What a beautiful and refreshingly to-the-point fragrance. In the tinderbox of nowtimes where the fuse is short and the flashpoint just a meter downwind of someone having a bad day on Twitter, Hongkong Oolong by Maurice Roucel for the autumn/winter 2019 issue of Nez, the Olfactory Magazine is a welcome respite – a meditation room off the main thoroughfare, filled with soothing white noise.
Hongkong Oolong is a very clean, almost simple scent, which of course means that it’s a bit abstract and therefore not so straightforward to describe. It is almost easier to say what it is not than what it is.
So, let’s start there. Though it is a musk in the hands of Maurice Roucel, it doesn’t smell like anything in the delightfully slutty doughnut musk triptych of Musc Ravageur–Labdanum 18–Helmut Lang EDP. Though it is gently spiced with powdered ginger and cardamom, and in the latter stages, there is a savory note that reads as cumin, it doesn’t smell particularly like chai.
Stripping it back even further, though a minimally fermented-smoky nuance develops midway through, and the composition focuses on a variety of tea (oolang) reputed to be milkier and more floral in tone than other teas, Hongkong Oolang doesn’t even really smell like tea. I mean, it does if you’re highly suggestible to the official description. But otherwise? Not so much.
Think instead of Roucel’s lighter, more playful work centred around his signature magnolia and magnolia leaf – honey, cream, and lemon, sliced through with a flash of metal and tart greenery – like the entire midsection of L’Instant Pour Femme (Guerlain) or the teeny tiny part of Tocade (Rochas) that is not rose lokhoum or really loud butter cookies.
Hongkong Oolong is therefore really just a dense but silky cloud of honeyed, milky musk molecules pierced by the succulent greenery of a Hosta or Monstera and the green apple peel nuance of magnolia. There is something lightly leathery, tannic almost in the lower registers, which, again, I’d describe as a nuance of tea rather than a courtroom sketch. A Bvlgari tea fragrance this ain’t.
Indeed, as a floral musk with the oblique suggestion of tea, rice milk, and greenish white floral notes, I suggest that Hongkong Oolang forms the third point of a triangle stretching between Champaca (Ormonde Jayne), with which it shares a nutty-toasty note that splits the difference between basmati and wheat, and Remember Me (Jovoy), for that cardamom-steeped milk note that comes on hot n’ heavy in the basenotes. They also all three have a light floral presence that is noticeable but not dominant (jasmine and magnolia in Hongkong Oolang, frangipani in Remember Me, and champaca in Champaca), though Hongkong Oolang is far milkier than Champaca and much fresher than Remember Me.
But still, it’s the milkiness and their milkiness that’s the point here. I love the milkiness in these fragrances because it feels almost wholesomely natural, as if hand-cranked out of brown rice or sandalwood or those huge, waxy-leaved tropical plants that cry plant sap tears when you snap them in half. Though admittedly quite plain, this kind of milkiness is infinitely preferable to the claggy popcorn butter/moist socks stink of off-the-shelf milk aromachemicals used tiresomely often in the indie perfume oil sector.
And so, I love Hongkong Oolong. Though far cleaner than I usually like my musks, I find peace in the scent’s unshakeable center of balance between freshness and that milky sandal-rice-plant-milk undertone. At a time when nothing seems stable or constant, its restful simplicity is a cure.
Source of Sample: Hongkong Oolong was sent to me free of charge with the Addictive Substances edition of Nez Magazine (autumn/winter 2019) by the charming Jeanne Doré of Nez, the Olfactory Magazine, the first entry in the 1+1 series. Though this was kindly provided at no cost to me for review, I loved the perfume so much that I have re-ordered this edition of the magazine to get a second little bottle of Hongkong Oolong.
Cover Image: Photo by Edwin Hooper on Unsplash
I love Hongkong Oolong, too! I didn't think of milk yet, and it's certainly nowhere near a creamy facet. Don't anyone dare to think of Gourmand, it's nothing like that!
That bit 'greenish white floral notes' I agree to, and I would like to add some soft dryness to that part. And clean, yes, in the most pure and ideal way. I'm not a floral lover at all, but this one is blended so well, and finds the perfect balance between petals and stem, which makes it adorable.
It's a pity that Maurice Roucel happened to develop Hongkong Oolong in this hidden space, IMHO this one could easily and believably be integrated in the Shalini line for 10-fold the price – I prefer the former.
I agree that it is a pity that this perfume won't be widely distributed – I'd buy the full 100 ml bottle if it were and use it with abandon. Love that you said it was pure, and that it finds the perfect balance between petal and stem. Lovely way to describe it!
Oh, I really liked this clean and shy scent, not for me but my partner: he is totally enamoured with Chanel‘s 1957, so his new love for Hongkong Oolong makes sense! He quickly ordered 8 (!) more of those tiny bottles and gave one to a friend. She immediately ordered some bottles in Paris too! Yes, so 100 ml flacons would be lovely!
By the way: I ordered the second perfume of Nez 1+1: „Folia“. It isn‘t madness, but foliage—fresh and rotting!! When first spayed it smells most alarmingly of one of those plastic bags of humus and earth for your plants on the balcony. That never quite goes away but a very green, quite saftig freshness appears. Edgy urban gardening…
Wow, now you have stoked my curiosity about Folia! I love the smell of potting soil but is there a hint of plastic included as well? Because I don't do well with plastic.
No, no plastic involved. (I just mentioned it because in Germany, potting soil is always sold in those plastic bags, and invariably after you've slit them open you're left with earth scattered all over the place.)
I think Folia is Goutal's Ninfeo mio without the lime plus a hefty dose of humus. I said "edgy urban" because truth be told, walking around smelling of decomposing leaves is a bit outré.
Ah ok, gotcha! But I am attracted to your 'edgy urban' descriptor, I have to say. I once read a description of Le Labo Iris 39 that mentioned something like 'a tousled woman rummaging around the potting soil on a crisp winter's day' and ordered a sample immediately, so something in me is drawn to the promise of earthy boho chic. I once owned a bottle of Ninfeo Mio but there was this sour, resinous (urinous?) edge to it in the drydown that began to wear on me, so I swapped it away. But I remember that, on good days, it smelled like a good mojito – probably the lime and fig leaf.
Haha! That's exactly what I said to the SA of Goutal in Brussels after I bought Ninfeo mio: un peu de pipi du chat. I got a very haughty stare… (I must confess, I rather like that "resinous" aspect.)
I have NM on my one arm and F on the other: no urionous note. Must say though, that the humus/rot smell wanes with time! So the urban querilla gardener transforms to a gentrified horticuluralist?
Ha! Un peu de pipi du chat – just enough to add interest 🙂 The guy I swapped it to said 'Thanks for the great perfume – I love it. But why didn't you tell me about the cat pee?" Ok, now you really have me with the description of Folia. Gentrified horticulturalist is going to be my new profile description on Tindr (jk)