I haven’t seen many reviews for this one on here so I’ll add my 2 cents.
This was a total blind impulse buy. I’ve been trying to buy Empressa for my wife since her birthday but the Penhaligon’s site has been sold out for months. However, I did find an unboxed version of Empressa for her there earlier this week and decided to add a bottle of Castile for myself.
I haven’t blind bought a pricey fragrance since the beginning of my collection spree. At this point, I know what I like and think I can figure out whether or not I’d like a fragrance from other reviews. There are already 2 Penhaligons in my collection (Quercus and Sartorial) and my wife already has Endymion, Luna and now Empressa. I know Penhaligons makes great fragrances.
Castile is named for the soap (or the region in Spain, or both) and this delivers on the soap in spades. Soapy is my wheelhouse, with Creed Original Vetiver being my #1. This has a lot in common with Original Vetiver. It’s clean, like fresh out of the shower clean. It’s so clean that it comes off as standoffish, if that makes sense for a fragrance. Again, I love standoffish fragrances. I don’t want to smell like a cinnamon stick or an apple pie. I want to smell cold-hearted and forbidding. Castile does the trick.
Many times, when people say a scent is soapy, they mean powdery or deoderant-like. Prada L’Homme almost universally gets described as soapy but, in reality, it’s a powdery iris bomb. Castile is soapy in that teary-eyed, astringent way. It smells like what happens when you get soap in your eyes. This is where it departs a little from Original Vetiver, whose soapiness is more gentle.
However, like Original Vetiver, there is something deeply green about this fragrance. OV has that damp vetiver note that adds depth and longevity to it. Castile has something woody in it (Orange blossom? Petitgrain? I don’t know) that adds a dimension to it that’s tough to describe. I’m not sure if it takes the edge off the astringency or amps it up to 10. In Original Vetiver, the soapiness is balanced by damp vetiver. In Castile, the green notes I think add to the intensity of it.
I’m impressed by how Penhaligon’s puts unique twists on well-worn fragrance tropes. Sartorial adds metallicness and sweetness to the fougere genre. Castile adds longevity and depth to the soapy genre, a genre not generally known for either.
The only downside (which isn’t really a downside for me) is that some people might call it a “classic” or “outdated” aroma. This is what lathering up in the 1800s must have smelled like when people in that era did lather up with a thick block of utilitarian soap. That is what you get with Castile. It’s a World War I conscript washing himself down in the field with a rough bar of lye, it’s a Birmingham steel worker scrubbing himself in a water tub for his Saturday night bath.
If you want soapy, like real soapy without a powdery/deoderanty/body sprayish type twist, this is right up your alley. It’s a great example of how Penhaligon’s takes something simple but does it in a classy, unique way.