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Scent Sleuth: When is a Rose Not a Rose?

By: Nancy C. Hayden
Posted: February 11, 2008, from the February 2008 issue of GCI Magazine.

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In addition, exotic florals seem to be the latest return to romantic nostalgia in a fast-paced world enamored with brashness and instant gratification. Mane USA has long been the premier house from the south of France specializing in the natural floral essences.

“Jungle Essences” are a speciality of Mane USA, which tries to capture the entire essence of the flower using a green solvent portable extraction process. Patti Allyn, head of evaluation and creative services for the company, cites the Tiare flower from Tahiti and how it has built that story into Origins’ Shedonism fragrance line. Vera Wang’s innovative Princess also uses the Tiare flower to tell its story, and is getting rave reviews.

The return of the iris note imparts great richness, warmth and luxury in its olfactory message—as demonstrated in the new Prada fragrance Infusion d’Iris and its orris butter concrete. Chanel 19, an all-time classic, uses the orris along with violet, mimosa and ylang-ylang. Beautiful by Estée Lauder, a long time bestseller, followed suit using these notes, and Mil by Jean Patou was rich in orris and touted as the most expensive fragrance in the world. And the recent launches of Iris Poudre by Frederick Malle, Hermès’ Hiris and Bulgari’s Iris continue the iris tradition.

Tanya Petrakov, chief perfumer at Elias Fragrances, remembers the beautiful smells of muguet d’ bois from her native Russia, and notes that a complex from the various lily notes is needed to duplicate the smell of the fields. “We remember this delicate clean and wonderful scent, and must recreate this from isolated specialties because we cannot extract the lily fragrance from the flower. Coty’s Muguet des Bois was the grandfather of this category,” she said.

This delicate lily note followed in Christian Dior’s Diorissimo, Jessica McClintock and Vera Wang’s original fragrance—and is represented in the new Gwen Stefani fragrance, the relaunch of Givenchy’s Le De and the newest Kate Moss fragrance, which blends musks with floral notes to create a very delicate and long-lasting skin aura.