Flowers for Perfumery and Floral Fragrance Trends
By Chan Wei Fong
May, season of the rose, it is when the famous Rose de Mai (May Rose) comes into full bloom in the region of Grasse (Pay de Grasse),France, and the local harvesters are faces in a race against time to collect the delicate pink petals when they are at their best, in order to preserve the scent of the rose before the decomposition and lose of their stunningly vibrant aroma. The harvesting season of rose is like a sacred ritual in Grasse, attracting tourist from across the globe to witness the preservation the of the iconic scent of the May Rose (Rosa centifolia). The source of the delicate powdery scent of this pink rose from Grasse is the main ingredient use in the heart note of iconic fragrances such as Miss Dior and Chanel No. 5.
Just like the rose, other delicate flowers are cultivated and collected in the same way in Grasse, France, an old provincial town in southern Provence known as the capital of perfumery from beginning of spring to summer (April-August). It is home to various iconic natural raw materials for perfumery such as the May Rose, mimosa, jasmine (Jasminum grandiflorum), orange blossom, true lavender (Lavandula angustifolia), tuberose and many more. Its environs which are sufficiently inland to be sheltered from sea air, a confluence of soil, sun and temperature is what made Grasse the perfect climate for the cultivation of flowers. The collected blooms are then transformed by subjecting the blooms to their respective extraction techniques (steam distillation, maceration, solvent extraction or infusion) to obtain the fragrant oils from the flowers, in order to preserve these beautiful essences of spring and summer time.
Image from https://www.dior.com/en_int/fragrance/womens-fragrance/the-quest-for-essences
The extraction technique chosen is important as it will affect scent of the flowers extracts, as the extraction conditions (temperature, pressure, extraction solvent, etc.) are very different for the respective method . This is where the know-how of the locals comes into play. The historical knowledge as a perfumery town, in addition to the experience in botany and know-how with the delicate florals is key in picking the correct preservation method to obtain the floral perfume oils from each flower. The main goal is to produce an extract as close to the flower as possible. This knowledge for perfumery know-how (savoir-faire) of the town of Grasse has been acknowledge by UNESCO as an Intangible Cultural Heritage and hence the city was awarded the World Heritage Status in 2018.
The wealth of perfumery raw materials in the Grasse region is pulling factor that has drawn famous perfumers or ‘noses’ to this small town in Southeast France, to search for inspiration for their next big perfume hit for their respective fragrance house. The flower fields of Grasse offer perfumers a rich palette of scents to develop stunning timeless fragrances. Imagine endless flower gardens exploding with colors and dizzying powdery sweet scent of flowers fill the air when you walk in this old provincial city in spring-summer time. During the months of spring- summer, the city is transformed from a quiet old town to a vibrant city with flower festivals every month from April to August, to celebrate the harvesting of the various florals after a year of cultivation. It is the time when perfume houses, holiday goers and perfume enthusiast flock to the city to celebrate the harvesting of the various flowers and to purchase the beautiful scent of the flowers preserve in either essential oils or absolutes, to bring back memories of spring time to during the colder months of autumn and winter.
It is no doubt that florals play a very important part in perfumery, as it the heart note of most fragrance formulas in the market, for both fine fragrances of men and women. Florals are well loved by many, as springtime flowers generally bring memories of happiness, sunshine and vacation mood to the user. Moreover, flowers are often used as a gift to love ones, for celebration or as a gift to comfort the sick or those in grieve. Floral fragrances have even been claimed by fashionistas and trend setters as “A trend that never go out of trend”. It is indeed true, as many classic perfumes such as Christian Dior J’adore, and Yves Saint Laurent Black Opium are still loved by people of all ages even though they have been on the shelves for many years. Even though it can be said that florals are overly used and old fashion, they keep making a come back every year. As what better scent to symbolize the feminine, grace, seduction and beauty of a woman, than the rose?
Different floral trends to explore to refresh your fragrance wardrobe:
A floral floral fragrance, as its name suggests, is a composition of various flower essences. For instance, a mixture of absolutes or essential oils of rose, peonies, lilies of the valley, violets or other extracts other florals. It usually has very feminine notes, and the powdery notes are amplified using musk, amber or honey to add accentuate the luscious sweet scent of the flowers.
Suggestion: Garden of Eden, Scent by SIX
This accord is a combination of white flowers (i.e. orange blossom, jasmine, magnolia, lily of the valley, etc.) with citrus fruits (lime, lemon, grapefruit, etc.). If you prefer a floral fragrance that is more fresh and green, this is the fragrance family that you can experiment with as it is the green refreshing scent of the white florals is complimented by the juicy and acidic citrus notes, sometimes accompanied by solar notes. The citrus oils also act as a stimulant to create a lift for to create a blend that is both soft and vibrant. This family is particularily used for unisex fragrances.
Suggestion: 27 °F Biei EDT, Scent by SIX, 2065 Ujong EDT, Scent by SIX
Floral Oriental (Floriental)
Also known as the floriental family is seductive and sensual. It is mainly a fragrance blend of flowers heightened with warm notes like musk, wood, vanilla or raw materials with a balsamic/ resin note. This perfume is more suitable as an evening or night perfume due to the heavier base notes but can also be worn during the day if you prefer a stronger long-lasting perfume.
Suggestion: Eclat EDT, Scent by SIX
Floral Fruity Gourmand
This family is the current favorite due to is youthful feminine accords (i.e. Dior Joy). It usually has sweet top notes such as red fruits, peach, apricot, combined with caramel sweet gourmand note to further emphasize the sweet fruity top notes. Not forgetting a vibrant floral heart note to bring out the feeling of indulgent, youthfulness and vibrancy of the new generation. It is fashionable and perfect for any occasion.