Many people profess to smell no scent in tulips. I have to disagree. Tulips have always been in our gardens except here where squirrel activity is at an all time high. I have discovered the hard way that squirrels simply love to excavate them. This is how I lost a stand of late flowering white double flowered ones and have not had the heart to try again. That redoubtable huntress the cat antagonized several of my little foes, but that only held back the squirrel invasion for a month..
Anyway the scent of tulips is one of their more overlooked pleasures, and most of the time you get that scent from the species tulips.
What is that scent? This is the frustrating part of tulips. There is no one tulip fragrance, although if pressed I would say that bending over my tulip beds I’ve smelled two dominant ones. The first is a honey-musk floral very soft but quite noticeable. The second is a scent similar to freesias, which have a deep fruity aroma, textured, similar to apricots in a way, but slightly sweeter. Tulips can have a faintly animalic perfume, meaning that the musk
component of their smell can be emphasized in certain species tulips- rather like peonies which also have an animal warmth to their scent. I remember some fuzzy stemmed yellows with a very musky perfume. I prefer the more freesia centric fragrance, and find it very cheerful. This is probably why on the rare occasions when you come across a perfume that purports to be a tulip perfume it’s very likely a fruity floral. Though some perfumers who may not know scented tulips go in for fantasy floral oriental accords like I Profumi di Firenze’s Tulipano Nero which combines rose and myrrh and lily of the valley in what I’m guessing bears no resemblance to tulips I know.
Hilde Soliani’s hit Il Tuo Tulipano takes the floral fruity route and succeeds pretty well. I think the perfume one of the prettiest of the fruity florals and not so vapid as that clique can frequently be. The predominant trio of blackberry, rose and musk give this scent a coquettish and cheerful air. The floral heart is mostly jasmine and freesia with a bit of needed oakmoss to dry things out a little and a smidgen of sandalwood and vetiver to keep things grown up. I like this perfume very much but it is now hard to find and would recommend also By Killians Liaisons Dangereuses as covering very similar ground. The top there contains black currant rather than blackberry and rose and geranium rather than freesia and jasmine in the midsection, but the dry downs are similar with DL containing a bit of vanilla, and the beginning featuring peach, coconut and plum. Altogether though the effect is similar. Neither of them is affordable sadly.
In this context I think I’ll mention a tulip bouquet fragrance of Neil Morris called Rainflower, that is in his main fragrance line. The point of this perfume was to recreate a visit to Kew Gardens in a Spring rain, an appealing idea. I have not been able to smell this one yet but have read the majority opinion on it from Makeupalley and Fragrantica which is that Rainflower is very floral indeed featuring hyacinths, tulips and freesias. Floral and nothing else, which makes Rainflower an
unusual perfume these days.
Since no has quite nailed the tulip fragrance yet I think I would like to see some one try. Apart from Byredo’s La Tulipe, there probably are no more intentional tulip soliflores out there. However that’s a shame. Tulips do have a delightful smell which deserves to be in more perfumes. As a stop gap I would also recommend Antonia’s Flowers which is also a bouquet scent and centered on freesia, but since the perfumes of certain tulips and freesias are similar, this is one that can pinch hit for you and at 21.00 dollars for the purse sized .17 of edt is inexpensive to try. All of my other recommendations are pricier, the Neil Morris at 95.00. the By Killian and Hilde Soliani both well over 150.00.
Oh well, maybe the best way to smell tulips is to buy a bunch of scented Apricot Beauties in April or grow them. Then you’ll get the real thing.