Osmanthus Fragrans

Osmanthus Fragrans. An ancient Chinese legend sees you as a giant tree growing on the Moon, shading the light of the celestial body. Wu Gang, in his quest of becoming immortal, was sent by the Emperor to the moon to cut the self-healing osmanthus, in vain. It is in this autumn equinoctial time that the Chinese celebrate the full Moon and the forlorn mission of Wu Gang, and coincidentally the bloom of the fragrant shrub.

Wu Gang sent to the moon to cut the osmanthus - Japanese block print of 1886
Wu Gang sent to the moon to cut the giant osmanthus – Japanese block print of 1886

Osmanthus are related to olive and lilac trees and form a genus of 30 species. Osmanthus fragrans, one of the species, blooms with a sweet and fruity fragrance of apricot in the cooler and misty nights of the Far-East. The tree is native to East-Asia and widely planted in parks and gardens for its magic and powerful nocturnal scent. Each tree holds a myriad of small white (silver) or orange (gold) flowers which individually do not smell much, but unity makes strength. The flowers of osmanthus are collected, dried and sometimes mixed with green tea in a pleasant afternoon drink called  guìhuāchá. They  can also be preserved in a sweet sauce used to season dishes and desserts during the colder days of the year. Flowers are also part of the Chinese medicine pharmacopeia and known to relieve from menstrual pain.

Sweet osmanthus tea - an ideal companion for the moon cakes
Sweet osmanthus tea – an ideal companion for the delicious moon cakes

An expensive absolute of the golden osmanthus fragrans is obtained by solvent extraction and used in luxury fragrances, often in combination with aldehydes and other synthetic molecules that enhance the osmanthus note. Some perfumers have chosen the osmanthus note at the center of their creation, such as Hermès in their thematic Hermessence collection, with Osmanthe Yunnan, in homage to the guìhuāchá, with a top note of pu-er tea. This is really a refined unisex fragrance with a Chinese spirit, perfect for this mid-Autumn season. Roger&Gallet have a complete collection of scented products called Fleur d’Osmanthus, with the Eau Fraiche as a core fragrance, blending osmanthus with fine citruses, patchouli and benzoin resin. I discovered this summer the beautiful Italian brand of The Merchant of Venice, with their  fine perfumes bottled in superb Murano glass flasks. Osmanthus is one of their floral-fruity fragrance that I can only recommend after listening the nice comments from my wife and daughter about it.

The Merchant of Venice - Osmanthus
The Merchant of Venice – Osmanthus

Other noticeable fragrances with a distinct  osmanthus note are Fabulous from Victoria’s Secret, a fruity-floral blending the tiny flowers essence with freesia and red currant. The Scent for Her from Boss is a newly launched fragrance, with a delicious top note of apricot complemented with osmanthus and freesia, and a discreet gourmand base of cocoa. How sweet!

Boss - The Scent for Her with its main notes.
Boss – The Scent for Her with its main notes.

We just began our Golden Week holidays, here  in China. This is the best time of the year for taking a walk in the parks of Shanghai, contemplating the beautiful osmanthus trees in full bloom, exuding their sweetest scent in the autumnal air. What a great joy for the body and mind!

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