Before I headed off to church on Sunday I tried on some Ormonde Jayne Sampaquita. I don´t usually test-drive new fragrances before church, because what if I´m sitting there among the staid Presbyterians smelling like Eau de Harlot? But I´d dabbed a little on and… nothing. So I threw caution to the wind, dumped the vial in an atomizer, sprayed my sweater, my hair, my skin, and … still nothing. Just a faint, atmospheric sweetness, like someone had burned a candle in the room yesterday. Oh well, they can´t all be winners, right? For me, the jury´s still out on Ormonde Woman, which can go a little boxwood-y on me, although Ta´if is heartbreakingly gorgeous… but I digress.
So I was in church, listening to the scripture reading, and – have mercy! – there it was! I was uplifted, yes indeed. I was uplifted almost out of my hard wooden pew by a brand new, completely different, wondrous scent.
According to the Ormonde Jayne website, the sampaquita flower is the national flower of the Philippines: “Literally translated as I Promise You,´ Sampaquita flower is a symbol of purity and fragility, coupled with fidelity and resolve. The scent opens with an unmistakable summer bouquet, bursting forth with sun-kissed lychee set on a canvas of bergamot, grass oil and magnolia flowers in full seductive bloom. The marriage of these elements, together with a dusky floral heart of sampaquita absolute, freesia and muguet, combine to form a fusillade of fabulous intensity. An inspired quartet of base notes, musk, vetiver, moss and ambrette seed, unify and harmonise this sensational summer scent.”
Top: Lychee, grass oil, bergamot and magnolia
Heart: Sampaquita absolute, freesia, muguet, rose and water lilies
Base: Musk, vetivert, moss and ambrette seed
Well, I´m not sure about “a fusillade of fabulous intensity.” The initial impression on me is, as I said, nothing. Nada. Zero. Zilch. But give it a lead time of 20 minutes or so and it becomes a green, grassy (yes) soaring thing – the soft green sweetness of magnolia in the rain, a juicy white-grape-like smell I presume is the lychee fruit (sorry, I have no idea what they smell like), and hints of the pulpy freshness of freesia and water lily. A little online research shows that sampaquita is more commonly spelled sampaguita, and it is a type of jasmine. All these notes rest in a base of vetiver and weedy ambrette that create the illusion of floating above a tropical bower.
Sampaquita, as you can guess, would be a perfect summer scent; it´s got sillage but not the sort that´s going to cause people on the subway to move away from you in disgust when it´s 90 degrees outside. But Sampaquita is also perfect for right now – when it´s 39 degrees and sleeting, and your boots are muddy, and it feels like spring is a long way off.
Eight hours later I´m still floating in a subtle, alluring garden of pleasure. It has this weird, shape-shifting effect: I CANNOT smell it on my skin, no matter how hard I try. And yet… it lives all around me. Cribbing from an email Patty sent me: “It’s odd, like the heart takes wing and leaves no base that you can find, but it’s still anchored to you.” And that, my perfumed friends, is just about the perfect description of this fragrance.
Ormonde Jayne Sampaquita is available at www.ormondejayne.com for approximately $100 for a 50ml EDP and, of course, occasionally in decant form on eBay.
Lily in Largo