Fragrance Friday: Decisions, decisions

Fragrance Friday: Decisions, decisions

Spring has sprung, although we haven’t yet reached the vernal equinox. My garden is full of blossoming yellow and white daffodils, pink azaleas, blue starflowers, lavender redbuds, white dogwoods … a true Easter symphony of colors. A change of seasons warrants a change of fragrances! But which ones? I’ve enjoyed wearing Penhaligon’s Ostara quite often in the rotation, with its gorgeous scent of daffodils and beautiful packaging: Fragrance Friday: Ostara.

Ostara Box

It’s almost time to  plunge headlong back into my favorite lily of the valley/muguet perfumes (Fragrance Friday: The Scent of Water) but not just yet, although my first little LOTV bloom showed up this week outside. I even have a new one I’m excited to try: L.I.L.Y. by Stella McCartney.

It’s much too early for the rose perfumes I also love. Maybe something with cherry blossom? It is, after all, nearing cherry blossom time especially here in the South. I don’t happen to own anything with cherry blossom except a drugstore body spray, so if any of you have any suggestions, I am all ears! Or nose.

Happy spring!

 

Fragrance Friday: Ostara

Fragrance Friday: Ostara

It may be a bit early in the season to review Penhaligon’s Ostara, given that it is named after a goddess of spring and the vernal equinox festival celebrated by pagans. The vernal equinox, after all, happens in March, not February. But temperatures here today reached the 60s, and it was a beautiful sunny day, so Ostara feels right for the day.

Penhaligon’s is a venerable British perfume house that dates back to the mid-late 19th century; its founder was perfumer to Queen Victoria. It was acquired last year by Puig, a Spanish company based in Barcelona, one of my favorite cities. They are expanding the reach of Penhaligon’s and have even opened a store in the United States, in New York: At Penhaligon’s, Old World Meets Modernism. Ostara is a new fragrance, launched in 2015. The perfumer behind it is Bertrand Duchaufour, who was inspired by England’s wild daffodils to create a sunny fragrance bouquet of yellow flowers, green leaves, dew and scented flowers.

Bertrand Duchaufour daffodils

Bertrand Duchaufour at Kew Gardens; http://www.penhaligons.com.

The packaging is beautiful, with yellow cut-paper daffodils applied to the outer box. On the back is an excerpt from Wordsworth’s  famous poem “I Wandered Lonely As A Cloud:

Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze….
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.
Ostara Box

Photo: www.blogs.elle.com.hk

Ostara opens with bergamot, clementine, juniper, red berries CO2, mint, currant buds CO2, violet leaf absolute, green leaves and aldehydes. The mostly floral heart adds notes of daffodil, hyacinth, cyclamen, ylang-ylang, hawthorn and wisteria along with beeswax. Base notes include styrax resin, vanilla, benzoin, musk, amber and blond wood.

To me, the opening is bright but not fruity. There is more than a hint of greenness from the juniper, mint, violet leaf and green leaves, but also a creamy undertone that is really winning, maybe from the beeswax accord. I smell the daffodil note quickly, and an astringent note that I think must be the hawthorn. There is nothing dark about Ostara. However, it’s not sweet — just sunny. I don’t pick up the hyacinth note very strongly, nor is the daffodil accord as sweet as, say, paperwhite narcissus. The drydown is warm, creamy and light. Victoria at Bois de Jasmin describes it so well: “From the first minute on skin Ostara glows, rich in green, citrusy and leafy nuances but without suggesting the component parts. In other words, don’t expect to smell along the marketing pyramid and find bergamot and then juniper, mint, violet, etc. Like a flower from a magician’s wand, it unfolds as a big, dewy blossom.”

Why the name Ostara?  According to some, Ostara is a pagan festival marking the time when the sun passes over the celestial equator and the season’s change from winter to spring. It is named for a pagan goddess of spring or the dawn, Eostre, whose name appears in the Anglo-Saxon writings of the Venerable Bede — but only once. Some say that her name is the root of the word “Easter”, the Christian holy day of renewal, resurrection and rebirth.

Goddess in Grotto Real Alcazar Garden

Daffodils are my favorite flowers, followed closely by lilies-of-the-valley and roses. I’m so happy that a great perfumer and renowned perfume house teamed up to create a daffodil fragrance, especially one so pleasing.

Ostara

Illustration: Melissa Bailey for Penhaligon’s.