Ophelia’s final appearance in Hamlet is marked by a floral motif, as she spends some of her last moments naming various flowers and their meanings. It’s a poignant scene, made all the more so once you know her fate. The language of flowers and their symbolism are the subject of much academic inquiry, but Ophelia and her flowers are not limited solely to academia. James Heeley offers his own take on Ophelia’s bouquet with a white floral fragrance named after her. Ophelia the fragrance is fresh and spring-like. And although it doesn’t contain any of the flowers specifically mentioned by Shakespeare, it’s a lovely tribute.
This fragrance is decidedly a white floral, but the opening here is green. This isn’t a sharp citrus green though. There is a slight aquatic vibe here, but without the weird synthetic feel calone notes can bring. Instead, the watery green notes give off a serene, yet refreshing feel. I sense water lily’s presence here because this opening really gives the picturesque impression of lily pads in a pond.
But neither the green notes nor the water lily are the focus of this fragrance. The opening notes are there to provide some balance, which is a good thing because the tuberose soon makes its presence known. As I’ve said before, tuberose doesn’t always work for me. With Ophelia, the tuberose is creamy and textured, but luckily doesn’t turn rubbery or unpleasant in any way. The watery green opening lingers and sends ripples through the composition from time to time, making sure that the textured tuberose never becomes overwhelming. Likewise, the tuberose provides the perfect counterbalance to what could otherwise be an insipid opening.
Jasmine and ylang-ylang gradually peek out and join the tuberose, making for a gorgeous floral heart. The ylang-ylang gives a sunny yellow impression, like a Renoir painting done en plein air. The blend here is so smooth that I can’t tell if the jasmine is fruity, or if it’s the ylang-ylang, or both. In any case, there’s a sweet, ripe fruitiness that never crosses the line into overly ripe. I do find the jasmine slightly indolic, but nothing over the top. Again, this fragrance is all about balance.
Lily of the valley isn’t listed in the notes, but I detect a sort of sheer, radiant jasmine/lily of the valley accord just before heading into the dry down. At this stage, Ophelia reminds me of Parfums de Nicolai’s Odalisque (which I recently wrote about here). Odalisque was more melancholy and a little heavier in composition. Whereas Ophelia wears with a lightness and is characterized by a delicate balance, which continues even into the dry down. It’s mainly a sweet white musk for me. I don’t sense much oak moss. I get more of that watery feel, which I suppose could be from a light dose of moss in the base, although I associate it more with the opening notes. And it’s kind of nice that way to think about the composition coming full circle.
Overall, Ophelia is characterized by an almost rigorous blending and balancing of the composition. However, this strict attention to structure doesn’t result in an austere scent but, rather, in an extremely pretty one. “Pretty” really is the right word to describe Ophelia. If you’re looking for bridal scents, this one is definitely a contender. But I personally think Ophelia is too good to wear only once, even if it is for a very special occasion. I first sampled this one about a year ago, and I’m so glad to have revisited it for this spring.
Here is the full text of Ophelia’s final scene in Hamlet for anyone interested.
The image and info on notes are from Heeley’s website.