The new Silk Route Collection by London-based Ormonde Jayne is a very Anglified, crisp and clean collection of perfumes based on the trans-Asian route of historical lore from the Middle East, India, China and beyond but only lightly; without the names on the bottles you wouldn’t necessarily know you were being taken on a journey to the Mystical East. All of the fragrances in the range are quite nice: nice being the operative word. In eschewing the heavier clichés of the ‘oriental’ category, which has been done to death, these fragrances merely touch on the themes of the Spice Trail as a butterfly alights on a flowering orchid; calibrated, refined; wearable to the office, social functions; dates.
Tanger and Levant are like twin mandarins; the former a well-made, light-as-a-feather mandarin/amber leather that keeps its tangible tangerine note sultrily throughout its duration on the skin. It is a chic little perfume that would perfectly in a bar after work somewhere in London, with a certain suave and insinuating presence, and is definitely my favourite of the set. Your partner, just a couple of minutes late, is drinking a Negroni in heels and Levant, a modern peony rose with an orange, tangelo and jasmine fore note; a floral on point; like a distant relative of modern Chloé.
Another interesting pairing for a South Kensington dining establishment could be Xandria and X’ian. The fresh peppered oud is now a very (over)familiar face around cities worldwide but Xandria is a very well-blended, more rounded than usual guaicwood and coumarinic scent that veers towards the masculine with its warmer heartnotes of cinnamon, rum and rosewood that resonate like coffee, but unlike many of the type, this perfume has a heart; if you are looking for a birthday gift for a significant other or a brother-in-law with taste this would probably make a good option. I personally prefer X’ian, though, a dry-as-flint nutmeg and sandalwood pepper musk with a tangy rhubarb twist that has a certain airy, flirtatious ease; a rose manqué that hovers about you as aridly as a dragonfly. Similarly high pitched and unweighed-down is Indus, a young, carefree and easy lychee garden rose that is more appealing than Damask, another rose in the Silk Road Collection I find overburdened and overbusy. Ancient Persian princesses won’t be swooning in their graves over this youthful elixir, but well-groomed and handsome hot things in the City will undoubtedly turn their heads to take a second glance if a touch of this refreshing fruit rose (blackcurrant, Armenian plum, Chinese patchouli, musk) were to drift towards their consciousness upon this obviously attractive woman’s sillage.
With not a hair out of place, the Route De Soie collection is very well kept and translated, fitting the stated Ormonde Jayne ethos of aiming to include ’the quality of English craftsmanship, the art of French perfumery and the sensuality and natural harmony of the Orient” – the outlier for me being Byzance, messier, less restrained, and which to me smells like an overripe, even rotting durian fruit (or strawberry flavoured cough linctus). Official notes for Byzance include cassis, milk and pink pepper; vanilla, iris, moss…..it is an oddball disco scent that at least brings a more exuberant and less fine-tuned aspect to the perfumes in the collection, like a Sex On The Beach cocktail drunk through a coloured twisty straw in Bangkok. A wink in its eye. And closer, somehow, to the Asia that I have long lived in and experienced up close and personal.