Divine Duality (Jardins d’Ecrivains Orlando Review)

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New York is my first love, and it is the only love that has never once disappointed me.  From auction houses to Rockefeller Center to dive bars on the Bowery to the Port Authority bus station, I love every inch of it.  I have just finished reading Donna Tarrt’s much-anticipated novel The Goldfinch, which is at least in part a love letter to New York, and I smiled when I read a review of the book on Goodreads that said “her depiction of Manhattan is so rosy and strange it reminded me of From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler.”  The reviewer is not wrong, and yet the way Donna Tarrt depicts Manhattan is exactly the way I see it, in a perpetual twilight glow.  Jardins d’Ecrivains Orlando has its inspiration in a different book, Virginia Woolf’s Orlando, and while this inspiration is apparent in its construction, the sense of a twilight glow inextricably ties Orlando the fragrance to The Goldfinch and to New York in my heart and mind.

One of the greatest pleasures New York offers is the theater. Leaning back into a velvet seat and craning your neck to look up at the gilded ceiling, feeling the bustle of activity as everyone rushes to take their seats when the warning bell sounds, seeing the lights dim dramatically, and hearing the overture swell from the orchestra pit– it is exactly this experience that Orlando’s arc creates in my head, with swirls of gold and red and plush textures, and contrasts of dark and light.

The fragrance opens with some prickly spices– orange, pink pepper, and ginger, according to the official notes, which smell to me like a natural version of aldehydes minus the soapiness. Usually I cannot abide aldehydes, but here the effect makes me smile; CaFleureBon describes it perfectly as “a sense of clamorous potential,” which to me is one of the defining characteristics of New York.

Orlando next morphs into a strong, dark, masculine wood with spices and resinous qualities. One of the main characters in The Goldfinch, Hobie, spends his time taking fragments of precious antique furniture and transforming them into not-quite-reproductions (his intent is not to fool, just to make something beautiful out of ashes). At this stage, Orlando is very evocative of Hobie’s workroom, with precious woods (according to the notes, guaiac and peru balsam) possessing simultaneously a vintage and modern feel. There is even a touch of furniture polish to my nose, one of those odd scents I find appealing, having spent a lot of time in antique shops, auction houses, and estate sales as a child. Given that the title character of Virginia Woolf’s novel lives for 600 years without apparently aging, this duality fits the inspiration perfectly too.

There is also brief stage where an aura of gentlemen’s high end shaving gear rises up behind the dark woods. This may sound disconcerting, but it works beautifully; most of the characters in The Goldfinch have fatally flawed fathers, and I can see the fragrance at this stage representing the elusive warmth, stability and strength they are lacking as a result, and the cleanliness that a good home provides.

Eventually, Orlando warms and sweetens without ever losing the undertones of dark wood. On me, it turns into a sweet but not too sweet, clean but not too clean, warm spicy sexy wood scent, all of the previous stages still present but melting into, yes, a twilight glow. It now skews much more feminine, which is highly appropriate given that Wolff’s character starts out male and wakes up as a woman. The drydown provides contrasts of warm and cool, light and dark, and masculine and feminine that make Wolff’s theme apparent. As the Scented Hound notes, it is somewhat prismatic at this stage, presenting different facets every time you sniff. At any rate, the drydown on me is as complex and gorgeous as that of fragrances of twice the price.

Notes in Orlando are orange, pink pepper, ginger, amber, patchouli, clove, guaiac wood, peru balsam, and musk; I should note that it is the first fragrance I have been able to wear containing clove that does not for one second remind me of potpourri. Orlando is available for $110 for 100 ml from Twisted Lily, the wonderful new fragrance boutique in Brooklyn.

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This review is based on a sample with purchase I received from Twisted Lily, with whom I have no material connection other than very much wanting them to succeed. Brooklyn is the place these days that most feels like my beloved downtown Manhattan from the eighties and nineties, and Twisted Lily has that authenticity (a well-curated collection from owners with a passion) that has become endangered since lower Manhattan became so gentrified. One of the main themes of The Goldfinch is how love for art is as authentic and motivating emotion as love for people, and though Tartt writes of the visual arts, I have a feeling she would understand how we all feel about fragrance.

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13 Responses to Divine Duality (Jardins d’Ecrivains Orlando Review)

  1. Kafkaesque says:

    Nice review, my dear. The funny thing is that I must have been channeling you; I’m writing about Orlando as we speak. 🙂 It’s a little different on me, but I generally like it too. I think the whole Jardins d’Ecrivains line is wonderful. My only difficulty was knowing which one to get, but in the end, I went with George.

    • Well, if that is not the perfect example of GMTA I don’t know what is! I very much enjoyed your review of George, which I have not yet tried. Does that mean you got a bottle of it? (I am hunting down a bottle of Orlando as we speak.) The Jardins are of exceptional quality for the price IMO.

      • Kafkaesque says:

        Yes, COMPLETELY a case of GMTA!! lol And yes, I bought George, but with all the waffling, confusion, and torn feelings that I described. There were moments when I could easily have gone with Orlando or Wilde. (Happily, I did end up with a nice sized decant of Wilde as well. Actually, the rest of a tester bottle that the store owner nicely gave me.) Honestly, I liked them all except the Dame aux Camellias which wasn’t really my thing.

        Re. your hunt for a bottle of Orlando, if you check my George review, in the details, you will find numerous vendor links for the full Jardins d’Ecrivains line in the US, including the company itself on US Amazon. I know you like the Twisted Lily, though. 🙂

        Did you get the chance to try the rest of the line at the boutique during Sniffapalooza?

      • Okay, I am putting a link to your post here because anyone who is following this will want to read it, and for other vendor options:
        http://akafkaesquelife.wordpress.com/2013/11/12/jardins-decrivains-george-the-politics-of-gender-identity/

        I did not sniff the full line of Jardins at Twisted Lily– it was the last stop of the day on Sniffapalooza Saturday and I was physically exhausted and scent-overwhelmed by then, so for me it was mostly admiring the vibe of the store, catching up with people and enjoying the fabulous refreshments they provided (what I actually bought there that night was Imaginary Authors Cape Heartache, which I had already sampled and knew I had to have). I have samples of George, Gigi and Dame Aux Camellias, but now it sounds as if I will have to hunt down some Wilde too.

      • Kafkaesque says:

        Thank you for the link referral, but I promise you, that was not what I was thinking about when I replied about vendors. I swear. I was merely thinking about you wanting to hunt down a bottle of Orlando, and not being close to the Twisted Lily!

        As for your olfactory exhaustion on that day at the store, believe me, I can understand it full well. It’s a lovely exhaustion, but it is also a case of being utterly overwhelmed at the same time. At least you have samples to explore, though, frankly, I can’t see you with Gigi. Not AT all. You, with a big white floral bomb? I’m struggling. lol. You’re not a Fracas-like girl in my mind. However, florals mixed and topped by the darkness of George… I see that as being more your thing. 🙂

      • I didn’t think you were fishing for links; I was just thinking I probably should have included more purchase options but I am so enthusiastic about Twisted Lily (it really is exactly what my dream idea of a fragrance boutique is, apart from being difficult for me to get to) that I wanted to focus on them.

        LOL re Gigi; no, big white floral bombs are one of my least favorite things in the world, though I will still try it, because you never know (I am on an undeniable rose kick now, and up until two weeks ago rose ranked only under cucumber and melon as my third least favorite thing in the world). I am quite eager to give George a chance now, though.

  2. lucasai says:

    Nice Review Nancy!
    I wrote about Orlando couple of weeks ago too and I find it to be unusual but difficult on a daily-basis wear. It’s more for the special nights out.

  3. Jordan River says:

    I like the name of this house but have not yet tried their scents.

  4. Pingback: Jardins d’Ecrivains Orlando | Kafkaesque

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