The Different Company Osmanthus : Fragrance Review

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Osmanthus_1

Star rating: 5 stars–outstanding/potential classic, 4 stars–very good, 3 stars–adequate, 2 stars–disappointing, 1 star–poor.

Osmanthus, the tiny blossoms of a shrub native to Asia, have the scent of ripe apricots and jasmine soap, with osmanthus absolutes also possessing a pronounced leathery note that lends an alluring twist to the already fascinating aroma. By allowing osmanthus to dominate a composition and unravel its many beautiful layers, the perfumer can take a number of approaches. One would be to accent the leathery warmth of the note, as the perfumer Jean-Claude Ellena has done in Hermès Osmanthe Yunnan. Another is to highlight its citrusy top notes. Ormonde Jayne Osmanthus and The Different Company Osmanthus represent the latter treatment. …

Osmanthus (2001) has always struck me as marked with a familiar element, a certain transparent softness that I found both soothing and refreshing. In fact, it seems to be a more avant-garde cousin of Ellena’s Bvlgari Eau Parfumée au Thé Vert (1993). However, instead of using spicy notes to provide an interesting leitmotif as in Thé Vert, Osmanthus sets the soapy floral in the center of the arrangement. Although florals tend to be associated with feminine scents, the osmanthus in this composition has an almost masculine dryness. This effect comes as a surprise after the citrusy top notes dissolve into the rounded floral heart, which bears Ellena’s characteristic signature of transparency layered over velvety woodiness. One expects to see a pretty sylph, and instead one glimpses Michelangelo’s David.

Although I will admit that The Different Company’s unique, soapy composition is not my favorite rendition of osmanthus , one cannot deny its beautiful sunlit quality. Its lack of sweetness is rather uncommon among florals, while its transparency and its faintly animalic drydown further make it surprising and memorable. I find myself reaching far more often for Osmanthe Yunnan with its irresistible warm apricot skin effect, but for those days when I am feeling contemplative, the slightly more serious Osmanthus is more appropriate. In addition, the unconventional floral accord makes The Different Company Osmanthus an excellent choice for men who like being adventurous when it comes to fragrance.

Osmanthus features notes of bergamot, mandarin, orange leaves, pink pepper, osmanthus, rose, hay, castoreum, musk. The Different Company fragrances are available directly from The Different Company website, First-in-Fragrance and Senteurs d’Ailleurs. In the States, they will be available from Takashimaya, Neiman Marcus stores located in Bocca Raton, Beverly Hills and Newport Beach.

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30 Comments

  • Laura: You’ve done a wonderful job of describing this nearly indescribable scent. I just reread your review of Ormonde Jayne’s Osmanthus, too (maybe you could add a link to it in this post?) Osmanthus blossoms have the most hauntingly beautiful fragrance and I detect almost nothing of them in either perfume, especially the JCE one. I’d LOVE to find a perfume that rendered osmanthus in a more faithful way. Anyway, great job here, V, as always! July 17, 2006 at 5:23am Reply

  • Laura: Oh, you already HAVE a link to your earlier review! It was 5:20 when I read your post and responded, so you’ll have to overlook my inability to think and write at the same time ;D. July 17, 2006 at 5:26am Reply

  • Tania: In the suburbs of Shanghai, osmanthus lines the streets, and it looks much more like a tree than a shrub. 🙂 I am very fond of Ten Ren’s osmanthus oolong tea, and the osmanthus that Ellena uses smells spot on like the osmanthus in that tea. I like both his renditions very much and am tempted to put one on this morning after reading this post. They are perfect for the sultry summer. July 17, 2006 at 8:39am Reply

  • Elle: Hmmm. David versus the sylph. Brilliant! I’d never really thought of the masculine qualities of this scent before, but you’re absolutely right of course – and I’m wondering how I could not have seen this before. I prefer Osmanthe Yunnan overall, but I’ve come to appreciate this scent as well. July 17, 2006 at 9:11am Reply

  • Marina: I’ve yet to meet an osmanthus scent that would wow me. I like them all, and I think TDC’s version is beautiful, as is Osmanthe Yunnan (“leathery warmth’!!), but I am strangely indifferent to them. July 17, 2006 at 9:38am Reply

  • Cait: I shall have to revisit this favorite of mine with your thought about it being a men’s fragrance again. I always find it so delicate and it reminds me of babies. Do you find it melancholy? July 17, 2006 at 10:16am Reply

  • Tigs: I’m afraid that I have to say that TDC Osmanthus doesn’t wow me either – simultaneously too fruity and powdery/soapy for me. I liked Ormonde Jayne’s for the herbal note, which I guess is the davana. July 17, 2006 at 10:42am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Laura, I love the scent of osmanthus too, but I think that it is in fact difficult to render it the same way in perfume. Absolute smells very different from fresh blooms, and I am wondering what type of osmanthus grows in the South and whether it is the same as osmanthus fragrans. It is a beautiful aroma. July 17, 2006 at 10:44am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: L, no worries! I would not even be able to remember my name at 5:20am, much less to discuss different types of osmanthus. July 17, 2006 at 10:45am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Tania, I can believe it. From what my Chinese friends tell me, osmanthus can look either like a shrub or a tree (up to 12 meters or so) depending on the variety. Most of the ones I know are shrubs, with tiny ivory blossoms, but you can smell them from quite a distance!

    By the way, have you heard/tried osmanthus jam (guì huā jiàng)? I understand that it is supposed to be fairly popular in the north of China. Sounds fascinating. July 17, 2006 at 10:50am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Elle, the first time I tried it, I suppose that I had an expectation of lovely, apricot scented floral, and instead it was such an unusual juxtaposition of citrusy, floral, soapy and chalky. And yet, it all works remarkably well. A tinge of masculine qualities only makes it more interesting. July 17, 2006 at 10:52am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Marina, I used to feel the same way, and I wonder if it is not because neither one of us grew up familiar with the scent. When I had a chance to live in a town where osmanthus is planted everywhere, I grew to love the smell. One of my favourite recollections is the smell of osmanthus blooming right underneath my window. And this would be in November-December! July 17, 2006 at 10:54am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Cait, I cannot say that it strikes me as melancholy. In character (but not olfactory profile), I think of it along the same lines as Eau Sauvage–elegant and refreshing. July 17, 2006 at 10:56am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Tigs, I did not care for it at all when I first tried it, and even now, it is not the top fragrance on my list of favourites. However, I grew to enjoy it more, especially when I realized what makes it so different, and when I started to follow Ellena’s work more closely. July 17, 2006 at 10:58am Reply

  • Robin: By all rights I ought to love this one — I love osmanthus, and usually love anything by JCE — but I just don’t love it at all, and not entirely sure why. Love the Osmanthe Yunnan though. July 17, 2006 at 11:41am Reply

  • violetnoir: I agree with Robin. TDC’s version is just okay, but his Osmanthe Yunnan is quite lovely with excellent staying power.

    But, are we really smelling osmanthus in these or his rendering of it?

    Hugs! July 17, 2006 at 2:04pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: R, I can see why. It is not as approachable as Osmanthe Yunnan, and the soapy/chalky quality might be to everyone’s liking. July 17, 2006 at 2:12pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: R (violetnoir), I love Osmanthe Yunnan, and I definitely prefer it over TDC Osmanthus, even though Osmanthus is quite unusual. You do smell the real thing in both fragrances. Of course, since they are not meant to be faithful reproductions, there are a number of elements that make the scent of osmanthus slighly more abstract than what you might encounter in a bottle of osmanthus absolute. July 17, 2006 at 2:15pm Reply

  • Ina: I’m yet to smell real osmanthus but I adore this one. Perfect for humid days. July 17, 2006 at 3:12pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Ina, I cannot agree more. It is perfect for hot and humid days, as I discovered this weekend. July 17, 2006 at 5:38pm Reply

  • chaya ruchama: I’m a fan of each- for different reasons.
    Yunnan is more approachable, but I think the castoreum, paired with the hay, may be the surprise element in the TDC…you don’t fully expect to meet up with a touch of the beast paired with rose and mandarin.
    Neither is as voluptuous as my ideal would be, but I enjoy them during this heat…
    Masculine? It has never really struck me that way, but perhaps ,in an old world sense.
    Lovely analysis! July 17, 2006 at 11:49pm Reply

  • randomthoughts: I was hoping to beg a minute of your time. I am in love with crystalline by Bvlgari. But I can’t seem to make it stay on. I have the bath gel, lotion and still it doesn’t seem to stay on. Maybe I just can’t smell it. I don’t think they make any thing besides EDT version. Do you have any fragrance suggestions that I might like, and could try? Or any ideas how to make it stay longer. Do people reapply perfume during the day, to make it stay? July 18, 2006 at 2:21am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Chaya, I agree that the animalic base notes are very interesting against the citrusy osmanthus, which is why I love the entire TDC line. Well, I would not call the fragrance masculine overall, but the floral notes certainly do not have a typical sweetness that one finds in feminine renditions. July 18, 2006 at 2:02pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Randomthoughts, I tried Omnia Crystalline a few times, and if you like this fresh floral, you are in luck, because it is one of the most popular styles right now, from Guess to L’Occitane Green Tea, to more exclusive like Une Fleur de Chanel. As for making it last longer, I have no suggestions other than reapplying. Perhaps, ask one of your friends if they can still smell it on you. July 18, 2006 at 2:08pm Reply

  • randomthoughts: thank you, I will look around. July 19, 2006 at 12:46am Reply

  • portlandia: I agree with your assessment of “soothing” – that is exactly right! I also appreciate that it is not really very sweet. It’s just perfect when you need something subtle in hot weather but you have to be indoors. July 19, 2006 at 2:57am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Randomthoughts, you are most welcome! July 24, 2006 at 12:27am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Portlandia, I cannot agree more. The lack of sweetness is exactly what makes Osmanthus perfect for hot weather. July 24, 2006 at 12:28am Reply

  • Christian: I found your review very fair and interesting, being a man its funny to read that in some countries TDC’s Osmanthus is a womans fragrance. Here in Europe it is regarded to be a unisex scent but overall worn by men. Personally this is one of my favorites to wear, close runner-up is ETRO New Tradition which is also considered a mens fragrance overhere, both scents ensure great remarks by passers by. November 30, 2006 at 10:38am Reply

  • JML: For us Northerners, Osmanthus grows in the arboretum at Hidden Lake Gardens near Tipton, MI, run by Mich.St. Univ. They say it’s a Japanese shrub. Fabulous aroma. Found a haunting soap called simply “Osmanthus Soap”, many years ago in New Orleans, made by Scarborough and have been searching for more ever since. Plus, whatever happened to the perfume: Alexandra de Markquave..sp? loved it. August 20, 2007 at 10:10pm Reply

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