I sought out Tralala for its dream ranking of notes, but got a bit of a warning when the salesperson liberally sprayed a sheet of paper with it and added it to my bag – a dry, sweet, ambery and not particularly attractive odour drifted up. It got so that I had to throw away the paper. Thus it has taken me a while to get round to sampling it on my skin.
Well, there’s no doubt Tralala inhabits a twisted, tipsy little world quite of its own but it isn’t exactly fascinating. Whereas there’s enough space in my perfume landscape for a rich and abstract perfume pitched a bit wonkily, the power trio at Tralala’s heart is firmly traditional – a heavy tropical floral pairing of tuberose and ylang anchored by rooty sweet patchouli. Around this dance the boozy notes and the lovely skin tones of ambrette, but the balance tilts too far – for my taste – towards the sweet and unctuous. While not quite the generic sugary disaster it appeared to be on paper, I still won’t be holding up a torch for this drama queen.
I am quite a fan of Penhaligon's shaving products, but not a fan at all of their fragrances. Like many, if not basically any British brand, they're not really the best ones at that (sorry British readers). Tralala, instead, was quite a surprise – it's a Penhaligon's and it's even composed by Duchaufour which is one of the noses I personally find most overrated these days. Well, however: Tralala opens (and stays for a while) with a nice, delicate and dusty sweet accord with a slight nutty-spicy aftertaste of cardamom, saffron, a velvety subtle layer of something ambery, a hint of incense, something plummy (peach?) and a graceful floral accord all over which I don't distinguish further at the very beginning, however quite on the "powdery" side. A scent rich in British grace and politeness, but with an interesting and really balanced play of nuances going on. It also smells completely synthetic and plain, but it works the same here, as it's all about discretion, "white/lilac-ness" and gracefulness. Also, it soon emerges a really compelling and pleasant sort of more masculine "barbershop" feel underneath the main notes, which is common to many other English scents, a sort of bone-structure comprising leather, herbs and citrus notes, which are barely detectable and provide a sort of general woody and foggy "shadow". After a couple of hours some notes tone down and Tralala becomes all about violet and woods, which brings it quite close to Bois de Violette by Lutens (quite much to be honest), and also Feminité du Bois. Still good, though. Graceful, with just the right amount of pale dullness, like a proper Victorian lady.
This is as kooky as the doll's head on the bottle. But whereas the doll would give me nightmares (because those things come to life once you are asleep) the scent itself is extremely likable. Odd, yes, but likable. Tralala is stuffed to the rim with notes, so as usual, it's a total crapshoot as to what I actually smell. My nose ain't all that.
The opening is all boozey, musky...peanuts. Yes, peanuts. For some reason, the combination of the musk, vetiver, booze, saffron, and powdery orris rise up all the way from the base at the opening to make this kind of mealy, nutty accord that I can only describe as crushed monkey nuts. The dustiness of the saffron and the muskiness of the ambrette seeds could be making my brain short circuit to nut meal. This nut meal accord is immediately joined by this heavy, creamy vanilla and sweet, sweet tonka, so if you imagine peanut meal swimming in a cereal bowl of creamy milk, nougat candies, and melted marzipan, then you have your starting point.
The tuberose, never a shy bird, pops its head out quite insistently here. The titanic and ghastly richness of this flower adds a dollop of butter to the already too-dairy-rich mess in the bowl. It is also vaguely plasticky, like a doll's head (hey!) but it's not nearly as simple a smell as you might think from this description. This nutty-milky-tuberose accord is joined at the hip to this boozey, musky vetiver, in effect taking it to the brink of extreme gourmand hell and pulling it back from the brink at the last minute with a touch of musky men's aftershave. The sweet myrrh in the base here gives off these shoots of lavender and root beer, adding to the impression of this as half fairground gourmand and half musky fougere.
If Laura Palmer's secret diary had a smell, it would be this.
Important point to bear in mind is I was on the hoof when I tried this on skin and so couldn't write the notes until I found a cafe afterwards so may have missed out fully on some of the top note observations.
so.. Tralala ….
A massive and almost overpowering opening hit. Soft, sweet and powerful like the very finest vintage Laphroaig single malt whisky. Ooh la la indeed. A really fun and playful dance of the senses ensues almost as if one had drunk it instead of applied it. A whirlwind perceived as myrrh, bourbon, madagascan vanilla, something tea-ish like bergamot and spicy old fashioned flowers like carnations. Like reeling in the bar of a sumptuous Scottish ballroom bar whilst the colourful dresses and whirling dancers swirl around with their various perfumes just whisking past for a fleeting, tantalising whiff then gone again. Then various puddings laid on the side tables far on the other side.
The overwhelming roundness and fullness of this fragrance reminded me of the opulence of the perfumes made in the early 1800's where sumptuous ingredients were used freely. The ingredients that came to mind straight away were anise or liquorice (which actually might have been the booze) Carnation, Orris and Myrrh. There was a hint of a marzipan note with a tonka feel but it wasn't as sweet as tonka, possibly tolu balsam. There was a richness behind the flower reminding me of hippy perfumes mixed with eastern spice markets.
One could be alarmed with such a start, but this slowly calms to a serene and harmonious beauty. The softer sandalwood and quieter musks settle with the orris and incense notes to a sophisticated aura of loveliness. Elegant and harmonious enough to be worn by both sexes. The more complex threads in the blend become interwoven as one subtle fabric, freshly clean and yet warm and cozy. That was the interesting part because it did somehow maintain an airy breeze to counteract the initial richness.
It reminded me slightly, especially in the drydown to Amouage Gold, with its many subtle layers like a hareem of colours blending together but remaining separate.
On paper, it stays a fresh and airy woodsy thing. On the skin it dries down to a soft and gentle caress quite unlike its bawdy bar beginning. Soft cedars with refined vanilla and a powder orris touch with a comforting old fashioned feel. Kept well away from old lady fusty with this fascinating fresh aspect.
I would say this has the markings of a classic dispite all the ghastly visual evidence to the contrary.
Good for Penhaligons for daring to go outside their safety zone. Nice touch from the designers for their apparently considerable input. I'm in the front of the queue for my bottle and I very, very seldom feel like that about new perfumes. Thank you to the two lovely ladies for letting me try it on in the shop.
I feel a bit nervous reviewing something for the first round. I had no knowledge of any notes when I did, so all this is written in ignorance of the ingredients. It will be fascinating to see what you think.