Monday 1 October 2018

ORLANDO by Jardins d’Écrivains

When the inspiration for a fragrance comes from a literary work the question is always “which aspect of the story shall we use?” Translating an entire book into a scent can be problematic due to the twists and turns of the narrative, but focusing on a single character is also not without its issues. Literary characters garner fiercely loyal legions of fans and so it was always going to be a brave choice for Jardins d’Écrivains to take Virginia Woolfe’s famous novel Orlando: A Biography as its source. In an era of gender fluidity, and with fragrance itself now beginning to be referred to as art, just how well does Orlando fare?

Jardins d’Écrivans was founded in 2012 by the perfumer Anaïs Biguine. Her fascination with literature was an area that she wanted to explore through fragrance, but finding just the right subject was challenging. Her first perfume was simply titled George and was based upon the life of the author George Sand. Now, George was actually Amantine Lucile Aurore Daupin but, in the best tradition of a nom de plume, she changed sex and became a hugely successful author. This perfume set the style for the Jardins d’Écrivains range and the following year saw the release of Orlando.

Virginia Woolfe’s central character in her book Orlando: A Biography starts off as a teenage boy in the Elizabethan court before falling into a deep sleep around the age of thirty. Upon waking, Orlando has turned into a girl and, even more remarkably, manages to live for over three hundred years. The book is one of Woolfe’s most popular novels and is widely written about in regards to gender, transgender, and feminist issues, but translating it into a fragrance was always going to be a challenge. So, let’s open the bottle and see what Anaïs Biguine has in store for us.

“Quirky blends with the eclectic and timeless in a spellbinding fragrance. Irrational dreams, an eastern monarchy, and a sense of the divine linger in its wake.” These were the words that Jardins d’Écrivains used to describe Orlando and I can very happily agree. The opening of this fragrance is not a fresh citrus but rather an orange-imbued blend of spices. There is a huge rush of clove, which puts you in mind of a Christmas pomander, but it is rounded off by a beautifully balanced pink pepper and ginger, which makes the opening incredibly addictive.

The change comes though when the gaiacwood, oakmoss and patchouli make themselves known. The latter has all of the gloriously rough earthy edges that makes it one of my favourite ingredients and works perfectly with what smells like Turkish rose, although this isn’t listed in the notes. However, the real majesty of this fragrance belongs to the amber accord that is truly “spellbinding.” This is no delicate amber but more of a provocatively resinous labdanum with, what could be, a touch of reconstructed civet. On a smelling strip Orlando is a little unimpressive, but spray it onto your body and you’re in for one hell of a ride!

Orlando by Jardins d’Écrivains is available from Jovoy, Bloom Perfumery, and Shy Mimosa, or from their website, priced at £85 for 100ml [Sample provided by Aspects Beauty]

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