Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Perfume Sampling 5 of 14: HEELEY "Ophelia"

Saturday was an incredibly lazy day for me, but I decided that it shouldn't be a completely unproductive one. So I pulled out one of the Luckyscent samples and got to work at my favourite cafe, sitting under a hut next to some lovely flowers while sipping coffee, listening to music and enjoying the weather. It was hard work I tell you. I wracked my brain trying to make the connection between Ophelia the perfume and Ophelia from Hamlet.

Note the picture of the garland on the bottle. It stands for not only the floral properties of Ophelia but the flower images and associations of Hamlet's Ophelia.

But before we delve into literary studies, here's an introduction to Heeley, courtesy of Luckyscent:

As a designer influenced by nature, it was natural that James Heeley should be fascinated by the world of scent. It was after meeting Annick Goutal in 1996 that he discovered how scents are ‘designed’. His first scent, ‘Figuier’, is remarkable for it’s precision in evoking the natural scent of a Mediterranean Fig tree. With time and experience, his beautifully constructed, simple and fresh scents evolved into more complex creations such as ‘Cardinal’, ‘Esprit du Tigre’ and ‘Cuir Pleine Fleur’. His continually evolving collection now includes nine contemporary scents made according to the art of traditional French perfumery.

Every detail, from the creation of the scent and selection of ingredients, to the recyclable packaging and engraved wooden top is designed ‘in house’. Today, Heeley is one of the few owner-founder, luxury perfume houses in Europe. This independence allows the creative freedom to create individual, quality scents that are quite simply unique.

And here is the description for Ophelia:
A flowing gossamer gown, long streaming hair adorned with fresh blossoms, ribbons fluttering in the wind – that enchanted moment of young love before disillusionment comes creeping in. Fresh green flower stems and a delicate orange lead to a heartbreakingly lovely jasmine, like a summer morning so beautiful and clear that it bring tears to your eyes. Languidly sensuous ylang ylang and creamy tuberose intertwine with the jasmine to create a luminous bouquet that perfectly balances headiness and warmth. The three flower absolutes are cradled in a smooth and dreamy white musk that keeps them under control – the flowers stay radiant and fresh and never become shrill. Utterly feminine and bewitchingly romantic, this would be absolute perfection on a bride. However, it’s far too beautiful to save for only one day. Devastatingly pretty.

Notes: Italian orange, green flower stems, jasmin, ylang ylang, tuberose, moss, white musc

Put briefly, Ophelia is the girlfriend/would-have-been girlfriend of Hamlet. There's ample evidence in the text that she once meant something special to Hamlet but suddenly he treats her cruelly without explanation. Between Hamlet's rejection of her and her father's sudden death, beautiful, young and fragile Ophelia descends to madness and eventually drowns (it is unclear whether it was an accident or suicide). The poetic description of her death announcement has stirred many an artist's imagination.

It inspired Ophelia by John William Waterhouse (1894):

as well as Ophelia by John Everett Millais (1852):

When I first studied Hamlet in high school, I was rather disgusted with Ophelia's weakness and vulnerability. But I was young and naive myself and thought I was invincible. Many years later, I've had a chance to review both the play as well as myself many more times and it's not so cut and dry now. I feel an immense sense of pity and compassion for Ophelia.

Now how much does all this background information on Ophelia influence my impression of the perfume? A lot, I suppose. Like mentioned in previous posts, all it takes is a romantic name and description and I'm already at the checkout point with credit card in hand. I am forever a sucker for anything that relates to literature, especially myths, legends, fairy tales and folk tales.

To be honest, I'm not sure what ylang-ylang smells like on its own. What I smell immediately is a burst of florals, mainly the tuberose and jasmine. I happen to like jasmine but there's something about the scent that makes me hesitate, reluctant to embrace it fully. It's a warm floral, not green or white or extremely fresh. It's still light but definitely on the warmer side, with depth and elusive complexity. It doesn't take long for the white musc to surface and keep Ophelia a soft and constant presence. Words that sprang to my mind were elegant, graceful and fragile. While the scent is distinct, it doesn't overwhelm. After a few hours its potency fades to a nearly undetectable softness. Instead of a summer morning, this scent reminds me of a late spring evening: either life will bloom even brighter and bigger... or gently wilt away under the heat of a blazing sun.

While I really like Ophelia and have taken the time to draft a rather lengthy post about it, I'm not exactly in love with it. Whether it's my association with the literary Ophelia's fragility or not, it's not intriguing enough for me to spend USD$180 on a 100ml bottle. But for $4, I took a unique journey through one person's interpretation of Ophelia and enjoyed every moment of it.

Have you made any new perfume discoveries lately? What have you been enjoying?


  1. I'm so in awe *read intimidated* by your Ophelia literary breakdown and it's relevance to this fragrance. I think you need to break up with me...I don't think I'm good enough for you ;) Incredible job Liz!

  2. Liz smart. Tracy dumb.
    GIrl, this was an amazing read! I really love your perfume posts! I agree with you about Jasmine. There's something about it that I can't fully like and if there's too much of it in a fragrance like in Jennifer Aniston's I tend to hate it.
    This does sound lovely!

  3. Oh, my lovely Tracys! I didn't mean to sound alienating. No one is dumb or breaking up! I learn from you guys all the time. Thanks for reading and giving me some feedback. For a while I was thinking that this post totally stunk (hehe).

  4. No, no! You didn't! I just wish I had your literary knowledge and insight! :) I was into the sciences, and wish I took more English in University.

  5. Well, I wish I had paid better attention in science! It would sure help with reviewing all sorts of beauty products!!!!! :)))

  6. Amazing Read i enjoyed it.. Good job (Y)


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