English Laundry Windsor fragrance review

A warm, spicy designer fragrance for the holidays

With English Laundry Windsor, this designer house continues to surprise me with its quality and price-point. When I picked it up at a Marshall’s store for a fantastically low price, I didn’t expect as much as I actually got with Windsor. My spouse and I are suckers for other “holiday spicy” fragrances like Burberry London, and this is definitely in the same ballpark as that designer classic. But where Burberry London hides its signature musky freshness beneath all of that Christmassy goodness, Windsor is all spice and wood. It’s linear, but since the scent being projected is good, I don’t have a problem with that.

There’s a cheerful warmth from Windsor that comes from the interplay between spices like cinnamon, clove, and cardamom, as they mix with sweet but understated saffron and a touch of oud that is completely playing a supporting role to everything else. The oud works really well, here, and is neither animalic nor medicinal. Those that are wary of oud need not fear, here; the work that it’s doing is largely invisible in Windsor’s spice and wood profile. The scent is sweet but far from overpoweringly so, and the spice profile mixes in with cedar in the base to produce a subtle woodiness that bolsters everything else and balances the sweetness of the tonka bean impressively.

The top notes here are very fleeting (5 minutes, perhaps), but they do exist, balanced by a leather note that emerges a bit more quickly than any other base note in the list. I detect apple especially, but a bit of grapefruit and other citrus as well. These fast-passing early moments lend a sense of a holiday kitchen with a pie in the oven with a fire burning nearby. It’s lovely, however brief. Once those top notes have passed, Windsor moves into full-on spice mode. Lavender, cloves, cinnamon, cardamom, saffron are the main players, here, though each note is fairly transparent and so it’s difficult to pick each one out and investigate exactly what it’s doing. They combine to form a really pleasant spicy accord that lasts for the rest of the life of this scent.

BergamotLavenderAgarwood (oud)
VioletTonka bean
Herbal notes

When Windsor settles, about 20-40 minutes in, slightly oversweet vanilla has emerged amongst the spices, propped up a little bit by an oud note and tonka bean. This oversweetness is really only a problem if you’re directly smelling English Laundry Windsor on the skin, though, so in actual conditions, I don’t feel like this will be an issue. From afar the spices complement the vanilla very well. The clove note from the heart plays a larger role, here, too, bringing a darker tone overall to the whole ensemble, creating a less cheerful but still holiday-appropriate timbre.

This is a perfect scent for family gatherings around the American holiday season. There’s nothing particularly divisive about English Laundry Windsor – it’s made to be crowd-pleasing and endearing, and it largely succeeds at these tasks.

However, sillage and projection are definite sticking points, here. I’ve found that I’ve needed to spray a lot (8-10 sprays) to get English Laundry Windsor to act as it should. Even then, my spouse had trouble picking up significant sillage even from a foot away. We were outside, mind you, so there’s the potential for the wind to have been blowing in the wrong direction, but isn’t this exactly a situation that you’d want Windsor to shine? On a brisk fall morning when you’re walking down the road with a loved one amongst the falling, changing leaves?

So, while I’m endeared by Windsor for all it does right, that comes with a pretty major caveat: for the situations where you’d imagine using this fragrance, it may not be able to perform to the standards you’d like.

But for these sorts of situations many of us don’t want a powerhouse fragrance anyway, do we? I don’t want to smoke my family out of their homes at Christmastime with a beastly fragrance! Instead, I want my scent to blend into the festivities and complement the inevitable swirl of smells from the kitchen, the tree, the fire, and all of my loved ones together to celebrate the season and good cheer. While English Laundry Windsor does have some room for improvement in terms of performance, perhaps it’s just what I need for a pleasant holiday scent during a time of year where we spend lots of time in close proximity to those we love.

A bottle of English Laundry Windsor sitting on top of the weather slats of a wooden bench.
English Laundry | Windsor
Smells like the holiday season in a bottle
More adventurous than the similar Burberry London
Warm, cozy, inviting
Great for cold weather wear
Acceptable longevity but poor sillage
Requires significant sprayage to get noticed by others
Really not made for spring, summer, or early fall