If I could change one thing about my life it would be to ensure that I was better travelled than I am. In my head I long to be a great explorer scouring every corner of the earth. I want to walk the Great Wall of China, taste the street food in Mexico, eat lobsters in Maine (it all comes back to food with me), play with the cats at the cat cafe in Tokyo and float around the streets of Florence , but the problem is, I’m a bit of a wimp.
So, as much as I wish I’d visited all of these places, and I do truly hope to one day, I haven’t, in fact up until a few years ago I hadn’t made it further than France. It’s appalling, I know. Luckily for us armchair explorers, with Ormonde Jayne’s latest collection ‘The Four Corners of the Earth’ one can visit the most exotic destinations without even removing one’s pyjamas. So over the last couple of weeks I’ve been to the Gulf, Russia, Latin America and China…
For the Four Corners of the Earth collection Linda Pilkington and perfumer Geza Schoen have taken Ormonde Jayne on a trip round the globe, soaking up the sights, smells and colours of four distinct cultures without diluting the brand one bit, and this is what makes the collection so excellent; the fact that despite the strong influences of their respective homelands, each fragrance still very much follows the Ormonde Jayne signature of refined, elegant fragrances. After all, it’s not just where we go that shapes who we are, it’s where we come from too.
“Tsarina captures opulence and passion. It demands fur, leather, brocade, heavy silks in sweeping dresses and fabulous jewels to go with her haughty heritage. To call it a floral oriental is to misunderstand its rich complexity, it is more baroque. The perfume is profound, blending leather notes, rich Madagascan vanilla, amber and orris butter. This is a powerhouse perfume, ravishing and regal, distinctive and synonymous with the glamorous world of luxe.”
Top: Mandarine, Bergamot, Coriander and Cassis
Heart: Hedione, Freesia, Jasmine Sambac, Iris and Suede
Base: Sandalwood, Cedar, Vanilla Bean Base, Labdanum and Musk
How Does it Smell?
Tsarina is a fragrance that does exactly what it says on the tin. Everything about it is evocative of the opulent jewellery, furs and textiles that the description mentions and the Russians are famous for. It opens diffusive and bitter, hinting at the animalics to come but what’s really noticeable is a warm plushness, tinged by a darkness that comes from a combination of the powder of iris and indole of jasmine.
The whole thing is, dare I say, rather Guerlainesque with its bergamot, sweet floral powder and balsamic funk. Tsarina is like Shalimar Parfum Initial but on a bigger budget (we’re talking a Tsars budget here people), cutting straight through the fruit and heading straight for the rooty iris and gorgeous, filthy base of proper Shalimar. It doesn’t mess around, to put it frankly.
Tsarina is an incredibly feline fragrance, like a beautifully sleek black cat come in from the cold, slinking and weaving itself between your legs. Like a cat it is incredibly precious but not afraid to use its claws to assert it’s authority. There’s glamour here of course, but there’s also a steely strength just beneath the surface that says; “I may be incredibly beautiful but I’m even more dangerous”.
“Nawab (Ruler) of Oudh is a province of central India. The perfume is inspired by the Nawabs who once ruled over it. It is a potent blend of amber and rose with a soft oudh edge. Yet surprisingly not one ingredient stands out from the others. It achieves a perfume synergy that defies traditional analysis, releasing a pulsating pungency, brooding and hauntingly beautiful, a rich tapestry of fascinating depths, a jewelled veil to conceal its emotional complexity and extravagance.”
Top: Green Notes, Bergamot, Orange Abs, Cardamom and Aldehyde
Heart: Rose, Magnolia, Orchis, Pimento, Bay, Cinnamon and Hedione
Base: Ambergris, Musk, Vetiver, Labdanum and Oudh
How Does it Smell?
I know what you’re thinking; “ANOTHER oud”. Yes, we’re all bored with the oud trend, heck, I’m even bored of saying that we’re bored with the oud trend. But fear ye not dear reader, this is Ormonde Jayne we’re talking about here and if one thing is for certain it’s that they’re going to do things properly.
Nawab of Oudh doesn’t follow an entirely different approach to the note, it is at heart a fragrance that plays on the age-old dichotomy of rose and oud, two ingredients that were born to play off each other. Where Nawab differs is in a wonderful sap-like stickiness that brings to mind oh-so-delicious but oh-so-naughty sugary dates.
The oud lends a refreshing softness to the proceedings giving the impression of smooth leather dipped in a vat of rose. At times, a very subtle tickle of spices (mainly cinnamon) pushes itself to the front, ensuring that Nawab has a touch of something almost lively amongst all that luxury. But on the whole it is soft, understated and elegant.
Nawab of Oudh is a very refined and luxurious oud but it’s never going to win awards for being the most groundbreaking fragrance in the genre and when there are fragrances such as Francis Kurkdjian’s and Mona di Orio’s oud championing the idea of ingenuity it’s hard to find justification for the £332 price tag. Still, I would say that it is most definitely worth a sniff.
“Qi (pronounced “key” or “chi”) means Breath of Life. It’s an ancient word that permeates the Chinese language and everyday life. This perfume is inspired by the Chinese people’s love for the lightest and most delicate scents. Qi is constructed to make no great statement thus offending no-one, it does not tear down any great walls but is rather something more spectacular, like an amazing dawn, a softly-scented fragile breeze, Qi is an honest, open and natural perfume, it makes its mark for those who don’t want to be obvious but may feel unfinished without it.”
Top: Green Lemon Blossom, Neroli and Freesia
Heart: Tea Notes, Osmanthus, Violet, Hedione and Rose
Base: Mate, Benzoni, Musk, Moss and Myrrh
How Does it Smell?
Qi is perhaps the most surprising of this wordly quartet, simply because it is the one I expected not to like. As you may already know, I do enjoy a good degree of ‘oomph’ in the perfumes I wear and “softly-scented fragile breeze” isn’t really a description that fills me with excitement, but Qi really is something quite special.
The first thing you’ll notice about Qi is that it is an incredibly calm fragrance. It’s also not on the quiet side, possessing the ability to surround and permeate the atmosphere with a definite sense of peace. The second thing you’ll notice about Qi is that it smells just like something plucked directly from the English countryside rather than the orient.
To me Qi is the smell of warm hay and dewy grass soaking up the morning sun. There is a vague whisp of flowers on the breeze, surrendering their strength to the air leaving only the remnants of green stems and buds to fall on the skin. It has the freshness and clarity of the earliest parts of the day but also hints at thing lurking just out of sight; of the moss under logs, water and stone.
Qi is an incredibly contrasting fragrance. It’s strong without being obnoxious and pretty without being wan. It may not make me think of China (but what do I know, I’ve never been) but I can say for certain that I’d love to visit the glorious landscape that it so beautifully depicts.
“Montabaco is a perfume to capture the essence of Latin America: leather, suede, wood and tobacco leaf repeated over and over again creating a suggestive sensuality and Latino temperament. It sits above the rich floral presence of magnolia, jasmine and rose. It is all unashamedly seductive yet profoundly simpatico.”
Top: Air Note, Orange Absolue, Bergamot, Juniper, Clary Sage and Cardamom
Heart: Magnolia, Hedione, Rose, Violet and Tea Notes
Base: Tabacco Leaf, Iso E, Suede, Sandalwood, Moss, Tonka and Ambergris
How Does it Smell?
Montabaco takes inspiration from Latin America and the Latino temperament. It’s not nearly as vibrant or as exhubarant as I would have imagined for a fragrance inspired by such a colourful continent and this could be why I find it to be somewhat of a disappointment. I wanted something rich and oozing with latin spirit, instead Montabaco feels decidedly spirit-less.
The main attraction in Montabaco is the mixture of rich, heavy notes such as tobacco, coffee, vanilla and woods with four or five gallons of Iso E Super. Now the addition of Iso E is no surprise as the Ormonde Jayne collection relies quite heavily on the stuff and perfumer Geza Schoen uses it in isolation for his Escentric Molecules line. The problem is that where the ingredient usually adds silkyness and lift, in Montabaco it seems way too omnipresent, almost as if all of the other notes are tripping over it just to get some attention.
Montabaco plays one tune and it plays it consistently for a very long time. It’s just a shame that this particular tune finds it difficult to stir any emotions. A similar fragrance that does the gourmand-tobacco thing with a lot more success (and more economically) is Sonoma Scent Studio’s Tabac Aurea, which lays similarly dry notes to those used here over the tastiest, creamiest vanilla. Montabaco could do with some tastiness, some creaminess or even some booziness, it’s just missing that little something in needs to give it some life.
Each fragrance in the Four Corners of the Earth collection is available in 100ml Eau de Parfum for £260 (Montabaco and Qi), £280 (Tsarina) or £332 (Nawab of Oudh). They can currently be purchased in Ormonde Jayne boutiques and at Harrods.
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Fragrance Expert for Escentual.com
I am incredibly honoured to have been asked to write on a regular basis for fragrance and beauty e-tailer Escentual. This is a partnership that I am very excited about because I think they are a fantastic website and in the interest of full disclosure I think it is important to mention my affiliation here. I will always disclose affiliate links and whether samples are provided by PR agencies of fragrance companies and will continue to do so, highlighting whether I have been paid for an article posted here or not.
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Samples, notes and quotes via Ormonde Jayne. Image 1 via peopleops.com. Other images via press release.