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November 21, 2005

Fragrance Review: Hermes Osmanthe Yunnan from Hermessence Collection


Inspired by a visit to the gardens of Beijing's Forbidden City, Osmanthe Yunnan, Jean-Claude Ellena’s new creation for Hermèssence range explores the marriage of tea and flower. Yunnan tea and osmanthus is a combination of natural harmony due to the fact that the flowery rich tea tonality underscores the fruity delicacy of osmanthus. Its scent, elusive and haunting, ranges from tea-soaked dried apricots to jasmine soap crushed in a leather bag.

The hesperidic notes sparkle like sugar crystals falling into a tea cup, their astringent quality appearing as somewhat sharp on the skin. The tart orange becomes more pronounced, contrasting with the gentle richness of tea. As could be expected, the composition is quintessentially Ellena—delicate transparency paired with complexity of the final result, which is a panoramic display of the idea. The composition appears rather smooth, with none of the notes dominating, but instead melding elegantly into a transparent, yet velvety fruity-floral scent. ...

It does not undergo dramatic developments, yet it nevertheless does not remains static, with different facets making themselves apparent on the skin. Suddenly, a cup of tea with a few orange slices on the side is conjured by the interplay of notes, only to fade under a gentle breeze carrying the scent of white flowers.

Tea leaves and golden tips touched by delicate bitterness lend a warm silky backdrop against which the fruity-floral accord unfolds, like ink seeping into the canvas of Chinese silk paintings. The fruity facet of osmanthus is accented by the apricot, which does not appear luscious and juicy, but rather like a firm, slightly unripe fruit. The acidic quality adds a refreshing and transparent element to the composition, softening the characteristic gentle bitterness of Yunnan tea. The wonderful softness of the drydown caresses the skin like a touch of delicate suede.  It smells the way apricot skin feels.

Although Osmanthe Yunnan strikes me as another enchanting composition by Jean-Claude Ellena, given its rendition of transparent accords as multifaceted and vibrant, it is not as unusual as some other Hermèssence fragrances. Most certainly, it would be best suited for the spring/summer season, given its soft aura. Yet, this very quality makes it easy to wear, as Osmanthe Yunnan is more akin to donning a comfortable silk slip than trying on a satin gown. In comparison to another osmanthus fragrance created by Ellena, The Different Company Osmanthus, Osmanthe Yunnan strikes me as richer, slightly sweeter, with a warmer finish. This velvety warmth distinguishes Osmanthe Yunnan from Ormonde Jayne Osmanthus, which is sharper and muskier. I would recommend sampling Osmanthe Yunnan especially to those who love Jean-Claude Ellena’s work and appreciate light, transparent fragrances.  However, it might disappoint if one expects the voluptuous warmth of Ambre Narguilé or the smoky richness of Vétiver Tonka.

Notes of the eau de toilette include Yunnan tea, freesia, apricot, osmanthus, leather and musk. Hermèssence range created by Ellena includes Poivre Samarcande, Rose Ikebana, Vétiver Tonka, and Ambre Narguilé. Available at select Hermès boutiques, the fragrances can be ordered by phone from the New York store, 212-751-3181. 15ml bottles of Osmanthe Yunnan are not yet available, although the boutique promised to have them early next year.

Please see other Hermès reviews:
Eau des Merveilles and Parfum des Merveilles
Hermèssence Ambre Narguilé
Hermèssence Poivre Samarcande
Hermèssence Rose Ikebana (brief description)
Un Jardin Sur Le Nil

To read another opinion, please see Robin’s review on Nowsmellthis.

Chinese sillk painting from



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