Penhaligon’s Clandestine Clara Perfume Review

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Penhaligon's Clandestine Clara Perfume Review
Penhaligon’s Clandestine Clara Perfume Review

Penhaligon’s Clandestine Clara Eau de Parfum opened with boozy rum and vanilla with an alcohol bite before becoming a more vanillic, honeyed amber spiced with cinnamon. The opening was incredibly short-lived and there was little progression after, so it ended up being a more linear scent (which is not a bad thing, merely a characteristic of a fragrance!) as the amber and vanilla became more balanced and got slightly musky over time. The brand described it as a “true gourmand, spicy and sweet in equal measure,” with the following notes:

  • top notes: rum, vanilla
  • heart notes: cinnamon, musk
  • base notes: amber, patchouli

The opening was decadent; boozy rum and vanilla, exactly as listed for the top notes with a strong, alcoholic bite that dissipated after a few minutes a richer, thicker rum with sweet vanilla curled along the edges. The vanilla intensified over the rum, and then it tangled with the spicy cinnamon just before honeyed amber wafted in.

It had a lightning fast opening, and then the projection and intensity of the notes subdued: it got lost in vanilla haze of honeyed amber with moderate richness and depth but was still an airier, lighter-weight scent compared to other honey-heavy amber scents I’ve tried in the past. The cinnamon spice came in and out of focus, while the vanilla was most noticeable at a distance (the amber was more present closer to my skin). The drydown was slightly musky amber-vanilla and was hard to detect on my skin after eight hours of wear.


For testing, I used two sprays from a 2ml sample applied to the underside and topside of my wrist area on my left arm. I used an unscented moisturizer prior to applying the scent as this is also my swatching arm (aka, incredibly parched at any given moment) as I found scent did not hold well here otherwise. 


It had moderate projection for the first half hour with light sillage, but it hovered only a few inches above my skin after an hour of wear. I could detect it on my skin for about eight hours.

Personal Thoughts

I decided to try Clandestine Clara after looking for more boozy fragrances, and it turned up with its rum note, which was also paired with notes like amber and patchouli that I tend to enjoy. It’s not as heavily spiced as it could be, given the cinnamon in it, and the honeyed aspect of the amber really came through. I didn’t get any distinct patchouli, and I think if I had, the scent would have appealed to me overall. It was a pleasant experience, and it’s a scent I’d wear again if I had a bottle, but I won’t be buying a full bottle!

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