That's a gorgeous picture, isn't it? The rolling hills of France. The purple highlights on the rooftops of homes dripping down the mountain. The nearly-clear blue sky. Those soft mounds of lavender...
That last bit is where you lose me. Sure, it's pretty, but all it makes me think of is the smell of lavender! What's wrong with that? Well, I dislike the smell of lavender, that's what.
I know, I know: how can anyone dislike lavender? It's easy! It makes me think of old potpourri. Limp sachets pushed to the back of a drawer. The masks I'm meant to wear over my eyes to chase away a migraine or sinus headache. Herb shops. 
I was thinking about lavender this morning as I drove the big kid to school. As I pondered, I realized I was singing along to a song (not so unusual for me, but why are the tone deaf the most enthusiastic singers?). Then it hit me: Lavender is the John Mayer of perfumery!
Think about it. Both John Mayer and lavender are universally known. Both are everywhere  - consider lavender and a zillion perfumes, laundry detergents, soap, home scents; Mayer and just about every starlet he can get his paws on. Both can be annoying and overwhelming. Both are a little bitter at times. Both are, in my opinion, better when not solo (lavender and vanilla, Mayer and his guitar).
Here's the thing: I dislike the smell of fresh lavender. And dried lavender. I dislike the entire concept of John Mayer from his skeezy "dating" behavior to his prolific media-hounding. But I love quite a few perfumes that have lavender in them (no one is more shocked than I, trust me). And I think John Mayer can jam! He's a good singer and a talented guitar player and can really work a pop song. What can I say? Enigmas, both...
Which brings me to Penhaligon's Lavandula. I thought it was going to be a sweet little lavender soliflore. Soliherb?  Again, I ask: what do I know?!
Lavandula is not your Grandma's lavender. (I don't know what that means, either) This is apparent from the opening sniff, which is a bit peppery, actually. I know, right?
A bit of black pepper, a little herbal sage... Then this perfume rolls like those hills in the picture up yonder into something softly floral. Delish! And then, when you think the surprises are over, a sexy vanilla musky amber thing starts happening, and it sticks around for a few hours, much to my delight!
Where's the typical bitter bite of lavender? The medicinal edge? The dusty potpourri?
I don't miss it, I'll tell you that. Just like I don't miss John Mayer when he's not singing. However, I admit Penhaligon's Lavandula is as soothing as some of Mayer's ballads. (and kinda sexy, like his tattoos! ahem.)
Notes: Basil, Canella and Black Pepper, Lavender, Clary Sage and Lily of the Valley, Tonka bean, Musk, Vanilla and Amber
Final Word: Pretty, like John Mayer
 I enjoy herb shops. They often have amazing things to discover! But why must they all smell sooooo strongly of dusty, dry lavender?!
 OK, I don't fer sure know John Mayer can be found in herb shops, but he's everywhere else.
 It's an herb. Which is a plant. With flowers. A floral plant herb. :)