Balenciaga Florabotanica : Perfume Review

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Wishing that all of my US friends stay safe, dry and prepared as the storm approaches! I’m keeping my fingers crossed that everything will be ok. I’m thinking about you!

Florabotanica is a good illustration of where most big brands, even those that start out with good intentions, end up as they chase market success. The first launch by Balenciaga, Balenciaga Paris, was a transparent violet leaf composition that wouldn’t be out of place in the L’Artisan Parfumeur collection. Not surprisingly, it didn’t take off that well. People need time to appreciate something unfamiliar, and the only way to do this is to support the brand and spend resources on educating the staff. In other words, you need time, money, and some new marketing tactics, all of which are in short supply at most fragrance houses today.

So, after the perfunctory flanker to Balenciaga Paris, L’Essence, we  have Florabotanica. It was composed by perfumers Olivier Polge (who also created Balenciaga Paris) and Jean-Christophe Hérault. The inspiration behind Florabotanica is described by Balenciaga as “not just a pretty flower, but a pretty dangerous flower.” This time Balenciaga took no risks. If you find transparent roses dangerous, then yes, I suppose that Florabotanica is right on the mark. I found it just pretty and meek.

The start is fresh and green, with a fizzy minty note. The sheer rose is the main element of Florabotanica. When I say rose, I don’t mean the honeyed, spicy scent of a blooming flower, but rather the sheer effect that passes for rose in today’s perfumes. If you are familiar with Cartier de Lune or Jo Malone Peony & Moss, you might know that radiant, fresh rose already. In Florabotanica, it’s blended with lemony jasmine and fruity peony, so the rose impression is even more abstract.

The drydown of musk and woods is crisp and mild, with the dry amber adding its clean, polished accent. There is nothing unconventional or remotely dangerous about Florabotanica, and while it’s easy to wear and easy to like, it has very little character. I agree with Robin’s review that it’s one of those inoffensive, innocuous perfumes that aren’t likely inspire strong emotions. If I were in the market for a radiant, sheer floral, I would rather wear Estée Lauder Pleasures or Tommy Girl for something with a bit more zest. Or reach for Stella McCartney Stella, if I craved a sheer, crunchy rose. Finally, for a unmistakably dangerous floral, I would turn to either Serge Lutens Tubéreuse Criminelle or Robert Piguet Fracas and truly feel like a femme fatale.

The bottle is the only element of the whole thing that’s distinctive. When I held that heavy rose tinted cube in my hand, I felt even more disappointed that the perfume turned out to be so tame and bland.

Balenciaga Florabotanica includes notes of green leaves, hemp, carnation, mint, rose, vetiver, and amber. Available from Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom and other major retailers.

Sample: my own acquisition

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53 Comments

  • Rachel: My thoughts exactly. The bottle was cute, the perfume was boring. I was curious about Cartier de Lune that you mentioned in your review, I should look for a sample. October 29, 2012 at 8:48am Reply

    • Jenna: Rachel, Lune is my favourite from Cartier. It’s a lovely rose with a whisper of green. I feel like Audrey Hepburn whenever I wear it. It’s that elegant and beautiful. October 29, 2012 at 9:56am Reply

      • Rachel: Thank you, Jenna! It’s a must-smell then. October 29, 2012 at 10:38am Reply

      • Victoria: What a tempting description, Jenna! :) October 29, 2012 at 10:49am Reply

    • Victoria: I already felt that it might be disappointing when I read that Balenciaga aimed for this release to be a top seller. Today it means only one thing–safe and commercial.

      Cartier de Lune is worth visiting! It’s delicate and pretty. October 29, 2012 at 10:49am Reply

  • Barbara: Hi V, how are you? I keep reading about the storm in NYC and it sounds scary. Hope that everything is well with you and your family. October 29, 2012 at 9:30am Reply

    • Barbara: Duh! The second I posted I remembered that you are in Brussels now. Anyway, hope that everyone takes care and stays safe.

      Everything I read about Florabotanica makes me think I can skip it. I don’t like the bottle though. Is it really that much better in person? October 29, 2012 at 9:33am Reply

      • Jenna: Me too! I hope that everyone’s safe and warm. The news here in the UK make it sound frightening. October 29, 2012 at 10:08am Reply

      • Victoria: It is! I also thought that it looked incredibly tacky in the photos, but in person it’s so much fun. And the attention to detail is impressive (wish I could say the same about the perfume). October 29, 2012 at 10:53am Reply

    • Victoria: Yes, we’re on the other side of the ocean now, but I appreciate your thoughts, Barbara. I still have lots of family and friends on the US East Coast (NY area). October 29, 2012 at 10:50am Reply

  • Marika: And it sounded so promising on paper. :( October 29, 2012 at 10:30am Reply

    • Victoria: It did! I loved the idea of a minty carnation. October 29, 2012 at 10:53am Reply

  • Annikky: What a pity. I am kind of used/resigned to the fact that mainstream releases are… well, very mainstream. But as an admirerer of Balenciaga’s innovative fashions, it is really dissapointing that the fragrance does not reflect the DNA of the house at all. I have the same problem with Givenchy.

    As Florabotanica is not yet available in Estonia, I went and spritzed myself with some Paris (I remembered that I liked it well enough, but that was it). A pretty little thing, but too tame for what I think a Balenciaga fragrance should smell like. October 29, 2012 at 10:36am Reply

    • Victoria: Paris is so much more dramatic by comparison, and since it’s probably a stretch to call it dramatic, you might know how tame Florabotanica turned out to be.

      I also find it disappointing for that same reason. I admire Balenciaga’s fashion aesthetic for its mixture of bold and elegant, and I find none of it in the perfume. October 29, 2012 at 10:56am Reply

  • maggiecat: I found it both boring and loud, the kind of scent doesn’t quite know when to fade quietly and leave. It’s not awful, but that doesn’t mean I want it around for hours. October 29, 2012 at 1:22pm Reply

    • Victoria: Yes, I agree! It has that kind of relentless, persistent scent that seems light at first. After a while, you just can’t wait for it to quiet down. October 29, 2012 at 2:14pm Reply

    • annemariec: That’s well put. EL’s Pleasures, which Victoria mentions in her review, can behave like that if applied too heavily. Not that I find Pleasures boring; I like it very much in the spring and early summer. But a mini is all I need. It would take me aeons to get through a FB! October 29, 2012 at 10:38pm Reply

      • Victoria: I have just a decant of Pleasures right now (my bottle has gone off at last), and that’s all I need. With light application, it’s such a fantastic fragrance. October 30, 2012 at 6:49am Reply

  • Eric: I have no interest in Florabotanica, but I enjoyed reading how Balenciaga ended up there. As if we needed another safe&boring perfume. October 29, 2012 at 4:19pm Reply

    • Victoria: Yes, there are more than enough of those! October 29, 2012 at 6:21pm Reply

  • Liz K: Had is thrust upon me yesterday at NM by a SA who thought “young ladies” should wear light florals and refused to show me anything else. I was looking for a replacement for Kingdom and this was the “dangerous new scent” she was convinced I would love. I didn’t think it was too bad, just uninteresting but my husband asked if I was wearing multiple samples and rolled down the window when we got in the car.

    PS. I usually lurk and don’t comment but I do enjoy your blog very much and couldn’t resist as I had such a recent experience with this one. October 29, 2012 at 5:08pm Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you for stopping by and commenting, Liz! Sounds like we agree. I also didn’t think that it was awful, but it was just so unexciting and forgettable.

      They are doing a big promotion at the stores here too, and it’s almost impossible to avoid it. October 29, 2012 at 6:23pm Reply

    • L.: LOL! Even tho I like Florabotanica I would never ever think of it as a replacement for Kingdom. How odd! SAs should be trained around the scent and not around the ad copy. October 30, 2012 at 4:10pm Reply

  • sara: Pretty roses don’t sound dangerous to me either. I’m with you on wearing Fracas or Tubereuse Criminelle to feel like a femme fatale! October 29, 2012 at 6:11pm Reply

    • Victoria: There are so many truly memorable, exciting florals out there. Another one I forgot to mention is Caron Narcisse Noir. Or even Tom Ford Black Orchid. October 29, 2012 at 6:25pm Reply

  • allgirlmafia: V, you’ve actually piqued my interest to the initial Paris fragrance. Thanks to your recent recommendation of Violet Blonde (I’d like to shake your hand for that by the way) I’ve come to realize violet is my new fragrance focus. Balenciaga Violet sounds like just enough character and just enough understatement to be of interest. October 29, 2012 at 9:00pm Reply

    • Victoria: Yay! I’m glad that Violet Blonde worked out for you. Paris will hit the spot too then. It’s very delicate and elegant–violet leaf, violet flowers, soft woods and dry amber. Very nice. October 30, 2012 at 6:48am Reply

    • L.: Paris smells like the middle section of Tom Ford Violet Blonde so you may like it. October 30, 2012 at 4:05pm Reply

  • Ari: Okay, this is going to sound really bad, but when I’ve run out of nail polish remover, I use not-particularly-beloved perfume samples instead. Florabotanica removed my most recent pedicure. It’s pretty, and pretty boring. October 29, 2012 at 11:50pm Reply

    • Lindaloo: Excellent idea Ari. Prettiest nail polish bottle ever. And you could leave it on the dresser or in the bathroom and not care if it turned and developed acetone notes ;-) October 30, 2012 at 1:01am Reply

    • Victoria: :) Sounds practical to me! October 30, 2012 at 6:50am Reply

  • L.: I felt like Paris was much safer than Florabotanica! – how is a transparent violet leaf composition so much more “unfamiliar” than a transparent rose-vetiver? As I understand it, Paris has become from the perspective of Balenciaga a cult fragrance embraced by an older age demographic than for whom it was intended. It’s something you can safely buy for your mom or anyone else’s mom, or a sister in law who isn’t really into perfume, I kind of mentally file it next to Private Collection Jasmine White Moss. And while I think it’s nice, Paris does bore me.

    The “risk” in Florabotanica takes the form of a vegetal hemp note that sits in the middle of this composition, it’s sour, vegetal, not really pretty at all but it’s a strong part of this imaginary flower’s personality. I got from Florabotanca a transparent but quite interesting rose/vetiver combo nowhere near the sheer peony dreck that passes for rose in Jo Malone or other IFF babies. I hate Stella but found Florabotanica’s rose appealing – it wasn’t sour lemon like Chloe L’Eau with it’s 25% rose water or whatevs, it wasn’t powdery like a soap, it also wasn’t dayglo damascones like Broadway Nite. It avoids those “modern rose” pitfalls, and has sillage that approaches Mugler’s Alien. Be assured it is a “transparent” floral with a mind toward modern synthetic accords, but it is also very well handled and has a recognizable signature. I’d definitely wear it out, applied liberally, and I would definitely recommend anyone who thought it sounded interesting to try it for themselves in spite of this thoughtful review (with which I thoughtfully disagree!). October 30, 2012 at 4:08pm Reply

    • Victoria: Feel free to disagree anytime, and yes, others should give it a try. Your mileage may vary, as they say.

      To answer your question about the violet leaf being unfamiliar, well, that’s just how the market preferences are shaped (in the US especially.) Green notes traditionally don’t do well here, and green violets in feminine perfumes are few and far between. I bet Florabotanica with its more acceptable floral character will do quite well. October 30, 2012 at 4:31pm Reply

  • hajusuuri: I actually like how Florabotanica smells on paper and will be trying it on me soon. The 50mL bottle is just twee and I may just get it for the cuteness factor alone :-) October 30, 2012 at 11:27pm Reply

    • Victoria: The 50ml bottles are so adorable! I didn’t like the print ad, but when I saw the bottles in person I found them irresistible. I would love to hear how Florabotanica works out for you in the end. October 31, 2012 at 1:10pm Reply

      • hajusuuri: I’m glad I did not buy an FB (but that bottle is truly darn cute). I tried it today and it was OH NO WAY, just NO! — not even to remove nail polish. It smelled like how I would smell if I did not fully wash off a strong shampoo. I waited until end of day today to try it (knowing I will shower it off) and that was my best decision. I so disliked the scent that I sprayed on SSS Incense Pure and so right now I am in heaven. October 31, 2012 at 10:18pm Reply

        • Victoria: Funny you mention shampoo, because when I was testing Florabotanica, my husband kept asking me if I spilled shampoo someplace in the living room. It turned out to be my perfume. It has that sharp edge that I also associate with soaps or shampoos. Oh well, I’m sure we can find another sheer rose that will suit us better. November 1, 2012 at 5:28am Reply

  • bluegardenia: I agree so much. It’s pretty and mild, but to call this ‘dangerous’ is laughable. Reminds me of the way Tom Ford talked about his new florals as being able to ‘ruin you’ – they sounded so exciting (similar to Tubereuse Criminelle and Fracas) and turned out to be nice but nothing special. Is marketing something as the exact opposite of what it actually is the new strategy? October 31, 2012 at 2:40am Reply

    • Victoria: Maybe they are banking on the power of suggestion, and then isn’t the idea of danger (even in the form of perfume) so appealing? :) October 31, 2012 at 1:12pm Reply

      • bluegardenia: It’s true, ‘danger’ is much sexier and more exciting than ‘cleanliness’ or ‘mass appeal’ ! November 1, 2012 at 7:00am Reply

  • Daisy: I didn’t like the print ad either! I thought Kristen Stewart was so distracting. The unwashed hair? The vacant expression? And I’m far from someone who would ever advocate this, but she needs a spray tan!

    Which is why I was so surprised how cute I found the bottle in person. Really quirky. Pity the fragrance was unmemorable. November 2, 2012 at 4:47pm Reply

    • Anne: Spraytan? Really? December 23, 2012 at 2:27pm Reply

  • hey: To me its like a soap smell that i would rinse my hands very carefully to get rid of November 23, 2012 at 5:30pm Reply

  • Sam: I am not in Florabotanica’s targeted younger age group but I tried it and loved it. From the reviews I knew it was not going to be a sweet and fruity scent which is what you usually get if it aims for the younger crowd. Florabotanica is quite grown up, clean and bit green. For me it started a bit strong and the mint and carnation hit me but it dried out nicely wherein you can appreciate the subtle rose and vetiver notes. On me it lasted all day. I loved it. December 2, 2012 at 6:22pm Reply

  • Anne: While I definitely don’t think it was dangerous either, I don’t like the stronger fragrances. I love Florabotanica. Even a month after purchase, it remains my favorite. Love, love, love! December 23, 2012 at 2:29pm Reply

  • Jenny Stewart: I had to buy this after smelling it on my sister as it smells exactly like something I wore in the late 80’s!! I’ve worn it every day in the hope that the name of whatever it was will come back to me and I have come to love it just for the trip back in time to my teenage years its given me – but any help ladies in identifying what it resembles would be greatly appreciated and it couldn’t have been something too expensive as I didn’t do expensive perfumes as a teenager! January 7, 2013 at 10:04am Reply

  • jasmin et violette: to me florabotanica is a shoot of minty roses with whispers of geranium and a little musky as it settles down. it’s not breathtaking but it’s well crafted and for a mainstream launch, i find it quite refreshing and unique. do you know other perfumes containing that nice minty note?? March 17, 2013 at 9:11am Reply

  • Liz: I like it. I definitely prefer it to Pleasures. For me it lacks depth to make it truly satisfying but I don’t usually like florals and I liked the pureness of this one. June 29, 2013 at 5:10pm Reply

    • Victoria: True, it’s not badly done at all, quite on the contrary. June 30, 2013 at 8:11am Reply

  • Adriana Galani: Had received a sample of this one while shopping one more “Coco” yesterday in a Douglas store. The shop assistant offered it to me in so much delight it was impossible to refuse it. And o yeah, she made me spray a little on my wrist as well. At first sniff, one word came to me “Air”, I needed air and a good inhale of coffee powder to keep it off. Maybe You could offer a nice trick to get rid of unwanted fragrances on our wrists, as the shop assistants got so kind and pushy lately, one falls into testing dizzying stuff sometime really! January 16, 2014 at 3:01am Reply

  • Lauren: I agree that Florabotanica is pretty yet boring, but the flanker, Rosabotanica is a huge improvement. If Florabotanica smells like flowers, Rosabotanica smells like standing in a garden full of the last bloom of flowers before winter while you sip a spicy tea. February 27, 2014 at 10:44am Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you, Lauren. Elisa, one of Bois de Jasmin writers, just tried it, and she really liked it. February 27, 2014 at 12:22pm Reply

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