Houbigant Oranger en Fleurs : Perfume Review

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Oranger en Fleurs (“A celebration of the orange tree”) is a new release from Houbigant, a perfume house with a history dating back to 1775.  The company’s perfumes have for several decades been identified with drugstores, but the release of Oranger en Fleurs signals a return of Houbigant to the luxury market.

Oranger en Fleurs is a fully realized orange blossom fragrance that presents the honeyed floral note in a tableau of leaves and twigs, jasmine, rose, tuberose, ylang-ylang, nutmeg, cedar, and musk, along with something called “eau de brouts” (an absolute with a sharp, green orange blossom aroma).  The moment I sprayed it, the resemblance to Serge Lutens Fleurs d’Oranger was unmistakable.  Substitute Lutens’ cumin for nutmeg and give the composition some airiness and you have, for the most part, Oranger en Fleurs.

Taking a point off for lack of utter originality, Oranger en Fleurs is an orange blossom that made me swoon from the first—because I’ve been so enamored of the Lutens while at the same time suffering its jellied thickness in the summer. With the new Houbigant, a lighter treatment of orange blossom provides lift and vibrance; there’s a hint of cologne in its feel. The spice is particularly pleasurable and  is a good exercise in sniffing out the differences between nutmeg and cumin; they are similar enough to perhaps trick the nose.  But where they diverge, nutmeg is green and gourmand, and cumin has a hot and human element. Of the two, I prefer nutmeg.

This is the summer of orange blossom—coming across my desk have been samples of this, plus L’Artisan’s new Séville à l’aube and Ramon Monegal’s Entre Naranjos.  All three pivot around orange blossom while taking different directions with it.  The note lends itself to a variety of interpretations and influences:  Séville à l’aube treats it to ashy lavender, Entre Naranjos to powdery amber, and Oranger en Fleurs to the spice route.

Oranger en Fleurs presents its spice immediately, fused to orange blossom.  It’s a toothsome and chewy floral, made more so by a secondary note of buttery tuberose that all but gets obfuscated by the wow factor of that orange and spice combo. It’s succulent and, despite, the spice, clean. This motif gets extended through the very long lifespan of this perfume—while it has moderate amplitude, it lasts forever on the skin.

The base is light and has more musk than it does wood.  What wood there is passes as a part of the tree—the celebration of the advertising copy—rather than being a fully fixed basenote.  This fragrance doesn’t develop so much as it does swell on the skin.  There is no sorting through the notes looking for one thing or another.  Try to look for the rose, only to find it burrowed into the orange blossom as a late bloomer.  Without extending the comparison to the Lutens too much, since it does stand beautifully on its own, at opening it is most similar, diverging with appearance of the secondary florals.

The modern treatment of orange blossom and the placement at high-end counters brings Houbigant back into the upscale market for a new generation.  Although Quelque Fleurs has largely been available at that level, it’s been nearly invisible as newer, less traditional florals have dominated the market.  With Oranger en Fleurs, Houbigant has a fragrance that they’ve smartly poised to capture the imagination of the upscale department store shopper.  The sample more than caught mine: I’ve been wearing it nearly continuously.

Houbigant Oranger en Fleurs is available from Neiman Marcus and Bergdorf Goodman.  $180/100ml

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29 Comments

  • marsi: Hello Suzanna! I’m back from my vacation. Internet connection at my mom’s was bad, so I was internet free, but I missed your reviews.
    If Houbigant is anything like Serge Lutens Fleurs d’Oranger without cumin, I would like it. Does it last well on you? August 21, 2012 at 8:31am Reply

    • Suzanna: marsi, this lasts extraordinarily well. I was very pleased. And I think you would like the nutmeg! August 21, 2012 at 10:55am Reply

  • Lucas: Thank you very much for this review Suzanna! I’ve been eager to try it when I read first press informations about this release. I’m definitely buying a sample of it next time I’ll be ordering something. August 21, 2012 at 8:42am Reply

    • Suzanna: Lucas, I’m glad you will try it. It def. is going to appeal to those who like the Lutens but find that scent too heavy or too sweaty from cumin. I have room in my library for both! August 21, 2012 at 10:56am Reply

  • Nicola: I have a huge weakness for orange blossom fragrances and so have done rather well this year so far as further exploration of the note is concerned. Thanks for this lovely review. It sounds well worth sampling at least (and what a pretty bottle) but quite spendy. One of the perfumista’s laments coming up – I wish they did a smaller bottle! August 21, 2012 at 8:51am Reply

    • Suzanna: Nicola, I have the same weakness. This and Seville a l’aube are the two new frags I am most excited about.

      Smaller bottles are always good, I agree. August 21, 2012 at 10:56am Reply

  • Jillie: This sounds appealing, Suzanna, although I never seem to love orange blossom as much as I should! Have you tried Geurlain’s AA Tiare and Mimosa? That always makes me think of orange blossom and it dries down to a dusty finish with just the faintest touch of spice – probably more a sort of honey. I can’t wait to try Seville a l’Aube, as I fancy the lavender note. But like you, I am really pleased to see that Houbigant may return to its glory days. August 21, 2012 at 10:15am Reply

    • Suzanna: Jillie, I haven’t tried that AA scent, but I will.

      If you don’t care for OB, then this one is probably not going to win you over. It’s definitely orange blossom! August 21, 2012 at 10:57am Reply

  • Nikki: Orange flowers are sumptuous! Driving through orange groves is such a treat. While I like the scent, I don’t do too well with the perfume itself. However, your reference to Nutmeg really caught my eye: I used to wear a French perfume which was vanilla nutmeg and am looking for a replacement, do you know of any fragrance with a heavy nutmeg note? August 21, 2012 at 10:20am Reply

    • Suzanna: Nikki, perhaps Victoria can answer that question. I like nutmeg (and cardamom) very much and am curious myselef! August 21, 2012 at 10:59am Reply

    • Victoria: What about Comme des Garcons Harissa or Lorenzo Villoresi Piper Nigrum? They have a pronounced nutmeg note. So does Bond No 9 Harrods for Her. I also recommend trying Serge Lutens Rousse, which is mostly cinnamon, but it has nutmeg as well. August 21, 2012 at 11:37am Reply

      • Nikki: Thank you, I will try those! August 22, 2012 at 10:49am Reply

  • Austenfan: What a lovely review of what seems a gorgeous scent. I really like orange blossom, I have yet to try this one and the Artisan.
    I always used to want to try Quelques Fleurs, but after reading so many negative reviews I have given up on it. August 21, 2012 at 11:05am Reply

    • Suzanna: Austenfan, please give it a try. I think you should also try the Lutens.

      As for Quelque Fleurs, don’t let the negative opinions that may have been expressed by others stop you from trying it. Always form your own opinions! August 21, 2012 at 11:47am Reply

      • Austenfan: If Quelgues Fleurs were easily sniffable I would have tried it years ago. As I would have to order a sample from the US, it would be quite an expensive try, so I have decided I will pass on this one.
        I absolutely agree with you on the fact that it pays to form your own opinion.
        And I will try to get a whiff of this Houbigant! August 21, 2012 at 12:54pm Reply

        • Victoria: I didn’t realize until now how hard Houbigant might be to find in Europe. I tried to look for some Oranger en Fleurs once Suzanna mentioned how much she enjoyed it, but almost no place carries the line.
          I was probably the one complaining about the reformulation of Quelques Fleurs. I liked the vintage version, but almost anything in comparison to its vintage form will appear bland. Not sure how much you enjoy aldehydic florals, but if you’re a die-hard fan, I agree with Suzanna–definitely give it a sniff. But paying for an expensive sample is probably not worth it, especially if you already know Chanel No 5, Arpege, Caleche, etc. August 21, 2012 at 1:44pm Reply

          • Austenfan: Yes, you were one of the people who reviewed it, and I think Octavian was another. I do rather like aldehydic florals, but as I said before this one just doesn’t seem worth the hassle.
            I need to try Arpège, have never smelled it.

            The Lutens I am familiar with, not one of my favourites from his line. August 21, 2012 at 4:08pm Reply

            • Victoria: Arpege is totally worth the hassle for me! Reformulated or not, it’s a beautiful fragrance.

              By the way, I read on Gaia’s The-Non Blonde about the Elements showcase, and it sounds like there *might* be relaunches of various Jean Patou fragrances now that the house has the new ownership. If so, I personally would vote for Moment Supreme and Caline. Caline has such a cool aldehydic top and the most refined green chypre body. Our discussion of aldehydes reminded me of it. August 21, 2012 at 4:19pm Reply

              • Austenfan: Thanks for the tip! August 21, 2012 at 4:36pm Reply

                • Suzanna: I’m with V. on Arpege. I keep a slightly older bottle around-it is one of the hallmark aldehyde frags.

                  I have never tried most of the Patous, so that’s interesting news! August 21, 2012 at 5:36pm Reply

        • Suzanna: I forget that some folks cannot access things easily, even though I would not be able to sniff it easily either!

          You do need to try this new Houbigant. August 21, 2012 at 5:34pm Reply

  • Lisa: Hmm … this fragrance might work for my orange flower-loving mother. I gave her Serge Lutens Fleurs d’Oranger for Christmas a couple of years ago, and oddly, she’s barely used it. I can only assume that she finds something about it off-putting it, and perhaps it is that jellied note that you write about. Orange flower is my mom’s note of choice — although I do love it as well, I just make myself wear it. August 21, 2012 at 3:06pm Reply

    • Suzanna: Lisa, the Lutens can be pretty opaque. The new Houbigant is not, and the spice is different and not so “sweaty.” August 21, 2012 at 5:37pm Reply

  • Amer: Strange. The descpription for this reminds me of Bois d’Orange from Roger and Gallet (a nightmarish and overpriced drugstore scrubber btw). The ad is not what I would expect to correspond to a high end product. Bad photoshopping, old fashioned concept and the blossoms in the picture are not even orange blossoms!!! As for the bottle, I hate it when spray bottles have plastic caps that try to mimic glass stoppers. I have no idea about the contents but provided there is some detectable orange blossom absolute in there I would be happy to put up with any kind of musk in the drydown. Nutmeg and orange blossom seemed like a natural match to me since forever. I’d give it a try if I ever saw it on a shelf August 22, 2012 at 4:12am Reply

    • Suzanna: Amer, I liked the scent and I’m wearing it. I’ve really enjoyed it, and I do not know the “scrubber” you mention.

      I agree that plastic caps are not the best presentation. August 22, 2012 at 10:10am Reply

      • Amer: This might be one of those very very VEEEERYYYY rare cases where the actual contents exceed the expectations set by ad, packaging and brand name! Besides, you can never have too many orange blossom perfumes————————————————————- August 24, 2012 at 8:28pm Reply

        • Suzanna: I think it is, Amer. And I agree about never having too many OB perfumes. I am waiting on Seville l’Aube, too! August 24, 2012 at 11:59pm Reply

  • Ariadne: I must admit I don’t pay as much attention to the original perfume bottles as I should. They are a huge part of the experience for sure.
    I do have a habit of filling travel spritzers, one for each of my big bottles of perfume, and always have something in my purse ready to spray. Each travel atomizer is the color I associate with the perfume inside. August 22, 2012 at 2:46pm Reply

    • Suzanna: That’s a fun way to make up your purse sprays, Ariadne!

      I do think that bottles should reflect the price of the perfume/object. I am disappointed in the plastic cap of this new Houbigant. August 22, 2012 at 4:01pm Reply

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