The Demanding Floral

And you thought they were easy.  Actually, florals are hard.  Natural florals  are somewhat easier to wear on skin since naturally derived oils have a built in molecular complexity that is more skin friendly than most synths.  Too many naturals, however, and you can lose radiance.  The floral smells not only complex, but also dense, and who wants to exit the house feeling he has applied Eau de Compost Bucket to his person?

So the proportions become a matter of taste and engineering for the perfumer.  The balance has to be correct for the floral to work. Ideally it should be a mix of synthetics and naturals, or all naturals, if cost is no object, but most mass market releases can’t afford that kind of high end perfumery.


At best you get a mix, very frequently these days you get an entirely synthetic formula.  There are some perfectly fine synthetic florals out there of course, but you do run the danger of smelling rather like fabric softener, and presumably that wasn’t your aim when you bought that pretty bottle at Sephora.

Say that all of these little technical glitches are over come.  Even then you have the difficulty that of all the scent families, the floral is the one most thrown off kilter by individual skins.  There’s the question of how smooth or rough, oily or dry, pigmented or pale and most importantly how acid or alkaline your skin is.

A smooth, dark slightly oily skin is the jackpot for an aficionado, since it will retain perfume the longest.  A dry rough pale skin which is acid to boot won’t detain scent molecules long and will tend to highlight certain notes and disguise others.

The stronger, the better made the perfume, the less an issue it will have with individual epidermides – but be advised the problem exists and it certainly is real.  The old rule of “try before you buy” is crucial with florals because they can be considerably changed by skin textures.  If you love something to death, but make it smell like Deep Woods Off, then there is nothing for it but the old cotton ball in the pocket trick, which is the perfume equivalent of a platonic love affair.

Given all of these problems who makes really good mass market florals these days?  My recommendation is Estée Lauder.  Yes, I know, this is hardly ground breaking advice, but consider the uneven performances of most other houses.  Guerlain is very up and down these days and the house style is not really floral, Joy is lovely but spendy, and all that is left of the once great patrimony of Patou, the Diors change with considerable frequency. So do the Carons.

The rest are not really reliable, and the niche houses – except for the Serge Lutens soliflors – are mostly not floral friendly .  There are a couple of good ones from Bond No 9 New York, some very unpredictable Montales, some overly sophisticated perfumes for the U.S. market from Parfums de Nicolai, and then there are the Parfumerie Generales which do better in gourmand mode than in floral.

What is left? Natural perfumes or  individual releases that pop up here or there and Estée Lauder, the only house that consistently does this genre well. Stop complaining and go spritz on some Beautiful, Tuberose Gardenia,  Pleasures, Dazzling Silver, or White Linen.



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