I woke up the morning after our show and I just knew that we should call it “Tralala” and could envisage exactly how it should look. I loved Tralala because it had no pretensions, no specific connotations, it just sounds sort of humorous and nonchalant but looks really good written. It has a nice rhythm to it.

  11. The notes and soapy disposition to really call to me… but I have to tell you.. I LOVE that bottle. It’s fun and whimsical and really different for an adult fragrance. I will no doubt ending up trying it, but will be saddened when it’s not “my cup o’ tea.”

    • Tara says:

      I don’t see why it wouldn’t work for you if you like soapiness and aren’t put off by any of the notes. Seeing as you like the bottle, that can also tip you over the edge. I’ll be interested on your take when you do get to try it.

      • Apparently I was having problems communicating my thoughts correctly when I sent my note… LOL. I meant to say that the notes and soapy disposition does NOT really call to me. I really dislike soapiness in perfume. Thanks Tara! 🙂

        • Tara says:

          Oh dear! In that case, maybe not for you. Soapiness is usually a deal-breaker for me too. It’s done really well here though it has to be said.

          Definitely worth trying though for the experience and of course, that stand-out bottle.

  12. Mahesh says:

    The opening is absolutely fantastic and quirky with aldehydes and whiskey.the dry down with orris is great too. However the final phase of dry down with base notes was utter disappointment. It was just vanilla and/tonka bean. Love the packaging except the funny face stuck on the lid.
    All in all not for me. Sadly I felt similar after trying Vara last year. The base notes for me is what makes the perfume should stand out for. The top notes will entertain and flee…the only fragrance I liked.somewhat from.penhaligons is sartorial.

    • Tara says:

      I do understand what you mean. A stunning/unusual opening can lead to disappointment if the rest of the fragrance doesn’t follow suit. Maybe quirkiness throughout the whole development might have been a bit much though.

      Sartorial is great.

  13. Mahesh says:

    Actually one correction. The final dry down was lots of synthetic musk and vanilla. That was it. Couldn’t get anything else..where was myrrh hiding??

    • Tara says:

      I didn’t spot the myrrh either but I’m surprised I missed the musk because it’s a material I often fail to register.

  14. Malabah is my favourite from Penhaligon’s! 🙂 xx

  15. Natalie says:

    You always write such fair and diplomatic posts, Tara. I really appreciate your ability to find what is praiseworthy in a scent and praise it, even when (it sounds like) you are not blown over by something. I am still planning to try Tralala eventually, but I don’t have super high hopes. But, I did recently buy a back-up of TdB. 🙂

    • Tara says:

      Thank-you Natalie!

      I hope to read your take on it one day.

      B generously gifted me a 100ml bottle of Traversee du Bosphore which I am over the moon about. Love it.

  16. Mahesh says:

    My partner is crazy about bosphore. It smells similar to mandolo from acqua di parma which he likes too.

  17. Erika says:

    I just orderd the perfume and cant wait to try it out.

  18. Pingback: A Fun and Fragrant Summer’s Day Out in London, Thursday 24th July 2014 – And A Giveaway! | Olfactoria's Travels

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