Penhaligon's (2015)


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Ostara by Penhaligon's

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Reviews of Ostara by Penhaligon's

There are 12 reviews of Ostara by Penhaligon's.

A bright yellow and slightly tart green opening (my partner said, "celery" which I don't smell, but I get it). If Song of Aubrac is a layered, photorealistic oil painting, this is a technicolor video or bright and still-wet block print. The components aren't very separable to me but it's not that they are layered so much as present together, like a mosaic that when you zoom out is more than the sum of its parts.

After 5 minutes or so, mid and base notes (especially vanilla and I think the musk) start to become more prominent. I don't like this stage as much; it reminds me of some other Duchafour fragrance experiences, where there's something artificial-smelling just under the surface that leaves a sort of aftertaste for me. It keeps an element of stamen-fuzziness but overall shifts into something still fresh but more like laundry washed in floral detergent and dried in the sun. It pretty much stays here for the rest of the several hours I could smell my single spray.

7 or 7.5/10 (I know Bois de Jasmin gave this 5/5 on her blog after it came out in 2016; I think it's just not to my taste. For me, 8/8.5+ is when I actually want to buy something).

Easter was just this past Sunday, it's April, and the jonquils (or daffodils) are now in bloom, and what better time to showcase this note and choose my favorite (and sadly discontinued) fragrance that features it.

Ostara may be a difficult fragrance for those who aren't more intimately acquainted with the fragrance of narcissus or jonquils. It is really a vivid interpretation, replete with the waxy interior of the flower, the pollen, and the earth from which they are grounded. A supporting player of hyacinth, a fellow early Spring bloom (they are everywhere at present as well) lends a tart green quality. Hawthorne blossoms (anisaldehyde) are the dusty, spiced undercurrent. Then there is the unctuous yet bright, mildly animalic beeswax that adds further dimension and seems to contrast wonderfully with the subtly cresolic qualities of the narcissus. It is true to life to my nose, and also avoids the verging on "horseyness" that can be the shortcoming of other more strident narcissus-centered frags.

One might argue that this fragrance is editorial, a photorealistic illustration in scent, but it makes it no less a joy to wear, even if its specificity may be a bit overwhelming for those who want their fragrances to have a healthy dollop of "perfumism" which can only really be found as this dries down to its musky, resinous base.

Ostara for me, however, is such a pleasure; it is winsome and hopeful, much like the springtime that it represents. Moreover, it is unisex, arguably a floral that is right at home on a man's skin just as much as a woman's. In fact, it's genderless (as all fragrances really are). Spring flowers are for everyone.

[originally written April 2021]

One of the most delightful, multi-note perfumes ever, for warmer months. Why was this discontinued??

It is a garden of earthy delicacies. Happy flowers. Tiny sparkles of herbs. Bees, happily buzzing about doing their garden chores, building their best honeycombs. If faeries were real, they'd be flitting about sharing their songs of beautiful praise.

No overt anything, here. Just perfect amounts of flowers, herbs, and woods. It begins quite strong, then mellows. Notes that stand out the most for me: hiacynth, narcissus, violet leaf, beeswax, and wisteria - all are a tad stronger than the others, for quite some time. Hiacynth and wisteria combined, at times, remind me of lilac...

The base reveals for me, light vanilla and musk. Creaminess. Light amber, too. The base has no "darkness" to detract from Ostara's summery feel.

I wandered lonely as a cloud

Like Wordsworth we are in the middle of the English landscape surrounded by daffodils, breathing fresh air on an April early morning.
The sky is clear but there's a big cloud over us - is that the Poet?

The beautiful green opening that seems to transport us to the English countryside soon melts with the sweetness of the daffodils. It's an ethereal sweetness, never cloying, never heavy, but light, untouchable. It's sustained by wisteria and hyacinth and a distant hint of vanilla. It's a maternal embrace, like the one Wordsworth had to miss almost all of his life. There's a pensive feeling in the composition: without being sad or melancholic, it's as if we were wandering among the grass, caressed by the air, immersed in Nature and away from any distress.

I love this composition as it captures more than olfactive sensations, it's evocative, rich, multidimensional and utterly beautiful.
I do also love Wordsworth's composition, but it would be impossible not to, would it?

The green of the grass, the watery breeze, the intense scent of the daffodils, all of this is captured in the bottle .... yes, Ostara is a poem more than a scent. Or, not only a scent but poetry as well.


Opens with a bouquet of flowers where narcissus and daffodils are the most prominent. The flowers are paired with green grass and fresh mint. Very green and flowery, some bitterness also that counterbalances with a bit of sweetness. Smelling it up close has a dirty aroma, but that is a part of how the real flowers could smell to up close, so it's all good. Having said that, I enjoy it better from a distance. After a couple of hours the sweet notes are amplified and honeyed like. The dry down is less complex and not as appealing, sweeter; flowers are still there but muted, it's more of a vanilla ambery with white musk. This fragrance wears lightly.

I can't imagine anyone not smiling when they get the first burst of springtime with a spray of Ostara. It has a lovely honeyed narcissus smell, with some green keeping it bright. It's a heavy hitter for such a springtime scent, but is so beautiful that it doesn't get cloying. As an evoker of sunshine and spring flowers, I would put it almost on a par with older Diorissimo, except for that great green burst in the opening of Diorissimo. The green tinge in Ostara seems to strengthen later on and weave in and out over time.

It's the middle of summer here and I was a little wary of wearing it today, as I love this in late winter or early spring, when it brightens the day with the promise that spring is coming. It isn't as great in July as my memories of it on dank days in February, but it's still very good - somehow bringing to mind the feeling of expecting spring. Ostara is a ringer for the type of white narcissus with orange 'bells' I remember in my next door neighbour's garden in my youth. This is a real scent picture perfume but never seems flat - rather it's a lot of notes blended beautifully so that there are little jolts of different scents but individual notes rarely stick out.

Why it was discontinued remains a mystery, maybe because it's more of a perfume than the cologne scents that would normally be associated with Penhaligon's (in my little world anyway). Although it's an EdT it packs more punch than quite a few EdPs I've known.

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