I’ve always yearned to be a Femme Fatale: oozing mystique and an exotic allure, instantly enslaving every man who claps eyes on me. Perhaps not like Salome, who was a little, well, perverse, not to mention wicked, more Zuleika Dobson, a femme so truly fatale all the Oxford undergraduates hurled themselves to their doom in the Isis, for unrequited love of her.
In truth, I’m not sure I have it in me – I’m too blonde, too British, too married. I haven’t the sophistication to be heartless, which seems to be an essential femme fatale ingredient, and I suppose I’d probably rather be stouthearted and loyal, than full of wiles and enchantment. After all, with the exception of Zuleika, who is last heard of boarding a train for Cambridge, literary femme fatales tend to come to a Bad End.
It’s not without regret that I admit my lack of femme fatale-ness: don’t all women long to be beguiling and mysterious, and to entrance and ensnare, just a little?
But perhaps there is a way to embrace one’s inner siren without having to go the full Morgan le Fay: scent. The subliminal olfactory message of exactly the right scent is able to hint at something complicated and intriguing beneath a prim and rather proper surface, and perhaps even transform one from housewife to houri with a mere spritz from a magic bottle. Such is the alchemical power of perfume.
Mitsouko does this for me, which is possibly why I don’t wear it that often: it feels somehow too intimate, too revealing, as if I’ve said too much. So in the office I tend to wear another defining Chypre, Diorella, which doesn’t have a hint of femme fatale about it, in my opinion.
And so there I was, content to just dabble timidly in femme fatale territory on special occasions, by means of a dab of Mitsouko -which is, after all, one of the world's most divine scents - until I made an extraordinary discovery: Ormonde Woman, a smoky eye of a perfume, thrilling and novel, yet subtle and intriguing.
Lured in by the promise of Black Hemlock as a key ingredient – and anyone who knows Waffle or I will testify to our predilection for offering each other a Hemlocktini, when times are tough or tedious - I tried it only to be instantly and utterly seduced by its exquisite unconventionality.
I don’t think I’d ever smelled anything like Ormonde Woman before – India Knight - whose opinion on scent I’d trust even above the great Guru himself, Luca Turin – described it to me as ‘beautiful yet sinister’, and I can’t think of a more apposite description. Hemlock – an unusual and expensive ingredient when used in this kind of concentration – immediately roots one’s expectations firmly in femme fatale territory (do I need to mention Socrates? I thought not). Its siren song is the spice-market top notes of cardamom and coriander that create instant allure, before ceding to a more conventionally feminine heart of violet and jasmine absolute.
It’s subtle, yet hypnotic, and even now, more than five hours after I last sprayed it on, I keep raising my wrist to my nose to breathe in the beauty of its base notes. These are uncompromisingly masculine - vetiver, cedar wood, amber and sandalwood – and I think that’s what makes Ormonde Woman so astonishingly sexy: It’s such a seductively feminine scent, but then leaves you with these complex and beguiling, yet somehow male, traces of wood and incense.
You see – the more I write about it,I’m more under its spell: it’s not simply about bringing out any latent femme fatale in me, Ormonde Woman is itself the femme fatale: an original, beautiful, enigmatic temptress, and above all one that is wonderfully confident and wholly uncompromising. Wouldn't you love to be like that? I absolutely would, which is possibly why I'm mad about it.
I should stop evangelising before you gently suggest that my enthusiasm is bordering on zealotry: So tell me, what perfume makes you feel like a femme fatale?
Ormonde Woman. Eau de Parfum 50mls £68
Ormonde Jayne - 12 The Royal Arcade 28 Old Bond Street London W1S 4SL T. +44 (0)20 7499 1100