THE PERSIAN RUGS OF BELGRAVIA : : XANDRIA, X’IAN, BYZANCE, TANGER, LEVANT + INDUS by ORMONDE JAYNE (2020)

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.

12 Comments

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12 responses to “THE PERSIAN RUGS OF BELGRAVIA : : XANDRIA, X’IAN, BYZANCE, TANGER, LEVANT + INDUS by ORMONDE JAYNE (2020)

  1. Robin

    Methinks there is some damning with faint praise, a hint of it, going on — in your usual tactful way, of course. Yes?

    I bought a beautiful sampler from OJ once and liked several, but every time I wore one on one wrist with something similar on the other, it suffered by comparison. Too light, a bit on-the-fence somehow, not committing fully to a concept, a touch too polite. I know it’s the house style, their aesthetic — or I surmise it is — but I generally like a little more stuffing to my scents, unless delicacy and a certain lightly sketched or watercoloured interpretation is the whole point of the exercise. I could like several of these, I’m sure, but I wonder if I could ever love any.

    • Ditto.

      And you are a seer : I finished writing this and literally the thought came into my mind : ‘damning with faint praise’. They ARE good, but would and do suffer in comparison with more committed perfumes, I think as they are, as you say, somehow on the fence. I wrote ‘translated’ to say the same thing.

      What I was trying to capture was the idea that you could be in London and spritz on one of these after work or to a party and smell nice, get compliments – they don’t smell jaded. And they are not the full nuclear casbah, which we are surely all tired of. Light and fresh. But I can’t imagine a proper perfumista getting too het up : they work better as high end high street niche, something for someone to float in unannounced, have a quick sniff and purchase based on the first impression. Several could be big hits I reckon – Tanger and Indus are very pleasing, and Xandria (autocorrect just changed that to Sandra) makes a good masculine. Still…

      • Robin

        Oh, you are so right about them, and I find that idea appealing, of spraying something without too much thought, for the simple pleasure of a good-smelling, well-done fragrance that’s just a little different, stylish, maybe even slightly concept-driven but that you know won’t be out of place anywhere you’re off to. Sometimes that’s just the ticket. And the cachet, or maybe more accurately the kind of modern integrity, of Ormonde Jayne is something I’ve always felt and admired.

        Save the vintage Miss Balmain in extrait (which I just acquired in the post, a half ounce, mint, equivalent to 5600 yen, I think, and oh, the swooning that’s been going on here today, nose attached to wrist, for that very Cellier leather and vetiver in that ridiculously good base) for a more suitable occasion.

      • Different galaxies. But you definitely wouldn’t want to wear that Miss Balmain every day..

      • Robin

        I’m not sure if I can wear it out of the house.

  2. Robin

    By the way, I enjoyed your writing here.

  3. I agree with Robin, you were very diplomatic in your praise for these scents. What irks me is how they could call a fragrance Byzance, when Rochas already had a glorious fragrance called Byzance, Which compared to your description of this one, was more on point name-wise.
    Personally, I have never has any luck whatsoever with any of the OJ fragrances I have tried. They all just smelt “off” on me. So I don’t think I will give these a go either.

    Congratulations Robin on a glorious Miss Balmain! I as well received one last week as well, mine was just a small 1/8 of an ounce, but it was literally pennies, how could I resist.
    I have worn Miss Balmain out in polite company many times, during the colder months of winter, and it just enrobes you in a wonderful cocoon of deliciousness. Last time I wore it my friends, who had been in the perfume industry for years, were in love with how I smelt.
    I say you should give it a chance in the cooler weather to come and wear it when you are all bundled up and going out. It will not be too overpowering. It will sing on your skin.

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