“A thing of beauty is a joy for ever”.
So opens “Endymion” by the master John Keats, a poem that feels a bit clichéd at times, but remains relevant.
A few months ago Serguey Borisov over at Fragrantica did a wonderful review of Endymion, painting a vivid picture of nocturnal conquest and seduction. For him, the fragrance brings to mind a “bastion of decadence” chalk full of debauchery. Women, Serguey advises, should “get acquainted with Endymion to know the enemy’s probable weapons and be ready to face them.” In short, for Mr. Borisov, Endymion is a fitting tool of the most opulent variety of seduction.
Though the image he presents of the fragrance is compelling and beautiful, I must beg to differ. Penhaligon’s Endymion is indeed very aptly named, and matches the mood of the Keats poem exactly. It is a thing of beauty, however it is not that oft-quoted line that best fits the fragrance; instead I find it to be the lines that follow:
“Its loveliness increases; it will never
Pass into nothingness; but still will keep
A bower quiet for us, and a sleep
Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing.”
For me, Endymion is not a fragrance of seduction, though it is extraordinarily romantic. Rather than being abused as a tool of masculine conquest, Endymion is a fragrance to be worn by gentlemen. On me the fragrance does not ooze alpha male testosterone, as Mr. Borisov suggests, but instead demonstrates the quiet elegance that is pictured in the above lines by Keats.
Intellectual and subtly alluring, the fragrance is not a loud invitation. It is not even a beckoning finger; rather it is a glint in the eye, a whisper in the ear, a bite of the lip. Endymion is elegant, refined, and poetic, but also very reserved. Its attractiveness is palpable, and emerges from a veiled but true depth of character instead of some contrived assertiveness.
I find it difficult to describe how Endymion smells. It is at once dry and smoky (perhaps because of the myrrh and incense), but is also spicy, with a hint of nutmeg and cardamom, blended into a generous scoop of coffee beans that are freshened with lavender, vetiver, and geranium. Coffee is the most prominent element in this composition, but here it is illustrated as more than the mere scent of coffee; comforting to its core, Endymion successfully captures the feeling of holding a cup of carefully brewed coffee on a chilly day in an unfamiliar town.
Endymion projects quite well for the first couple of hours and lasts in a clear form around 6-8 hours on the skin (I was positively shocked to discover that it is being marketed as an eau de cologne). The fragrance remains linear over the course of its lifespan, becoming less defined towards the end. Somewhere around the 8-10 hour mark, Endymion disappears instantly and completely in a flash of fiery incense and spice that is glorious while it lasts.
Precisely at that very moment I am reminded of the ending of another poem by John Keats:
“Anon rush’d by the bright Hyperion;
His flaming robes stream’d out beyond his heels,
And gave a roar, as if of earthly fire,
That scared away the meek ethereal hours
And made their dove wings tremble.
On he flared.”
And flare it did, but only briefly, contented instead with its true form – a silent smoulder.