Thursday, July 31, 2008

Tolu by Ormonde Jayne: fragrance review

"What is the deeper meaning of the simple but magical expression to "smell nice"? That intangible aura emanating from the skin embraces a hint of linen, a flashing image, a caress of silk and a musical rustle, in other words a direct and powerful link with the unsaid, the unperceived, the unimagined, the impossible and the intangible."
~Dominique Rolin, La Voyageuse

Dramatic oriental fragrances often demand dramatic presence. But should you fall short on the latter, Tolu by Ormonde Jayne is providing that intense feeling that great seductive orientals usually pounce on with a friendlier manner that magically "smells nice" (and so much more!) in a very tangible sense. The first time I put this on, with nothing more glamorous in mind than a dinner à deux at home, I recall it elicited a beloved's interest in finding out what is this golden elixir which suspended time and made that moment an instant of shared passion. It was Tolu of course and ever since it has haunted my dreams: a juicy incense of an oriental, full of the feminine powers of a heroine in a Procopius tale.

Tolu by Ormonde Jayne opens with a full blast of rich, lightly spicy and ambery orange blossom that is intense, envelopping the senses into an embrace of honeyed warmth and comforting powder. The calm powdery feeling imparts a velvety sheen that becomes almost tactile, inducing you to touch and be touched. There are no other floral nuances that emerge distinctly from the composition, unless you really strain to do so. Instead this ambery heat is largely accountable to labdanum, a rich resin with a story of its own. Frankincense, the ecclesiastic incense resin, imparts a cooler touch that tempers the pronounced sweetness of the other ingredients (both Tolu balsam* and labdanum-based ambers are sweet), accounting for a fragrance on a par with great florientals such as L'heure Bleue, Bal a Versailles, Boucheron Femme or 24 Faubourg. If any of these move your heartstrings in a nostalgic melody, you should definitely try Tolu!
The marmoreal quality of these somnobulent resins is queenly and feels like the most luxurious cashmere shawl imaginable in hues of rich burgundy or shady olive.
Beautifully crafted from what smells like expensive materials, it is one of the compositions in the woods-resins family in which Linda Pilkington's good taste truly shines. In a sense this is a hark back to what proper fragrances for feminine women were all about, before the advent of sparse sketches: enhancing the womanly allure, smelling expensive and opulent, but never vulgar, presenting a round, composite formula instead of a clashing juxtaposition of fighting polar opposites for the sake of celebral intrigue. Tolu instead is very much sensed and felt rather than analysed intellectually.

Although its warm nature might seem like it is only promised to the guiles and needs of a harsh winter, Tolu has a velvety sheen that evokes smooth bronzed skin luxuriating under the veil of an aromatized body oil, not unlike Patou's long lost Chaldée; the Oil is exactly the form of choice for the summer in my mind, while the Eau de Parfum and Parfum would be wonderfully warming in the colder months.
Tolu lasts excellently on the skin inducing you to catch whiffs of it rising up from a heated decolleté all day long, well into the night.

Eau de Parfum is £58.00 for 50ml, parfum is £112.00 for 50 ml. Also available in Hydrating Bath and Shower Creme, Essential Body Oil, Replenishing Body Lotion, Scented Candle and a luxurious Gift Box in various combinations of products.
Exclusively available at Ormonde Jayne UK boutique: 12 The Royal Arcade -28 Old Bond Street, London W1S 4SL or online at Ormonde

Top: Juniper berry, orange blossom, clary sage
Heart: Orchid, Moroccan rose, muguet
Base: Tolu balsam*, tonka bean, golden frankincense, amber

*Tolu balsam is a resin from a Peruvian tree from the south of the country with a sweet vanillic touch

Painting Girl with Red Hair by Fabien Perez, courtesy of Pic of bottle courtesy of


  1. Anonymous12:17

    Dear E,

    Thank you for reviewing another one of my staples! Tolu ranks at my number one OJ, followed by the Ormonde Woman. Exactly this time, last year I accompanied the boyfriend to London (he was there to research at the archives for his dissertation) and since he was being the perfect geek during the day, leaving me to explore London on my own, I chose to stop by Ormonde Jayne at The Arcade, Old Bond Street to see what the fuss was all about. I walked past the store a couple of times, missing it both the times because I expected a bigger store. Then, the signature OJ orange caught my eye. I saw this wonderful woman inside, whom I will later come to know as the founder, Linda Pilkington, and went on to test Ormonde and Tolu; two scents with good reviews on MUA. (Not a fan of roses, so Ta'if was out). The store was small, and there was no way one could 'hang around' inside. So I decided to walk next door to Gucci and check out their products on sale.

    At Gucci of course, the haunting Tolu captivated me more than Ormonde did. The Gucci guys must have thought I was weird because I kept sniffing my arms while browing bags. Ormonde was green, a little dark and lush; Tolu was warm, evoked the colour bronze and gold, sweet and resinous at the same time. It was definitely not a perfume to wear on a casual day out shopping. It was a dress-up scent to me, and went very well with the Gucci bag I wanted (which was, sadly, not on sale!). I told myself that I could only buy one scent (since I was going to Paris after London and had to buy a SL bell jar), and the decision then was simple. Tolu captivated me. It was unique, opulent and expensive and reeked of good quality notes. Nothing plastic, nothing too common.

    Bought the Gucci bag, ran to OJ next door and bought the Tolu and felt so blissful. Everything within 30 mins of testing the scents. Linda Pilkington was a joy to talk to and they were very kind with samples.

    Thanks for such wonderful memories E! I would love to go back and get myself Ormonde on my next trip to London; hopefully next year. Now, I am going to go sniff Tolu just to take me back to the wonderful time last year.

  2. Wow Helg you are on a roll this week with the reviews. This sounds divine and reminds me I need to explore the Ormonde Jayne fragrances (I've only tried the osmanthus and wasn't impressed, but then again this is not considered the iconic scent of OJ). Is it weird that I love the name Tolu; their is something so simple and seductive in the sound of it. Your post also reminds me I need to get a bottle of Bal a Versailles.

  3. hello, Helg. You make Tolu sounds fantastic. I'm adding it to my "must try" list.

  4. Anonymous16:37

    I adore Tolu, and I've never thought to try it in the heat! Tomorrow I'll wear it for sure. Thanks for another wonderful review.

  5. Dear T,

    thank you for recounting what is a most fascinating travelogue with Tolu!! I admit I am impressed with your restraint, as were I in your shoes I would have broken down and got both while I could. But I know the bell jars are very covetable when one is away from the Old continent.
    I am sure you must be wearing Tolu wonderfully, it seems to suit you :-)
    That and Ormonde are the best in the line IMO.

  6. Dear J,

    thank you for the kind words :-)
    Osmanthus is nice with a bubble-gum quality about it, from what I recall, but no match for the sumptuous effect of this one!
    Bal a Versailles is another I have been neglecting myself and should revisit and probably review: mental note then (thanks!).

  7. Dear J,

    your must-try list is getting longer by the minute, but I don't regret contributing to it *evil grin* Tolu is very worth it and I have a feeling you will like its ambery incensy embrace ;-)

  8. Dear A,

    thanks so much for stopping by and for your compliment.
    A little spritz would be wonderful in the heat: it has something of the Middle Eastern tradition about it, a proper oriental.

  9. Anonymous21:25

    Dear Helg,
    Dont know about the perfume but this painter is awesome. Wish I could ever buy one of his works...

  10. Anonymous21:29

    I love the painting, the fragrance and your way with words! You make it hard to resist getting Tolu...

  11. Dear P,

    thank you, indeed there is something about his brushwork. Glad you liked it!

  12. Dear A,

    awww, thanks! It's very good, try it!


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