Scented Advent, December 15

What a pleasure, to open today’s Advent calendar drawer and find a sample of Ormonde Jayne’s Ormonde Woman! I’ve tried it before, from a discovery set, and liked it very much, but I’ve bought other Ormonde Jayne scents in full bottles (my favorite being Ta’if), so hadn’t returned recently to this one. Launched in 2002, it was created, like all the Ormonde Jayne signature fragrances, by perfumer Geza Schoen, working with the brand’s founder Linda Pilkington. It is woody and aromatic; the brand’s own description is as follows:

Beginning and ending with the unique scent of Black Hemlock absolute – rarely used in such luscious quality and quantity – this utterly hypnotic, unconventional and mysterious woody essence is combined with jasmine and violet absolute to create a dusky, seductive perfume.

The notes listed on the brand’s website are: Cardamom, Coriander and Grass Oil (top); Black Hemlock, Violet and Jasmine Absolute (heart); and Vetiver, Cedar Wood, Amber and Sandalwood (base). This is a brilliantly structured and executed fragrance. The top notes are very clear and distinct, though well-blended; to my nose, the grass oil is dominant, but then the cardamom and coriander become more evident. As the heart phase emerges and the top notes step back, one can clearly smell both violet and jasmine absolute, with a greenish, woody, undercurrent that I assume is the black hemlock. This middle phase lasts a good while, at least an hour; to my nose, the most lasting middle note is the violet.

Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez awarded Ormonde Woman five stars in their book “Perfumes: The A-Z Guide”, and described it as a “forest chypre.” Comparing it to Chanel’s Bois des Iles, Ms. Sanchez noted that it has “all the sophistication … but none of the sleepy comfort.” Instead, she felt it evoked “the haunting, outdoors witchiness of tall pines leaning into the night.” I agree with the witchiness, but I hesitate to use the word “pines” in relation to Ormonde Woman, lest a reader think it smells like air freshener or floor cleaner! It certainly does not. It does smell evergreenish, to coin a word; but these are living evergreens, rising from a forest floor dotted with violets. It calls to mind a sight often seen on the highways and byways of the Southeast: pine woods in which yellow Carolina jessamine has run wild, so that its vining, yellow flowers fling themselves all over the dark green branches of the pine trees in early spring.

Yellow jessamine flowering vine on pine trees in Georgia
Carolina jessamine in pine trees; image from usinggeorgianativeplants.blogspot.com

Another vine that does this is the wisteria vine, which smells to me more like the violets featured in Ormonde Woman, though not in its native American form (varieties of Asian wisteria, which are fragrant, have escaped into the wild and have become invasive in hardwood forests).

As it dries down, Ormonde Woman becomes warmer and woodier. I can smell sandalwood and amber more than cedar and vetiver, and yet there is a dryness to the base that tells me they are present. This is a lovely, sophisticated but approachable fragrance, and I look forward to getting to know it better!

8 thoughts on “Scented Advent, December 15

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