Osmanthus: 10 posts

The scent of osmanthus, a fragrant olive originating from China, is reminiscent of apricots, jasmine and leather. It has a delicate tea nuance, which is why it blends so well with Chinese oolong teas and with tea-like notes in perfumery.

The Scent of Osmanthus

Once the weather turns cool in Tokyo, a sweet perfume fills its streets. It escapes from the parks and enclosed gardens and for a few weeks it becomes a familiar presence in a city better known for its skyscrapers, electronics and cuisine than for flowers. The tiny blossoms that give Tokyo its aroma are easy to miss, but the perfume is so vivid that osmanthus is sometimes called “a 10-mile fragrance” tree. In Japanese, it’s known as kinmokusei, and in English it may be referred to as a “fragrant” or “Chinese” olive, hinting at the plant’s origins, but by any name, the aroma of ripe apricots, jasmine petals and leather is irresistible.

In my latest FT column, Perfumes Linked by Osmanthus, I discuss one of the most fascinating perfume ingredients, osmanthus, and explain how it’s used in perfumery. Of course, I mention three of my favorite osmanthus perfumes and share stories about them. You can read the article by clicking here.

Please let me know other osmanthus perfumes that should be included on a list for someone who loves these apricot scented blossoms.

Photography by Bois de Jasmin

Roger & Gallet Fleur d’Osmanthus : Perfume Review


Among my perfumes that are the equivalents of t-shirt and jeans, Roger & Gallet fragrances share a top spot with L’Occitane Green Tea and Parfums de NicolaïL’Eau à la Folie. The classical cologne, Bois d’Orange and Fleur d’Osmanthus are among my Roger & Gallet favorites. They are easy to wear and are perfect for those days when you want something refreshing and not overly demanding.

pear blossoms

In addition, the low price (18€ or $25 for 1 oz bottle) makes them accessible. A low price doesn’t have to mean a poor quality perfume (and I would argue that the worst quality perfumes on the market today are among the most expensive). The Roger & Gallet collection is created by excellent perfumers. For instance, Fleur de Figuer was designed by Francis Kurkdjian, Bois d’Orange by Dominique Ropion, and Gingembre by Jacques Cavallier.

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Comme des Garcons Play Red, Green and Black : Fragrance Review


I love when a perfume makes me smile. Sure, I love fragrances that challenge me and make me want to dress up for them, but on most days I want something that’s playful and easy to love. For this reason, sparkling orange blossoms are my perfume staples. The Comme des Garçons fragrance collection has plenty of playful perfumes, even if  some like Comme des Garçons Original and Odeur 71 straddle the line of unwearable for me. But the new trio of Red Play, Black Play and Green Play launched under Comme des Garçons’s casual Play label is squarely in the fun “t-shirt and jeans” perfume category.

Red Play

Does the combination of cherries and leather sound intriguing to you? It certainly caught my attention, and Red Play became my favorite out of the trio. The sweet orange and pepper is piquant and zesty, but the initial sparkle belies the complexity of Red Play. It’s like biting into a luscious red cherry and discovering that it’s actually made of red hots, the spicy cinnamon candies. The tartness–think rhubarb, red currants or green raspberries!–contrasted with the spice makes for an exciting fragrance. Playful is the best description for it. It makes me feel chic, like someone who knows instinctively how to accessorize a dress from H&M with a vintage belt or how to wear a fedora and not look ridiculous.

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Serge Lutens Nuit de Cellophane : Perfume Review



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

If Nuit de Cellophane arrived under a big perfume house label, I would probably not have smelled it more than a couple of times and forgotten it, but it is a testament to the pull of Serge Lutens’ name that despite my initial disappointment, I kept revisiting it. I suppose that I have held hope that one day I would smell this bland fruity-floral and will figure out what Serge Lutens was trying to achieve with it. It has been a year since I have first smelled Nuit de Cellophane and no such revelation has occurred—it still smells like shampoo to me and I still do not care for it.

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Scented Garden : Osmanthus or Tea Olive

by Elise Pearlstine


I moved to the southeastern United States in 1997 after living nearly everywhere else. My profession took me to South Carolina where I was to work for 5 years documenting its biodiversity. Three things stay with me from my time in that lovely state: a fondness for grits, the husband who found me there, and a deep and abiding passion for a certain small tree – the Tea Olive or Osmanthus fragrans. The scent of osmanthus blossoms is elusively sweet and rich, floral yet reminiscent of sunripened apricots, very slightly earthy while at the same time ethereal; a scent that warms with the sun. Mostly it defies description. I was to smell that fragrance for nearly three years before finally determining its source. It floated out at me from the strangest places, a parking garage with a narrow planting of spindly shrubs or a front yard with an ordinary-looking hedge. I kept looking for the source but did not find anything spectacular enough to give off such an amazing scent. The answer finally came from the botanist with whom I worked. She showed me this small, tough-leaved shrub growing next to my parking garage. Certainly those tiny white blooms growing out of the axils and gray twigs of the shrub were not the source!

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