When I was in my 20s, one of my signature fragrances was Hermès‘ 24 Faubourg, an opulent chypre-oriental powerhouse created by the legendary Maurice Roucel. It was centered on luminous, creamy, heady florals which Monsieur Roucel sheathed, first, in multifaceted mossy chypre greenness laced with peach, then in oriental clouds of golden amber layered with real sandalwood, creamy vanilla, spicy resins, and a sliver of leatheriness. The fragrance feels like the more feminine, white floral cousin of Hermes‘ 1984 floral-leather-chypre, Parfum d’Hermes (reformulated and renamed in 2000 as Hermes’ Rouge) and Puredistance M (directly modeled on Hermes‘ 1986 vintage Bel Ami) during their middle chypre-oriental stages. The eau de parfum version even has a phase which is like a white floral twist on the 1930s-1970s version of vintage Mitsouko extrait. On top of that, vintage 24 Faubourg also inhabits the same world of rich chypre-florals as Givenchy‘s famous 1984 Ysatis, although the Hermes scent has a greater oriental underpinning and I would argue that it is much grander. Its richness, heaviness, and ornate complexity not only result in a very baroque regalness, but also somehow manage to ooze money and wealth in the most tasteful, elegant way imaginable. That may be why 24 Faubourg became the signature scent of the most glamorous princess of her era.
What really is a Floriental or floral-oriental? It’s a fantastic sub-genre of perfumery, but I don’t think it’s as easy to define as it might initially seem. Simply classifying any oriental with floral notes as a “floral-oriental” is far too wide-reaching, in my opinion. Moreover, it ignores the balance of elements in most oriental compositions. It’s an issue I’ve been pondering after I realised how few were the number of fragrances that met the definition in my mind.
Now, I grant you, definitions in this context are fluid and are undoubtedly going to be rather subjective in nature. Sub-genres don’t really have an official set of structural rules the way there are for the overarching, main families like fougères or chypres. For the latter, it’s easy to classify because of the tripod format which requires the use of bergamot in the opening and oakmoss and patchouli in the base, with the floral element as the heart. And we all know a basic oriental when we see (or, rather sniff) one, too.
But sub-genres are where things get tricky. Fragrantica has several sub-sections for the fougère category, like oriental fougères, or aromatic ones. In fact, it has multiple sub-parts merely for the “aromatic” category as a whole. So what does Fragrantica say for Florientals or, as they put it, Oriental Floral?
Sweet, warm, powdery base typical of this group harmonizes with such flowers like gardenia, tuberose, tiare or with a spicy note of carnation. In our base the oriental floral group has 2060 for women, 13 for men and 463 shared fragrances.
That’s their entire definition. And I really disagree. First, I don’t think a “powdery” base is required. Second, their definition is so broad that any fragrance with labdanum amber or benzoin and even a small streak of carnation would qualify. 2060 scents? I’m surprised it’s not 9060, given the scope of their criteria. It simply can’t be as generic and basic as that, if you ask me — which brings us, full circle, back to the subjective nature of definitions. I certainly don’t claim to have the definitive one for Florientals and, again, I don’t think there actually is one. However, I do have some criteria of my own. They are delineations borne of testing and wearing a monumental number of orientals because, if this blog has any specialised area of focus, it’s orientals above all else.