Jasmine is the violin of perfume materials. Played badly, it can be shrill, spiky and annoying. In the right hands and the right context, the smell of jasmine is lilting and insinuating, able to conjure sunshine and throbbing sensuality. Its volatile timbre is part of the flower's factory settings, which in nature puff out a siren call that ranges from bubblegum, to fruit, to spice, to skin, to decay. Where you fall on the insect-to-mammal spectrum will determine which olfactory tone qualifies as a “siren call”.
This mammal loves the retro suntan oil treatment of jasmine, found in Bobbi Brown Beach and Jennifer Aniston (the perfume, not the Friend), and if I adjust the rabbit ears just so, I pick up a friendly Coppertone glow in the final final dry down Serge Lutens A la Nuit. But that's not until after its opening shriek of bubblegum-sweetness practically grinds the enamel off my teeth. It may be true-ish to life-ish, but I find A la Nuit's initial bright white light a little jangling.
More to my taste is Nasomatto Nuda, which anchors jasmine's treble with spice and skin. Shadows of patchouli and musk mute the screech potential, although it wasn't the easiest first date. On initial wearings, I found that Nuda did an fascinating slalom between earth, gas, blue-veined cheese and an almost-mildewy washcloth, until the gack factor evaporated into a heavenly puff of jasmine. But with subsequent wearings, I've fully embraced Nuda's gack factor, which worryingly puts me closer to dung-loving insect than sun-worshipping mammal.
The jasminey joy built into the Olio Lusso line by Rodin moves me incrementally back up the evolutionary ladder. “Ooooooooohhhhhh!” is the involuntary sound of pleasure that emerges from my lips every time I smell this lushly-scented range of body, face and hair oils. Founded by model-turned-fashion-editor-turned-stylist Linda Rodin, Olio Lusso's signature whiff is the exuberant coupling of jasmine and neroli: simple, but not simplistic. It's the face and body oils that grab me, with their lubricious blend of skin-drenching essential oils perfumed with sunny sultriness and happy citrus.
I love the tactility of schmearing that “ooooooooohhhhhh!” from stem to stern while feeling virtuous about doing something nice for my skin at the same time. Although in practice said schmearing stops some ways between stem and stern, because the stuff costs big bucks and I must content myself with stealth oilings every time I “happen” to pass the Olio Lusso stand at Liberty in London.
Given my enthusiasm for the products, I couldn't wait to try Rodin perfume, the eau de parfum version of Olio Lusso's statement smell launched earlier this year. Developed by David and Kavi Moltz of D.S. and Durga, Rodin perfume adds a sprig or two of lily of the valley to the original bouquet.
The effect of perfume (which as you'd expect lasts a lot longer than the oils' fragrance) is sharper, sweeter and more high-pitched than the oils, rendering the scent girlish rather than womanly. But it's jasmine's animal nature that triggers the call of the wild in me, so in a police line-up of Rodin elixirs, I'll pick the skin oils every time. They are the smell of smiling sunshine -- with a drop of sweat. Perfect.
Nuda is available from Amazon.com and LuckyScent.com at $185 for 1 oz.
Olio Lusso eau de parfum is $220 for 1 oz; the body oil is $110 for 4 oz; both available from OlioLusso.com. See also BeautyWorksWest.com and Liberty.co.uk.
Jasmine lady via