Building Perfume Wardrobe Guide Part 4 : Floral Blends
The honeyed warmth of red roses, the apricot jam richness of jasmine, the raspberry bonbon sweetness of violet… The palette of floral effects is diverse, and some of the most remarkable compositions weave several floral notes to create a novel, dramatic effect. If you want a sensation of catching a whiff of a spring breeze or of being showered by rose petals, floral bouquets will satisfy these fantasies. When searching for just the right fragrant outfit, it is possible to classify floral blends in terms of their character: lush floral bouquets, abstract “silk slip” florals, refreshing green florals or coquettish and fun fruity florals. Of course, there are numerous variations on these themes and a dizzying variety of interpretations, but in navigating the floral sea, it helps to start with these basic categories.
If you are after opulence, a classical floral bouquet is a good choice. Words like sumptuous and rich perfectly describe Jean Patou Joy, given its high-calorie blend of jasmine, rose and ylang-ylang. Somewhat more understated and austere is Chanel No 22, where rose, iris and jasmine are accented with resinous incense. Of a more modern vintage, but possessing all of the necessary trappings of a grand parfum is Bulgari Bvlgari Pour Femme. It is a rich blend of rose, peony, tuberose and violet, with a sandalwood-musk backdrop. Annick Goutal Grand Amour, on the other hand, makes the green watery hyacinth seductive thanks to a lavish dose of amber.
Floral bouquets need not be the olfactory equivalents of ball gowns. Modern, radiant compositions like Juicy Couture make tuberose and jasmine bright and sparkling. L’Artisan La Chasse aux Papillons is an uplifting and light-hearted mélange of linden blossom, jasmine and tuberose, with an elegant twist of soft woods.
Soft Florals or Aldehydic Florals
Chanel No 5 added aldehydes, aroma-materials with an olfactory profile spanning snuffed out candles and citrus peel, to the perfumer's palettes. Although in strong concentrations aldehydes smell from sharp to downright unpleasant, the minute quantities add a fascinating hazy, opalescent glow to rich notes like jasmine and ylang ylang. Aldehydic florals, also called soft florals in some classifications, are a distinctive group of fragrances that have a tender, caressing character and an aura of retro glamor.
Classical soft florals like Lanvin Arpège and Yves Saint Laurent Rive Gauche (even the post-reformulation version is good) are memorable, but to those who dislike metallic-starchy notes, fragrances like Chloé Love Chloé and Summer by Kenzo might be a better introduction. The Body Shop White Musk is an airy aldehydic floral blend foiled in layers of transparent musk. Donna Karan Cashmere Mist is a juxtaposition between an aldehydic jasmine and the softest of leather accords. As it develops on the skin, it keeps oscillating between a dark chypre and a radiant fresh floral. For another excellent modern floral that makes use of aldehydes, I would recommend Lalique Encre Noire Pour Elle, which is an orchestration of freesia, osmanthus and rose with a streak of vetiver and musk.
Green florals embellish flowers with notes of crushed leaves and grass, thus lending a fresh, bright accent to classical bouquets. Balmain Vent Vert with its overdose of verdant galbanum introduced this new genre, and although green florals are not nearly as popular as other florals, for a fragrance with character one should definitely consider one of these compositions. Chanel No 19 is the essence of elegance with its exquisitely rendered floral motif inlaid with green galbanum and cool iris. Softer and warmer, but still equally beautiful, is Annick Goutal Heure Exquise. Hermès Hiris focuses on iris, but it is far from a solifloral given its complex accord of green violet leaves and cedarwood. Guccy Envy is one of the edgier green florals that reminds me of the original Vent Vert in terms of its dramatic, bold character, even if they do not smell alike.
A retro favorite is Ivoire de Balmain, a polished composition that layers the rich rose and carnation bouquet in moss and patchouli. The green citrus and leafy notes serve as a crisp counterpoint to Ivoire’s opulence. Parfums de Nicolaï Le Temps d’Une Fête is another classical green floral, but its exhilarating and luminous form is thoroughly modern. From the verdant galbanum and hyacinth opening to the sheer mossy base, it is like a sip of champagne—sparkling and intoxicating.
Fruity florals are the most ubiquitous of all florals, and sometimes they suffer a bad rap among perfume aficionados. In part, this is understandable; how many identical fruit salads can one tolerate before starting to avoid anything that lists fruit as a dominant accord? However, it is worth giving fruity florals a second look because the addition of fruit can give a composition a range of effects, from mouthwatering to teasing, from coquettish to sultry. Hermès Amazone weaves a rich blackcurrant, tangerine, peach and raspberry accord into a composition of mossy jasmine. A fruity melon note in Frédéric Malle Le Parfum de Thérèse lends the fragrance a ripe, delicious accent. Contrast it with Clinique Happy where the floral notes get a jolt from the fruit cocktail. While it does not have the mysterious aura of either Amazone or Le Parfum de Thérèse, Happy is exactly what it promises—a dazzling mosaic of fruit and flowers. Annick Goutal Quel Amour! is also light-hearted and bright, but with its etude of tart roses and red berries it feels festive and romantic.
Donna Karan DKNY Be Delicious is one of my favorite fruity florals for its masterful illusion—it is a violet masquerading as an apple, or perhaps an apple masquerading as a violet. I can live without all of its flankers, but the original is excellent. Another good fruity floral with strong green accents is Estée Lauder Pure White Linen. It is more understated and elegant than Happy or Be Delicious and its vibrant character is very appealing. Another sophisticated fruity floral is Parfum d’Empire Osmanthus Interdite, a refined interplay between apricot and jasmine.
Must-know classic: Prescriptives Calyx, Tommy Hilfiger Tommy Girl, Clinique Happy, Hermès Amazone
Photography by VeraKL