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