Ormonde Woman, Emily Carr and a Giveaway

As administrator of our blog Dee normally chooses the artwork for my posts, which I find helpful since she’s more knowledgeable in the area than I am. Basically, I write the words and she brings the extra flavor. This post is different, because these paintings are my choice.

When I was in Grade 12, our high school band won the local festival and got invited to play in the Nationals in Vancouver. Traveling from our small city of 30,000 in Northern Alberta to the coast was one of the highlights of Grade 12 for me. As is typical for a band trip, we were given a free afternoon in downtown Vancouver to do whatever we wanted. Most of my classmates went shopping, but my friend Lynette and I decided to go to the Vancouver Art Gallery instead. That was where I first saw Emily Carr’s work.

I hadn’t taken any classes in art or art history; music and literature were my areas of interest. So I’d never heard of the painter before I saw her exhibit that day, and I walked in with a completely untrained eye.1 But I remember vividly even now my absolute awe as I walked from room to room, my excitement and wonder as I stood in front of the most powerful images I’d ever seen.2

The shapes were organic, strong, and deeply beautiful. I especially enjoyed the trees; room after room of sinuous, mysterious but restful images. Emily Carr painted the forests of the Pacific Northwest, and stripped them down to their essence. My reaction had nothing to do with an understanding of art, it was purely visceral.

So what does this have to do with perfume? You’ve likely figured out where this review is going, and the relevance of my story.

I tried Ormonde Woman for the first time in April of last year, after saving up for two months for the beautiful sampler pack. It was a Sunday morning, and I still remember like it was yesterday. I sprayed myself in my bedroom in a flurry of getting ready, and then just stopped. And smelled.  And stood there for a while. It was instantaneous love, gut-deep and without words.

I walked down the hall to where The Engineer was ironing clothes, and before I could say anything, he lifted his head at my approach. “What are you wearing? You smell fantastic!” He bent his head to my wrist and we both marveled at the fragrance. A little later Archimedes walked upstairs to ask me something and stopped. “Wow, Mom, you smell *really* good today.” The spontaneous compliments continued with everyone I met.

One confusing thing, though, was how different the scent was from what I’d imagined it would be.  Everyone had talked about the witchiness of it, that if Ormonde Woman was a color it’d be dark green, that it was a tough fragrance to pull off. The stuff on my skin was rich, warm, amber-y with lush florals. Where was the green? I seriously wondered if my spray sample had been mislabeled. I asked over at NST in one of their open threads if anyone else had experienced something similar, and commenter Rappleyea confirmed that OW smelled like that on her as well.

With time and repeated smellings I was able to pick out the hemlock note. I think part of the reason I didn’t immediately recognize it as “deep green” was because it was so different from what I was expecting; many from the green category do not play well with my skin, and hemlock absolute is quite different from galbanum or verbena or herbal-y notes.  Now that I know what I’m smelling, it’s easy to find the hemlock as it weaves in and out of the whole composition; it’s what moves Ormonde Woman from the beautiful category into the more elusive one of beautiful and interesting.

Now when I think of Ormonde Woman, I associate it with the paintings of Emily Carr. Not just because I had a similar reaction on encountering both, but the paintings just seem to fit the fragrance. And it would appear that I’m not the only one; fellow Canadian Krista Janicki used one of Carr’s paintings in her review as well. I’ve heard it said that some people find the paintings brooding and oppressive, just as some find Ormonde Woman  difficult to wear. For some reason, that’s simply not my experience.

Out of all of my fragrances, Ormonde Woman is the one that feels like it was meant for me. I know we’re supposed to focus only on the jus, but in this case the backstory and packaging just add to the appeal. I love the red box and the velvet liner, the way the magnetic flap closes so definitively. I love the dark green color of the perfume, and the swirls on the bottle. I love that the black hemlock absolute is sourced here in Canada3 and that there’s nothing else out there that smells like it. Strangely enough, I also love that Ormonde Jayne perfumes aren’t available in North America.

You see, most of the time it’s a bit of a drag living far away from the major perfume shopping centers of the world, but OW helped me realize that there is one very distinct advantage: no one I know has ever even heard of the line Ormonde Jayne, much less worn something from it. The chances of encountering someone else who wears this perfume are very, very small.

What this means is that basically, Ormonde Woman is my bespoke perfume. Mine. My precious. And every time I spray it, the wonder and beauty is right there.

A couple of years ago, the Glenbow Museum in Calgary had a show of Emily Carr’s work, and I went with a couple of friends. And I can confirm that more than 20 years later, her paintings still move me deeply, still go straight past the thinking part of my brain to my emotions, gut-deep and without words.

1In fact, I still look at her work with an untrained eye. I have no idea if her work is even known outside Canada
2Just trust me when I say that images on a computer don’t do these paintings justice. If you ever get the chance, see the originals
3 also known as Black Spruce, it’s almost uncanny how a map of its growing areas looks like a rough drawing of my country

I’ve never, ever done a giveaway before, or mailed something off, but despite my nervousness, Ormonde Woman seems like the perfect place to start. I’ve got my very first package of atomizers coming this next week, and I’ll love to gift someone with 5ml of Ormonde Woman. Just let me know in the comments if you want to be part of the draw. I’ll be closing it Sunday at midnight, Mountain Standard Time.

56 thoughts on “Ormonde Woman, Emily Carr and a Giveaway

  1. After reading that rave review, I would love to be part of this draw. Thanks for the blog and for the draw.

    1. If Ormonde Woman works with your skin chemistry, it’s a very easy fragrance to rave about. You’re entered in the draw, cheesegan.

  2. I would love to participate in this draw, please, I was deeply moved by your post
    as I grow older, I have this “gut reaction” to beauty, less and less and I really miss the so beautifully described ” go past the thinking part of my brain to my emotions” thank you

    1. Irina, your comment reminds me of a book I read recently, “Moonwalking with Einstein.” It was about memory and how it works; one tidbit that stayed with me is that brand-new experiences *stick* better in our memory, which is why our growing up years can be easier to remember than what we had for lunch yesterday. The author recommended seeking out brand-new experiences as we got older to help keep our memories flexible (something I’ll need to work at as I’m a big homebody).

      However, I’ve found one of the compensations for getting older and having fewer of those moments is the privilege of watching them happen to the younger generation.

      You’re entered in the draw, Irina.

  3. Ormonde Woman is such a powerfully evocative scent, Dionne, and you can count me in among it’s devoted followers! Emily Carr’s paintings are an excellent visual representation of OW– so potent, so strong, yet smooth and beautiful.

    I had never heard of the artist, but then, I’m no student of the arts; I would love to experience these paintings in person, for sure!

    A side note: as much as I love Woman, a dear friend has fallen head-over-heels for it (my doing), so I’m taking it out if rotation! A little sad, but at least I’ve still got Orris Noir 😉

    1. I’m glad you like Ms. Carr’s work, Dee.

      And you’re a bigger person than me for taking Woman out of rotation. One of the reasons why I KNOW that this is my favorite perfume is because I once had a friend ask me what I was wearing when I had OW on, so “she could buy it for herself.” For the first time I could understand why people sometimes feel posessive of a fragrance. Anything else in my collection I would have been more than happy to have a friend wear….. but not Ormonde Woman.

      After some contemplation and soul-searching, I decided that it was OK to have this one fragrance that I kept to myself. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed sharing everything else I have with friends, but it feels like OW is the prize I earned for countless hours spent sniffing, sampling, reading and researching.

  4. Thank you for both sharing an artist and a perfume that you love! I would like to be part of the draw, as I am interested to see if this perfume wears similarly on me as it does on you. It is a wonderful moment when you realize that you have found a “love” in fragrance!

  5. I ‘d love to be entered into the draw please, Dionne, though I doubt it will ever smell that good on me! I’ve only tried it once on paper and have always thinking I must try to get to know it. I loved hearing about how different it is on you and the wonderful reactions you got. Thanks for introducing me to Emily Carr’s work too – it’s wildly beautiful.

    1. I’m glad you enjoy Emily Carr’s work, Tara. A couple of my favorites are “Among the Firs” and “Above the Trees.” Just amazing stuff. And if you can wear woodsy fragrances like FdB I think you’ll do fine with Ormonde Woman. You’re entered in the draw.

  6. I’m a bit scared of Ormonde Woman, honestly, but I’d still like to give it a try. Thank you for the draw. And the paintings are lovely!

    1. It’s definitely worth giving a try, Susan. I consider Ormonde Woman a modern classic – even if it doesn’t work for you, no regrets. Fortunately, perfume isn’t a test. 😉 You’re in the draw.

  7. I loved you article.So evocative and Carr ‘s paintings are so moving.Please enter me in the draw.

  8. I love every Ormonde Jayne fragrance I’ve tried, including Woman. Thank you for this opportunity – I would be all too happy to be part of the draw! Really enjoyed your review, by the way.

  9. I would love to find out where OJ sourced their black hemlock. The amber/hemlock accord sounds intriguing. I’ve never tried OJ but have read a
    lot about it. Please include me in your draw and thank you for such a generous offer to share what you enjoy. Great review!

    1. I’m interested in that myself, Maggie. In doing some further reading, I’ve learned that there are several spruce absolutes sourced in Canada, Pinea mariana, Tsuga canadensis and Tsuga mertensiana are three I found from a short google search. Nathan’s recent “Letters to a Fellow Perfumer” posts between Mandy Aftel and Laurie Erickson discussed them briefly, as Laurie is using Tsuga mertensiana in her soon-to-be-released Forest Walk.

      You’re entered in the draw.

  10. I would love to have an Ormonde Jayne sample. I hear such lovely comments about it. Thank you for including me in your drawing!

  11. Hi Dionne,
    For some reason I dont see my loooooooooooong reply
    to this amazing post

    So I am reposting:

    Dear Dion
    This is the first time I read your blog.
    You are very talented. I feel totally bewitched
    by your description of the wild forest paintings.
    I only realized these were trees only after you mentioned it.
    Your words are so alive and sensual
    that I could almost feel what you felt.
    I whish somebody will write like this about one of my paintings
    and would even have a perfume for it.

    I have never tested any of OG perfumes and I would love
    to take part of this draw.

    If you ever need an image for a reviews
    you are welcome to use any of my paintings.
    I think the Nude will go well with perfume.

    Thank you for the experience

    1. Thank you so much for your kind words, Michali, I’m glad you enjoyed this post. And thank you for your wonderful offer of using some of your art, it’s very appreciated, and I’ll let Dee know about it.

      You’re entered in the draw. 🙂

  12. Dionne, I really like your story – thank you for sharing. I enjoyed your parallels between your reaction to different forms of arts. I’m glad you found The Perfume for yourself. And you shouldn’t feel bad about not sharing it.

    I like Ormonde Woman (though it’s not my most favorite of OJ’s perfumes) and for me it’s not dark either. For now I have enough of it to use so no need entering me into your generous draw.

    1. Thank you, Undina. Perfume is not an easy thing to talk about, so I think it’s quite natural for us to draw comparisons wherever we see them, and it’s fascinating to see the different forms it takes. Anything from Anne-Marie’s very lyrical comparisons to cello music over at the Posse to the wonderfully quirky “Scent the Muppets” that Thomas recently did – I love it all.

      And thank you for the validation in keeping this one for myself. I just love sharing my perfumes with my friends, but it feels right to hold just this one back.

  13. I have a sample of OJ Woman and I ADORE it! I am going to be very sad when it runs out. I would love to enter the draw–thank you!

  14. I admire the line and the scent. It feels so rich and “organic”, bitter and dramatic. I understand your infatuation with this. It is actually on my “to buy” list. The only problem is that there are so many beautiful scents in the same line-up that I always get side tracked trying to decide which one I should buy and I actually never do….
    Please do not enter me in the draw. I wish someone who has not tried it before wins.

    1. On my skin, I get three out of the four you listed, Christos: rich, organic and dramatic, but the bitter doesn’t show up – on me, the hemlock smells more fresh than anything else. I can see why you have a hard time choosing from the OJ line, there are many lovelies in there.

      It’s a lovely gesture to bow out of the draw, good sir. May perfume karma grace you in other ways.

  15. Oh, I loooooove this one! I’d love to win!

    And it’s funny that you say that OJ Woman feels like its your own personal bespoke perfume. I feel that way about her Tiare, too!

  16. I love OJ Woman, it’s my definite favorite in the OJ line (second is Tolu). No need to enter me in the draw, I’ve almost used up my sample and have decided to get a FB. Soon!
    I’ve never seen Emily Carr’s wonderful work before, it truly matches my impression of Woman perfectly. I’m from Sweden and my first impression when I smelled Woman really was pine-forest, not by sunlight but in dusk.

    1. Eva, how lovely that Ormonde Woman works for you as well, and future congratulations on your FB purchase. I’m glad you enjoyed the paintings, they really are a good fit, aren’t they?

  17. I wonder what is Hemlock.I dont think I have ever seen or smelled it..

    I have looked it up and found this:Hemlock root is an ingredient found in the “Hemlock Killing Spell,” and found in almost every potion as a base ingredient.

    The root seems to have magical properties.” I like this part-the magic 🙂

    1. It depends on what kind of hemlock you’re talking about, Michali. There’s the poisonous kind of hemlock, or Conium maculatum, made famous because it was part of the drink that killed Socrates. That might be the ingredient found in the Hemlock Killing Spell.

      However, hemlock here refers to a spruce tree; black hemlock is also known as black spruce. You can use the needles to make tea, and the bark can also be used to tan leather. I’m sure there are other uses for those interested in natural healing.

  18. I have never heard of Emily Carr before but her paintings look very mysterious and a bit out of the world. You’re right, just as Ormonde Woman smells like. It’s the scent that I enjoy the most out of the Ormonde Jayne sample set that I bought 2 months ago. I imagined to be drawn to her flowers (Frangipani etc.) but they smell rather flat on me whereas Woman is like a walk in the wood on my own. Very calming and reflective.
    I’d love to be part of the draw – thank you for this possibility and for your review!

  19. Wow, what a great article. Isn’t it amazing the depth of feeling that fragrance can provoke? I have to smell this stuff! Please enter me in the drawing. Thank you.

  20. Thank you for the compliment, Nancy. I love how fragrance helps me move out of my head (a place I live a lot) and just slow down and feel.

    You’re in the draw.

  21. Great post. I’ve got a small sample of OW and find it lovely. Please enter me in the draw, thanks.

  22. What a moving review of OW, Dionne. I love this one as well, but don’t need to be entered in the draw (I’m stocked up!).

    1. It certainly does get a lot of love, doesn’t it? Ormonde Woman doesn’t work for everyone, but when it does….. Wow. The nice thing about OW is that even if you win and it just isn’t your thing, it’s eminently swappable.

      You’re in the draw, Barbara.

  23. YES, PLEASE, I VERY MUCH WANT TO BE INCLUDED IN YOUR DRAW FOR ONE OF THE OW 5ML ATOMIZERS! I could almost smell its scent wafting up toward me from the computer screen as you described OW.
    “OW, in Living Color”…

  24. Beautiful paintings. Your review transports me to the northwest rain forest, it is a unforgettable place with its own spirit. Please enter me in the draw. I am now off to google Emily Carr.


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