Review En Bref: Qi by Ormonde Jayne (Four Corners of the Earth Collection)

As always, my reviews en bref are for perfumes that, for whatever reason, didn’t seem to warrant one of my full, exhaustive, detailed reviews.

OJ QiQi is an eau de parfum and part of Ormonde Jayne‘s 2012 Four Corners of the Earth Collection. The collection pays homage to the different parts of the world that have inspired Ormonde Jayne’s founder, Linda Pilkington, and is the result of collaboration between Ms. Pilkington and the perfumer, Geza Schoen. I had the opportunity to sample all four fragrances — Tsarina, Qi, Montabaco and Nawab of Oudh — courtesy of Ormonde Jayne, and have already reviewed TsarinaNawab of Oudh, and Montabaco.

The press release describes Qi as follows:

‘Qi (pronounced “key” or “chi”) means Breath of Life. It’s an ancient word that permeates the Chinese language and everyday life. This perfume is inspired by the Chinese people’s love for the lightest and most delicate scents. Qi is constructed to make no great statement thus offending no-one, it does not tear down any great walls but is rather something more spectacular, like an amazing dawn, a softly-scented fragile breeze, Qi is an honest, open and natural perfume, it makes its mark for those who don’t want to be too obvious but may feel unfinished without it.

The perfume’s notes include:

top: green lemon blossom, neroli, freesia.
heart: tea notes, osmanthus, violet, hedione, rose.
base: mate, benzoin, musk, moss, myrrh.

Qi opens on my skin as a lemony, soapy floral with a synthetic, white musk base. There is fizzy, green hedione, light lemon, and sweet freesia, which are eventually joined by the subtlest whisper of rose and apricot-y osmanthus. There is also the merest suggestion of orange but it is strongly subsumed by the lemon notes, both from the citrus blossom and from the hedione. 

The perfume remains that way for about 40 minutes, slowly shifting to incorporate a green tea accord. By the end of the first hour, Qi smells strongly of creamy, green tea ice cream with freesia, other amorphous florals, and synthetic musk. Later, there is a hint of a mossy undertone, but the perfume never really changes from its core essence nature: a slightly green, rather abstract, amorphous floral musk. The whole thing is light and airy, with moderate sillage for the first hour, then low projection thereafter. It was primarily a skin scent, and its longevity clocked in at just a fraction over 5 hours.

Qi is exactly as described: constructed to make no great statement thus offending no-one. And that is one of my main problems with it. But one can hardly blame the perfume for being precisely what it was intended to be. Unfortunately, being utterly inoffensive and banal are not the only problem. Even if I liked clean, fresh, soapy scents — which I most categorically do not — Qi doesn’t smell luxe to me at all but, rather, like an artificially constructed concept of “clean femininity.”

I’m also a bit dubious about continuing the old, out-dated cultural stereotypes regarding the Chinese as not wanting to make any great statement whatsoever. I saw a vast number of young people in my travels throughout China who certainly wouldn’t fit that generalization, though I concede that it may have been historically true at one time. That said, the press release language is neither here nor there.

The real problem with Qi is that it is a very generic scent. Places like Sephora, Macy’s or your average department store abound with similar offerings, from Chanel‘s Chance Eau Tendre, to floral fragrances by Estée LauderRalph Lauren, Kenzo, Marc Jacobs, and Victoria’s Secret (not to mention, numerous celebrity fragrances). In fact, Roger & Gallet has fragrances that are centered around osmanthus or green tea, while Elizabeth Arden has 12 different green tea fragrances, many of which are floral in nature and one of which (Green Tea Lotus) has yuzu citrus, osmanthus, other florals and green tea over white musk. Given the variety of similar offerings out there and Qi’s explicit goal of not making a great statement, the perfume seems enormously over-priced to me at £260.00.

Yet, the market for light, unobtrusive, “fresh, clean” scents with minimal projection is (alas) massive and never-ending. I’m sure Qi will please those who fit the target perfume profile and who want the caché of something more high-brow. 

Disclosure: My sample of Qi was provided courtesy of Ormonde Jayne. As Always, that did not impact this review. My primary commitment is, and always will be, to be as honest as possible for my readers.

Price & Availability: Qi is an Eau de Parfum which comes only in a large 100 ml/3.4 oz size and which costs £260.00 or, with today’s exchange rate, approximately $402. Neither Qi nor any of other Four Corner Collection are currently listed on the Ormonde Jayne website, but you can find all of them in the Ormonde Jayne stores, as well as at Harrods. Unfortunately, Harrods’ website says that this perfume is not available for export. Ormonde Jayne’s two London boutiques are at Old Bond Street and Sloane Square with the precise addresses listed on the website here. As for samples, none of the perfume decant sites in the U.S. currently offer any of the Four Corners of the Earth collection.

19 thoughts on “Review En Bref: Qi by Ormonde Jayne (Four Corners of the Earth Collection)

  1. It would be interesting to find out how some Japanese and Chinese women respond to this ‘fume. By Kilian did the Water Calligraphy / Bamboo / etc series to no great acclaim in the West. Maybe Qi and Kilian have great sales in the East and they have struck a great business model in markets of affluence and growing affluence. I am loving Isfarkand and Ormande Man. I cannot make my mind up Kafka so I waft one on each wrist these past few days. And then there is the IsfarkandMan Shampoo and body wash…

    • I’m glad you’re enjoying Isfarkand and Ormonde Man. As for the sales figures in the East, I’m sure they would be fascinating

    • Even by the standards of someone who likes soapy perfumes, I don’t think you’d find Qi to be very interesting. The key is their express mission statement of having a perfume that makes no great statement. It may be more apt to say no statement at all…

  2. I wonder what this would smell like on me…funny as I was reading your review I kept thinking it might be my cup of tea (no pun intended :D!) based on the notes and the low sillage (would definitely make perfume despising co-worker happy!). But then again as you mentioned there are other similar scents that are much more affordable.

    • I’m not sure you’d like the synthetic white musk base in this one, Brie, especially given how much you love natural oils and essences.

  3. Say it isn’t so — could we have quadruplets (!) in our midst??? That would be the hajusuuri, Lucas and Undina and our plus one Brie!

    The notes do appeal to me but with samples practically inaccessible and the hi-faluting prices, I will dismiss this as an overpriced underwhelming toilet water and I do mean it as spelled. For crying out loud, at $29 per 50 mLs, one can buy the entire line of Elizabeth Arden Green Tea perfume and still have money left over for purchasing a decent-sized decants of superior Puredistance, Frederic Malle or Serge Lutens frags.

    Rant over

  4. This does not sound appealing at all. I am waiting for a sample of Isfarkand to arrive, to see whether there might be a fragrance I could use during the beastliest hot as Hades days in Washington this summer. I used to like Eau Sauvage in high school (many moons ago) so we shall see. The idea of a tea fragrance sounds so great, but I’ve yet to find one that works. For me, I guess, tea is better drunk than worn.

    • Well, the huge problem is that they are intentionally trying to make a perfume that makes no statement of any import….

      Do you have hellish summer weather, too, Gretchen? Welcome to the club. It’s already started here and I’m dreading July. 🙁

  5. Wow what a huge price for a lot of nothing. As you know I am with you about Fresh and Clean. I only want that from my after shower splash of 4711 or Eau de Cologne Imperiale. After that fades bring on the big guns!

    • Alas, those who love fresh, clean scents are the overwhelming majority these days, it seems. This sort of perfume is right up their alley. 🙂

  6. Being half-chinese, I always find perfumes (and many other commercial products for that matter) based on chinese “philosophy/the people” to be kind of hilarious and off-the-mark. Although I won’t deny that the Asian market overall prefers lighter scents… at least, in Hong Kong clean and fresh scents are what sell best — but I think that is true everywhere, or at least becoming true in most places…

    That said, I have a weakness for osmanthus and green tea, and other generically “asian” notes, but from the sounds of it I’m better off exploring other options. Thanks for the review! I enjoyed it, as I do all your others. 🙂

  7. And here was I thinking that Guerlain’s Les Voyages Olfactifs were nice but too expensive for what they were 🙂

    I do not like soapy scents – no matter how cheap or expensive they are. If I come across this one I’ll test it but, as I said before, the only one I’ll try to hunt downis Tsarina (and I’m not sure if I hope to like it or not 🙂 ).

  8. I recently received samples of all 4 of the Four Corners fragrances and thought for sure this would be my least favorite… Of all the Ormonde Jayne fragrances I have tried, Tolu is my absolute favorite fragrance, and I do tend to gravitate towards more resinous and bold perfumes. It was no surprise to me that Nawab of Oud ended up being my favorite of the offerings, although it was more beautiful than I had originally imagined… Sometimes oud can be challenging and this was so easy and gorgeous that I actually said “wow”… I was really surprised however to find that I like this Qi fragrance, immensely. This was the one that I expected to HATE, of all the four it has the least appeal in both notes and description… I am not one who usually likes to blend into the walls, and have no issue wearing more dabs of vintage Shalimar than is probably wise, much to the disproval of my boyfriend. I wouldn’t generally go for a fragrance that doesn’t make any statement at all by design… However, there is something about the strong tea note of this, the beautiful breathy quality that just kept me sniffing my arm again and again… Immediately upon first spray I am hit with that strong hit of tea, followed by the soft flowers and eventually that slightly smokey matcha smell… It is delicate and beautiful and airy, something I don’t usually like in a perfume, but there is something about the way this blend plays on my skin, and the way the strong green tea note reminds me of my favorite Japanese jasmine tea that really speaks to me… I expected to like Tsarina a lot, there isn’t a note in that perfume that I dislike, but somehow it all adds up to something disappointing and wrong for me… For the price, Qi isn’t a fragrance I would be willing to indulge in at this time, but I am going to savor my sample for those days when only something soft will do…

  9. I found your description of Tsarina to be spot on although – thankfully – nothing about this experience remotely brought to mind Princess Grace for me. Instead, this review perfectly articulated, as your reviews usually do, my exact experience of a perfume with the added benefit that you also identify and beautifully describe some of the elements in it that I would otherwise struggle to recognise.
    However, I just do not recognise Qi from your review.
    Like the last commentator here (MichelleChefNYC) what I get is something much bigger, for me Qi has an underlying glowing resonance, a warm, long-lasting aura that presumably comes from its base (mate, benzoin, musk, moss, myrrh, plus?).
    I get no soap, no obvious musk. I am not suggesting you are wrong or that they are not there. It may be these are masked for me and some others by just being a small component of this glowing luscious base. I think thecandyperfumeboy also had this enhanced experience of Qi and I agree with his suggestion that it brings to mind hay and meadows in an idyllic, essentially English landscape – and lets face it this would definitely include tea!
    I can even sort of understand OJ’s own attempts to describe Qi because for all its glowing depths there is something about the experience of wearing Qi that makes it less like wearing an obvious perfume and more like having the scent of a perfect day mysteriously assemble itself around you.

  10. I applied Qi this morning from my sample – a generous quantity, for all that. Now it’s about 11pm, and what I can smell is -laugh it or not- a much more civilized Amouage Gold Man.

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