Ormonde Jayne Tolu : Perfume Review

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Tolu

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

There are those who prefer vanilla and those who prefer chocolate, but for someone who cannot say no to anything indulgent, oriental fragrances fit the bill best. Ormonde Jayne Tolu is among such fragrances for me, a perfume I reach for whenever I crave something opulent and plush, yet not overly smoldering and decadent. Its bright herbal accord lends the composition a crisp, vibrant quality that makes for a beautiful contrast with the rich amber and incense heart.

Tolu plays with the cool and warm contrasts of a classical oriental genre. Its name is derived from an important perfumery raw material, which forms the core of this composition–tolu balsam. While Tolu is inspired by a classical oriental theme, it places its accents differently, emphasizing the leathery balsamic notes at the expense of seductively sweet ones. Tolu opens up on an exhilarating herbal accord, where the freshness of clary sage and thyme is set against the resinous warmth of juniper berries. The rich oriental notes assert themselves immediately, revealing a richness of vanilla, cinnamon, and amber. Transparent floral notes further lighten up the heft of the oriental accord. As the composition dries down, it takes on a leathery, ambery character, which is what remains on the skin for the whole length of Tolu’s excellent duration.

Tolu seems to me an homage to a great oriental classic, Guerlain Shalimar, as well as the animalic plushness of Dana Tabu (minus the latter’s powdery sweetness). It is in the same family as Serge Lutens Chergui, Annick Goutal Ambre Fétiche and Tom Ford Amber Absolute, yet Tolu is fresher and brighter. It is a chocolate mousse to Chergui’s triple layer cake. While it is certainly not a light fragrance, the emphasis on the aromatic herbal notes makes it much easier to wear. The herbal notes also modulate Tolu’s sweetness. As a result, it can work as a perfect masculine fragrance, especially for those men who love Guerlain Habit Rouge, Paco Rabanne One Million and Serge Lutens on the whole. While it is not as unique as some other Ormonde Jayne fragrances (Ormonde Jayne Men, Champaca or Taif,) it has a very appealing character and a memorable signature.

Ormonde Jayne Tolu includes notes of orange blossom, clary sage, juniper berry, lily of the valley, orchid, rose, amber, frankincense, tolu balsam and tonka bean. Available directly from Ormonde Jayne.

Sample: my own acquisition

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40 Comments

  • flittersniffer: Tolu is one of those opulent, big frock fragrances, notwithstanding its brisk herbal accord. It makes me think of plush red theatre seats, brocade and velvet. The designer scent which comes closest in “vibe” for me to Tolu (though not scent as such) would be Cartier’s Le Baiser du Dragon.

    Maybe I should experiment with a “dress-down” Tolu day, and see how that goes… : – ) February 23, 2011 at 4:12am Reply

  • Isabeau: Wow this one sounds great..I will be visiting London within two weeks so I will make a stop in the Jayne Ormonde boutique! February 23, 2011 at 4:35am Reply

  • Olfactoria: Tolu is the absolute “Goldilocks-fragrance” for me, it is just right. 🙂
    It feels so cozy and comforting, it is one of my winter must-haves. I also love the bath oil and shower cream!
    Since you mention it, I wonder once again about Ambre Fetiche, it is so far from Tolu or Shalimar to my nose, I almost believe there is either something wrong with my decant or I am anosmic to a great part of it. February 23, 2011 at 6:55am Reply

  • Victoria: I would also add Must de Cartier to this list. I agree with you, Tolu is quite plush and baroque. It is just a bit easier for me to wear than some other even more baroque orientals. It is my winter staple. I recently unearthed a bottle I bought back in 2006 or so, and I noticed how nicely it aged. February 23, 2011 at 7:41am Reply

  • Victoria: I love many of OJ fragrances, so I highly recommend exploring this line. I have never been to their London store, but I hear that it is very nice and elegant. February 23, 2011 at 7:45am Reply

  • Victoria: B, Ambre Fetiche is mostly just a classical amber accord, Tolu is amber plus much more. Ambre Fetiche also plays with some bright, fresh contrasts. It is not that they smell identical, but their characters are similar–plush, warm and yet contrasted. February 23, 2011 at 7:49am Reply

  • flittersniffer: Micallef Hiver is another one in that vein – off the plushometer, nearly! February 23, 2011 at 8:40am Reply

  • Victoria: Then it is a must try for me!
    You know, I have no idea how I would be able to learn of all these niche lines without blogging. 🙂 Thank you for a recommendation! February 23, 2011 at 8:48am Reply

  • pklagrange: Thank you so much for the lovely review. I put Tolu on this morning to cheer me up. I discovered late last week that a (now former) friend has apparently taken several perfumes from my collection. I chose Tolu because I love how the bright notes contrast against the warmth of the base. The fragrance and sunny day are already working their magic and lifting my spirits. February 23, 2011 at 9:10am Reply

  • kyahgirl: Hi Victoria, that was an awesome review.
    I have my sample of Tolu from the discovery set so I had to dig it out and spritz some on. I totally agree with you on the warm, plush feel of this scent. It is fabulous for me in the winter because its so cold and dark. I like to wear my Ambre Narguile, Oblique Rewind, and Ozbek 1001 also in this weather but Tolu just has an added cozy factor. February 23, 2011 at 9:17am Reply

  • Olfactoria: That is just it – now I am sure my decant is probably off or mislabeled completely, since I would not say the Ambre Fetiche I know is either plush or warm. Thank you for your help, I will just verify my AF at the store next time. 🙂 And sorry for taking up the Tolu space with my AF dilemma! 😉 February 23, 2011 at 9:21am Reply

  • Victoria: It is also possible that we see it differently! 🙂
    No need to apologize–that's what the comments section is for. February 23, 2011 at 9:32am Reply

  • Marina: I was just thinking hwo I want to re-try this, it’s been a very long time. And oriental chocolate mousse as opposed to a rich cake sounds great. February 23, 2011 at 9:32am Reply

  • Victoria: That's an awful thing to discover, esp about a friend! I am sorry to hear it. Yet, I am glad that you have Tolu to cheer you up. I agree, it is a very uplifting scent. February 23, 2011 at 9:33am Reply

  • Alice C: You make this sound fabulous! It is now on my (ever growing) ‘must try’ list… 😉 February 23, 2011 at 10:08am Reply

  • Helle: Thank you for a great review! I fell in love with Tolu this winter and I wore my sample from the discovery set on both Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve. It’s one from the set that I was late to discover, it was too rich for me initially, but this richness slowly started to haunt me. At the same time I started coming to terms with Shalimar, which I guess is not a coincidence – thanks for pointing that out. I’m glad to hear Tolu ages well as I’m planning on investing in a larger amount! February 23, 2011 at 10:43am Reply

  • Style Spy: It’s my number one, the one I would keep if I had to give up all the others. I wear it whenever I want to feel my best, my most beautiful, most me. February 23, 2011 at 11:02am Reply

  • Carla: I must try it on again to see about the leather you mentioned. This is a beautiful perfume, warming, yes, but not too “opulent”. February 23, 2011 at 11:03am Reply

  • Warum: Thanks for review, Victoria!

    I bought Tolu in December, and at first was scared to death that they gave me a wrong perfume. The herbal accord and then a floral accord that lasted for hours! At a three hour mark I was running up and down the walls, figuratively, trying to compose in my mind a letter to the company, “uh, could it possibly be that you put another OJ fragrance in my Tolu labeled bottle?” struggling with an impossible task of saying it nicely. Only at 4 hour mark the base started to appear and I breathed relief — that’s Tolu I knew and loved from a sample and a small decant.

    I noticed that as I spray from my new bottle, the florals in the middle are less pronounced and more mixed with the base. In short, that means the base notes come sooner. Better for my nerves, certainly, but I am not sure if this is what the creators of the perfume intended. Is that what you mean when you said that it “aged nicely” since 2006, Victoria? February 23, 2011 at 11:21am Reply

  • sweetlife: Laughing at your opener, V., since I have always described the oriental family as my truest perfume home in spite of my broad tastes. Even when I don’t want to wear them, they are somehow “me.”

    Off to try Tolu again in honor of your review. I think I must be anosmic to something in it, as it is quite faint on me. Maybe today will be different. Will report back! February 23, 2011 at 11:51am Reply

  • sweetlife: Hey, what do you know, there it finally is! Maybe my sample–now two years old–has finally aged properly. Yes, a very wearable amber, though I have not been wearing my ambers for awhile now. That herbal opening reminds me a little Ambre Sultan in addition to the others you mentioned, though AS is dry as a bone and this is, well, not. 😉 February 23, 2011 at 11:57am Reply

  • dee: B: I’m going to send you some AF that I can attest is spot on delicious! (trotting off to make a decant…) February 23, 2011 at 12:12pm Reply

  • dee: “someone who cannot say no to anything indulgent, oriental fragrances fit the bill best”

    That’s me!!! 🙂

    I just bought into a split of a travel set of these, and I’m eagerly anticipating the arrival of my Tolu! It sounds so perfect!

    I asked Birigt, how many Amber orientals does one person need, and she answered, “Just one more.” 🙂
    Perfect. February 23, 2011 at 12:15pm Reply

  • Victoria: I definitely agree on the coziness factor. It just makes me feel so good. There is something soothing about it. February 23, 2011 at 2:59pm Reply

  • Victoria: I find it more wearable as a daytime perfume than some other uber-decadent orientals. Definitely give it a go. February 23, 2011 at 3:00pm Reply

  • Victoria: It's just not that difficult to praise it, a very nice, well-made perfume. 🙂 my 2006 bottle is half gone. February 23, 2011 at 3:01pm Reply

  • Victoria: When I first bought my bottle several years ago, I reserved it for evening only. It seemed too opulent then for me too. Now, I'm also much more into oriental notes, so it is just right. February 23, 2011 at 3:06pm Reply

  • Victoria: Isn't it so wonderful when you find a fragrance like this! Such a rare discovery. February 23, 2011 at 3:09pm Reply

  • Victoria: The leather is a soft note, one of the facets of the oriental accord. I love it. February 23, 2011 at 3:10pm Reply

  • Victoria: Yes, that's right! The whole is somehow smoother now. I still notice the contrast though. On my skin, it goes quicker into the base.
    I'm smiling reading your story though. 🙂 February 23, 2011 at 3:16pm Reply

  • Victoria: Orientals really hit the spot for me when I cannot decide what I want. Generally, it is when I want everything and at once! 🙂 February 23, 2011 at 3:17pm Reply

  • Victoria: Ambre Sultan is a perfect comparison. If it didn't exist, I would have found Tolu more original. AS is really a gold standard for ambers. Love the herbal notes. February 23, 2011 at 3:19pm Reply

  • Victoria: I have a feeling a lot of us are in that boat, which is why we still keep on trying and trying more and more perfumes! February 23, 2011 at 3:19pm Reply

  • sweetlife: It was freezing cold in the house when I put the Tolu on. Warm and humid when I stepped outside. Went back in the house and layered a generous amount of Mandarine Tout Simplement on top. Surprisingly delicious! February 23, 2011 at 3:56pm Reply

  • Victoria: It just sounds so wonderful! In the same way that orange and chocolate make a wonderful, contrasted pairing (if we are to stay with culinary metaphors. 🙂 February 23, 2011 at 3:59pm Reply

  • Warum: I’m a newbie flooded with enthusiasm, I am emotional and have zero fear of embarrassing myself, so I figure I give people a lot of reason to smile 🙂 February 24, 2011 at 1:17pm Reply

  • Victoria: It is the best way to be–enthusiastic and with no fears! 🙂
    I was mostly smiling, because I had a similar reaction to Serge Lutens Louve. When I received my bottle, it smelled somehow different from the sample. I do not remember what exactly was different, but I even went to Barneys, brought my bottles and compared it with their tester! Needless to say, they thought I was nuts. 🙂 February 24, 2011 at 1:43pm Reply

  • Rowanhill: Thank you for the review Victoria, insightful as always. Whatever the occasion Tolu is one of my winter favourites with Chanel’s Bois des Iles. Tolu goes perfectly with jeans, boots and a cashmere sweater as well as with work gear, albeit it is not my boardroom fragrance,it is too comforting for situations when I want to be at my sharpest. February 25, 2011 at 5:48am Reply

  • Victoria: You are welcome! 🙂 I feel the same way, Tolu is for the times when I need some indulgence. I reserve chypre for the times when I need to be at my sharpest. They do the trick for me. February 25, 2011 at 12:22pm Reply

  • Gentiana: A very, I mean it VERY well crafted fragrance, a perfect balance among oriental and floral notes.
    It has everything that I like: amber, leather, frankincense, juniper berry, tonka, tolu… And some flowers.
    It has an intriguing development.
    At the beginning (less than an hour) it has a honeyed note, that is off-putting for me.
    After that, all the composition begins to sing and it has wonderful changes and twists.
    Well, some of the changes bring back faint wafts of that sweetish/ honey smell that is not so OK for me.
    That is the only reason not to list it as Love, but only as Like.
    Maybe it is the Lily of the Valley, that uses to give on my skin horrid reactions, although I really like the flower’s natural smell.
    Let’s see what happens next time.
    It has all the chances that, on the right day, when I am in the right mood, with the right chemistry… to steal my heart… February 17, 2014 at 1:45am Reply

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