If you’re in a floaty peony sort of mood, I’m afraid you’ve come out of the wrong lift. But if you’re looking for Black Osmanthus, follow that woman with the black lipstick. Follow her into that unmarked door with the smoky jazz drifting out of it. You’ll find what you’re looking for in there.
Black Osmanthus by Marina Barcenilla won this year’s Fragrance Foundation Award for Best Independent Perfume, and I for one, was jolly pleased. It’s not just because Marina does everything herself, including sourcing the absolutes and extracts that she makes her potent potions with, but because Black Osmanthus is not your usual dab it on after a shower and wear it to work fragrance. Black Osmanthus breaks the mould and gives a rude salute , which appeals to the rebel in me that so often, by necessity, gets supressed.
Osmanthus is the name for a genre of around 30 types of blossoming plants. Petals are usually white and the scent is likened to fruity, leathery blossom, often with apricot or peachy cadences.
Black Osmanthus is heavy, leathery, smoky and to my nose at least, has a hint of gorgeous creosote, like a freshly painted fence. This is by no means a criticism- creosote is one of my favourite scents ever.
Black Osmanthus opens with all the subtlety of an Avon Lady knocking your door down with a sledgehammer. On my skin, it takes me straight into smoky, leathery tar territory and I pretty much stay there. I should tell you that Marina wore this the night of her win and in a room full of fume heads wearing their favourite scents, this beautiful smoked leather was distinct and true throughout the evening.
This is made from layers of leathery notes: There’s rich saffron stamens, dark patchouli, almost sticky in its depth, bay rum and myrrh.
The flowers are, if you’ll pardon the pun, no shrinking violets: there’s tuberose and jasmine and they’re not dainty. The oakmoss sits with the other tough guys and makes this the ultimate dark, leathery spicy scent for those who have been seeking exactly this. It reminds me of those little vials of Middle Eastern attar with its amber juice that let the fumes escape like snakes.
Lasting power is fantastic. Spray at dawn and enjoy wafts of it until dusk. And then stay up all night.
Further reading Check out Stephan Matthews excellent review here.
Stockists You can buy Black Osmanthus samples from the MB Parfums website, but beware, this may lead to a full bottle and you will have to get used to telling strangers what you’re wearing.