Single note floral perfumes used to be short lived on the market. Back in the day they were called “handkerchief” perfumes because in the pre-Kleenex era, you sprinkled a drop of rose or lavender water on your handkerchief rather than your skin. Those little fragrances “sent bons” were miniature essays in the perfumer’s art. Not many of those perfumes survive today. No one wears Yardley’s Lavender, or Coty’s Jasmin de Corse, few wear Tea Rose the big late seventies hit from Perfumer’s Workshop, and Creed Fleur de The Rose Bulgare is diluted out of recognition- which makes me wonder- which are the new classic soliflores? Which ones will survive for decades on the consumers’ skin?
There have been a few perennials of course, Diorissimo for one. That is already a survivor. Maurice Roger who updated the house of Dior to eighties’ tastes, remarked that Diorissimo was both a reconstruction and a stylisation of lily of the valley. “…while the note is very familiar, it is not simple…it’s an orchestration around a very easy, understandable lily of the valley accord, with accents of jasmine, boronia, and other notes which make it very sophisticated.” *
Either way Diorissimo remains one of the most successful soliflores of all time. Women can wear that at any stage of their lives, and unlike many other soliflore scents, Diorissimo is appropriate in many different places and weathers. I have caught its scent meandering along the humid streets of Washington in spring, in Italy in winter, and there is no time when Diorissimo does not smell good in the damp atmospheres of Paris or London. Is that its secret? Wearability and beauty?
Then there is that monster of a tuberose: Fracas. Like Diorissimo, there is more going on in the bottle than a mere facsimile of tuberose. The peach component of Fracas lends a lusciousness to the formula, and the heart is more complex than you would think, featuring a fine carnation note supporting that tremendous tuberose with a very understated spicy scaffolding.
These days you could claim that Carnal Flower is a contender for the title of most worn tuberose. Dominique Ropion was determined to create a new tuberose soliflore, one that did not recall Fracas. Apparently it took him over a year of trials to get as close to natural tuberose- in every stage of its evaporation- as his concept required before he was able to create Carnal. Its scent is intimately true to tuberose but wearable. The result, running the gamut from milky innocence to sultry experience, is Carnal Flower.
Then there is the lasting gardenia conundrum. American women love gardenias but no one seems to be able to produce a convincing one, either on the air or on skins. There have been many gardenia soliflores that caught the public attention, but none of them has lasted. Beginning with Tuvache’s Jungle Gardenia, continuing with Elizabeth Taylor’s Gardenia (which was said not to smell like gardenias) but then, neither did Chanel’s, nor did Estee lauder’s Tuberose Gardenia, which was intermittent, only gardenia when it wasn’t tuberose, and Annick Goutal’s Gardenia Passion smelled as much of cream cheese as gardenia.
More recently Ineke Ruhland’s Hothouse Flower was somewhat gardenia, and then you had others more or less similar to gardenia. For my money, the atrociously expensive Jardenia is about as close as you will get.
There are plenty of other soliflores that might fit the bill of lasting wearability, but many of them will not survive another ten years. The Serge Lutens A la Nuit, Sarrasins, and Un Lys strike me as being good, but lacking in interest. How can a one note perfume be complex? You have to return to the template of Fracas or Diorissimo, the flower needs complexity, and the perfume, subtlety.
My own nominee for classic status is Lys Mediterranee. Right out of the bottle, the perfume seems to push leaves and big white flowers into the air, in a surge of authenticity, and manages to hold your interest for a very long time after that party trick, with ginger, and salty notes alternating with the floral ones.
Lilies may be good candidates for soliflore perfumes, because as Mandy Aftel writes in Essence and Alchemy, “One stem of Casablanca lily can perfume a room with an intoxicating aroma-in fact, it is my favorite floral scent-but, alas, that smell cannot be captured in perfume; lilies along with a number of other florals, resist any form of scent harvesting.” This leaves a good deal of room for the imagination of the perfumer and in the case of Lys Mediterranee, you have got a classic example of something that should not exist- but somehow- does.
As for other great soliflores- I have to ask for suggestions. Hiram Green’s Moonbloom struck me as more ylang ylang than tuberose, and no rose soliflore has really impressed me.
What’s your experience of great soliflores?
- from Perfume Legends, Michael Edwards p.113