Olfactive Studio Flashback : Perfume Review


Olfactive Studio Flashback, a salty vetiver and rhubarb blend, is one of those rare fragrances that not only smell good but feel poignant. Olfactive Studio’s concept marries fragrances with visuals, and in the image that accompanies Flashback, a frame from a video shot by Laurent Segretier of his long-distance girlfriend, you see very few details–the delicate tilt of a girl’s head and a thick fringe framing the face. This photograph was the brief to perfumer Olivier Cresp, who tapped into his childhood memories to create Flashback. For my part, when I smell Flashback, I’m reminded of collecting shells along the beach and helping my grandmother make rhubarb jelly.

Laurent Segretier

While childhood memories are often saccharine, there is nothing cloying or precious about Flashback. When I was collecting notes for my article about salty perfumes, it quickly turned out to be one of the best recent examples of salty vetivers. It’s also polished and elegant, suited for both men and women.

Vetiver root oil has a natural salty facet, and the perfumer’s sleight of hand enhances the illusion of salt crystals which you can almost taste as you smell Flashback.  The idea was to capture the scent of rhubarb pie, Cresp’s childhood memory, in a perfume bottle, and the perfumer achieved this by combining the tart, crunchy rhubarb with vetiver and buttery apples.

To believe it all smells salty and gauzy, you probably need to try Flashback for yourself, but the crunch of salt flakes is unmistakable straight from the top notes.  The milky hazelnut and wet pencil shavings–the first clue that vetiver is at the core of Flashback–is the first impression, and then you notice the sweet orange and rhubarb. The rhubarb is acidic enough to push the perfume further into the salty and sour direction, and when you finally notice the apple, it continues to tone down the sweetness. A hint of pepper gives Flashback a sparkle and savory aftertaste.

The suave drydown of amber and vetiver lingers for hours. Flashback is earthy and cool in its late stage, but thanks to the creamy, fluffy layers of musk, it feels cozy. It has excellent tenacity, but it’s not a loud, dramatic perfume. If you enjoyed fragrances like The Different Company’s Sel de VétiverLalique’s Encre Noire, or Hermès Vétiver Tonkait’s a worthy contender. Also, Flashback reminds me of Aedes de Venustas Eau de Parfum, another rhubarb spiked vetiver, but Olfactive Studio’s take is softer, gentler and easier to wear.

flashback bottle

Olfactive Studio Flashback includes notes of rhubarb, grapefruit, orange, pink pepper, Granny Smith apple, vetiver, cedar, amber, and musk. 50ml/$145, 100ml/$195. Available at Luckyscent, Olfactive Studio, Aedes de Venustas, Bergdorf Goodman.

Top image by Laurent Segretier.

Sample: Olfactive Studio



  • Anne of Green Gables: Thanks for the beautiful reivew, Victoria. It fits in so well from the theme of salty perfumes. I find Olfactive Studio as a brand really compelling. I find their concept unique and I love their presentation (bottle, handwritten font etc.). As I mentioned before, I fell in love with Lumière Blanche and your description of salty, acidic Flashback has really captured my heart. I think it’s about time to get a discovery set. Your review has had another effect on me – I’m craving rhubarb apple crumble with custard or vanilla ice cream. October 23, 2013 at 7:50am Reply

    • Victoria: Now that you’ve mentioned the apple rhubarb crumble with custard, I really want some too. 🙂

      I very much like Olfactive Studio overall. Lumiere Blanche is my favorite out of the collection. At first, I didn’t think much of Flashback, since it’s a fairly understated fragrance. But the more I wore it, the more I liked it. I can’t resist many vetiver fragrances, but this one offers something that my other favorites don’t have. The contrast between vetiver and fruit is delicious. October 23, 2013 at 8:29am Reply

      • Anne of Green Gables: I bought the discovery set yesterday as a late birthday gift for myself. I’m wearing Flashback now and I find it really interesting. The first blast was so tangy and crisp that I felt like biting into a Granny Smith apple, which happens to be one of my favourite varieties. Then I immediately noticed the “crunch of salt flakes” you described. What a genius idea to marry rhubarb with vetiver! When I feel that vetiver starts to dominate, suddenly I notice the sour rhubarb pulling it in another direction. I’m usually not a big fan of fruity perfumes but this perfume is fruity in a very unusual way – not so sweet and savoury. The pepper note really intensifies the savoury aspect of the perfume. It’s also nice that the perfume is wearable and I would recommend it to someone who find usual vetiver fragrances too masculine and aftershave-like. October 24, 2013 at 7:14am Reply

        • Victoria: Thank you for this beautiful description, Anne. I agree with you that the balance between fruit and vetiver is interesting. Vetiver has this natural grapefruit-like facet, so there are many vetiver perfumes that pull it out by loading on citrus. Aedes de Venustas made me realize how delicious rhubarb can be instead, and now, Flashback gives it a further twist with apples. I’m a fan. October 24, 2013 at 8:59am Reply

  • Masha: Now the illustration makes sense! Thanks for the background on that. I have a question– how can one achieve a “salty” note in a perfume. After all, salt itself has little or no odor, but we all know what “salty” smells like. What aromachemicals are commonly used for a salty note? October 23, 2013 at 8:35am Reply

    • Victoria: I was confused by it, to tell you the truth, until I read the explanation behind the image–that the girl was the photographer’s long distance girlfriend and they communicated via the video calls.

      As for the salty notes, I published this post just a couple of days ago:
      Of course, I’m happy to answer any other questions. The post was getting long anyway, but I could have discussed it further. October 23, 2013 at 8:46am Reply

      • sara: i still don’t get it. why is it so blurry? October 23, 2013 at 9:33am Reply

        • Victoria: 🙂 I don’t think I can explain it, but you can take a look at the photographer’s website, segretier.com. He seems to use a lot of different effects, and many of his images have this pixelated, blurry quality. October 23, 2013 at 3:22pm Reply

      • Masha: Thank you for the reminder, I’ll be reading your article today. I’ve been busy with an intensive class and hadn’t tuned into BdJ for a little while, so I missed it! October 23, 2013 at 10:35am Reply

        • Victoria: I realized that in the post I didn’t mention marine notes in too many details (like Calone and others in this category). They also can give a salty illusion. October 23, 2013 at 3:30pm Reply

  • sara: i liked it very much. but not as much as frederic malle’s vetiver. October 23, 2013 at 9:27am Reply

    • Victoria: Frederic Malle’s Vetiver Extraordinary suits its name perfectly. It’s another vetiver unlike any other, so dark, chocolaty, rich. October 23, 2013 at 3:14pm Reply

  • rainboweyes: I love rhubarb crumble (with marzipan crumbles and vanilla sauce, yum!), I love Olfactive Studio’s Lumiere Blanche (I’m wearing it now, actually) and I love Aedes de Venustas a lot …but somehow I don’t get Flashback :(.
    I’ve never perceived it as a salty scent, though. I think I have to revisit it when I’m back home. October 23, 2013 at 9:48am Reply

    • Victoria: Marzipan crumble with rhubarb sounds so delicious. I usually make mine with rolled oats and flaked almonds or walnuts, but adding marzipan would be even more interesting. I’ll have to try it.

      Flashback grew on me over time. At first, it seemed too simple, too much of a cologne, but it’s a pleasure to wear it. Also, it makes me feel cozy, probably because of that childhood rhubarb jelly recollection. October 23, 2013 at 3:26pm Reply

  • Anthony: Encre Noire is the best vetiver for me. No competition. I would love to read your thoughts on it. If Flashback is anything like it, I need to try it. October 23, 2013 at 10:37am Reply

    • Victoria: It’s not really like it, since Flashback is a fruity vetiver cologne and Encre Noire is darker, warmer, richer. But if you like vetiver and enjoy it in a bright, sparkling guise, Flashback is a great option. On the other hand, if you like your vetiver rooty, green, earthy, then it’s probably too much of a lightweight. October 23, 2013 at 3:31pm Reply

      • Anthony: Thank you for replying. I’m still curious to give it a sniff. I was concerned it might be too sweet because of fruit. October 23, 2013 at 4:00pm Reply

        • Victoria: Not really! Rhubarb is very tart, and the apple is a crisp, green kind.

          By the way, have you tried KenzoAir? It’s another excellent fresh vetiver. October 23, 2013 at 4:05pm Reply

          • Anthony: No, I haven’t. I wore Guerlain Vetiver for many years and I decided to try something else after it’s been reformulated. October 23, 2013 at 5:47pm Reply

            • Victoria: You might also try Christian Dior Vetiver (from the Private Label collection). It’s very close to Guerlain’s Vetiver and may even be closer to the original than Guerlain itself. October 24, 2013 at 9:06am Reply

  • Erin T: I’ve avoided this one, even though the notes sound great, because I thought it might be too similar to Aedes de Venustas EdP, which I already own and find quite wearable, vivid as it may be. Rhubarb, vetiver, hazelnuts – sounds like pretty much the same scent! None of the Olfactive Studio scent I’ve tried have struck me as original enough to interest me, to be honest, so maybe the note list just confirmed my impression of the line. Bah humbug. 😉 October 23, 2013 at 10:49am Reply

    • Victoria: Oh well, money saved, I say!
      For me Aedes de Venustas too sharp. I enjoy smelling it on a blotter, but the pungent, acid note feels jarring when I wear it myself. It smells great on my husband, though. As for Flashback, please don’t judge it based on the notes alone. It’s really well-crafted, nuanced and interprets apple and vetiver in such a clever way. But it’s probably better to think of it as cologne, since it wears like one–a light, sparkling veil of scent. October 23, 2013 at 3:37pm Reply

      • Carolina: I’m loving Aedes de Venustas Iris Nasarena but the price is outrageous. I don’t even want to try their other perfume or I’ll have two lemmings instead of just one. ;0 October 23, 2013 at 5:55pm Reply

        • Victoria: They sure are pricey! October 24, 2013 at 9:05am Reply

  • Maria: I’m waiting for samples of Olfactive Studio’s first 4 scents. Flashback isn’t one of them but reading now that it’s similar to Aedes perfume makes me feel better. I don’t know what note is responsible that Aedes EDP smelled sweaty on me. October 23, 2013 at 11:17am Reply

    • Victoria: Hmm, I’m not sure. Maybe, the sour fruity note? October 23, 2013 at 3:38pm Reply

  • Jay: I love the image! For some reason it makes me think of the subway scene in the Matrix though…

    Sometime last year I bought the 4-piece sample set from Olfactive Studio and enjoyed it very much, with my favorites being Chambre Noire and Lumiere Blanche (Still Life was the only dud for me… smelled exactly like lemon tea, with no complexity). I really must get around to trying this one as it’s been around for a while, and I’m not so acquainted with vetiver fragrances! October 23, 2013 at 11:39am Reply

    • Victoria: I don’t remember Still Life at all, which is never a good sign. My favorite is Lumiere Blanche and then Flashback in the second place. I keep meaning to revisit Chambre Noire, but in the summer, I was never in the mood for something like it. October 23, 2013 at 3:43pm Reply

  • Debbie: I’m interested. How would you rate it against Atelier Cologne’s Vetiver Fatal? October 23, 2013 at 11:52am Reply

    • Victoria: Vetiver Fatal is more of a straightforward vetiver to me (I keep thinking of it as vetiver steeped in tea), while Flashback is more multifaceted. It’s also a light scent, just like Vetiver Fatal. October 23, 2013 at 3:53pm Reply

  • Ann: I’m wearing Flashback right now, actually, and I’m trying to decide what I think about it. Your review is helpful to smell along. I like the apple and rhubarb part a lot. I expected Flashback to be more spicy based on the notes, but I don’t get much pepper. October 23, 2013 at 12:22pm Reply

    • Victoria: I notice it more right on top, but I agree that it’s not terribly fiery once it settles. Lalique’s Encre Noire smells more peppery, by contrast. October 23, 2013 at 3:55pm Reply

  • Rachel: I love vetiver. Every time I say to myself I have enough vetivers in my collection, I find another one. My most recent purchase was Etro’s. October 23, 2013 at 5:27pm Reply

    • Victoria: 🙂 I definitely can relate to this. I seem to have an insatiable appetite for vetiver and iris. I really love the cool, earthy, rooty scents.
      Etro Vetiver is excellent, and in my opinion, one of the better vetivers out there. October 24, 2013 at 9:11am Reply

  • Susan: Thank you for reviewing Flashback. I’m looking for a clean vetiver perfume for office. I like vetiver and woods – but not if they re dirty, like earthy. Flashback sounds like it might be just right. October 23, 2013 at 6:39pm Reply

    • KK: It hasn’t been mentioned yet but Diptyque’s Vetiveryo is a great vetiver cologne. If you want something clean: that’s the one. October 24, 2013 at 6:34am Reply

      • Victoria: I also like it very much for those days when one doesn’t want anything too complicated. October 24, 2013 at 8:59am Reply

    • Victoria: I’m a vetiver lover myself, so when I’m in a mood for something clean, I also like Prada Infusion de Vetiver and Annick Goutal Vetiver Cologne (not to be confused with the richer, heavier EDT, which has been discontinued). October 24, 2013 at 9:05am Reply

  • kathyb: I got a sample of Lumiere Blanche, Still Life, Chambre Noir and Flash back thanks to a generous swapper and I’m enjoying them. Only Still Life as someone already mentioned is a dud. Lumiere Blanche is lovely but I can’t smell it on me after 2 hours. Flash back was also very light but it lasts longer. At first I thought it might too masculine but now I don’t think so. Chambre Noir is my favourite. October 24, 2013 at 3:28am Reply

    • Victoria: I also heard complaints from others that Lumiere Blanche doesn’t last on them. It might be the musks, since it has plenty of them and everyone differs in their sensitivity to these notes.
      I definitely need to revisit Chambre Noire! October 24, 2013 at 9:02am Reply

  • Lea: Thanks for a review, Victoria. I like Sel de Vetiver but, I don’t know, I’ve never been able to take a plunge on a full bottle. But I still like the thought of a simple vetiver cologne. October 24, 2013 at 4:43am Reply

    • Victoria: There are many perfumes in that style, but somehow Flashback hit the spot for me. Maybe, because for all of its simplicity, it’s still nuanced and interesting. October 24, 2013 at 9:00am Reply

  • Emma M: Thank you Victoria, for this review. Vetiver is a note I definitely need to explore further; I always conjure it in my mind as being monochromatically smoky and bittersweet but I’m starting to understand that that it has many more nuances and interpretations.

    I like the concept of Olfactive studio, since perfume and photography are two of my favourite things. I’m yet to try any of their fragrances (shame on me!), so their sample pack has just gone to the top of my wish list. October 24, 2013 at 11:53am Reply

    • Victoria: Hope that you get a chance to try them.
      I now understand why perfumer Isabelle Doyen (she usually created perfumes for Annick Goutal) said in various interviews that vetiver oil is complex enough to be a perfume on its own. I mix add a couple of drops to almond oil to use after my bath, and while the diffusion is not as strong as that of a complete perfume, it smells so wonderful. Plus, different grades of vetiver has different nuances, and for this reason, I never feel tired to smell yet another vetiver perfume. October 24, 2013 at 3:04pm Reply

  • Ashley Anstaett: I know that this is an older post, but I am so excited. I have absolutely fallen head-over-heels for Flashback. I got a blast of pepper when I first put it on, and then it started to become crisp rhubarb, a beautiful Golden delicious apple, and something salty. Victoria, you said it reminds you of collecting shells on the beach, and it conjures strong childhood memories for me as well. To me, it’s coming inside after playing in the sprinkler in bare feet on freshly cut green grass, and my mom has cut up a crisp green apple for a snack. I don’t know what it is, but I am so attached to this perfume! February 21, 2014 at 12:22am Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you for sharing this beautiful image! I’m very happy that you also like Flashback. It’s a delicate perfume, but it’s innovative and interesting with its combination of vetiver, salt, apples and tart fruit. But more than that, as you say, it really evokes a fantasy. Whenever I feel down, it’s a perfect boost. February 21, 2014 at 4:36am Reply

  • Alx: Hi ! Very pleasant, it reminds me to Diptyque’s Vetyverio. June 3, 2014 at 11:44am Reply

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