Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.
In 1802, poet William Wordsworth penned these words as part of I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud, an ode to an iconic annual feature of the British countryside: the daffodil. Sunny and radiant, it symbolizes the optimism and revival that accompany the end of winter.
Come Spring 2015, Penhaligon's will have it available as Ostara, a luminous solar floral created by master perfumer Bertrand Duchaufour.
Duchaufour is a fascinating nose. "Everything that's difficult, I love!" he explains about his art. Like the avant garde scent he developed for Comme des Garçons called Calamus, after its signature note (right). "It’s the root of a plant that grows by the water and it has sludgy effects. It has fantastic positive sides, it smells like a cake right out of the oven, and at the same time, it stinks like tanned hide you’ve just pulled out of the water; it almost smells like fish skin! No one uses it because it’s really unbearable." He also described Sienne l’hiver, a chypre he created for Eau d'Italie, as "almost unwearable" and "a hard-line, completely crazy fragrance, with truly disturbing smells in it...stuff like smoked ham, blood, truffle, slightly disgusting things mixed with earth." A fascinating fragrance, but odd - or perhaps it's the other way round. (image)
For the new Penhaligon's fragrance, Duchaufour envisioned an olfactory journey in a jar, leading the nose from daffodil bulb to bud to bloom, mirroring the roots (so to speak) of the word Ostara. Ēostre, as it's also known in Old English, derives from the Proto-Germanic* austrōn, or dawn, which eventually became the modern English word Easter.
(*Proto-Germanic is where both English and German came from, as well as Norwegian, Danish, Swedish, Icelandic and Faroese.)
Ostara opens in an affirming burst of green and yellow as Juniper, Violet Leaf Absolute and Spearmint layer against the vibrant notes of Aldehydes, Blackcurrant and Clementine. Narcissus Absolute leads the sun-drenched floral bouquet, gathered with Hyacinth, Hawthorn, and Cyclamen, which are given depth by the humming warmth of beeswax. The fragrance then settles into a powdered, resinous base of Benzoin, Vanilla, Styrax, Amber and White Wood effects.
TOP NOTES: Clementine, Bergamot, Red Berries CO2, Juniper, Spearmint, Blackcurrant Bud CO2, Violet Leaf Absolute, Leafy Effects & Aldehydes
HEART: Hyacinth, Narcissus Absolute, Beeswax Absolute, Cyclamen, Ylang Ylang, Hawthorn & Wisteria
DRY DOWN: Styrax Resinoid, Vanilla, Benzoin, Musk, Amber & White Wood Effects (image)
What all these fragrances have in common is less of a thing, like a signature note - although, carrot CO2, celery and davana tend to reoccur in Duchaufour's work. Rather, what ties his creations together is what happens to a note when it gets distilled to its essence, a concept both singular and multi-faceted. The French (of course) have a term for it that encompasses everything from the technical proficiency of a work's execution to, for example, the quality of a musical note hit perfectly by a voice or instrument, to how precisely - or eloquently - a gesture expresses what the artist intended: la justesse du geste. "That’s the way I’ve always behaved: trying to find what is juste," agrees Duchaufour. "The juste necessarily leads to the beautiful. But what is juste is not necessarily good. In good, there is a subjective moral value, which I want to omit, or at any rate not to resort to, in what conceive and in what I give off. I’d rather talk of juste. A woman’s beauty is in the juste in her way of behaving towards herself, her image, her silhouette. A piece of primitive art is a special kind of balance, a special kind of presence, through the way it was sculpted. It can be very rough, it can be very sophisticated, it doesn’t matter. Something in it must be juste. The same goes for perfume." (image)
- Lesley Scott