Osmanthe Yunnan by Hermes

What excites me with Ellena is his laconic approach to perfumery as well as his typical transparent fragrances, and Osmanthe Yunnan is no exception. It’s one thing to smell like an oxymoron – a ‘complete incompleteness’, but I think it’s another school of perfumery altogether when anything extraneous by Ellena’s standards is removed. I feel that classifying Ellena as the master of minimalism depreciates his worth as a perfumer amongst other legends, despite it being unmistakably true. Minimalism on Ellena’s account is really just a dandified watercolour – where his scents are constructed and then tactically blurred. No one would dare say that watercolour is inferior to oil painting; but unlike oil paint, it is possible to achieve beautiful effects in watercolour with comparatively little practise. Watercolour has this lavish (but not rich) hue, speckled with an omnipresent whiteness. It is pseudo-transparent in nature, and unintentionally spacious.

osmanthe yunnan Hermes

Photo by Hermès


Osmanthe Yunnan is subtle like watercolour and effortlessly melodious in eventual time. I wear it for its creamy innocence, and its innate virtues of serenity and calm, and in turn I was instilled a sense of happiness similar to the subtle and amiable Mona Lisa smile. What achieves this property is this fragrance’s unhurried transitions and muted turns in a watercolour style, progressing with wear and advancing like clockwork.

Regardless, I am almost certain this opens with the smell of orange and lemon dishwashing soap, like some rather dilute tea in an improperly rinsed teacup. Nevertheless, even such a minimal fragrance undergoes great changes, and this eventually blooms on the skin. This changes from a thin semi-clinical accord to a lavish greenness moulded with the lively sweetness of fruit as if it was still attached to the tree. Delicate osmanthus flowers, which I can only reference through my experience with tea, are creamy and escalated with an innocuous lactic peach note blended with an uptight citric sourness (dishwashing reference). At this stage the fragrance has the clarity akin to a diamond, and is luminous like light refracted in a diamond – perhaps a prism only revealing the spectrum containing all reds and yellows.

This feature eventually parts, as softer qualities become present. The soft plushness of leather and suede are detectable, and the smokey smoothness of tea obvious – which departs to, but never arrives at an earthy layered quality. This is a fruity floral given both space and graciousness with an unidentifiable woods note; being perhaps vetiver, cedar, and/or ISO E Super. As the sweetness fades, crispness is forever maintained in an unmistakably unpretentious fashion – smelling totally intimate and pure, much like a breeze from a serenely sacred place.

This is a refined work, an instant calm, but at times it appears trapped in its small dimensions. A clear haiku and clearly not a magnum opus, the delivery of this fragrance is on point whilst the receiving end is left desiring more. Resolution here in this case is silence, which in all respects is perfectly fine, but this fragrance’s gauzy quality proves to be a double-edged sword.

As is the general consensus, fragrances with a glorified fruit note are (in most cases) more suitably placed against the drama of the chypre structure; sugared and spiced nicely as the oozy-plushy feature of fruit is elevated and glorified. However, chypre fragrances are not therapeutic, nor do they explicitly create comfort. We can consequently then appreciate Osmanthus Yunnan’s anti-chypre approach; rather, a realist’s sophisticated peachy tea fragrance lush with soft leather notes.

A whispery work – Osmanthe Yunnan belongs in a special, relatively unexplored category that imposes a sensuous and meditative detox. A kind creature.

Subjective rating : 3.5/5

Objective rating: 4/5

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