What Do Floral Fragrances Actually Smell Like?

What is a Floral Fragrance

“Thomas, AKA The Candy Perfume Boy, is explaining everything you need to know about fragrance families. From chypre to fougere, after reading this blog series you’ll be an expert in the different types of olfactive groups.”

So much of perfumery exists in the world of flowers it’s almost difficult to separate the two. You see, flowers have their own perfumes – complex odours that they offer up to entice insects and bees (and humans too), tricking them into their game of pollination – and conversely, perfumes possess flowers, showcasing and twisting their many forms in beautiful scents throughout the ages. The floral genre is perhaps one of the most prevalent and diverse there is but to put it simply, it is an olfactory homage to flowers in all their beauty.

To help you navigate this essential genre, I have picked out four fragrances that show just how diverse and intriguing floral notes can be. From singular blooms to heady bouquets, this edit outlines the prettiest, the pungent and the most gorgeous fragrance genre of them all: the florals!


#1 The Soliflore

Floral Fragrances: Goutal Gardenia Passion Perfume

The soliflore is a fragrance that pays homage to a single flower. It’s an olfactory snapshot of one flower in bloom and can play with the many different nuances of these complex muses. A soliflore can sometimes focus on one aspect of a flower, but more often than not they try to recreate a full, vivid image of everything, from stem to stamen.

Gardenia Passion by Goutal is a beautiful soliflore. Inspired by Annick Goutal’s travels to Kyoto, it recreates the scent of the most curious of flowers: the gardenia. What is novel here is the fact that the gardenia, while fragrant, yields no usable oil in perfumery and therefore, the scent is entirely created using other floral materials. The result: a gorgeous, creamy gardenia made with no gardenia at all!

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Learn more about Goutal’s world-famous perfumes here.


#2 The White Floral

Floral Fragrances: Amouage Honour Woman Perfume

A white floral is a perfume made predominantly from white flowers such as tuberose, gardenia, muguet (lily of the valley), jasmine and more. It can exist as an ode to a single flower or a bouquet, and many of the most iconic floral fragrances in the world are white florals (see Fracas and Carnal Flower). But why white flowers? What’s so special about these unassuming blooms? Well, where roses, tulips and marigolds all have the luxury of colour to entice, white flowers do not and therefore, they must rely on another parlour trick: their scent. What they lack in vibrancy of colour they more than make up for in their scent, offering up dizzying, narcotic odours that captivate, beguile and corrupt.

A great example of an intoxicating white floral is Honour Woman by Amouage. Inspired by the tragic predicament of Madame Butterfly, Honour Woman is a cooling blend of waxy white petals (jasmine, tuberose, gardenia, muguet) amplified by the juiciness of rhubarb leaves, amber and leather.

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#3 The Abstract Floral

Floral Fragrances: Kenzo Flower by Kenzo Perfume

Did you know that some flowers have no scent? Take the humble poppy, for example – it looks beautiful, but it possesses no odour. So how does a perfumer make a poppy perfume if they don’t have a scent to inspire them? Well, that’s what Kenzo and perfumer Alberto Morillas did with FLOWER BY KENZO. They created what we call an ‘abstract floral’ – i.e. a floral imagined out of thin air. Flower by Kenzo is a beautiful curiosity that is green, fresh, slightly sweet and powdery. Is it a rose? Is it a jasmine flower? Is it a vibrant red poppy? I think the answer to each of these may be yes in some way. But what we can say for sure is that this is the smell of a flower – just what flower is up to you and your imagination.

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Discover more Flower by Kenzo fragrances here


#4 The Ultimate Floral

Floral Fragrances: Dior J'adore Perfume

Our final sub-genre of the floral universe is the floral bouquet. These perfumes don’t showcase one flower; instead, they celebrate the many interlacing facets of a collection of floral notes, creating beautiful bouquets that positively sing with floral delight. Many classic florals are in this style – look at scents like Estee Lauder’s Beautiful or CHANEL Nº5, both of which take a selection of flowers to create something that smells more than the sum of its parts. Another perfect example is J’Adore by Dior, which takes a bouquet of ylang-ylang, rose and jasmine and dips it in liquid gold, creating a bountiful basket of flowers that smell like a sunset – if a sunset had a smell, that is.

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Discover More:

There’s more! Read the previous instalments of the series below…

What do Citrus Perfumes Smell Like?

What is a Chypre Perfume?

What is a Gourmand Perfume?

•  What is a Floral Perfume?

•  What is a Fougere Fragrance?

• What is a Fruity Perfume?

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