Building Perfume Wardrobe Guide Part 2 : Jasmine and White Florals

Part 1: Florals ~ Rose
Part 3: Florals ~ Lily of the Valley and Violet
Part 4: Florals ~ Blends
Part 5: Essentials
Part 6: Orientals

It is easy to get overwhelmed by the sheer number of floral variations. This need not be the case. Once you know what rose, jasmine, violet and lily of the valley smell like, you already know a fair bit and have a nice foundation to continue with your fragrance explorations. Almost everything else would stem from these notes.


In continuing my guide on building a perfume wardrobe, I will resume the discussion of floral fragrances, with the focus today being on jasmine. In marketing descriptions, jasmine, orange blossom, gardenia and tuberose are called white florals, which is a vague and confusing term. Rose, carnation and lilac can also be white. What unites the flowers in my group today is their jasmine character of apricot jam, banana peel and an inky touch of indole. The jasmine group also offers the most examples of prominent floral notes used in masculine perfumery.

Brief explanation: I will indicate the major floral notes (in bold font) with which a fragrance lover should be familiar. The underlined floral notes are related to the major note, and they can be explored after one becomes familiar with the latter.


Jasmine has an appealing combination of fruity brightness and velvety softness. Its ability to evoke the sensation of silky flower petals makes it an alluring note that can be easily played up to be sensual and dark. Even the most delicate and innocent jasmine compositions have a seductive streak. Most feminine fragrances include a jasmine effect in some way. Guerlain classics like L’Heure Bleue, Mitsouko and Samsara are impossible to imagine without it. The beautiful green jasmine note is very prominent in Jean Patou Joy, particularly the EDT. Christian Dior J’Adore Le Jasmin and Donna Karan Jasmine Essence  treat it in a luminous, bright manner. Serge Lutens A La Nuit is a jasmine gold standard. It presents jasmine as endless layers of lush petals. For a darker and warmer interpretation, I would recommend Annick Goutal Songes and Parfums de Nicolaï Number One. Serge Lutens Sarrasins is an excellent jasmine, in which the dark, animalic notes are emphasized at the expense of the light, fruity ones.

The jasmine touch can be noticed in such excellent masculine fragrances as Christian Dior Eau Sauvage and Arsène Lupin Dandy (most Guerlain masculines have a distinctive floral chord.)

Must-know classic: Jean Patou Joy, Van Cleef & Arpels First, Christian Dior Eau Sauvage, Christian Dior J’Adore (a blend of floral notes, but the jasmine effects in it are beautiful; they are even more pronounced in the new version.)

Orange Blossom

On orange blossom vs neroli

The duality of orange blossom makes it exciting. It pairs a fresh, zesty top with a dark animalic undercurrent. Like jasmine, it is another important note in modern perfumery, allowing for a remarkable diversity of compositions. It dominates exhilarating colognes like Annick Goutal Néroli, Jo Malone Orange Blossom Cologne and Lancôme Ô. In Bobbi Brown Beach, it is transformed into a sweet accord, evoking the lazy days of summer. Moving into the dark, richer spectrum of orange blossom, I have to mention the classical floral oriental genre that is based on this note. Guerlain L’Heure Bleue and Oscar de la Renta Oscar are classical takes, while Serge Lutens Fleurs d’Oranger and Hermès 24 Faubourg are more modern.

Orange blossom and neroli are indispensable in masculine perfumery, whether in fresh blends like Penhaligon’s Sartorial and Chanel Pour Monsieur or in rich orientals similar to Jean Paul Gaultier Le Male and Dolce & Gabbana The One for Men.

Must-know classic: Caron Narcisse Noir, Guerlain L’Heure BleueLancôme Ô


The creamy coconut notes lend tuberose a completely different character from other jasmine like notes. It also has a salty, animalic accent that makes it particularly sensual. When smelling tuberose, one’s impressions oscillate from warm skin to waxy petal. It has been a particularly popular note in the past few years, although Giorgio and Christian Dior Poison are perhaps the most famous examples of the 1980s love affair with voluptuous tuberose notes. Today, it is decidedly more toned down. Annick Goutal Gardenia Passion (yes, despite the name, it is a tuberose) and L’Artisan Parfumeur La Chasse Aux Papillons offer this floral note as bright and vibrant. Jean Paul Gaultier Fragile, Michael Kors Michael, Estée Lauder Private Collection Tuberose Gardenia and Thierry Mugler À Travers le Miroir are in the darker, headier realm. Serge Lutens Tubéreuse Criminelle is the darkest tuberose, liberally laced with shockingly strong wintergreen notes. The gold standards of tuberose for me are Robert Piguet Fracas and Frédéric Malle Carnal Flower, which fully showcase the full spectrum of sensations that this flower offers.

Must-know classic: Robert Piguet Fracas, Christian Dior Poison


A crisp green rhubarb note and a touch of peach give gardenia a playful character, which matches nicely with its sultry floral aura. Most fragrances on the market today that call themselves gardenia smell nothing at all like the flower, with the exception of the now discontinued Tom Ford Velvet Gardenia. Chanel Gardénia  is not my favorite, but many perfumers like Jean-Claude Ellena consider it to be an excellent representation. Estée Lauder Bronze Goddess has a well-crafted gardenia note, as does Kai. Marc Jacobs Perfume was an attempt to capture the smell of gardenias floating in water, and it succeeds by offering a dewy, transparent composition.

Must-know classic: Carven Ma Griffe

Tiaré, Frangipani, Plumeria

In perfumery, these notes are rendered as something between tuberose and gardenia, although true frangipani has a pronounced peach skin note. They are quite modern accords, and one of the best examples of the way these tropical, plush notes are used is Chanel Coco. Cacharel Loulou and Kenzo Amour set these heady florals into oriental incense and vanilla frames, respectively. Annick Goutal Un Matin d’Orage and Chantecaille Frangipane are elegant compositions in which the floral notes dominate.

Must-know classic: Chanel Coco and Cacharel Loulou (also these are must-know classics for the oriental family)

Besides the floral notes mentioned above, the jasmine-like white floral family also includes such interesting perfumery notes as ylang-ylang, magnolia, honeysuckle, and datura.

ExtraFavorite Big White Floral Perfumes

Photography by Bois de Jasmin



  • Andy: Another fascinating post—I love this series! November 18, 2011 at 6:32am Reply

  • Nikki: Your new article is very nice indeed. Love the photo…jasmine always reminds me of driving in taxt cabs in Egypt and buying fresh jasmine necklaces to be carried around or put up at the car mirror, swaying with the rhythm of the car.. I really love jasmine that way…however, I gave up on my Serge Lutens A La Nuit, just too much jasmine for me. I am surprised that First is an example as I smell other ingredients more than jasmine but it is probably because it is a part of the ensemble instead of standing alone. Tiare is wonderful, I like Monoi Tiare Oil for summmer skin. I love fresh Gardenias, there is nothing better than gardenias and I am still looking for a great soliflore Gardenia perfume. I will have to try Chanel’s Gardenia, thank you. O de Lancome has been one of my favorites for many years, I love the drydown, so sexy. Florals are wonderful but for me there are difficult to wear…I get a little suffocated by florals although I would love to wear a gardenia or scented carnation in my hair or have it in my car every day but on my skin it is a different thing. I bought Frederic Malle’s Carnal Flower yesterday and although I like it, it is not perfect for me. On the other hand Une Fleur de Csssie is one of my favorites, another floral. I wonder if somebody’s perception has to do with our ability to smell. Some people can’t smell cabbage, some smell it so much they can’t stand it. People smell scents but they don’t smell the same ingredients. There have been some studies about the ability to smell which I will have to read again…and I will try to spray Carnal Flower on my clothes or simply have to return it. November 18, 2011 at 9:27am Reply

  • Yulya: I love this series too and could not wait for the second instalment. But it is a dangerous read, my wish list is growing and growing… 🙂 First is one of my absolute favourites. I will probably always have a bottle. I have tried Chanel’s Gardenia. Is it too quiet or it is just me? But my husband loved it! November 18, 2011 at 12:12pm Reply

  • Victoria: Thank you very much, Andy! November 18, 2011 at 7:36am Reply

  • Nikki: I am so glad I am not the only First by Van Cleef lover…2 of my girlfriends used to wear First so I couldn’t as it was their fragrance. Times have changed and now I wear First in memory of these remarkable women. Right now First is so undervalued on e-bay, one can really get a big collection together… November 18, 2011 at 12:51pm Reply

  • Nikki: That is very interesting about the Grasse Jasmin. Really interesting how it is paired; I love Black Currant in all forms and shapes: Creme de Cassis is one of my favorite drinks…we used to preserve black currant fruit with sugar in Vodka, it was delicious! I would love to hear more about First from you one day as I am in love with it… November 18, 2011 at 12:53pm Reply

  • Dionne: Oooh, I was hoping you’d do jasmine next. I’ve got a pretty modest sampling budget, and in the last two years I’ve been focusing on incense, woods, iris and greens, so I haven’t smelled many BWFs yet. It was an impulsive spraying of Jennifer Aniston in Sephora because of your review this summer, and my unexpected reaction of “oooh, that’s just pretty!” that made me want to explore the jasmine note.

    Related to that, I wanted to thank you for mentioning some even better fragrances whenever you review something you just feel is just OK. It can be frustrating as a relative newbie to read a review that says “oh, this is banal and smells like a bunch of others” without mentioning what the others are, or what a better alternative would be for those of us just starting. Because of your favorable mentioning of Odalisque in comparison to Jennifer Aniston, my December sampling is going to be some of the PdN line. November 18, 2011 at 1:00pm Reply

  • Lainie: I agree – this series is wonderful. Thank you! November 18, 2011 at 9:27am Reply

  • Style Spy: Just the title made me smile – I do love my white florals, the bigger & plusher, the better.

    I think VC&A First doesn’t get enough love, honestly. It’s such a gorgeous bouquet of a perfume. November 18, 2011 at 9:32am Reply

  • Victoria: Oh, very true–First is more than just jasmine, but most classics are hardly ever solinotes. The jasmine in it, however, is beautiful and a very important note in the fragrance structure. It is paired with black currant buds to evoke the currant like facets in jasmine from Grasse.

    Maybe, just keep a small sample of Carnal Flower on hand. Of course, we all perceive scents slightly differently, because our experiences and associations affect our perceptions. It is an interesting part, which is why I love reading comments to perfumes I discuss. Sometimes they help me see the fragrance differently. November 18, 2011 at 9:33am Reply

  • Victoria: You are welcome! Florals are so much more than prim little things. So, there is so much to discuss. November 18, 2011 at 9:34am Reply

  • Victoria: It really is amazing in terms of its complexity. Very elegant too! Glad to see that it has fans. November 18, 2011 at 9:35am Reply

  • Christa Pale: I LOVE this series. It is so incredibly helpful to me as a newbie and giving me so many lemming to seek out. Thank you! November 18, 2011 at 10:35am Reply

  • Tara: Thanks for another great article in this wonderful series. So enjoyable as well as educational!

    It makes me happy that you share my love of Sarrasins 🙂 November 18, 2011 at 3:39pm Reply

  • Elizabeth: My favorite orange blossom scent is the L’Artisan Oranger en Fleurs candle. Even the tiny votive size I have is amazingly diffusive, with a delicious, honeyed orange blossom scent. I wish their Fleur d’Oranger perfume were available again! November 18, 2011 at 4:31pm Reply

  • Tracy: First and Joy – two of my most fovorites from my early 20’s living in NY.

    Dont we have fun! November 18, 2011 at 11:38am Reply

  • behemot: Nikki! I am not sure if you remember, but we wanted to contact each other while discussing here wearing fragrances to work and to parties.
    Have you already moved to SF?
    I am planning to go there in March probably, so we can go perfume shopping together, if you still want to. You can email me at [email protected].
    By the way, I also love black currant and have problems with FM Carnal Flower which is, by the way, a beautiful fragrance. November 18, 2011 at 6:06pm Reply

  • kjanicki: I own and love Fracas and EL PC Tuberose Gardenia, but I find many Tuberose perfumes have a bubblegum note that I can’t stand, particularly in Vamp a NY and Micheal Kors.

    Nasomatto Narcotic Venus is another good tuberose though. November 18, 2011 at 2:03pm Reply

  • Nikki: How interesing! Thank you for the info, will send you e-mail. I have sprayed the Carnal Flower on my clothes instead and that is a little better. I bought black currant marmelade today…and red currant jam as well. I have not seen black currants sold in the States so far… November 18, 2011 at 8:26pm Reply

  • OperaFan: Another fan of First here! I still have about a 1/4 vial of the extrait sample I received the year after its initial release. When I open the cap to smell it, it still outshines most other fragrances I know. November 18, 2011 at 8:57pm Reply

  • OperaFan: Wonderful post, V – thanks for writing this as I’m a lover of all things floral. I’m also a jasmin Ho and Joy is firmly in my top 5. However, of all the jasmin fragrances I know, the perfume that most reminds me of the flowers that bloom on my potted jasmin plant is La Haie Fleurie, now sadly discontinued.
    Your mention of the frangipani in Coco is prompting me to go re-explore my early ’90s bottle of Coco edp and look for that note.

    Hugs! November 18, 2011 at 9:07pm Reply

  • OperaFan: Shhh… It’s a secret! November 18, 2011 at 9:09pm Reply

  • Erin T: Another great installment – thanks! Interesting about the frangipani in Coco – that could be why I love the peachy glow of that one so much. May I also suggest OJ frangipani as a beautiful representation? November 18, 2011 at 9:22pm Reply

  • Nikki: Oh that’s great Victoria! We have a Russian store here and if I can find those frozen currants, I will make your recipe and my grandparents’ recipe for “aufgesetzten Schnaps” the above mentioned Alcohol/Sugar/Black Currant delicious drink! Thank you for the suggestion…also had no idea how to sterilize with baking soda so am very grateful! Do you use your jam in tea to flavor and sweeten at times? I am in a total tea and samovar mood over here, as I just got an electric Samovar and love it! I also like Czar Nikolas Renaissance Tea… November 19, 2011 at 12:39am Reply

  • Victoria: Nikki, is there a Russian or Polish store where you live? They sell frozen currants, which you can use for jam. My favorite black currant jam is super simple: puree equal amount of currants and sugar together (say, 200g of each) and store in a sterilized jar in the fridge. It lasts well without spoiling (as long as you sterilize the jar well; I do so by washing it with baking soda and then baking it at 245 F till bone dry and hot.) November 18, 2011 at 8:33pm Reply

  • Victoria: Oh, that one is great! I agree, it is a fantastic tropical composition. Thank you for adding it, Erin. November 18, 2011 at 9:25pm Reply

  • Victoria: I eat jam with bread or crepes. Some people add it to tea, but I prefer my tea unsweetened.
    Where did you get your electric samovar? I have been looking for one for a while.

    To sterilize jars: I would recommend reading this:
    I bake mine in the oven, as I’ve described, but there are plenty of other methods. November 19, 2011 at 12:43pm Reply

  • Victoria: I’m very happy to hear this! Do let me know if there is something else you want to see. I am still in the midst of wrapping up the rest of the installments. November 19, 2011 at 12:44pm Reply

  • Victoria: We sure do! 🙂 November 19, 2011 at 12:44pm Reply

  • Victoria: I find it very quiet too, so no, it is not just you.

    Just try a few things at a time, to spread out the fun of the quest for some new discovery. 🙂 November 19, 2011 at 12:44pm Reply

  • Victoria: Dionne, thank you for this feedback! It is helpful to know.
    Of course, I am happy that I was able to introduce you to PdN. It is such an underrated and excellent line of fragrances. November 19, 2011 at 12:46pm Reply

  • Victoria: Narcotic Venus is so nicely done! I also like Nuda, their take on jasmine. November 19, 2011 at 12:46pm Reply

  • Victoria: I am wearing Sarrasins today. It is such a jasmine perfection. 🙂 November 19, 2011 at 12:47pm Reply

  • Victoria: I believe that they released it again this year, but I have not tried it since the first launch. It was a very good composition, but the price….
    The candle is fantastic though, I completely agree with you. I have a small votive, and it can perfume the entire apartment. November 19, 2011 at 12:48pm Reply

  • Victoria: I also loved that fragrance. It smelled both wonderfully nature-like and refined, elegant at the same time–a rare combination for such a heady blend. Too bad that it is gone. November 19, 2011 at 12:49pm Reply

  • behemot: Tthis sounds so good.. so I have to stop reading BDJ and go back to work. But I will return November 19, 2011 at 5:51pm Reply

  • sunsetsong: Informative and beautifully written. Can’t wait fot the next episode. Fascinated to find out that jasmine is a component of Eau Sauvage, a long time favourite, as I don’t do well with jasmine (or tuberose for that matter) Orange blossom is a different story, I love O and the recent O de l’Orangerie is in heavy rotation. November 19, 2011 at 5:56pm Reply

  • hongkongmom: Another article making my enjoyment of perfume more cerebral, thank you.
    I had posted on the article on “perfume talisman” but it seemed to have got lost! Could you please help me with differences between original feminte de bois and bois de violette? Have a great Sunday November 20, 2011 at 1:50am Reply

  • Bulldoggirl: What a wonderful way to enjoy my coffee on this Sunday morning!

    Have you read Tilar J. Mazzeo’s The Secret of Chanel No. 5? She writes about how jasmine was once considered the smell of the women who occupied the demi-monde, not at all for women or girls of “good” repute. Good thing we’ve come quite a way since then, both in attitude and composition.

    I’m an unashamed white flower girl–the bigger, the louder, the faster, the better :o) You mentioned many of my favorites, including the stunning Joy, which manages to be both luminous and dark, especially when it hits its rotted flower stems phase.

    But I think my favorite is one you didn’t mention, the underrated Ysatis (vintage—the current formulation is rather anemic), which is simply one of the most gorgeous meldings of jasmine, tuberose, coconut, and ylang ylang I’ve ever smelled. But perhaps it belongs more properly to the orientals . . . November 20, 2011 at 10:23am Reply

  • Victoria: Thank you!
    The jasmine note in Eau Sauvage is lemony and sheer, very different from the classical heady jasmine.
    Orange blossom is one of my favorite notes. It is so multifaceted and complex. November 20, 2011 at 1:13pm Reply

  • Victoria: Feminite du Bois is more woody than floral, while Bois de Violette has a distinctive violet character. It is sweeter, lighter, more luminous. FdB is really about the cedarwood. That’s the main difference to me. November 20, 2011 at 1:14pm Reply

  • Victoria: I have read it, and I remember that remark. I am glad that these stereotypes are not as pronounced, because I love jasmine and its other relatives. That being said, a French colleague working in fragrance marketing smelled L’Artisan La Chasse Aux Papillons on me (tuberose-jasmine-orange blossom) and remarked that a French woman would never have worn it. American or Italian women, on the other hand, love their heady flowers. And, for the record, he loved the perfume!

    You are right, Ysatis is a gem. The only reason I did not mention it is because I have not smelled the new version yet. I was afraid that it might be thin and wan. The original is not just beautiful, it is spellbinding. November 20, 2011 at 1:19pm Reply

  • hongkongmom: thank you. very helpful:-) howabout the difference between sables and the new l’occitane imortelle perfume? November 20, 2011 at 7:47pm Reply

  • Victoria: Oh, they are very different. Sables has a wonderful, rich woody note with a dark, herbal warmth. L'Occitane is a sweet, maple syrup like composition. Nice, but not very complex. November 20, 2011 at 9:49pm Reply

  • hongkongmom: thank you again! 🙂 November 21, 2011 at 3:59am Reply

  • Olga Bodnar Talyn: I adore my Fracas. I do love my First as well. Now does anyone remember Le Galion’s Jasmine? As far as gardenia goes, the Fragrance Shoppe on Nantucket has a soft gardenia oil that is an exact duplicate of the actual flower. November 21, 2011 at 10:24am Reply

  • Yulya: Dear Victoria,

    While re-reading this article, I sniffed again one of my absolute favourites from long ago – Poison. I own an esprit de parfum concentration and it seems very similar if not the same to the one from the 80s. I have not tried an EDT that is being sold now. Is it similar or I should not even try? December 4, 2011 at 5:43pm Reply

  • Victoria: The EDT is thinner, but I like it. Of course, my first experience with Opium was the parfum and the Esprit de Parfum, and the EDT is not quite the same after these two bombshells. Still, it is very pretty. December 4, 2011 at 5:51pm Reply

  • Annia: Hi Victoria,
    I don’t know if these comments are closed but I hope that you read this. I loved the original Carolina Herrera fragrance,I wanted it to be my signature scent but the formula has been changed. If you know it, can you tell me what makes it so distinctive? Wisteria, perhaps? Can you tell me another perfume that is similar? December 20, 2011 at 11:40pm Reply

  • Victoria: Annia, the beauty of the original Carolina Herrera perfume was the combination of lush tuberose with the sparkling, citrusy-floral accord. And then you have the sultry mossy-animalic drydown, which makes the whole both elegant and seductive. It is difficult to recommend something that it is identical, because this style of fragrances is just not that commonly found today, but you should look for rich tuberose fragrances: even something like Estee Lauder Tuberose Gardenia, Jean Paul Gaultier Fragipe, L'Artisan Nuit  de Tubereuse, Frederic Malle Carnal Flower, by Kilian Beyond Love.  December 21, 2011 at 3:42pm Reply

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