An afternoon on the Orient Express has to be the most glamourous way to spend a dreary Friday afternoon – and it has to be one of the most memorable ways to launch a perfume.
London-based perfume label Ormonde Jayne, owned by Linda Pilkington, is renowned for its unusual, niche scents. The top end perfumer, with boutiques in Old Bond Street and Sloane Square, as well as a prestigious counter in Harrods, is the go-to house for exquisite perfumes far removed from the mass produced scents that dominate the industry. Last Friday, on a swooshing, glamourous train bound for Whitstable, it launched its latest collection.
Entitled The Four Corners of the Earth, the collection is made up of four very different fragrances – each one aiming to be an essence of a country and its culture. The idea began two years ago after Linda Pilkington, bored on a transatlantic flight home, read about ‘brick economies’ in a Wall Street Journal. She wondered how she could apply her art of making perfumes to capture the essence of the countries of Brazil, India, China and Russia. The very same countries happened to also be parts of the world that have inspired Linda throughout her life.
She realised then that inspiration was on her doorstep – in London. Throughout her many journeys, Linda’s crossroads has always been London and as one of the most cosmopolitan cities on earth, she realised that the essence of what she wanted to capture was right in front of her nose (scuse the pun). So she set off to discover the sights and sounds of Chinatown and Brick Lane. It wasn’t until friend and avant-garde ‘nose’ Geza Schoen became involved that the idea was made real. Having collaborated with Linda from the beginnings of Ormonde Jayne – he knew what she was after.
First up us Qi. It means Breath of Life and is an ancient word that permeates the Chinese language and everyday life. It’s a light, gentle offering – like a whisper on the skin. Inspired by Chinese culture and its people, Linda wanted to create a light touch of a scent – something that would remind someone originating from China of home. Tea notes and lemon blossom are the over-riding notes. But as the scent develops, a depth takes over – mate, musk and myrrh lingers and displays an underlying strength. Beautiful.
Linda lived on a ranch in South America for two years. “I went to Rio Carnival and stayed,” she says. Montabaco is the result of the memories of her time there. “Latin America has a romantic image – it’s a sensual place, there’s tango and dancing, music and a fiery temperament,” says Linda. “But there’s also another side to it – one where Gauchos wear leather, smoke tobacco, eat meat straight from the barbecue and drink from the bottle.” Her creation Montabaco sums up these two sides… in a bottle. First you get tobacco leaf, suede, sandalwood and ambergris. It’s heavy and sultry. But then slowly the feminine side creeps in, like a slow tango across the floor. Air note, rose, violet, juniper and magnolia all mingle to leave a heady cocktail that is soft and rough at the same time.
You’ve got to love the Nawab of Oudh for its name alone. I’d just love to answer ‘What perfume are you are wearing?” with this name as my response! It’s India, this time, that’s being created. It’s undeniably an oudh scent – which is one of those smells that you either love or hate. (I’m still undecided about oudh. It depends on my mood.) But that’s not to say this is one-dimensional. It’s in fact the most complex of the collection. It smells expensive yet is subtle. It instantly says India yet is not overly spicy. There is a cultural connection to the East but it also has a wide appeal because of its softer rose and magnolia, musk and green notes. It’s complicated.
Lastly comes Tsarina. I think this is my favourite of the four perfumes. Inspired by the opulence of Russia and cities such as St Petersburg. This fragrance aims to bottle the essence of silk dresses, brocade, fur and jewels. Its baroque and floral, powdery yet deep. Leather mingles with rich Madagascan vanilla, amber blends with orris butter. Its intoxicatingly pretty.
And, of course, there was no better place to test out the Four Corners of the Earth than the Lucille carriage on the Orient Express. What’s not to like? From the moment you ‘check-in’ in your dedicated lounge on the platform at Victoria, you are taken back to a time when travel was inherently glamorous.
Tickets come in a leather pouch and you are gently guided on board by liveried conductors.
Inside, lights are by Lalique mounted on marquetry panelled walls, champagne is drunk from 1920s crystal glasses.
Even the loo was impressive – with a mosaic tiled floor and marble sink.
This is a glimpse of an era that has nearly, not quite, passed us by. Thankfully, things of beauty and meaning manage to linger on even when the modern day world threatens them by over-commericalism, tawdry pleasures and mass-consumerism… thank you Orient Express. Thank you Ormonde Jayne. We salute your tenacity and individualism. A match made in scented heaven.
The Four Corners of the Earth Collection are available from ormondejayne.com