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.

16 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…

  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.

  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!

  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 🙂 ).

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