Building Perfume Wardrobe Guide Part 4 : Floral Blends

Verawater5

Part 1: Florals ~ Rose
Part 2: Florals ~ Jasmine and White Florals
Part 3: Florals ~ Lily of the Valley and Violet
Part 5: Essentials
Part 6: Orientals

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.

Floral Bouquets

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.

Must-know classic: Jean Patou Joy (EDT for a green jasmine veil effect, parfum for the rose-jasmine opulence and EDP for the strong rose accent), Robert Piguet Fracas, Chanel No 22

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.

Must-know classic: Chanel No 5, Lanvin Arpège, Yves Saint Laurent Rive Gauche

Green Florals

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.

Must-know classic: Balmain Vent Vert, Chanel No 19, Estée Lauder Aliage/Alliage

Fruity Florals

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

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18 Comments

  • rosarita: Love this series! My parents brought me a bottle of Arpege from a European vacation when I was seven; I’ve worn it ever since. Green florals are my preference and you named all my favorites. I would add Guy LaRoche Fidji, Calandre, Bas de Soie & Jacomo Silences (to me, like #19 with a dark, sooty base). And the one fruity floral that I can say I love is the original Badgely Mischka. I have to add many of the fragrances you named to my ever-growing must sample list. Thanks so much for these beautifully written articles, they’re a pleasure to read while considering one’s collection. December 16, 2011 at 7:16am Reply

  • Victoria: Those are great additions! Really, writing these posts reminds me how diverse the fragrance genres are. Each of these categories can be a chapter in itself.

    I also love green florals, and the greener, the better! December 16, 2011 at 7:19am Reply

  • sunsetsong: Thank you Victoria! This series has been a delight. I find that I am an aldehydic floral girl these days,love No 5, but am intrigued by many on the green list. I had bottles of Vent Vert and No 19 in my early 20s and perhaps should revisit to see if my palate has changed. December 16, 2011 at 9:17am Reply

  • Yulya: Victoria, thank you for another great article!
    I love aldehydic florals (No. 5 is my signature fragrance), but I love the greens also (particularly No. 19 which I am wearing today in EDP) and classical florals (I always own a bottle of No. 22). Here you go… I did not even notice, but I have just listed all of the Chanels 🙂 December 16, 2011 at 9:28am Reply

  • Victoria: Me too! I'm wearing No 19 EDP today. It has a plusher character than the EDT, but I love all versions of No 19. December 16, 2011 at 9:29am Reply

  • Victoria: Vent Vert now smells very differently than it used to even 10 years ago, but it is still a pretty green floral. The original is more aggressive. Still, reformulated or not, I could not leave it off my list! December 16, 2011 at 9:32am Reply

  • Vasilisa: I love these series! I prefer green florals and you just gave some inspirtation for trying out new scents. Also nice that you mentioned Hiris, I am wearling it today and its growing on me, perhaps because of those violet leaves. December 16, 2011 at 9:49am Reply

  • Annemarie: Hello Victoria, what a great series. Thank you for all the work you are putting into it. It feels like you have enough to tell to write a book and are struggling to keep it article-short. I’m new to perfume and it is very helpful for me to see the perfumes grouped and to see how the perfumes within a group relate to each other. December 16, 2011 at 10:05am Reply

  • Dl: Hi. I have Rive Gauche in the reformulated version and find it quite wonderful. Does it give a good idea of the pre-reformulated version? Is the difference just one in quality or has the character of the fragrance been modified?

    dali December 16, 2011 at 10:32am Reply

  • Victoria: It is fresher, less aldehydic and more woody-floral. Still very good! The heart of the original is still there. December 16, 2011 at 10:34am Reply

  • nstephens@beachcroft.com: A beautiful piece to read, thank you. Until a year or so ago I had never considered myself a floral sort of girl. Falling in love with tuberose (and Carnal Flower in particular) changed my perception. And again I feel challenged because you have listed a good many favourites here. I remember when Rive Gauche came out. I was a young teenager, if that, and would never pass up the opportunity to sniff a tester bottle when I could. That metallic twang was so different! I loved it but knew I was not sophisticated enough to wear it. By the time I could have got away with it my tastes had changed and so had Rive Gauche. As a matter of interest where would you place Chamade?
    Nicola December 16, 2011 at 11:17am Reply

  • Victoria: I like the hazy green notes in Hiris. Such a polished blend.
    I'm glad to hear that you like these posts! 🙂 December 16, 2011 at 11:39am Reply

  • Victoria: Oh, thank you! The idea was to give an introduction to the huge and diverse fragrance market. I'm so happy that these posts are helpful. There is definitely a lot one can write about!

    If there is something you want hear about in connection to this topic, do let me know! Feedback is always helpful. December 16, 2011 at 11:42am Reply

  • Victoria: Chamade by all rights should be in green florals! In must-try classics. Of course, it is also a lush floral blend, with a woody note. Quite complex!

    Rive Gauche made me realize that I love aldehydes! December 16, 2011 at 11:53am Reply

  • Rina: I love this series, Victoria! It has made me think of scents I used to adore but for one reason or another have left by the wayside. Ivoire de Balmain is one! I have a bottle that is aged and spoilt, but I keep it to remind me it exists. I don’t even know if it’s still available. Thanks for all the chapters to date, I can’t wait to read the next one and the next one and… December 16, 2011 at 7:14pm Reply

  • Victoria: Thank you, Rina! Ivoire is magical, esp in the parfum concentration. I like writing these posts, because they make me revisit some favorites. There are so many new launches today that it is hard to give skintime to everything. December 16, 2011 at 9:16pm Reply

  • Kym: I love this series!

    Great work. December 16, 2011 at 11:25pm Reply

  • Victoria: Thank you, Kym! December 20, 2011 at 10:26am Reply

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