Frangipani and blue lotus both immediately take me to the Far East, where frangipani trees adorn every corner and a pond filled with blue lotuses is a sight to behold as you drive through the countryside.
Osmanthus, on the other hand, takes you on a stroll through Tokyo or brings back memories of trips to rural China and Taiwan. Locally referred to as fragrant olive (or Chinese olive), it’s part of the air you breathe in many parts of China and Japan, just as wafts of orange flower and narcissus are carried along the winds in Antalya.
My fondness for aromatics like frangipani, blue lotus, and oud no doubt has to do with the fact that half of me belongs in the Far East. But the reason I use a fragrance usually associated with Samurais and exotic tea in China (where they infuse the dried leaves), is because of the sheer scope of the scent of osmanthus and how incredibly well it blends with notes of apricot, orange blossom, and other fruity floral notes cast in the Odyssey perfumes.
After a quick sniff, osmanthus smells like tuberose infused with apricot and plum. Warm and fruity. Then, the closer you smell, the more those notes of ripe apricot start to double for peach. But there’s a lot more going on than just fruit jam…
It’s not quite black tea, but could be. I wouldn’t quite say narcotic, but the fragrance is wonderfully heady like rose, yet richer and prettier like jasmine. The flower itself is tiny and timid—opposite to the potent aromatic blast this absolute lets you feast on.
Still, that’s not saying enough. There’s a soft cuir temperament to the profile that makes it work exceptionally well with quality oud oils.
Now, take this fruity jasmine black tea leathery tuberose cocktail and smell closer still to discover a creamy, almost milky savory heart with a whipped butter echo of sandalwood beneath its fruity glaze. Delicious.
Its creamy-fruitiness makes it wear nicely next to oud, layers seamlessly with blue lotus or frangipani, and pimps up notes of mandarin and strawberry like nothing else.
In perfumery, the leathery notes work great with heavier fragrances, while the fruity-floral creamy sweetness adds complexity to otherwise one-dimensional ingredients.
You’d probably never guess it from smelling them side by side, but Osmanthus belongs to the same family (Oleaceae) to which jasmine and lilac belong. Imagine that same delicate, beautiful sweetness, with all the black-tea-whipped-cream-fruit-jam added to the mix, and you’ll understand why osmanthus is such a sought-after olfactory delight.
As wondrous an ingredients as it is, osmanthus is one of those rare aromatics you can easily wear neat. Practically blooming incognito throughout Japan, Osmanthus is so aromatically dense, it wafts in layers like a proper perfume and is as universally pleasant to smell as jasmine.
Like blue lotus, it takes about three thousand kilograms of flowers to extract a mere kilo of osmanthus absolute. Unlike the larger petals of lotus or rose, you can probably hold a hundred osmanthus flowers in your palm.
That it takes three tons of these light, tiny flowers makes osmanthus a precious floral with very limited annual production…… while you still have to discern between the notable batch-quality variations. That’s why few have experienced its incredible aroma first-hand, and why it’s rarely used in perfumery—or at best only in minuscule amounts.
This osmanthus is among the finest harvests I’ve smelled, and it’s why I’ll use the bulk of it for my own perfumes. Put on a dab and you’ll smell what I mean!
The Osmanthus oil is one of the most unique things I've ever smelled. It was first a sharp aroma of flowers, but as it dialed down it turned soft, gentle, and calming, kind of like what you feel watching the sunset at a beach but better, I could almost smell a warm breeze. It genuinely felt as if the flowers were right under my nose. It's like spiritual tea in the form of scent. – Ali, Canada