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Osmanthe Yunnan - Simple beauty and simply beautiful (March 18, 2011 New Fragrance Listing)


Shhh! You'll scare the Osmanthe Yunnan!

Just kidding - the name is so strange it makes me think of a mythical monster lurking in a cave! The name is, in fact, a fragrance - a fabulous eau de toilette created for Hermés in 2005 by Jean-Claude Éllena, the master of minimalist scents. And it is one of the very few quiet fragrances that I love.

Osmanthe Yunnan sounds strange to our Western ears. Osmanthus is a flowering bush, Yunnan is in China. Tea originated in Yunnan province, and in China, osmanthus tea is made by combining dried sweet osmanthus blossoms, which have a slight fruity note like a peach/apricot blend, with black or green tea leaves, the same way the more familiar jasmine tea is made. Both are delicate and delicious, and so is Osmanthe Yunnan.

The tea is the star in this fragrance but it’s far from a steeped smoky brew – it’s more like an herbal tea infusion. Notes of the EdT include Yunnan tea, freesia, apricot, osmanthus, leather and musk. The scent opens with a pungent whiff of orange – the zest not the juice, because the citrus note has a bitter edge – and a minute later the tea note appears on top of a peachy floral cloud from the white blossoms and fruit. 

At this point a lovely milkyness combines the notes into a pale muted accord that settles ever so softly on the skin, reminding me of the soft sueded skin on a young apricot. As it moves into the heart, the tea note gets a little richer and slightly smoky, but the pale floral accord continues, developing a hint of leather and musk in the dry-down. None of the notes dominate, there’s no drama to the dry-down, rather the scent evolves with a seamless serenity. 

To me, Osmanthe Yunnan smells like spring and early summer, faint whiffs of young white blossoms and leaves mixed with warm sunlight, and the muted  animalic notes. It has a transparent, gauzy, ephemeral character – on me, the scent seems to disappear after a couple of hours or so, but can be detected as subtle welcoming sillage hours later. Luca Turin in Perfumes The A-Z Guide describes it as “...a perfume of pure happiness...beautiful from start to finish...impossible to improve”.

Be prepared for a different kind of perfume experience withOsmanthe Yunnan. It’s NOT a fragrance that wears you, it’s one that you wear quietly, that becomes part of your skin, and if you’re expecting a sensual, rich, fragrance, you’ll be disappointed. It’s undemanding, unpretentious, very easy to wear... and very chic.

Jean–Claude Éllena’s minimalist style is deceptive. Creating a fragrance which smells so simple, but which evolves on the skin with such unique character and beauty, requires both science and artistry. As I’ve stated before in other posts, I’ve tried hundreds and hundreds of fragrances, and my preference is for the rich and complex, but in Osmanthe Yunnan I’ve discovered the beauty of simplicity.

Simple is good, and sometimes it’s all that’s needed.

Osmanthe Yunnan is listed in our Decant Store, Decants are  $5.00 for 1 ml..

Image - Wikimedia Commons - Man picking tea in Songyang, by lishuilynn, April 30, 2018