“A well read woman is a dangerous creature.”
And so, to be fair, is a well scented one.
Ormonde Woman by Ormonde Jayne is a female marketed scent which isn’t a twee, girly confection. This is more a action heroine than wallflower and, with black hemlock used for the first time in a fragrance, this is a scent to wear when you want to smell unique.
Cardamom, coriander, grass, black hemlock, violet, jasmine, vetiver, cedar, amber, sandalwood.
I have, in the past, been a bit shy of female marketed scents. Too fluffy, too cliched, too trite, they sometimes try to cram women into a single mould which clearly doesn’t fit us all. I make an exception for Ormonde Jayne because here, finally, is a female marketed scent that I can get behind, a female scent which isn’t all “sugar and spice and all things nice”, instead it has a decent amount of intrigue and mystery and takes female scents away from oft-trodden paths and into the deepest, darkest depths of the woods.
Imagine those liminal spaces at the edge of the forest where the grassy meadow gives way to the darkening stand of trees. That’s what the opening to Ormonde Woman smells like. Yes, there is that spicy warmth from cardamom – which Ormonde Jayne lovers may come to know, love and expect – but there is a wonderful pillow of grassy greenery which it rests upon. This is the edge of the forest at dawn or dusk, when the grass is dewy and cool, and there is mist in the air. You can practically feel the cool dewdrop kiss on bare toes as you tread lightly, approaching the wood.
A few steps further forward and the grass beneath our feet gives way to loam. There is a sharpness about the scent now which conjures that thick, leathery, sappy greenery of pine needles. Both the ones which are fresh and growing, and a deeper, woodier, more resinous kind of needle which has fallen to the floor amongst the odd branch or too.
Here, any light which filters through the canopy above is dappled and the whole composition is infused with a cool, green tone. Sometimes in perfumery, green scents can be very in-your-face, almost aggressively so, but Ormonde Woman is quite understated. It has a quiet sense of unshakable confidence which says “Yes, it’s green” but doesn’t yell about it. This restraint makes the scent classier and more elegant than those which feel the need to shout about their verdant credentials. Ormonde Jayne is a fragrance which “shows” more than it “tells”.
There’s a slightly herbal element in the mix here too, especially when you sniff the scent up close to the skin. It doesn’t go so far as to smell medicinal, ie as if the herbs have been dried and prepared, but instead it might be an invocation of them whilst they remain growing and alive. Perhaps this is the hemlock peeping through?
Ormonde Woman has a floral side but unlike many other female marketed scents here it’s perfectly balanced with the woodier and greener aspects of the composition. The florals have backbone – they aren’t the entirety of the composition in their own right – and this is both charming and feels unusual in a female scent.
We have walked a little further into the forest now, the grass has receded and given way to a mossy floor, speckled with pine needles. Amongst these green tussocks, Jasmine and violets arrive, poking their heads up out of the moss, or winding around low branches. They are both musky and perfectly poised. They augment what the fragrance has set out before us, rather than dominating it with their floralcy.
The composition of Ormonde Woman is very harmonious, and it has a peaceful and soothing feel about it as well as a protective, almost fierce sense of strength in the way the ingredients chime together so well.
A grounding sense of woodiness peeps through in the final phase of Ormonde Woman. The woods begin bright, following on from the greenery that came before, as if they have been freshly cut, their woody fibres exposed to the air for the first time in years. The sandalwood then, gradually, encourages its other woody friends to chill out, slow down, flow rather than race. And the other woody elements follow suit, falling in line as sandalwood leads them on a gentle, fluid dance through the heart of the forest.
The spiciness that started off Ormonde Woman comes back towards the end and plays beautifully with the woodiness to round the composition off and give a lovely cyclical feel to the whole experience.
The other stuff
The perfumer for Ormonde Woman was Geza Schoen.
If I had to encapsulate the sort of woman who would wear Ormonde Woman, she would be someone who has a bit of wildness left in her heart, an affinity for the outdoors and untamed places, and a willingness and understanding that being strong, being independent, is not a flaw.
All that said, Ormonde Woman is a fragrance that anyone, regardless of gender would (and should) be able and empowered to wear. Don’t let the fact that it has “woman” in the title put you off. I could very much imagine men enjoying this fragrance too.
Ormonde Woman has a polite level of projection, or sillage. It’s noticeable but never overpowering, even when you spray quite a lot of it. It reaches to about handshake distance or thereabouts.
The fragrance lasts well, somewhere between six to eight hours following an application, although it does become much closer to the skin in latter phases of a wear.
Ormonde Jayne are an interesting brand – a brand which have grown to rival much bigger, more financially muscular houses, through the sheer tenacity of their founder, Linda Pilkinton. Linda started off with a vision, some 20 years ago and grew and nurtured her brand through innovation, determination and a wonderful sense of grit. The result today is a brand which is both innovative and forward-looking but fully embodying the character and authenticity of the founder who continues to be the beating heart of the company.
Not only that, but Ormonde Jayne are a brand which portray a gentle sense of sophistication. Their bottles aren’t flashy or gaudy, but everything they do is thought out and carefully conceived. It’s the sort of good design which allows you to get on and fully appreciate the quality of the scent, without being distracted by a blingy, showy bottle. It’s just good design done well, unobtrusive, and facilitating of the scent’s enjoyment rather than fighting with it for centre stage.
Ormonde Woman is available from the Ormonde Jayne web boutique where it is priced at £120 for 50ml at 25% concentration, £185 for 40% concentration or £220 for 50% concentration, all in one of their coloured bottles. The reviewed scent is the 25% concentration.
We were very kindly gifted a bottle of this fragrance when we visited Linda Pilkington at the Ormonde Jayne store in London. Our thanks to her, and the brand, for the generosity.
Header image courtesy of Ormonde Jayne. Other images of the product by The Sniff.