If I were to pick one genre of perfumery that sent me giddy as a schoolgirl it would be florals. Whether it be the aloof character of iris, the prudish sensibility of violet or the beautifully bombastic glamour of tuberose, one knows that when it comes to perfume there is no other genre with such a wide range of enjoyable personalities.
Sensing the beauty of the genre, Crabtree & Evelyn have released three floral waters (fancy floral Eau de Toilettes to you and me) as celebrating the history of the use of flowers in perfumery, as part of their Heritage Collection. These florals – Old World Jasmine, Florentine Freesia and Venetian Violet – are light and bubbly interpretations of classic bouquets harking back to the dainty florals of yesteryear.
The two standouts to my nose are Old World Jasmine and Florentine Freesia. Between them they show how straight up floral perfumes can be simplistic and intriguing in equal measure. In both cases, these floral waters are light and relatively ephemeral but they manage to perfectly capture the spirit of the flowers from which they take their names.
Old World Jasmine Floral Water
Decent white florals don’t come along every day and it would be fair to say that the majority are either too sweet or too shrill, or a hellish mixture of both in some cases. Crabtree & Evelyn’s Old World Jasmine however, is a nicely pieced together white floral that captures the right balance between the sweetness and harshness of beautiful white blooms.
Opening with a big flourish of lemon-tinged gardenia, Old World Jasmine proves from the outset that is much more than just another jasmine soliflore (a composition created to evoke the spirit of one flower), instead serving as an olfactory portrait of a vast field, stuffed to the brim with exotic white flowers.
Jasmine is of course one of the key ingredients and here it has a delightfully raspy quality that adds a bitter edge to contrast the softer notes that follow. As it dries down, Old World Jasmine remains heady with tuberose and a plush base of vanilla, rounding off its bouquet in the gentlest of ways.
Old World Jasmine is a very nicely done perfume and whilst it’s unlikely to win awards for ingenuity, it really shows that a white floral doesn’t necessarily need to be particularly showy or audacious to be good. Through a good sense of balance and a honest take on nature, Old World Jasmine manages to capture the image of intoxicating white flowers in a delicate floral water that is effortless in its wearability.
Florentine Freesia Floral Water
Florentine Freesia is yet another white floral, but whereas Old World Jasmine is more traditional, this one is just a little bit unusual. In the opening it is intensely fresh, sweet and green, conjuring up the image of under ripe bananas – that’s right you heard me, I said ‘bananas’…
Now if you’re thinking that the idea of fresh bananas in your perfume is enough to put you off then think again! What this touch of sweet green does is add a crisp feel that sharpens the citrus notes and allows for the dry freesia in the heart to truly shine through.
The freesia has a hay-like quality that gives the impression of dewy white flowers under the summer sun. It’s best described as clean, white and glowing, almost evoking the spirit of freshly pressed linen. In the base there is a good degree of clean musk that amplifies the floral notes, allowing them to diffuse lightly in the air – it is simply, very lovely.
Both Old World Jasmine and Florentine Freesia manage to tame the carnal spirit of white flowers into compositions that are free-spirited and effervescent. They also each serve as decent ‘entry-level’ fragrances for those wishing to explore the floral genre (and jasmine & freesia in particular) in more detail.