OSMANTHUS OSMANTHUS


I write about this every year, but it never ceases to amaze me that the osmanthus in Kamakura really does come out like clockwork in October 1st.

On September 29th I could see and smell inklings : a tinge in the air walking back from the station. On the 30th it was distinctive. As soon as it was officially October, though ( a divine month in Japan – sunny and beautiful ) it was osmanthic mayhem : our front garden tree is the biggest in the area (pictured), and if I open the windows the scent of osmanthus flowers just flood right in to all of the rooms : petallic apricot, coy; concentrated; resplendent. I am drinking it all in today in inhalations of pleasure : a transcendent hope on our bleak and head-hammering horizons.

Our landlord – two doors down – is itching to strictly prune all our foliage as according to him it has turned into an ‘overgrown mess’ ( precisely how I like it), but I asked him kindly to at least wait until the osmanthus, or kinmokusei, has had its dreamy two weeks of glory. He consented, but the ever burgeoning tree is now coming into contact with the telephone wires; protruding into the street now, scraping the occasional delivery truck.


For the time being, though, I am going to revel in this scent. The day and night air is replete with it, and there is no forecast for rain, which usually just washes it all away after a couple of windy days. It is gorgeous.

Shame about the sock though

30 Comments

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30 responses to “OSMANTHUS OSMANTHUS

  1. I’m jealous! I’ve been enjoying osmanthus perfumes recently though. Glad you got the landlord to hold off.

    • In the flesh it is such a delectable scent!

    • What are your top kinmokuseis?

      I was looking at a leather cased Hermes Osmanthe Yunnan the other day – still expensive at 130 dollars, but five or six times less so than its normal Japanese price. I have always quite liked that osmanthus/ Chinese tea accord, but don’t know if it works on me or not. I love anything apricotty though basically.

      • I haven’t gotten to try that many yet, but right now I’m quite liking Parfum d’Empire Osmanthus Interdite, which I first learned about from your book! I got a sample and it was the first that led to an online full bottle purchase. Also have a travel spray of Ormonde Jayne Osmanthus, which has a brighter orange–colored feel.
        Do you have a favorite?

      • I find the Ormonde Jayne too brash and bright and have never liked it. I like the Parfum D’Empire, with the animalic edge, and the Different Company’s is quite realistic, but nothing quite captures the perfect living smell for me (which I also go off once it becomes more intense and goes ‘over the edge’ into rot – when it gets a bit sickening). Right now we are in perfect floral mode. It is enough for me, once a year – I don’t tend to need it in perfumes, really.

  2. Robin

    Never smelled the real thing, but love the osmanthus I’ve worn in fragrances. Because I don’t have a real-life reference point, I can’t tell what’s particularly true to the flower, but I know I particularly like SL Nuit de Cellophane, Amouage Journey, Ayala Moriel Kinmokusei, The Different Company Osmanthus, Parfum d’Empire Osmanthe Interdite, Papillon Angelique, Must de Cartier Gold — with a light hand — and of course Patou 1000. I think my favourite, though, is Osmanthe Yunnan. It’s the freshest, most delicate, most natural-smelling (I’m guessing) but still stylized and Hermes’d.

    I don’t like it when the osmanthus note is overwhelmed with citrus. I like it when the apricot is coaxed out, the riper, richer note. Apricot is one of my favourite of all notes in fragrance, fruit or otherwise. Apricot and plum (oh, you, FdB) are at the top of the fruit pile for sure. When I think of apricot, a standout is what Sheldrake did with Daim Blond. Apricot and suede are so good together.

    I’d die and go to heaven if I could smell that tree of yours, Neil. Lots of reasons I’d love to travel in Japan, and that is one of them.

    Your house looks like an amazing place to call home.

    • It’s a mess, but I love it (and it’s cheap). You would LOVE LOVE LOVE the smell of the flowers – it is all about apricot, seriously. Apricot made floral. That, exactly.

      And yes – Nuit de Cellophane. Shiny but lovely. Might have to start using my bottle again. Loved Daim Blond before it was changed as well. The most realistic note of osmanthus though, as you say, is Patou 1000 vintage parfum. Such a genius combining of notes!

  3. Robin

    You were writing about PdE and TDC as I was writing!

    • You are making me feel I need the Hermes now. It’s a bit pricey for a gratuitous purchase but I think I am fancying it. I just worry that the transition between the tea, orange and osmanthus doesn’t always work – that there is a wan harshness somewhere in there. Does it work all the way for you?

      • Robin

        I never want to smell what they did to my dearly beloved Daim Blond. That honestly is one of my very favourite Serges. I felt an instant connection from the first huff. I bought a back-up bottle years ago; I had a feeling it would be wrecked at some point.

        I think $130 sounds great for Osmanthe Yunnan. I wouldn’t hesitate. But then, I do really like the modern Hermes fragrance aesthetic, the Jean Claude Ellena DNA. It works from top to bottom for me. Although come to think, I haven’t really analyzed it much at all through its progression. I think I’ve just taken it for granted that it’s extremely pleasant throughout. As compared with something that I’m acutely aware is non-linear, highly complex and challenging. Virtually all vintage parfums and a fair number of current releases (although not nearly enough, percentage wise). Oh, Neil, by the way, have Royal Crown sent you anything? The marvelous Nazrin at The Perfume Shoppe in Vancouver sent me a few samples this week and overall I am seriously impressed. As I ought to be, for $350/50ml. Really concentrated, clearly high-end ingredients. (I’m all for humanely harvested musk.) Interesting backstory.

      • I haven’t : but please get them to send some to me as well! I like the sound of

  4. Love this “osmanthic mayhem”. Love that phrase too.

  5. I cherish my vintage bottle of Patou 1000!

  6. Tara C

    That sounds heavenly! There is a tree near my place in Montreal that smells great every spring but I have no idea what it is. I have Osmanthe Yunnan but it is so fleeting on me, I only use it as a refresher on very hot days. My bottle of Daim Blond is down to the dregs but cannot be replaced due to reformulation.

    • Daim Blond was so rich and lovely when it first came out – it was my sister’s perfume for a while. And then it totally lost its lustre and was just a pale facimsile. A real shame.

  7. Transporting — this is the generous content that is a balm to my bleary online eyes. Vividly recalls my own past flowering shrub experiences so thank you. Mock orange. Found it again right outside the subway entrance by the local park, years later. That live quality, rare to find in perfume, even with headspace tech nowadays. Same w fresh sliced apricot and plum, too. In these dingy/scary times these surprising and fresh scent experiences bring you back to life. Nothing lusciously floral in the autumn air around here just now. With climate weather changes, different trees and plants are starting to shift here. Magnolias flowering twice now, expect more and fragrant varieties will move up from the South. Maybe osmanthus will come here too.

    • If the weather is right and the climate is changing, perhaps you could try planting some trees? I reckon it would work. You should look into it. The scent really is lovely.

      • Love that thought but I have no land (sounds like an old folk song) i am a landless peasant — i go to the Botanical Garden nearby when it’s open (There is a varigated magnolia circle within and has two large Japanese gardens originally installed by gardeners sent by Japan decades ago) and closely observe the doings in the big old park across from my place (Prospect Park in Brooklyn). It has a stand of magnolias by my closest entrance and they’ve started blooming a second time in the Autumn twice in a row now. Sadly this zone change also means we will lose the Maples and other Autumn color eventually, as they need true cold winters

  8. I have smelt osmanthus many times in scents, but have never smelt it in real life. I am sure the scent would drive me wild. I have always adored anything that had an apricot scent to it, I once even had a shampoo with an apricot scent. You are truly so lucky to be able to have that luscious scent right outside of your door. I am envious.

  9. OnWingsofSaffron

    Oh, how very, very lucky you are! I too have never smelled osmanthus in situ, yet looking at those plump, waxy, slightly teasing flowers—a bit burlesque, I find, but that perhaps may be my imagination running riot—I can just feel how absolutely delicious the scent must be.
    And isn’t it amazing that the colour of the flowers is that exact same shade of “abricot clair” as in the fruits themselves?

    • Absolutely. And it is exactly how you envision it. In the air, the scent is very drowsy and balmy while being sensual and uplifting at the same time. You can’t avoid the apricot connection, but it is not identical either, because they are flowers; very perfumed ones, but not in the way that jasmine DOMINATES. These DRIFT.

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