One Thousand Scents

Monday, August 10, 2009

Deception: Ormonde Woman by Ormonde Jayne

A recurring theme in this blog, as it must inevitably be in any writing about perfume, is the problem of gender. The industry as a whole is determined to assign to every scent it creates a sex; department stores play along with this, having two departments with little overlap: and the customer base, cowed by a lifetime of fear that in so trivial a matter as perfumery they must not make the wrong move lest they send the wrong message, buys into it. Yes, there are unisex fragrances, some of them selling very well to both men and women, but just look at the imagery of virtually all fragrance advertising, with its languorous women and forthright men, and the message couldn't be clearer: men do, women are done to, and what you wear on your skin is who you are--and you'd better get it right.

But in life, as in fragrance, it is never so simple. Is there one personality characteristic we generally assign to men that could not be advantageously found in women as well, and vice versa? And is there one single note in perfumery which is only ever used is men's but not in women's, or vice versa?

Ormonde Jayne is a British line of niche fragrances, and their cornerstone scents are called Ormonde Woman and Ormonde Man. Pretty clear, that. No swapping. No crossing the aisles. A man might wear the rosy Ta'if, a woman the citrus-woody Isfarkand; but people will generally steer away from a scent explicitly called Man or Woman if it does not fit their gender presentation. (And I ought to be ashamed of it, but I am generally one of those people, so great is my cultural programming. I wear a huge number of "women's" scents, but not one contains Woman or Femme or Elle in its name, with a single exception: I had to buy a bottle of Montana Parfum D'Elle, because the bottle is so ridiculously wonderful and the scent is so fascinatingly eighties. But I feel odd about wearing it, and I can't seem to shake this.)

I can assure you, though, that if you were to smell Ormonde Woman without knowing its name, whether you thought it beautiful or ugly, you would not think of it as a women's scent. If you were coaxed to assign it a gender, you would more likely think of it as a men's scent, but it isn't that, either. It transcends gender. It isn't even unisex: it simply is.

What that "is" is, is dark and mysterious, the deepest midnight blue, not quite black but verging on it. It starts out with a whisper of citrus and spice, but only just: the dense, dark undercurrents are already sweeping up to engulf you. The advertising image is of a bottle cocooned by a stack of wooden shingles, and that's pretty much the whole scent: cedar, sandalwood, and the spruce-like black hemlock (with a strong suggestion of oudh, otherwise known as agarwood). All of this, I feel the need to reiterate, is extremely dark and moody. The woods are garlanded with jasmine and violet, but not in a flowery way: these are for decoration, and what they're decorating is a monolith. (A wooden monolith, which I guess is a contradiction in terms if you're really staring at the etymology, but you get the idea.) You can easily see how this might be construed as a masculine scent--solid burly wood with a few floral grace notes and a subdued, ambery finish with a bracing little splash of vetiver to keep you on your toes.

I confess to being completely baffled by the name. If they're going to make a scent for women, wouldn't you think they'd make something that would fall it little more squarely into the general realm of what people think of as a women's scent? If they're going to make an implacable, earthy wood scent, wouldn't you think they'd give it a more ambiguous name so that everyone could enjoy it? Are they trying to trick women into buying something they ordinarily wouldn't, women being a larger market for scents than men? Are they conducting some sort of experiment?

Still, if you like dark things and woody scents, you are pretty much going to have to hunt this down and try it, because I promise you it's up your alley. Fans of YSL M7, Estee Lauder Sensuous, Satellite Padparadscha, and Ginestet Le Boisé need to check out Ormonde Woman right now. (You can order a sample set of all 11 of their scents for £35, free shipping anywhere in the world, and I think this would probably be well worth it. Their packaging is very beautiful, the samples are generous, and you are highly likely to find something that you can't live without which will give you great pleasure. The Perfumed Court also has samples of Ormonde Woman but per volume they're more expensive that way.)



  • good have new concept about man and women how they come with each other when they are unknown to one another Women's perfume fragrance here have perfumes to use and at mid night a virgin girls come with you and participate you with full of energy

    By Blogger Unknown, at 6:45 AM  

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