‘Modern Chinese chic’, that’s what Shanghai Tang promise in their fashion and fragrance, and from an olfactory perspective this certainly makes for an interesting viewpoint. The world of perfumery bases itself mainly in France but it has branched out across Europe, the Middle East and America, but Asian perfumery still very much feels like a rarity on these shores, which is surprising when you think for just how long the industry has looked to the East for inspiration – heck they even have an entire fragrance family named after the orient! So an injection of ‘modern Chinese chic’ is most certainly a refreshing change.
The collection consists of five feminine fragrances and three masculines, each of which presents a contemporary take on familiar floral, oriental and woody themes. Whilst each of the fragrances are different, they each share a lightness – a transparency that allows them to shine without oppressing. In this piece I’ll be taking a sniff of four standout fragrances from the collection, two masculine, two feminines, that range from breathy jasmine dreams to verdant essays on woods and teas. This is Shanghai Tang.
When you think of an oriental, you think of something thick and resinous – a spice bomb with flowers and vanilla a plenty. These scents are gigantic, impenetrable blocks that have a tendency to demand squatters rights in any room they enter – they’re impressive, sure, but sometimes they can be just a little bit too much. Oriental Pearl, the most oriental fragrance in the Shanghai Tang fragrance collection, has a refreshing buoyancy to it that makes for a remarkably transparent, yet diffusive wear. A big whack of fuzzy patchouli folds into velvety labdanum, making for a smoky and rich blend with striking luminosity. What’s more, a delicious swirl of vanilla adds even more softness, making Oriental Pearl a fragrance of a thousand and one textures as well as a thousand and one nights.
I often get frustrated with jasmine fragrances. So many in the mainstream err on the side of caution by presenting only a thin wisp of the indolic beastliness that the innocent-looking white flower hides in its odour profile. Spring Jasmine however, isn’t afraid to use a bit of dirt to its advantage. On the surface, this springlike floral is a straight-up jasmine scent evocative of fresh blooms blowing in the breeze amongst a verdant backdrop of grass. Underneath however, Spring Jasmine boasts a hot, breathiness that has a sour beauty to it that hints at more carnal activities. The name may suggest beautiful spring days, but Spring Jasmine knows how to conjure the darkness of white florals too. It is simply a full jasmine presented in the most beautiful of ways.
I can get behind any fragrance with a name as evocative as Jade Dragon and thankfully, the scent that carries this name is just as handsome. Good tea fragrances are difficult to find and Jade Dragon manages to present a bright and vivid green tea note without being too literal about it. Juicy, mouthwatering bergamot makes for a bold opening, whilst jasmine and vetiver add to the overall sense of greenery. In the base, a big whack of musk gives the whole thing an expansive sense of lift. The result is a peaceful and fresh fragrance that feels as calming as a sip of freshly made matcha.
On the masculine side we have L’Orient, a scent that is as smooth as polished mahogany. At the centre of the composition is an intriguing little material called elemi. Elemi has a spicy, incense-like facet that reads as soft and silvery. In L’Orient, elemi gets sparkle from black pepper in the opening before resting on a bed of grey leather, inky vetiver and spongy cedar wood. L’Orient is one of those fragrances that smells soft, almost as if it could only be worn with the most tactile of cashmere sweaters. It’s an understated scent that works simply as the final embellishment to an immaculate outfit.
Over to You!
So there you have it, four highlights from the Shanghai Tang collection! Tell me, what’s your favourite fragrance in the Shanghai Tang collection? Let me know in the comments box below!