A Journey Through the World of Floral Scents
Floral scents have captivated our senses throughout history, whisking us away to ancient lands and enchanting our imaginations. From the Romans, who held the rose in high regard, to Cleopatra, who beguiled those around her with ointments with cassia, rose, and saffron. European queens adorned themselves with perfumes of rose, powdery iris, violet, orange blossom, and tuberose. Such was the allure of these floral fragrances that Grasse was established as the world capital of perfume.
Grasse continues to cultivate and develop many precious flowers for perfumery. Imagine strolling through fields of violets, tuberose, and orange trees, picking orange blossom and rose centifolia. But don’t be fooled into thinking that floral perfumes are merely tender or romantic. On the contrary, these fragrances, based on flowers, are incredibly complex and boast a stunning diversity of nuances.
Exploring the Enchanting World of Floral Perfumes
Floral perfumes are as varied and diverse as the flowers themselves. Nature provides us with an astonishing array of floral ingredients, each boasting its unique scent. To make sense of this olfactory wonderland, perfumers group floral perfumes into categories based on their typical notes.
Powdery Florals: Delicate and Sophisticated
Some species bring a floral perfume note with powdery accents like orris. While complex, orris essence delivers a refined fragrance with almond undertones. Another example, heliotrope, was famous in the 1920s but has since taken a backseat in modern perfumery. However, the vintage trend offers a well-received comeback, allowing us to indulge in the divine powdery scent of orris root, which brings elegance and sophistication to any fragrance.
Picture the subtle sweet honey-like scent of daffodils, reserved for only the most prestigious perfumes. Or the floral, powdery, honeyed, and almond facets of the mimosa also boast a pronounced green facet due to the simultaneous distillation of its leaves and yellow balls.
White Florals: The Narcotics of the Flower World
This category combines many species, including jasmine sambac and grandiflorum, orange blossom, narcissus, osmanthus, neroli, frangipani flower, ylang-ylang, and davana. These flowers, often called “narcotics” or “opulent,” are widely used in natural perfumery.
Imagine the green, banana-like, almost animalic facets of jasmine sambac, cultivated in the South of India. Its flowers are often used as offerings and threaded into necklaces worn or placed in temples. Contrast this with the intensely floral and warm, almost powdery scent of jasmine grandiflorum, cultivated in the North of India, Egypt, Italy, and Grasse.
And who can resist the mesmerizing scent of neroli, or orange blossoms? This aroma is floral, rich, suave, and citrusy, adding a touch of freshness and lightness to any flowery fragrance. It pairs perfectly with citrus fruits, jasmine, and petitgrain.
Green Florals: A Touch of Nature
This sub-family of floral fragrances adds a green and vegetal facet to delicate flowers. Ingredients such as violet leaf, galbanum, lentisk, and the petitgrain family (bergamot, lemon, mandarin, and bigarade) provide a sharp, astringent green facet to floral fragrances. This sub-family is also part of the green chypre and green hesperidés (citrus) natural perfume fragrant family.
Rose Florals: The Timeless Classic
Encompassing rose centifolia, Damask, geraniums, rhodendron, and magnolia leaf, this family of fragrances is rich in linalool and rose oxide. Delicate and sophisticated, rose florals now feature in many unisex and fougère fragrances, as well as modern fougère and rose perfumes.
Roses Damask and centifolia are the most commonly used in natural perfumery, although their olfactory qualities differ. Rosa centifolia boasts a sweet honeyed-like scent, warm and sensual, while rosa damascena has a sharper edge.
It’s worth noting that some flower essences, such as lilac, white lily, lily of the valley, and honeysuckle, cannot be extracted. In these cases, the natural perfumer must reconstitute their perfume using several natural essences.
As you can see, the world of floral scents is a fascinating and diverse landscape filled with enchanting aromas that have captivated our senses for centuries. So, the next time you wear a floral perfume, take a moment to appreciate the complex and nuanced journey it has taken to reach your skin.