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.