Solar Perfume Notes : What Does It Mean?

Perfume-speak is a language of its own, with words like “chypre”, “gourmand” and “petally” having specialised meanings. Speaking Perfume: the A-to-Z glossary of perfume terms demystifies some of the commonly used terms, but I often receive requests to elaborate further and give more examples. My latest FT column, Sun and Scents, covers the term “solar.” Some perfumes are presented as having “solar notes” or “solar flowers”, with little explanation as to what that might mean. Although the image of a solar blossom is exotic, the term simply defines a warm and radiant effect, and in my article, I explain how it’s achieved and give examples of several fragrances. Although they’re usually marketed as summer fragrances, I find them even better on a grey, overcast day.

My latest find is Tom Ford Eau de Soleil Blanc, which is a sibling of Ford’s earlier launch Private Blend Soleil Blanc. Both perfumes are suitable for men and women, since they’re based around fresh notes of orange, peppery bergamot and petitgrain (a distillation of buds and leaves of bitter orange with a bright-green, zesty aroma). The glow of ylang-ylang – a popular ingredient in solar scents – enhances the radiance of the new composition, while the musk prolongs its presence. To continue reading, please click here.

One of my favorite solar perfumes that I didn’t mention in the article is Guerlain Lys Soleia from the house’s Aqua Allegoria collection. It’s been discontinued, and I had mixed success finding a reliable source for it. However, if you come across it, I recommend seeking it out.

It’s a transparent fragrance with a sweet accent. Like many other blends labeled as solar, Lys Soleia is based around ylang-ylang. The essence of this tropical flower smells like minty jasmine and green banana peels, and it has the unique property of being at once radiant and enveloping. In Lys Soleia, the sweetness of ylang ylang is accented by vanilla and kept in check by lemon, so the perfume smells like a sea breeze and sun-warmed skin rubbed with monoi oil.

Another option similar to Lys Soleia is Annick Goutal Un Matin d’Orage, which is a luminous tiare blossom, minus the sugar heft usually associated with this note.

What fragrance feel warm and sunny to you?

Image via FT

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37 Comments

  • Danaki: Thank you for your article, I love solar notes in perfume and NR For Her edp is one of my old favourites (it being responsible for me falling down the rabbit hole of perfume world)

    I also terribly miss Lys Soleia but unfortunately do not find Un Matin d’Orage as a substitute (maybe because of the lack of sweetness), as much as I love the Goutal for its fresh take on tiare. September 25, 2018 at 7:37am Reply

  • Alicia: For me Hermes Jour is a solar fragrance. In quite a different way Chanel #22 is luminous. Some years ago I tried an Andy Tauer scent, Zeta, which seemed to me to be so, but by now it is too remote a memory.As for 2018 I haven’t found anything memorable. I am enjoying the Thé Bleu, to which I will return next summer, but in that family the masterpiece is already established in the Vert. September 25, 2018 at 8:48am Reply

  • Jeanne: I love Beach. I too think it’s nice on a cold cloudy day. I use the lotion most often, as the perfume doesn’t last when I wear it.

    I really like For Her in the black bottle. Would you consider it a solar scent? September 28, 2018 at 9:58am Reply

    • Victoria: It does have notes that would be described that way, so yes, I’d say so. October 2, 2018 at 5:19am Reply

  • Sandra: Songes! Like heated flesh.. September 28, 2018 at 11:51am Reply

  • Aurora: Thank you for explaining ‘solar’ in your lovely article, Victoria. I have Lys Soleia and enjoy it very much, I have a 125ml bottle and could make you a decant. Totally agree that solar scents can work a treat in the dead of winter. Nuxe Prodigieux Le Parfum, although it hasn’t got ylang-ylang is something I turn to as well and I prefer it to Terracotta. I also find Molton Brown Ylang-Ylang very satisfying, it has a spicy edge, have you tried it? September 29, 2018 at 5:32am Reply

    • Maria: Hi Aurora! I agree with you on Nuxe, but I prefer the oil to the parfum. I love to put some drops on my hair, it really gives me the feeling of a day on the beach. September 29, 2018 at 8:48am Reply

      • Aurora: Hi Maria: Oh yes, I have the oil too and use it all over. I use it mostly in summer and the perfume in the winter. September 29, 2018 at 5:16pm Reply

    • Victoria: I tried Molton Brown’s Ylang-ylang too, and I liked it. It reminded me a bit of the old Guerlain AA Ylang Vanille, but fresher. October 2, 2018 at 5:21am Reply

  • Silvermoon: Solar surely remains a confounding category. All radiant perfumes don’t fall in the category, as I understand it. So, like Sandra, I love Songes, and think it works fantastically in the heat, but wouldn’t categorise it as a solar scent.

    When Victoria mentions Un Matin d’Orage (again a perfume I have and really like), should we see that as an example of solar? I think of it as quite the opposite, i.e. it reminds me of spring rain showers, not sun! September 29, 2018 at 6:01am Reply

    • Victoria: It has solar notes, but it doesn’t mean that it smells warm. Solar is not about the temperature or warm sensation, it’s about the effect of radiance. October 2, 2018 at 5:22am Reply

  • maja: Solar is still confusing to me as I believe a solar perfume has to have ylang-yang but then I guess there are so many “solars” built around frangipani, coconut, vanilla etc. Then there is a radiance, too. My favourite solar must be Amaranthine. My husband always clearly compliments me and appreciates when I wear it (instead of the usual “wow, there is perfume in the air” comment). 🙂
    I have to check that TF. Thanks! September 29, 2018 at 10:22am Reply

    • Victoria: It has to be radiant, above all. October 2, 2018 at 5:23am Reply

  • Anne: Marc Jacobs Daisy seems like it would fit the definition of solar. What do you think? October 1, 2018 at 9:39am Reply

    • Victoria: It has solar notes, for sure. October 2, 2018 at 5:24am Reply

  • Trudy: I didn’t know of the term solar notes or solar perfumes but I think I love these types of fragrances most of all. They transport in the gloomier days of winter and enhance the sunny days of spring and summer. I love the lightness and subtle sexiness of these types of fragrances. I’ve always secretly like BB Beach. Just a light spray and usually layered with something else. I have received many compliments when wearing this combination. I also love Alverez Gomez Flores Mediterraneas colognes. Especially the Verbena & Orange Blossom mixed with the Wild Rose. So lovely on a hot summer day. I do like the Tom Ford Eau de Soliel Blanc but not quite enough to justify a FB. At least, not yet. I did recently purchase a FB of Chanel Paris-Deauville and I love it. I love reading these articles and the comments as well. Thank you for bringing this to us on this last day of summer! October 1, 2018 at 10:10am Reply

    • Victoria: What I miss is the original Tom Ford Bronze Goddess. It was the textbook definition of a solar perfume and a great fragrance. October 2, 2018 at 5:26am Reply

  • Alicia: I have always loved Dune, still when I think of a luminous, solar fragrance I turn to Hermes, Jour. October 1, 2018 at 10:11am Reply

    • Victoria: Yes, makes sense to me. October 2, 2018 at 5:26am Reply

  • Filomena: Solar accords (or summer perfumes,as I recall them in my head) always give me a lift and make me feel happy. October 1, 2018 at 10:11am Reply

    • Victoria: They do that to me too. October 2, 2018 at 5:26am Reply

  • gunmetal24: I’ve always assumed solar was a code word for an aromachemical that lends some sort of radiance and brightness to the perfume (like hedione or maybe iso-e super) October 1, 2018 at 10:12am Reply

    • Victoria: Not really. It’s more confusing than that, I’m afraid. 🙂 October 2, 2018 at 5:27am Reply

  • Miruna: I stumble upon ‘solar’ accords and notes in the description of new fragrances more and more, it looks like sun it’s the new oud or noir.

    I do enjoy wearing such fragrances, which, even if not ground-breaking or innovative, comfort me by taking me on ‘holiday day dreaming’. CK Reveal is a work-appropriate comfort scent for me, and I’ve gone through two decants last winter, and more interesting to my nose than Aqua di Gio Sun or the Tom Ford Soleils and Lumieres.

    Dune is incredible and a long-time love and wearing it always transports me to my childhood summer holidays spent in my grandparents’ gardens, bathing in the sun while reading on top of a huge pile of hay.

    AA Lys Soleia has been on my to-try list for years and I regret not blind buying a bottle online when it was easier to find. October 1, 2018 at 10:13am Reply

    • Victoria: I do have a soft spot for Dune. October 2, 2018 at 5:27am Reply

  • Austenfan: Has this post reappeared? I’m sure I read it a while ago. Never mind, I just got this déjà vu experience when it showed up a few days ago.

    I never got round to trying Lys Soleia, which is a shame, but too much perfume and too little time. I think I would have enjoyed it, judging from all the reviews.

    I love Matin d’Orage but would never have considered it as solar. Dune is an old favourite, as is Biagiotti’s Roma, less radiant, less refined, but equally great in summer.
    I’m now trying to figure out the difference between solar and radiant. My guess is they overlap? October 2, 2018 at 5:34am Reply

    • Victoria: I published it a week ago, but then the site crashed and the post and the comments were gone. October 2, 2018 at 9:48am Reply

      • Austenfan: That must have been it. Glad to see that your site is functioning again. It must be a nuisance when crashes happen.

        Hope you are having a great time in Asia! October 2, 2018 at 10:04am Reply

  • Michael: I read in an article that Olivier Polge wanted to create an “imaginary solar flower” when he authored Chanel Gabrielle. Do you think the creation (or more accurately, the white flowers accord that forms the heart note) is radiant enough to be considered a solar fragrance? October 4, 2018 at 10:30am Reply

    • Victoria: Yes, it makes sense to me. Gabrielle would be a good example of it. October 5, 2018 at 5:56am Reply

  • Lily: I don’t know if it counts as solar/radiant by perfume industry standards but certainly strikes me that way, is YSL Cinema. It wears like bottled sunlight. October 4, 2018 at 10:44am Reply

  • Nadja: for me, the epitome of “solar” is Bronze Goddess Skinscent 2017. Honestly I don’t remember the earlier versions, but this one, the citrusy coconut and tiare flower, is a vacation in a bottle. And if I were to define what “solar” notes mean, for me those are that remind me of a sunscreen lotion. October 9, 2018 at 2:54pm Reply

    • Victoria: I do like this version too! October 10, 2018 at 1:22pm Reply

  • Amy: Tauer Zeta. To me it smells like sun-warmed pollen. October 15, 2018 at 12:34pm Reply

    • Victoria: I do like that one. October 17, 2018 at 10:25am Reply

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