Before I go into reviewing this week's fragrance, I thought I’d take a brief detour as a nod to Mental Health Awareness Week. I know what you’re thinking – what does something as “frivolous” as fragrance have to do with that? Well, I for one think there’s a lot we can do to keep our own mental health in check, in which scent can play a vital role. (I could write a whole separate article on the mood-transforming powers of essential oils such as lavender, orange blossom and the like, but there are plenty of others that will probably explain it just as well.).
Anyway … to rewind back a few years, I was never a big fan of poetry when we studied it at school - but there was one in particular we studied by Tennyson that particularly stood out for me. Basically his narrator, Ulysses talks about “drinking life to the lees” i.e. making the most the world has to offer us before our number’s up. And as I’ve got older, left school and had to do “grown up things” like paying council tax and getting my heart broken, this line has resonated with me more and more.
I think too often we spend time fixating on what’s gone wrong in our lives, agonising over why we haven’t reached certain milestones (the perfect career, marriage, seeing the world, the babies etc.) which can have a devastating impact on our mental health. Yet there is something to be said for taking stock – not in “mindfulness” per se, but in eking out every last drop of colour the world has to offer us (the Italians are particularly good at this). It’s not about being hedonistic, but appreciating every second as opposed to greedily drowning your sorrows, already looking into the distance for your next high. And that’s where fragrance comes in, as few things allow us to stop our minds racing and realise how darn lucky we are like taking time to stop and savour a beautiful scent. Especially when it comes to Ormonde Jayne.
I’ve always been “anti-minimalist” (which if you live in a studio flat, can be a bit of an issue). Walls covered with pictures, shelves heaving with books and photographs... you get the idea. It’s certainly preferable to sitting in an empty room, worrying about how many life achievements I’ve ticked off the list. And in terms of “more is more” I’ve come to see Ormonde Jayne founder Linda Pilkington is a kindred spirit. Her perfumes are rich, enveloping concoctions full of nuances – with thankfully nothing “clean” or “minimalist” about them.
Each of them contains exotic and rare ingredients sourced from the furthest corners of the globe, with no limit or budgets in terms of creative brief. Everything is mixed up in her studios on Regent’s Park by maverick perfumer Geza Schoen (ironically famed for his “stripped back” style when it comes to his own Escentric Molecules range). No danger of that with Ormonde Jayne, whose concoctions are the equivalent of wrapping yourself in ermine furs, pearls and diamonds and taking yourself off to The Wolsley.
Without being ostentatious or OTT, the house style echoes the no-holds-barred gutsy perfumes of the 20s and 30s. Their latest offering - Ambre Royal - packs no less of a punch: a spicy oriental with orchid, amber and iris underscored with a warm base of musk and cedar. Smelling expensive and otherworldly, it’s the type of thing a cabaret singer in 1930s Berlin might have been given by a wealthy admirer. Just be warned that you shouldn’t spritz this on if you don’t want it to stay with you all day (and all night). In an industry that seems more and more to pander to the younger, “Insta-generation”, it’s refreshing to see a grown up perfumery that’s happy to stay that way.
So to weave all of the above together, I’d say Ambre Royal the perfect blues-busting perfume to make the world a better place when those dark clouds start to roll in over your head. And if you’re not familiar with Ormonde Jayne, I’d recommend Champaca (as pretty and effervescent as it sounds), as well as the swarthy citrus Isfarkand for men (but women can of course wear it – and there are plenty I know who do).
Ormonde Jayne is based at 12 The Royal Arcade, 28 Old Bond Street London W1S 4SL
For more information on Mental Health Awareness Week, click here.