It’s time to limber up because spring-cleaning has finally arrived. Although the thought of moving winter gear to dark closet recesses is not appealing, it can also be the impetus for changing up our fragrances. Consider this time as a “spring cleansing” if you will, where we lighten up our fragrance choices to emulate what is seen and sniffed outdoors. Consider the beautiful scents of new buds, vegetation and blooms or the earthy scent of petrichor that climbs through open windows on spring mornings.
These special flowers and blooms have influenced hundreds of perfume houses over the centuries. Perfumers have expertly recreated the lightness and ethereal qualities of seasonal flowers, plants, leaves, and bark from the spring. In the ground, their lifespan are fleeting from bud to fruition; but in the bottle, spring fragrances are eternal.
The iris/orris and muguet notes have graced and modified many perfumes and still hold their own in trends. From classic muguet scents such as Diorissimo and Guerlain’s Muguet, to the Florentine iris used in Hiris by Hermès and Prada’s Infusion d’Iris; they lighten our spirits and transform those dark days into pastel moments.
Each plant, flower, bloom scent revolution will encounter three distinct olfactory stages. Sniff the first open bud or blossom and one can expect a mild impression, a fleeting glimpse of what is to come. The second phase is when the bloom is open and exposed to the sun’s rays, this is when the perfume really soars and is pristine, when it is closest to its “absolute” partner in perfumery. The third and final death act can smell sour, bitter, and repugnant. The lifespan for some can be only a few days, a week at most but the perfumes they emit can be replicated to perfection in perfumery.
The spring season is one of fresh notes, of warm floral green, ozonic/marine and powdery, perfection. We will look at examples of these notes in classic fragrances as well as more contemporary scents.
Early Spring Bouquet
When the first life of colourful buds bloom against blue-sky days.
- Yesteryear: Jean Patou Vacances launched 1936 hyacinth as its heart note
- Current: E. Coudray (L.T. Piver) Jacinthe et Rose (Romantica)
Fragrance family: Floral
The scent of hyacinths can be rapturous and heady. Jacinthe et Rose beautifully represents the season with the opening of bitter orange, hyacinth and soft peach notes. At its heart; a very subtle blend of jasmine, peony, and the softest of rose petals releases a beautiful, pale soapy freshness. Its base of cedarwood, sandalwood, vetiver and transparent musk quietly underscores the greenness of the fleeting hyacinth in the rain.
- Yesteryear: Je Reviens Worth
Launched: 1932 / spring notes of jonquil, narcissus, and orange blossom
- Current: Dans La Peau Louis Vuitton
Fragrance family: Dry Woods
The exquisite and sumptuous narcissus absolute is a prize to any perfumer. One can find a heady foliage-green over indolic floral attributes which wield a heady baton in a spring symphony. Dans la Peau introduces its bouquet with daffodil and apricot, a warm floral fruity tone. Mix in Chinese and Sambac jasmine with the headiness of narcissus and the season is underway. Musks and leather keep the scent close to the ground for earthiness.
Jonquil, tulips, crocus, and friends
- Yesteryear: Fracas Robert Piguet
heart note Jonquil / Launched: 1948
- Current: On a Clear Day you can see forever, CB I Hate Perfume
Fragrance family: Floral
What better way to encapsulate all the finest spring flowers into one fragrant bouquet than by naming it “On a Clear Day You can see forever”
This lively spring accord starts with an earthiness that sprouts seasonal wonders such as crocus, daffodil, hyacinth, jonquil, tulip, and narcissus. The bouquet represents all the dark and light florals and is complemented with soil and wooded undertones which underscores the earthy moist qualities as well. It is a spring explosion in a bottle. Envision sitting on a bench in April in a botanical garden, warm raindrops diffuse the perfume in the breeze.
Violets and violet leaf
- Yesteryear: Violetta di Parma Borsari
launched 1870 / Violet accord with rose, hyacinth, heliotrope orris and muguet
- Current: Dirty Trick by Viktor & Rolf
Fragrance family: Soft Oriental Green
There is a great clue in the name “Dirty Trick” by this Viktor & Rolf concoction. Take those violet leaves and set them against a black ink accord. Then throw in smoky incense and the scent piques our curiosity. Add to this brew, powdery orris and aromatic clary sage for mystery and level it out with suede, amber, benzoin and cedarwood and poof, the nose is led on a dark journey, the name says it all.
The trees blossom pastel and rich shades
- Yesteryear: Cherry Blossom La Maison Guerlain
- Current: English Cherry Blossom by Shay & Blue
Fragrance family: floral
When April trees come into full bloom, the warm scent of cherry, apple, and orange blossoms fills the air with the scent of flowers and almonds on warm pies. With cherry blossoms fragrances, the added notes of heliotrope heighten the blend and the cherry notes become more pronounced.
Shay and Blue paints the scene with fresh notes of bergamot and lime. Driving home the cherry blossom motif from blossom to fruit to baked goods; powdery notes of cherry blossom, cherries, and cherry wood reinforce the complexity of the blend. Base notes of oud, sandalwood, and amber provide the tree trunks to the scented floralcy.
- Yesteryear: Magnolia Santa Maria Novella
Launched 1939 Jonquil, neroli and magnolia
- Current: Star Magnolia Jo Malone London
Fragrance family: Floral Fresh Citrus Fruity
Magnolia blooms have been interpreted by perfumers over the years in various blends from fresh to sweet floralcy as well as fruity overtones to semi-orientals. In it’s natural bloom state, the Grandiflora possesses a sweet pungent floral watery note with lemon and vanilla accents. The Stellata Star Magnolia has darker, spicier notes, similar to those of Sambac jasmine.
Jo Malone London chose Shiso leaves (perillo leaf), ginger, and lemon to open to a warm spicy presence. The use of Star magnolia and magnolia blossoms and leaves renders a beautiful dark rosy quality with a green heart. With added notes of orange blossom, tart orange, sandalwood, and amber as base notes, this scent provides the perfect backdrop for tea on the patio.
- Yesteryear: Farina Original eau de Cologne
Blended with oranges and orange blossoms.
- Current: Sur L’Herbe L’Artisan Parfumeur
Fragrance family: Floral
With fresh white flower floralcy of the orange flower, Sur L’Herbe introduces neroli and bergamot to greet the nose. A solar accord, a fresh breeze of orange blossom with green fir notes takes us to the countryside. Added notes of Cetalox® (amber-like), Paradisone® and white musks provide a warm ambery base.
Water and Rain
- Yesteryear: Rain Demeter Fragrance Library
Launched: 1996 / Rain accord with crisp green marine notes
- Current: Eau de Merveilles Bleue Hermès
Fragrance family: Woods/Fresh Water/Mineral
Whether it may be the old saying “April showers bring May flowers”, rain droplets or the mineral/ambergris-like structure of sea-based watery scents, Eau de Merveilles Bleue possesses a sea breeze, accord of salt water over mineralic rock with woody patchouli base notes. A hint of citrus and aromatic notes lie off, somewhere beyond the shoreline.
Mid to late spring.
Flowers and blooms are thicker and lush. Colour and perfumed plants abound.
- ￼Yesteryear: Hammam Bouquet Penhaligons
launched 1872 lavender and orris/iris notes
- Current: Florentina Sylvaine Delacourte
Fragrance family: Soft Floral
Iris/Orris absolute is regarded as one of the few precious raw materials the perfume industry works with today. Grown in craggy rocks in Florence and Sienna, it’s production is labour intensive and expensive. Iris is to perfume as salt is to cooking. It’s very influence can complement and modify surrounding notes with a powdery, chilled paint-like floral note that can spin off in many directions. Sylvaine Delacourte has taken this rhizome into a beautiful soft escape with touches of almond, heliotrope for a warm powdery ride and added carnation for piquancy. The base of vetiver and musk brings a dark green flavour.
Smell the first blush of muguet when the tiny white bells skirt open and find the scent is fresh, a slightly sweet floral prepubescent odour but in its prime, it becomes indolic and fierce. This white floral conductor than can rival any jasmine worth it’s petals in olfactory volume. Unfortunately, its swan song can smell of death and decay and doesn’t belong in any fragrance bottle or sprig at an undertakers.
- Yesteryear: Lily of the Valley / Floris
launched 1760 jasmine and muguet
- Current: Sole di Positano / Tom Ford: Private Blend
Fragrance family: Citrus floral
Although not solely based on muguet, Sole di Positano opens with Shiso leaves, Hesperidian notes of mandarin, lemon, petigrain bergamot and bitter orange for a zesty introduction. Its heart, a white floral mix of muguet, ylang-ylang, jasmine and orange blossom elevates it into a white floral explosion. The base of sandalwood, musk, and oakmoss is subtle and allows the blooms to air in warm woody breezes.
- ￼Yesteryear: Chypre de Coty
launched 1917 with jasmine, lilac, and orange blossom
- Current: A Lilac a Day / Vilhelm
Fragrance family: Floral Crisp Lilac
The scent of lilacs is ethereal, a perfumed haze of soft creamy flowers with fresh water green notes which at their height, can be utterly mesmerizing. A Lilac a Day is beautifully created with freesia, lilacs, Egyptian jasmine and Turkish rose. Its lilac buoyancy persists with each sniff. Base notes of galbanum and black amber provide an earthy, powdery base just as it would in nature emanating close to the soil.