Sakura by Ormonde Jayne is a Venetian sunset in a bottle, a serene blue sky streaked with pink, apricot, and gold. It gives me the curious sensation of being relaxed and invigorated at the same time. With its crisp but milky florals, that first spray feels like a white-gloved waiter handing you a Bellini – fridge-cold Champagne poured over a puree of white peach – with a drop of cream added to aid digestion. It arrived on a morning so cold that the bottle itself felt like handing ice. It was only later that I noticed that the colour of the bottle matches the emotional hue of its contents – at the bottom, a bright, clear layer of peachy osmanthus jelly, volatile citrus ethers, and muddled green leaves, at the top, a cloudy tint that might be almond milk blushed pink with cherry blossom.
Sakura borrows heavily from the Ormonde Jayne library, with clear reference to the bright, sunshiny osmanthus of Osmanthus, the tango between the lime peel and buttery gardenia cream of Frangipani, and even some of that green-tinged milkiness of the brown rice in Champaca. But it never once feels like a re-do. I feel the self-assured touch of an experienced perfumer here, one that knows that the difference between referencing a house DNA just enough to give the wearer a sense of familiarity and recycling old tropes because all the new ideas have run out.
I used to live in a city where apartment buildings were ringed with cherry trees, and to me, cherry blossom smells very light, fresh, and indeterminate. Their scent is delicate, with some nuances similar to lilacs, by which I mean they smell honeyed, green, pollen-y, and very slightly bitter or woody. But real cherry blossom doesn’t smell anything like its representation in commercial perfumery, where, being entirely a fantasy note and not a real material for perfumery, it is invariably interpreted in a heavily fruited, cherry-like, syrupy, and almondy fashion.
Sakura by Ormonde Jayne avoids this trap. It captures the sharp, fresh brightness of cherry blossom live from the tree, thanks mostly to a clever clustering of greenish, pollen-laden floral notes (cyclamen, freesia, water lily) and the woody, ionone-rich twang of violets. But make no mistake – the freshness does co-exist with sweetness. Someone, somewhere along the line decided that cherry blossom is predominantly sweet, so Sakura is amply cushioned with enough rose, sandalwood, tonka, and creamy white musks to align it with the collective idea of what cherry blossom smells like, i.e., soft, feminine, a bit powdery, and so on.
But never mind that. The real magic of this scent is at its melting point, where the fresh, sueded florals sink into the milk and pollen below. The combination of sharp and milky achieves the same sort of milk-over-ice, endorphin-releasing effect as Hongkong Oolong for Nez Magazine (bitter tea against milky floral musks) and Remember Me by Jovoy (fresh green leaves against steamy condensed milk). Alas, the glory of this moment passes quickly and the rest of the experience is more humdrum. That is to be expected, I suppose – some beautiful things are meant to flare brightly and then die out. But while its sillage is not immense, Sakura has impressive longevity on my skin, wafting subtle hints of sharp but milky floral essences for a good twelve hours or more. I highly recommend Sakura as a transitional spring fragrance, as it is crisp and invigorating enough to make you yearn for the new plant growth due any day now, but warm enough to brace you against the chill of March wind.
Source of sample: Sent to me by the brand for review. However, this is a perfume that I would have certainly purchased for myself after sampling it.
Cover Image: Photo by Great Cocktails on Unsplash