One Thousand Scents

Thursday, April 01, 2010

His Turn: Ormonde Man by Ormonde Jayne

When I first smelled Calvin Klein Obsession in 1985, I was entranced by its heavily ambered orientalia: I'd never smelled anything remotely like it, and I was hooked for life. (I've owned the soap, the perfume, and the EDP over the years, and I still have a little bottle of it in my collection.) I was delighted when they announced a men's version, and extremely disappointed when they launched Obsession for Men in 1986, because my innocent assumption was that it would actually be a version of the women's, and it wasn't, at all; it was gigantic mass of lavender and spice, huge in a bad way (as opposed to Obsession, huge in a good way), an attack fragrance. I still ended up owning the soap (which usually manages to tone down a scent) and a little bottle of the EDT, which I wore from time to time in little tentative dabs, knowing that a full-on splash was going to bowl people over.

What I didn't know then, but certainly know now, is that as a rule, X For Men is not going to have anything to do with the original women's version of X; it;s going to be a standard men's scent piggybacking on the name (and possibly the packaging) of the women's, meant to be bought by women for their men.

Every now and then, though, a manufacturer will actually refer back to the women's scent--which nearly always precedes the men's by a year or two--and either base the men's on the women's, or construct a men's scent that is meant to be worn alongside the women's and complement it in some way.

I described Ormonde Woman by Ormonde Jayne as variously "dark and mysterious", "a monolith", and "unisex", and it is all of those things. But now that I have smelled Ormonde Man, I see what the perfumer was getting at in the bigger scheme of things. Ormonde Woman is not particularly gendered on its own, but if you are wearing Woman on one hand and Man on the other, as I am right now, you perceive that the two scents have the same basic structure--a woody oriental based on black hemlock--but are decorated differently, with the woman's version being adorned with (dark, subtle) flowers, and the men's having a big chunk of pungent, medicinal oudh stacked atop it. (There is a little oudh in the women's, too, as a further reference.) There is no doubt that the two scents are closely related, while each is its own creation; if you smelled two people each wearing one, you might think they were wearing the same scent and attribute the differences to body chemistry.

Ormonde Man starts, as so many men's scents do, with a little splash of citrus and a slight soapiness that resembles that masculine standby, shave cream. This doesn't last, being pushed aside quickly by an almost dizzying quantity of smooth, polished wood. The overwhelming quality that oudh can have (as attested to by oudhmonster YSL M7) has been damped down, somewhat; its usual aggressiveness has been tempered, controlled, corralled. As the scent ages on your skin, the wood becomes ever softer and rounder, the oudh being replaced by warm, almost creamy sandalwood. It is extraordinarily appealing and well-constructed.

Just as Ormonde Woman is absolutely wearable by a man (one who isn't afraid of wearing a scent with "woman" in the name), Ormonde Man is entirely wearable by women. Why not? It's just another side of the same fascinating coin.

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