An Unexpected Majesty


– a review of Ormonde Jayne’s ‘Tsarina’

Opulence, luxury, complexity. What do you think about when you read these words as they relate to perfume? Do you think of perfumes or houses that come to mind with all their own associations and aspirations, or are you anything like this slightly jaded post-punk catastrophe and begin to wonder whether there’s a particular thesaurus for perfume copywriters that pulls out these words at the drop of a new perfume launch and think jaded, cynical and more than a little sarcastic thoughts:

Right. Of course it is. It couldn’t possibly be anything at all else!

Then again – such are the tribulations of a perfume writer’s life – there are moments when those words light their own fragrant bonfires underneath a combustible imagination with all that entails.

In perfumista terms, such moments are when lemmings are born. Your curiosity is aroused, your fragrant imagination awakens, and all cynicism instantly thrown right out the window.

Maybe this one. Maybe this time. Maybe…

That jaded cynic was yours truly reading of the launch of Ormonde Jayne’s ‘Four Corners of the Earth’ collection of perfumes, but my own experience with Linda Pilkington’s line told me that this wasn’t so much a product of florid PR copy but instead more firewood for that superheated imagination I call my own.

I can count on one hand the Ormonde Jayne perfumes that weren’t instant – and consistent loves, as well as the ones I’ll keep close by always – Tolu, Frangipani and Orris Noir, and the ones I’ll covet with a fury until I can call them mine. All with their own unique stories to unfold, all of them perfect for my own chemistry, all of them their own redolent bywords for, well, opulence, luxury, complexity.

Not only do I admire Linda Pilkington’s dedication and meticulous attention to detail, I also emphatically admire the imprint of her personal and highly refined aesthetic in her line.

So there I was those months ago, reading up on ‘The Four Corners of the Earth’ collection and the extravagant launch at the Orient Express, no less – Nawab al Oud, Montabaco, Qi and finally, Tsarina, and I knew I was in trouble. So much so, when a fellow Ormonde Jayne fan and perfumista friend offered a little Tsarina for sale, I swept in with no qualms at all and bought a decant – blind.

‘Baroque, complex, silks in sweeping dresses and fabulous jewels…’

Bring it on!

Now that I have it and have spent time with it, now that I know something of this Tsarina’s moods and caprices, I’m thrilled to say that this time, this one delivers on all my aspirations and wraps them up in sables and silks, but that’s no way to pay homage to such imperial – and imperious – majesty.

She enters the room and begins her story with a bright, sharp, diamond flash of mandarin and bergamot, but it takes no time at all before an elegant and supremely restrained hint of coriander and cassis usher in that opulence with fragrant, silken intimations of the florals at the heart, and such a bouquet of marvels they are, too.

Hedione – with its airy jasmine facets sparkling in the candlelight, freesia and jasmine sambac wafting all their flowery allure, yet these are no blushing ingénues but ladies in bloom, announcing an arrival in their clarion tones…

Iris. A magnificent, regal, velvety-suede iris that doesn’t require your adulation so much as demand it, just this once, so you don’t forget your proper place. This is an iris neither cold nor intimidating, but make no mistake – it knows to display its majesty well, and it waltzes so flawless, so perfectly beneath those crystal flower chandeliers, as you admire and adore her, you glimpse something of those warm, sweet secrets underneath. Vanilla and sandalwood, cedar, labdanum, the musky intimations that for all her majesty, she is still very much all woman underneath the silks, jewels and brocades of jasmine, iris and suede that declare and define her.

There are many surprising twists and turns in Tsarina, ostensibly a floral oriental but in fact, much, much more than that. It is nothing like the notes list originally led me to expect but very much more – a statement, unforgettable entrance and indelible memory both, undeniably feminine yet with strength and steel underpinning it. Not for the unassuming, the diffident or the eminently discreet – it makes a declaration and makes no apologies,demands no excuses, unless it were an excuse to wrap yourself in a sable-lined brocade mood, to sparkle spectacular in a baroque heartbeat beneath a crystal chandelier as only you can.

I could say this another way. No matter what quotidian, mundane life you lead and decisions you make, some days and some moments, you want to feel invincible, imperious, regal.

Wear Tsarina. Remember – for a moment, for an evening, for yourself, for posterity, for celebrating your own unique and unexpected majesty:

You own your world and everything in it.

It’s time to go and claim it for your own.


Tsarina was made by Linda Pilkington of Ormonde Jayne in collaboration with perfumer Geza Shoen. It is available at Harrods Black Hall Perfumery, London and at Ormonde Jayne boutiques.

Notes: Mandarin, bergamot, coriander, cassis, hedione, freesia, jasmine sambac, iris, suede, sandalwood, cedar, vanilla, labdanum and musk.

With thanks to Andrea, who made it possible.

Illustration: Her Imperial Majesty Maria Feodorovna at her coronation, 1881.

12 thoughts on “An Unexpected Majesty

  1. A complexity of words here. Glad that you were not disappointed. I has the same reaction to the PR but the reviewers I read are loving this Four Corners direction. A fine house for fine fragrance. Of course Linda may write the words herself to ensure accuracy to her aesthetic. It’s Saturday I so going to get alembicated in my inbox. I was supposed to be at an Alembic course tonight but my booking went astray and the class was full with a 6 month waiting list. I have taken refuge here.

  2. Well, Jordan, I’m thoroughly flattered that you did! 🙂 I also totally agree with you about Ormonde Jayne – Linda Pilkington follows no trends except her own, and that’s a great thing! Thank you for reading – and enjoy your weekend!

  3. Bad, bad Sheila! As if I needed any more enabling!
    I have been consciously trying to avoid the Four Corners of the Earth and, most especially, Tsarina.
    It sounds like something I could buy unsniffed.
    Thank you for delighting us with your prose.


    1. Ah, Caro…when I’m good, I’m very, very good. And when I’m bad…;)
      I bought my decant unsniffed. One look at those notes and I suspected I might be in trouble! You know how it goes, yes?

      1. I bought both my Ormonde Jaynes (Ormonde Woman and Ta’if) unsniffed. I’m afraid I might do the same with Tsarina…especially now that it has your seal of approval 😉

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