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The 12 Scents of Christmas No. 11: Ormonde Jayne Orris Noir

Of all the fragrances from British ‘nose’ Linda Pilkington (whose ‘nom de parfum‘ is Ormonde Jayne), this is the one I’d choose for Christmas.  Not a Christmas party, perhaps, but that time when you’ve undone the top button of your skirt, have collapsed on the sofa and are watching the annual re-run of Love, Actually, surrounded by your nearest and dearest – who are on their mince-pie-OD-ed best behaviour.

Like quite a few of the other Christmas scents I’ve shortlisted for my desirable dozen scents, this is spicetastic:  a fragrance I could only ever contemplate wearing in the depths of winter. The spices in this all but crackle and pop, but in a down-played, sip-of-mulled-wine sort of way.

Think:  a baby’s fistful of pink pepper, pimento berries, coriander – just like fresh-ground – and bay.   It has the teensiest twist of lemon rind in the topnotes, but blink!  And it becomes instantly warm.  In fragrance terms, this is the equivalent of greedily warming your freezing derrière on the Aga:  deliciously soothing and relaxing.

It’s definitively Oriental – quite ‘Indian’, actually.  When I woke up in Goa on Christmas morning, a few years ago, this was the breath-of-morning-air that greeted me as I opened the shutters:  sweet jasmine around the window layered over the first nose-tingling wafts from the kitchen, where they were pan-frying and grinding fresh spices for a very far-from-traditional Christmas lunch.  (Pakoras on a sun lounger.  As someone who peeled 70 potatoes for our family gathering last 25th December, bring it on…!)

Orris Noir oozes gentle femininity – but I’d be equally intrigued to smell this on a man’s neck, where the spices would sit well, and the iris would say:  this is a chap who’s at home with his sexuality.  Whatever that happened to be.  I’ve always loved a whiff of Jicky rising from chap’s neck, enjoyed when air-kissing.  Jicky men might well like this, actually, though it’s way subtler.  Of course it’s the iris – the key element in the middle of this, which is such a Guerlain signature.  (Though the woody dry-down has Jicky-ish resonances, for me, too.)  It’s black iris, here (‘orris noir’) – but deep purple’s a more accurate description of the flower.  And besides, it’s the root that goes into orris, not the flower.

Linda herself calls it ‘haunting’, and I know just what she means.  Once it’s on my skin, I have to keep spraying, and re-smelling.  Although the parfum certainly has plenty of staying-power, on me the heart notes in the eau de parfum softly f-a-d-e, in a ghostly manner.  You know when you’ve woken up and are trying to hang onto a dream?  And it’s dematerialising, the more you try to remember it?  Orris Noir has that effect on me.  Unlike a fugitive dream, however, I can pleasurably access this all over again with a squirt from the chunky bottle that’s a luxurious signature of the whole Ormonde Jayne collection.

Or I can just leave it on my skin, and wait for the groundingly woody base elements to announce themselves over the next hour or two.  Myrrh – apt for a seasonal scent, that resinous gift of one of the Three Kings.  A whisper-of-ancient-temple cedar, and (always a winner) patchouli, alongside smoulderings of incense.

If you haven’t yet discovered the Ormonde Jayne range, then you should – and I’d send you on a little mission to one of her two boutiques, in Royal Arcade off Bond Street, or the newer smoked-glass-and-mirrors store just off Sloane Square.  There, one of Linda’s assistants will happily take you on a mini-break of discovery, creating a little ‘perfume portrait’ using different scented ceramic dippers (as Chanel do in Selfridges), to help you take a short-cut to which of the dozen or so Ormond Jayne fragrances you’d like best.  (Though I’d still recommend smelling them all.  Linda works with some of the finest suppliers of raw materials and fragrance essences, is a truly gifted ‘nose’, and deserves to be a Much Bigger Name, internationally, than she is thus far.)

Back to the scent itself, above all there’s a real languor to Orris Noir that I just adore.  Unlike others among my divine Christmas dozen, it doesn’t make me want to reach for my Jimmy Choos.  It makes me want to reach for my slippers, an eiderdown from my embarrassingly large collection, and the hefty novel that Santa will have left for me, if I’ve been good.

Which is at least something to look forward to, if The Scent Critic’s flight does not tomorrow take off from snow-bound Gatwick, and we are stranded at home, a long way from a souk-ful of real spices, and the soft sweetness of jasmine trailing in through an open window.  Either way, it’s Christmas, and there’s plenty for every one of my senses to wallow in…

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