Tuesday, 15 June 2010


Being romantically inclined, I had always been drawn to the idea that one's favourite perfume should be an invisible, unconscious signature - Chanel's unseen, unforgettable, ultimate accessory of fashion…. that heralds your arrival and prolongs your departure.

Finding a scent that perfectly describes you is no easy task: it seems to require an outrageously bold sense of self, or the kind of dog-like nature that constantly wants to mark its territory. For many years I opted out of the whole thing, and wore whatever I'd been given for Christmas: if you don't quite know who you are, how can you determine a signature scent, or a signature style? Even my signature at the bottom of letters and on cheques was a somewhat indeterminate scrawl.

Still, the idea persisted. It once took me all around Paris - to Caron, to the wonderful Guerlain boutique on the Champs-Elysee, to tiny perfumiers in dark streets off the Marais, in a Grenouille*-like hunt for the hit of recognition that would mean the scent was mine. But, although I discovered many delicious things on that trip - Jolie Madame, Shocking, Mitsouko, Narcisse Noir, Chanel No.22, Balenciaga's Le Dix - the perfect perfume eluded the imperfect me.

Many years later I've learned how to be happier with myself, and to accept my mutable nature. I'm no longer so obsesssed with there being one defining scent, and so I've ended up with a portfolio of perfumes which project different facets and moods. Mitsouko lends me a sophistication and glamour I don't always feel; I like to pretend I have it in me to be as mysterious and complex as Ormonde Woman; Diorella's bright, herby androgyny suggests a breezy efficiency that belies my default behaviour in the office. Most often, you'll find me in No.5: it reminds me of my Grandmother, whose influence on my life I didn't appreciate until long after she died. I like its rather old-fashioned elegance - bone structure over botox, if you like. Chanel No.5 may be the world's best selling perfume, but it's thankfully, it's not the world's most frequently worn, or there'd be the olfactory memory of a zillion Mrs Trefusis' wafting round the streets of London.

Ormonde Woman, Mitsouko, No.5 and Diorella became fixtures on my dressing table after a laborious process of trial and error. I can't imagine them ever losing their enchantment but they're surrounded by a dozen other bottles of scent I've tried a couple of times and given up on. I regret the waste as much as I admire the beautiful bottles, and looking at them makes me wish I'd discovered something like Linda Pilkington's Perfume Portraits at Ormonde Jayne rather sooner. The idea is incredibly well-conceived: at the Bond Street store - and at Harrods - Linda or one of her team will take you through a simple yet sybaritic fifteen minute process designed to take the guesswork and slog out of choosing a scent that's perfectly suited to you.
Perfume Portraits starts with a short questionnaire - likes, dislikes, whether you're looking for a signature scent or something for the new season and so on - before moving onto a blind test (blind sniff?) of twenty-one different ingredients from seven fragrance families. Linda notes your instinctive reactions as you work through, building up a portrait based on those you respond to, and the process ends in a choice between the two Ormonde fragrances that will suit you best. It confirmed me in my devotion to Ormonde Woman, and brought me to Frangipani, a fresh, beautiful floral that smells exactly like a Mediterranean garden at dusk.

Perfume Portraits at Ormonde Jayne
Ormonde Jayne - 12 The Royal Arcade 28 Old Bond Street London W1S 4SL To book your perfume portrait, telephone the Bond Street boutique on. +44 (0)20 7499 1100 or email. sales@ormondejayne.com


Blighty said...

What a gorgeous post, I love reading about perfume almost as much as I like smelling it, and you write so well; you make Ormonde very enticing indeed. I am always looking for "The One" in perfume but maybe I need to lower my expectations and go with what suits me at the time.. I am currently flirting with Jo Malone Dark Amber and Ginger Lily and L'Artisan Parfumeur Mure and Musc, but there are so many more I would love. Mrs T, is it morally wrong to siphon money from the housekeeping to fund a perfume habit??

Marie said...

This is a lovely post and now I really want to dash off to find Linda for my perfume portrait!

MyPerfumeLife said...

There's something magical about the Ormonde Jayne boutique. It's like being whisked into another dimension. All you have to do is think about and talk about lovely smells. Heaven.

Frangipani sounds beautiful. My absolute favourite from the range is Tiare.

lady jane grey said...

I went your way - looking for the ONE, and while I was searching I established a collection of high end and niche perfumes. For some time I thought Caron's Acaciosa could be the ONE, then again L'artisan's Dzonghka. And then "I met" the scents of Ormond Jayne : I knew Ta'if is the ONE. And should there be a day I need a break from the ONE & only, then it's O.J.'s Tolu...

Liberty London Girl said...

oh YES to Frangipani. I love it. Sexy, exotic, floral without boshing you over the head. All my scent is in the US at the moment. Very cross-making. LLGxx

Style At Every Age said...

Frangipani sounds gorgeous! Great post, thanks for sharing your favourites!

S said...

it sounds delicious, i would love to spray some on and be reminded of the Mediterranean at dusk. regarding Mitsouko i am happy to have discovered it thanks to you-and squirted it on myself whilst running from your home to one of my family events. i love your perfume write-ups and adore your writing. x shayma

Angela said...

Really enjoyed reading this as a perfume obsessive.

I too don't have a signature scent, but a wardrobe of bottles, some for summer (Deci Dela), some for winter (Lush Karma Cream), one strictly for holidays (Allure), some for nights out (Coco), some for that crucial meeting when I want to put on a front (Samsara). Some I don't wear any more, but keep so I can sniff now and then to take me back to my teens or early 20s.

Chanel features a lot, but not No 5, I can see its genius, but it's just not right on me!

Rose said...

Ormonde Jayne scents are exquisite- and I really admire the line and the way Linda works- they are a bit like the Manolo of perfume, they don't produce too much, they concentrate on classic but unusual scents and should stand the test of time.

Ormonde Woman is sublime, it smells like the woman I want to be and I'm getting there!

You have really beautiful taste in scent- Mitsouko is like the perfume equivalent of Helen of Troy- I have absolutely no idea why it isn't more revered these days or why Guerlain don't make more fuss of it.

No 5 doesn't work on me though, very sadly. Boid De Illes does though and I think No 19 is utterly elegant.

westendmum said...

I cannot believe Mrs T. that your signature could ever be ‘a somewhat indeterminate scrawl’.
Lovely informative post. Looking forward to experiencing Ormonde Jayne myself.

The Foxymoron said...

I hope you'll forgive the impertinence, but I have tagged you for a meme. It came to me via The Harridan, who was tagged by Belgian Waffling. If you'll do it, I'd be honoured

do pheromones work said...

Finding a scent that perfectly describes you is no easy task I agree on this so its better if we find the best perfume.Anyway,I am looking forward yo your next post. :)


Anonymous said...

Lovely post. I'm wondering if Frangipani is a perfume I read about in an article in La Vie Claire. If so, I recall it sounding divine--as it does here.

I haven't found "The One" yet, but I take a stab at it every now and again.

You just sent me on a hunt for Habanita by Molinard. The site I checked had the Parfum waitlisted. I don't think this is one for which an EDT would suffice. My grandmother wore it for decades and decades. Pre-internet it was bear to find, but she would always manage to procure more in the nick of time via a traveling friend. I got some once in my 30's but I'm not sure that I was sophisticated enough to carry it off. Now that I am in my 40's, I may give it another go--not that much has changed.

Thank you so very much for such an evocative post.