I'm a sucker for perfumes that evoke spring flowers, and Ostara, a 2015 release from Penhaligon's has been around for two springs now, and it's as perfect and beautiful as the first hyacinth and daffodil of the season. It's got everything I like about this style: heaps of flowers, dewy leaves, and the bitterness of crisp freshly-cut stems. It's that bitterness in the opening of Ostara that wins me over again and again.
Ostara is the entire garden on an early spring day when the clear blue skies compete with the flowers on who has the best and most striking color around. There's just enough air and earthiness to keep things interesting and very modern, yet it's all about wisteria vines heavy with blossoms bowing downs and almost touching your face. The opening of the perfume has all that and also something that reminds me of tagetes and mums, two not-so-spring-like blossoms that I love dearly in perfume and elsewhere. It's a phantom note, conjures by those very green stems that hold Ostara together,
I tend to spray this perfume with a very generous hand, trying to get it into every space in my clothes and every pore in my skin. Delicate floral notes often don't cling to me as much as I wish, and I need to trap them somehow, to maintain that impression of first step into the garden. Marinated in Ostara, I can live in my flower bubble for a little longer, and then either reach for more or allow the fragrance to take its natural progression onto a softer and fuzzier stage where yellow flowers take center stage, and the languid ylang-ylang is heady and tempting.
Eventually, Ostara becomes a slightly powdery ambery skin scent with little sillage and no projection. This base is pretty and pleasant, but it doesn't quite live up to the addictive quality of the floral hook. I wish there was more heft there, but I must admit that few perfumes in this genre seem to offer that (notable exceptions are Chamade and Grand Amour, as well as Bruno Fazzolari's Au Dela Narcisse de Montagnes). I'll take what I can get from this stunner.
Ostara was released a little over a year ago, but rumors of its demise started not long after, mostly because Penhaligon's offered it at a very deep discount a couple of times on their website as well as through several e-tailers. The perfume is definitely still in production, and the official stockists charge full price ($90 for the 50ml bottle on Luckyscent, $120 at Twisted Lily). You can find it for less if you search around, and I can't fault you if you do. Penhaligon's has not done themselves and their retailers any favors by cutting the prices.
Image: Seventeen Magazine October 1958 ~ photo by Francesco Scavullo via myvintagevogue.com.