One of the first signs of spring for those of us in the snowier climates is the sale of daffodils in our local markets. Often before the snow has melted and before the calendar tells us it is spring, vases full of yellow blooms let us know warmer days are coming. Of course daffodils are also narcissus and that note is one of my favorites in all of perfumery. For me the difficulty in getting a daffodil accord correct is in the real flower there is a green astringency that is usually not seen as an asset in a fragrance. In the new Penhaligon’s Ostara perfumer Bertrand Duchaufour makes what I consider a real daffodil perfume.
How M. Duchaufour goes about doing this is to use a cassette of notes made to create that astringent underpinning to the narcissus that makes me think daffodil. Early on he lets Ostara be expansive and sweet before tilting it into something that carries the scent of renewal. There is no perfumer for whom I enjoy analyzing what he has done to create an effect more than M. Duchaufour. Because of his output I have more opportunity with him than others to see multiple uses of the same note or accord. In Ostara he has once again found a new use for the blackcurrant bud which has found its way into so many of his recent creations.
The opening of Ostara is a flurry of aldehyde wrapped berries. It strongly reminds me of blackberry picking in the late part of spring plucking juicy berries from within the foliage. The use of the aldehydes give an almost “fresh air” feeling to the early moments. The beginning of the green foundation for the narcissus begins with violet leaves, spearmint, and blackcurrant buds. In the past he has used the last note in so many different ways that I thought I knew what to expect. In Ostara he is using a CO2 distillation and it has stripped away much of the denser qualities the essential oil provides. This allows for it to have a more luminous green quality than I have experienced previously. The heart is the narcissus but the green accord is an equal partner in this part of the development. Hyacinth adds a bit of a watery spring shower vibe and it really does make this like smelling daffodils growing in the earth after a spring rain. Right here is where Ostara achieves my idea of a spring daffodil accord. Ostara moves into the base with a smooth beeswax and benzoin partnership. Eventually a bit of musk and vanilla provide the finishing touches.
Ostara has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
I really like Ostara for the very green qualities M. Duchaufour provided to go with the narcissus. There is that moment in the heart where this just makes me feel like everything has been reborn. It is as good as any narcissus perfumes I own and at least for me is the only true daffodil I own.
Disclosure: This review was based on press sample provided by Penhaigon’s.
Title Illustration by Melissa Bailey for Penhaligon’s.