After surfing on the wave of marine notes, and wandering through the undergrowth to discover woody scents, we set off to explore one of the most famous olfactory families and the most appreciated by general public: fragrances with floral notes. Far from being just tender or romantic, these flower-based perfumes are full of complexity and an impressive variety of nuances. Take your basket and sharpen your nose to discover the secrets of floral notes, one of the greatest sources of inspiration for perfumers.
Portrait of an eclectic family
The floral notes are widely exploited in the scented creations. Why? Because they are easy to wear and manage to conquer most noses, from 7 to 77 years old! Used very early in the democratization of modern perfumery in the 20th century, floral fragrances are still very popular today. Yet despite their apparent simplicity, these often capricious and volatile notes are not so easy to handle and harmonize.
The infinite variety of floral notes
Floral notes cannot be defined in a single way, as they are so numerous and diverse. Nature offers us an impressive variety of these flagship ingredients, with scents that can be totally different from one flower to another. To classify them, perfumers group them into categories where the notes are more or less similar.
Wether it is Damascena or Centifolia, the rose is an essential ingredient in the perfumers’ palette, and for thousands of years, they have been trying to get to know every facet of it. If you want to know more about this emblematic raw material, check out our dedicated article. But in this category, noses can also resort to peony. This mute flower does not release its fragrance naturally, but it is possible to reproduce its delicately powdery and green notes through synthesis. You can also recreate a peony accord thanks to the assembly of different odorous molecules from rose and raspberry. Among these rosy notes, we also find geranium rosat, native to Africa. Its scent is very similar to that of the rose, but it has a more aromatic facet, which is often used in ferny accords.
Some species bring floral notes with powdery accents to a composition. This is the case of iris in particular. This bursting facet goes hand in hand with the freshness of lemon and the virility of a peppery touch in the eau de parfum 555. Powdery flowers also include mimosa, emblematic shrub of the South of France. This raw material is quite complex to work with, but its essence delivers a powdery scent with almond undertones. Heliotrope and violet, both mute flowers, are also used in floral and powdery accords.
This category includes many species and these flowers, also called “narcotics”, are widely used in perfumery. Among the best-known white flowers, we count jasmine, orange blossom, neroli, frangipani flower, ylang-ylang, osmanthus, lily of the valley or honeysuckle. Many of them are “laboratory flowers” because it is impossible to extract their fragrance naturally. For a long time, floral notes based on white flowers symbolized purity, femininity and innocence. But for several years now, noses have been amusing us by playing with dosages to make them much more sensual, even sexual. Indeed, many of these white flowers have the same indole molecule, which subtly used, brings an animal nuance to a formula.
It is impossible to summarize the variety of flower species in these categories. They may vary from one perfumer to another, but overall they are the most commonly used notes.
The use of floral notes in perfumery
Bouquet or soliflore?
When creating a floral fragrance, the perfumer has two options: put a single flower in the spotlight in what is called a soliflore, or harmonize several notes by creating a floral bouquet. In a soliflore, the major issue is the quality of the raw material. A main flower predominates and is discreetly accompanied by one or more notes to highlight it even more. The art of creating a soliflore is complex. It was even one of the first steps in modern perfumery, when researchers tried to copy nature by reproducing in laboratory some jasmine, lily of the valley, lilac… The floral bouquet is just as difficult to create because the perfumer has to find the right balance between the different flowers (natural or laboratory flowers) to create a harmonious composition. The perfumer thus seeks to reproduce the olfactory sensation of a floral composition.
Weddings in bloom
Like Russian dolls, within the floral olfactory family, there are a multitude of sub-categories. Indeed, floral notes go wonderfully well with many fragrances. One of the most famous sub-categories is certainly the floral-aldehydic one, whose bouquet is spiced up with animal notes and metallic accents. There are also floral-woody compositions whose fresh scent is enriched with vanilla and earthy facets. The big winners in summer and spring are generally the fruity-floral perfumes. Peach, red berries or apricot can then be used to create light and refreshing fragrances. Floral-marine creations are also very popular, bringing an oceanic and invigorating nuance. Perfumers can also give free rein to their creativity by adding spicy, herbaceous, musky touches to the floral notes… You would have understood, the floral fragrance can therefore be dressed up with almost any existing scent!
The power of flower
Floral notes are conquering new adepts, including Western men who are no longer afraid to dare. For example, geranium is now becoming the equivalent of rose for men’s fragrances and green notes are increasingly appealing to men in search of freshness. Far from going out of fashion, floral notes are reinventing and modernizing themselves by opening a resolutely vegetal and herbaceous chapter. Garden flowers are back in style. Perfumers are even taking their inspiration from the vegetable garden to give the floral notes a new identity. So, flowers of all kinds still have a rosy and fragrant future!
Now that you know a little more about this olfactory family, you can train your nose to recognize all the floral nuances present in your favorite fragrances. Which flowers do you particularly appreciate in a perfume?