My tastes for white florals are indiscriminate, encompassing everything from vulgar things like Guerlain Mayotte to prim school governess types like Jessica McClintock. But even I can get tired of the genre and retreat to other pastures for a change–dry woods and damp mosses, perhaps. This is what happened for most of last year, when I was so satiated with white florals that I declared a moratorium on new acquisitions. But it’s a testament to Pehnaligon’s Ostara’s loveliness that despite my best intentions, I ended up breaking my resolve.
Ostara shines brightly to me for its surprising combination of the lush, decadent heft that makes lovers of white florals swoon and the exhilarating springtime freshness. Perfumer Bertrand Duchaufour built the composition around the theme of narcissus, a flower that on a stem smells honeyed and indolic, but when turned into essence becomes leathery, musky and somber. Ostara melds both facets, but it stays on the sunny side.
To achieve the effect, Duchaufour’s trick is to amplify radiance, and at this he is an indisputable master–consider how luminous he could make dry woods in L’Artisan’s Timbuktu. From the first minute on skin Ostara glows, rich in green, citrusy and leafy nuances but without suggesting the component parts. In other words, don’t expect to smell along the marketing pyramid and find bergamot and then juniper, mint, violet, etc. Like a flower from a magician’s wand, it unfolds as a big, dewy blossom.
Its mood is bright and playful–a Technicolor fast-paced ride along the Grand Corniche. Most of Ostara’s story zooms through different floral layers: the crunch of hyacinth, the heavy apricot and wintergreen sweetness of ylang ylang, the subtle powder of violet. Even the end of the journey, a soft layer of sweetened woods and musk is charming and plush enough to linger for hours.
It’s the kind of fragrance you put on and immediately feel more energized, ready to sweep some Cary Grant off his feet or just get out of doors while looking adequately presentable–dark Belgian mornings moderate one’s ambitions.
When I looked up the price on Penhaligon’s website, I noticed that Ostara is heavily marked down. Whatever it means, a special limited time offer or a permanent departure, it makes for a good deal: $35 for a 50ml bottle or $49 for a larger size.
Penhaligon’s Ostara EDT includes notes of clementine, bergamot, juniper, pink pepper, spearmint, blackcurrant bud, violet leaf absolute, hyacinth, narcissus, cyclamen, ylang ylang, hawthorn, wisteria, vanilla, benzoin, musk, amber, white wood effects. 50ml/$35, 100/$49.