Ormonde Jayne Ramblings; first and second thoughts on Ormonde Woman

I smelled the Ormonde Jayne line  first in 2011, relatively late in my perfume-sniffing journey. The problem with this was smelling them for the first time came with five years of baggage. Which included years of longing to smell the line and a boatload of expectations. The beautifully presented discovery set was my birthday present. ‘From’ my husband. And yes, like in the case of most ‘perfumistas’, the hand that pressed the ORDER button was mine, not his. That was in May. It is important for me to explicitly declare the month, because the temperatures in May affected my perception of the perfumes. Especially one particular one, that I dismissed and couldn’t wait to give away but which later became my unlikely favorite from this line. I also gave away a few of the samples to my sister, mother, aunt, mother in law. Half a year later. I accepted the offer from Sarah (PR person of the line) to send me a discovery set, since I thought I should probably give the ‘dismissed samples’ a second chance.

Now that I’ve gotten the various means of perfume sample acquisition out of the way, let’s get to my first impressions, the very first time I smelled them.

The three that I’d read most about and was most eager to try were Ormonde Woman, Taif and Champaca. My first overall feeling was of excitement. Not different from the kind I felt when I first fell down the proverbial rabbit hole. Here was a completely new line to explore. And after smelling the line, regardless of my thoughts on the individual perfumes, the feeling remained of experiencing something new.

I distinctly remember applying Woman on my right upper arm, curious about the hemlock absolute used in this perfume. From the various reviews I craved and expected a mysterious, witchy, magical greenness like this:

dark_forest

What I smelled looked more like this:

green-sugar-sparkle-background-23608533

and this :

sugargreen

Which is still a lovely olfactory picture but very different from what I’d imagined and wanted at that time. I have to admit though that Woman smelled different. Different from any perfume I’d smelled, yet just slightly familiar like the taste of a dream that you just can’t recall. I saw a green grassy floor blanketed by a veil of powdered white sugar. And leafy grounds viewed through crystalline sugar brittle. And I said words like ‘sugar tulle’ and ‘lemony pesto’ and called the perfume ‘fluffy in a good way’. The trees were there but farther away. The pictures below are meant to convey the texture of the ‘sugar tulle’ and the ‘fluffiness’ that I perceived. [Please note, I did not perceive this as a wedding perfume].

tulle

tulledress

Don’t get me wrong, Woman smelled really good, but I was disappointed. Where was that dark raw magic that people were talking about? Where was the mysterious forest? The green I saw was more the green of vivid just-rained on green pastures and spicy Italian herbs. This perfume on my skin smelled good enough to eat (in the best possible way, though). It made me wonder whether this discrepancy was due to skin chemistry, perception that differed from my expectation or my high tolerance (and requirement) for weirdness. I wondered if this line was just too ‘well proportioned’ for me. I found myself wishing one could order Woman with an ‘extra shot of hemlock’. Was I really faulting a line for being ‘too elegant?’ (See note 1 below:)

Which of course makes me revisit my idea of beauty.

In 2005, I wrote in a now defunct blog that ” Usually for me beauty seems to stem from movement..a wave of emotion..the sweep of a storm…but today the world stood still..and it was beautiful..which was surprising …a dead day is never beautiful..perhaps it was because the day hadn’t stopped… just paused…as if it was waiting….maybe thats what gave it its underlying fluidity…

..not a halt but a broken motion…not a stop but a pause”

[Excuse the abundant overuse of dots. I was young :)].

I wonder now if that is still true for me. I have gathered many more moments of beauty in stillness since then, but what would that idea of movement mean in perfume? It could translate into the progression of notes, the way they ripple one after another. Or the movement of the visual images that the notes trigger. It could refer to the force of strength that I often find beautiful both in perfume and in people’s faces. The Ormonde Jayne line is not marked by this show of strength that I usually favor, though many in the line have an impressive sillage.  There is a certain limpid quietness in the perfumes,  (except for Tolu which incidently was the unlikely favorite that I referred to earlier, and Taif my other favorite ), a quietness that I don’t normally call beautiful but that I can now appreciate.

And of course once I read reviews like Suzanne’s and Natalie’s, I was able to find perceptions similar to mine. Who knows? If I had read only these reviews, Woman might have been an immediate favorite, since my expectations would have matched what I smelled.

Lastly, I don’t want to entirely rule out skin chemistry. Because today when I applied a generous spray on the inside of my elbow I saw a glimpse of that darkness that I had previously missed. I find that different parts of my arm present scent differently to my nose. After playing around with Amouage Lyric and Ubar, I realized that my wrist has the most ‘sweet-amping’ quality. Which works really well for the rich force of an Amouage. But ‘Woman’ blossomed or should I say grew, beautifully near my elbow today. [Sometimes on my wrist, Woman turns too sweet]. Today I almost felt the powdered sugar separate from the vivid green. The vivid green turned darker, piney with a faint oiliness (which might be the grass oil that features in the note list). And when the powdered sugar folded back into the green, I still liked, dare I say, loved it. I think I might even be in danger of wanting a bottle. The first two pictures in Suzanne’s review really do capture this perfume.

Ok, so Woman still doesn’t smell like a mysterious, magical forest to me. However it is slowly turning into a small clearing in that forest. Piney air? Sure! But I can’t shake off the feeling that there is an impossibly elegant woman lurking behind a pine tree with a tulle scarf made of spun sugar. I pick up that paused moment and pocket it.

ForestClearing

Note 1: Sigrun had similar thoughts on the aesthetic of this line though my conclusions were slightly different. When I first read her post I grinned broadly at her honesty and her refreshing thoughts. And felt like articulating what I thought.

Photo Credits:  
1) http://ashsilverlock.files.wordpress.com/2011/12/dark_forest.jpg 
2) http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-photos-green-sugar-sparkle-background image23608533 
3) http://www.etsy.com/listing/71412460/pastel-green-cocktail-sugar-mint-green
4) http://www.spoonfulofstyle.com/2010/12/wedding-inspiration-ruffles-tulle.html 
5) http://www.lorihamann.com/a-new-day-a-new-blog-a-new-begining/
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12 comments

  1. Tara

    Really enjoyed your take on Ormonde Woman, Lavanya.

    As someone with a very low tolerance for weird, I did get the magic, witchy forest. So much so that at first I didn’t think it was for me, but that lessened over time and I now I happily own a full bottle. The opposite to your experience! The whole line, including Woman, is elegant. You’re absolutely right.

    • Thanks Tara!
      When you say ‘that lessened’ do you mean the ‘magic witchy forest-ness’ lessened or your aversion to the witchy-ness? Also I’m curious, what are your other loves from this line?

  2. Natalie

    This was a well needed analysis of OJ Woman, in my opinion. I think it gets a reputation online for being just “witchy” when there are so many other facets of it, which you’ve pulled together really well here. And thanks for the link, as well.

  3. Lavanya, reading your thoughts about OJ Woman, as well as Tara’s comment above, make me realize just how personal and unique the sense of smell is — and why I’m grateful there are multiple voices on the perfume blogosphere. It can be so frustrating to read a number of reviews about a perfume that don’t match up (and might even be opposite) to one’s own perceptions; but if you sift through the forums and reviews long enough, you’ll eventually come upon someone’s description that echoes your own experience. Naturally, it doesn’t mean that anyone is right or anyone is wrong about how a perfume smells, but it does feel so validating and comforting when you find it. And this reminds me, too, to always be true to your own experience and to write it down, even if you feel like you’re going against the grain (because someone else who shares your perceptions will be grateful when they see your review … just as I am grateful to have discovered that your take on this perfume parallels my own).

    • That is very true about neither view being right or wrong. Perception is a fascinating thing isn’t it?..:)
      As I said in my reply to Natalie- it *was* validating to read both your reviews.

  4. Layanya, I hope you’re feeling better.

    As I’ve previously commented on Natalie’s post, I do not find OJ Woman witchy or dark. It’s not my most favorite of OJ’s perfumes but I like it and enjoy wearing from time to time.

    I almost never get rid of samples – even if I didn’t like the perfume: I never know when my testes change or to what I might want to compare the perfume I do not think I’ll ever really like. I’m not sure if I had a serious change of heart so far but I did regret once or twice not having a sample any more.

    • Thanks Undina-yes, I’m feeling better (atleast better enough to reply to comments :-)).
      Yes- I remember reading your comment too with a sort of happy relief.
      In the beginning of my perfume journey I used to swap off samples just because that was one of the easiest way of trying something new. I did sort of regret it. Then I stopped doing that because even if I didn’t like a perfume I still wanted it as reference (Though I can’t resist giving off samples to visiting family)…lol. I am glad I did not swap away the Tolu though I was very very close to doing it. It is pretty amazing how the right weather can change your perception of a scent.
      Also, I must tell you about my experience smelling Ubar. I couldn’t wait to scrub it off the first time I sprayed it on my upper arm. It seemed to have a ‘purple cough syrup, cola type’ note that I usually find difficult. I think Orris Noir and Sacrebleu also share that something. Then when I sprayed on my wrist, I didn’t smell that note much and I liked it much better. Weird.

  5. Thank you for the kind mention, and I very much enjoyed reading about your thoughts on Ormonde Woman 🙂

    Expectations really do add an extra dimension to the whole perfume experience, for both good and bad. Maybe we can get a fuller experience out of a complex scent if we’re prepared on what’s about to hit us. Maybe we think worse of a scent that does not deliver what we thought (as in your case with OJ) but we might have liked it if we just had stumbled over it and sprayed it on, without ever heard of it before 🙂

    For me, OJ tends to shift shapes according to the seasons and also depending on dosage (the more the darker, and I do get the darkness). I prefer it in deep winter, when everything is covered in ice and snow, there is something in it that resonates with the majestic stillness of sub zero temperatures and sound muffles by snow. Ormonde Man, on the other hand, I prefer in late autumn, when the colors of nature are muddy gray/brown and damp and cold. If you’re considering coming to Scandinavia, these are two scent I recommend trying out here 🙂

    • That’s true- sometimes I wish I hadn’t read so much about OJ Woman. I do like it a lot though on some days it is too sweet for (and on) me.

      I agree : seasons and dosage really make a difference. The last time I sprayed- I sprayed more than usual and I was able to get a glimpse of the darkness. I haven’t experienced deep winter in a while now though I can imagine this scent complementing an icy day beautifully, especially while reading your description. I do want to visit Scandinavia- not sure if I should in deep winter though..:D

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