The Scentimentalist has set herself a New Year’s challenge, by starting 2011 with some unfinished business. For the first-foot to cross the scented threshold this New Year is a post started—and then abandoned—some seven months ago.
At that time I had in my clutches a very fine and desirable package: an Ormonde Jayne Discovery Set of twelve mini eaux de parfum, a tray of EdP his-and-hers minis of uncommon execution and quality. Covetously, I pored over its accompanying black-and-gold booklet, absorbing the notes and rare components of this assortment of fragrant soft centres. Sampaquita, Frangipani, Osmanthus, Champaca … these were scents that spelled romance, the lure of the tropics, the exotic.
Amidst these otherworldly florals reposed some great and opulent heavyweights: Ta’if, abundant with Rosa damascena from the shores of Saudi Arabia; golden frankincense-laced Tolu, named for a Peruvian tree resin; and the uncategorisable Ormonde Woman, which has for almost a decade been the signature of this luxury London perfumery.
Indeed, it was the uncanny (and excellent) Ormonde Woman that truly flummoxed The Scentimentalist, and was the source of so many attempts to capture its curious landscape in writing. For, as I found myself asking on each application, what genre of scent was this? A chypre, an oriental, a gourmand? And, given its atypicality, how on earth could I begin to describe it?
Inasmuch as a forest of trees is a spectacle too great to see, Ormonde Woman is a composition too elusive and complex to know. Its disparate notes, supplied in the aforementioned black-and-gold booklet, provide us with little with which to enhance our olfactory edification. Yes, one can readily discern its cradling cedar and amber, warmed by the aromatic oils of cardamom and coriander. My companion, perceiving flowers where I smell only the softest of woodlands and spices, declares a keen and lovely note of what she believes is ‘Parma violet’. When placed in combination, however, these make for a scent that is enigmatically, elegantly singular.
For The Scentimentalist, Ormonde Woman is the sweet grass, warm earth and spruce-y resin of a dark forest, captured by coniferous black hemlock absolute and the gentlest smudge of brown sugar. With a timbre that is, paradoxically, both tenebrous and luminescent, it is a scent that quite concordantly embraces both darkness and warmth. Finally, for the purposes of categorisation, I would perhaps concur most readily with Tania Sanchez, who describes this ‘abstract woody perfume’ as a sophisticated ‘forest chypre’.
Like the labyrinthine forests of the collective imagination, Ormonde Woman presents a space that invites its wearers to think. And yet, even after seven months of concerted contemplation, I feel no closer to apprehending this elusive and enchanted scent.
Happy New Year.