Here’s an expression that tends to be misused: ‘greater than the sum of its parts’. It’s adopted to make an argument sound more impressive, but on closer examination, it frequently turns out to be hollow. However, in some cases, it’s spot on. Take painting, for instance. Through a careful composition of separate shades, hues and layers, an artist can create an overall impact which is more powerful than the separate force of the individual elements. And then there’s music. When floaty highs, sinewy middles and deep basses are brought together in a seamless harmony, they produce a resonance that seems to have a life of its own, independent of its components.
It’s an effect that isn’t given the attention it deserves by perfume lovers, despite the fact that many fragrance houses create products to complement their most acclaimed scents. Penhaligon’s is no exception. Their classic Lily Of The Valley, for example, comes not just in the well-known eau de toilette form, but also as a bath oil, a soap and a body cream. Needless to say, the perfume is more than adequate by itself; indeed, it is one of the finest expressions we currently have of a flower whose scent is fiendishly difficult to re-create in a fragrance lab. But when it’s sprayed over skin that has absorbed the richness of the cream and the steamy delicacy of the oil, it takes on an even more alluring hue.
Such languorous rituals can be enjoyed with masculine compositions too. Sartorial, the 2010 hit featuring a striking blend of chalky lavender and beeswax, is available in more than five incarnations, including a shower gel, deodorant, shaving cream and, most luxurious of all, a beard oil. Put them all together, and you cut a figure more intriguing and more distinctive than you would with just the eau de toilette on its own.
For those dubious about such self-indulgence, it’s worth mentioning that combining a fragrance with its bath or grooming products has a practical use: it serves to make the scent last longer and to project more powerfully. But perfume should be less about practicality and more about sensuality. And why should we settle for just one form of pleasure when we can place layers and layers of it over each other to produce a symphony of deliciousness? Answer: we shouldn’t. So the next time you’re perfume shopping, give in to your decadent side and keep a nose out for a scent that’s available in several delectable guises.