An explosion of fresh, green, basil and peppery notes bursts from a herbal heart of clary sage with sensuous jasmine; vanilla, amberwood, and oudh bring a cashmere texture to the base.
Oxford (the fragrance) was inspired by those heady student days when you leave home for the first time and everything feels edgy, daring and slightly scary. Its creator, Ruth Mastenbroek, read Chemistry at Oxford in 1970., hence the name. I went to Exeter University, not Oxford ( couldn’t get in!) , but I can recall that butterflies-in-the-tummy excitement in the blink of an eye, and this fragrance encapsulates those halcyon student days.
Oxford opens with Clary Sage, which I often mistake for lavender. Clary Sage is no weakling: it is robust and muscly and borders on the smell of weed or filter-less cigarettes. Cigarette smoke played a huge part in my student memories, and from this scent, I’m guessing it did for Ruth too. That’s not to say this smells unpleasant: far from it- but there’s a brash masculine, herbal feel to it that reminded me of bristly chins and smoky late night adventures.
The clary sage mixes with woods and oudh and to my nose, this has a sort of unfinished roughness, again- no bad thing. It’s that unfinished shape that your student years form you into. You think you’re fully formed but you’re nothing like the finished product that you need to be. Not yet.
When the herbs and woods have settled down, this leaves a beautiful and very long-lasting impression in its wake. The clary sage smells more like lavender now, and there’s a heady herbal thing going on (man). Patchouli stays put like a slightly unwashed squatter. If you want squeaky clean and generic, you’ve come to the wrong place.
Oxford goes from rough and dirty, to clean and earthy, like the morning after, as you walk home to birdsong after a long dark night of excess. It grew and grew on me like a persistent suitor, and has now become my favourite scent from Ruth’s collection. Oxford has changing facets, like a kaledoscope, and that’s just one of the many things I love about it.
Ruth Mastenbroek has been making fragrance and fragrant products for far longer than you may realise. Her signature range only has three fragrances, yet Ruth was the brains behind many of the Bath House products and has worked on scented candles for Jo Malone, as well as being a former President of the British Society of Perfumers.
Complete the trilogy
My sample was kindly provided by Ruth, for which, many thanks. Opinions are my own and this is not a sponsored post. In fact, I’ve never written a sponsored post!