The Osmanthus, or Osmanthus fragrans, is a flower famously associated with the Chinese provinces of Guizhou, Sichuan and Yunnan as well as Taiwan and Southern Japan. In fact, it is the city flower of Guilin, the beautiful city by the Li River, whose name actually means “Forest of Sweet Osmanthus.” Osmanthus is famed for its fragrant flowers which have a strong, sweet fruity scent often associated with smell of peaches or apricots.
With its strong ties to the lore of the Orient, the Osmanthus fragrance note is often paired with tea notes like Oolong (Providence Perfume Company’s Osmanthus Oolong) or Yunnan (Elléna’s Osmanthe Yunnan for Hermès). However, given its Far East associations, Osmanthus is used in a surprisingly large number of perfumes (Basenotes lists over 400 perfumes containing the note) across a wide spectrum—it is even successfully paired with oud (Tom Ford’s Oud Fleur, Mona di Orio’s Oudh Osmanthus and Xerjoff’s Oud Stars), which, given the current craze for oud fragrances, comes as no surprise. Given its distinctive nature, it adapts well to the soliflore category, like a The Different Company’s Osmanthus and Absolue d’Osmanthe.
Whereas the note is often used in a delicate, fleeting way, as in Osmanthe Yunnan which smells like a cup of barely scented Chinese tea, Absolue d’Osmanthe, as the name suggests and particularly in the eau de parfum concentration, is a pedal to the metal, goes to eleven, foghorn of an Osmanthus perfume. Guilin on a high pollen count day. The Osmanthus note is combined with jasmine sambac, sandalwood, vanilla, labdanum and Tolu balsam. It is difficult to determine how these notes stack up in a pyramid as this is a linear perfume—all of the notes are present, all of the time, although Osmanthus is the queen of the show and never once relinquishes her throne. Princess Turandot has nothing on this queen.
Heavily floral and resolutely fruity, Absolue d’Osmanthe strikes me as decidedly feminine and rather perfumey. It definitely smells of apricots. Dried, fresh, confiture d’abricots–they are all there, swirling around with a tea-like jasmine and vanilla, floating in the air, waved on by a fan of carved sandalwood and wrapped in a gorgeous silken robe. The balsam and labdanum add a slightly salty, vegetal note of olives, which is fitting, given that Osmanthus fragrans is also known as “sweet olive” or “tea olive.”
Fruity, floral and strong, Absolue d’Osmanthe Eau de Parfum is the powerhouse of the Far East by way of France. Think Amarige in a cheongsam. At once dense and yet billowy, ancient but modern, oriental and still occidental, this perfume is perfect for the inner empress in all of us.