Penhaligon's Clandestine Clara Perfume Review

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!

Available Sizes

  • 75ml for $295

Where to Buy


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Jess Avatar

I will be purchasing exactly none of these super-expensive perfumes, but I have been so excited to read your recent reviews, Christine! Though I am more pedestrian in my tastes, it’s been enlightening to learn about scent the way I would learn about wine from a sommelier. (My wine tastes are pedestrian, too–ha!) I’ve never even heard of some of these brands, so it’s been fun to explore them, even if it’s just to look and dream of having this kind of money to spend. πŸ™‚

Sadra Avatar

In the past, I thought that Penhaligons fragrances were too airy and transparent for me personally. The only one that I sniffed and liked was Malabah. But, your review showed me that they have an entirely new line out, and now I’m eager to see what they’ve come up with.
BTW, are you considering reviewing any Bond 9 scents? I have a discovery set, and I would love to sniff along with you, kind of like a virtual wine tasting for perfumes.

janine Avatar

Not sure about this brand a couple of the scents I researched had poor performance but the bottles are interesting. I might like boozy fragrances but not sure haven’t tried any. My collection is about large enough so I need to quit researching. I recently bought xerjoff ivory Route which is a different spin on my usual but amazing.

We try to approve comments within 24 hours (and reply to them within 72 hours) but can sometimes get behind and appreciate your patience! πŸ™‚ If you have general feedback, product review requests, off-topic questions, or need technical support, please contact us directly. Thank you for your patience!