Perfume Portraits At Ormonde Jayne

Words by: Andrew Williams

Does anybody know what Sambac smells like?


No. Me neither.

Or rather I didn’t until last Saturday when I paid a visit to London’s Ormonde Jayne. That’s because they’ve just initiated a new service called Perfume Portraits.


As innovative as her scents, Linda Pilkington has come up with a rather nifty idea; and like all the best ideas it’s really quite a simple one.

There is no shortage of guides offering smelling notes and ingredients lists on individual scents. But if you don’t know what a thing smells like in the first place you may as well read made-up words. The aim of Perfume Portraits is to help you find your perfect scent, by allowing you to experience individual oils in the raw –that’s the oils in the raw not you; it’s a requirement that clothes remain on at all times!

Available through either the Bond Street shop or Harrods perfume hall (I went to Bond Street), you start by sitting down and discussing which aromas and scents you like and dislike. In either case don’t be shy about dropping the names of rival labels it all helps build a picture. You’re then invited to smell three raw ingredients from seven different families; hesperedic, light floral, intense floral, balsamic, oriental, woody and atmospheric.


There’s no rush, but you don’t necessarily need to dwell too long over each smell and sensation. My instincts determined most of my choices –as did a few involuntary reflex reactions.

The charming Natalie was my guide for the consultation, and her enthusiasm, patients and knowledge were extremely welcome. As well as noting my responses, she helped by explaining the origin of each oil. At the end I was presented with a Perfume Portrait outlining my likes and dislikes. You get a copy and the store retains a copy on file for future reference.

Obviously the aim is to help Ormonde Jayne customers pick the perfect scent. The final step, having assessed the individual oils, is to sample the most compatible finished fragrance on your skin –the last true test of any scent. But if experience is any guide, this is not the sort of business to put sales before customer care. There is absolutely no obligation to buy, and in terms of opening your eyes to the wider world of colognes and perfumes it’s invaluable.

And you may be surprised by what you find. Scent is no observer of gender. The scent most attuned to my tastes and skin was Tolu –strictly speaking intended for women. But I’ll be sporting this as my summer signature –clean, talc-like top notes fading to soft floral and oriental base tones. It’s a shield of elegance against an otherwise hot, dusty, sweaty city in the summer time.

An enlightening experience in every regard.