Flower Girls: Our Expert Guide To Selecting & Wearing Floral Fragrances

Sorry, vanilla, but there’s a new hot note in town…and it isn’t gourmand. According to a recent NPD report, floral fragrances are the number-one scent category in the U.S., representing a total of one-third of all fragrance purchases in the first quarter of 2013. That’s a lot of flowers, people. 

But, the all-encompassing term “floral” doesn’t really do justice to the nuances of this oh-so-feminine scent category. What you’ll smell from a rose-based scent is worlds away from what you’d find with an iris one. 

To help us decipher the difference between the expansive bouquet of fragrances available, we asked two perfume world vets — Franco Wright, co-founder of Lucky Scent, and Steven Gontarski, manager at Scent Bar in Los Angeles — to identifythe 10 most common floral notes and give us their expert descriptions for what each one really smells like. 

And, once you’ve figured out which note is right for you, we went ahead and highlighted a few new scents that best showcase your flower of choice. We’re giving like that.



“One of the most versatile florals, it can be pulled in so many directions: fresh and crisp like a tea rose, fruity, or velvety and sensuous,” says Wright. “Rose has associations with the perfume of older generations, and many fear that fragrances featuring this flower will smell powdery. But, it’s so commonly used and most rose fragrances of recent years come across as youthful, stylish, and romantic. Recently Middle Eastern style fragrances have become popular and rose features heavily [in those].” 

Viktor & Rolf Flowerbomb La Vie en Rose, $80, available at Sephora.



“Jasmine is lightly sweet and breezy,” says Gontarski. “It’s a white floral — which means it has a hint of dirty earthiness to ground the sweetness — and, like most white florals, is intoxicating. Jasmine isn’t as popular now as it was in more classical perfumes, like Chanel No. 5 and Joy by Jean Patou.” 

Mark Marrakesh, $24, available at Mark.



“A floral note that has hints of powdery almond, it’s found almost exclusively in feminine fragrances and gives a perfume a romantic softness,” says Gontarski. 

Jimmy Choo Flash, $55, available at Nordstrom.



“Tuberose is a heady white floral and has considerably more attitude than jasmine,” says Gontarski. “It’s multi-layered and sometimes starts off with a hint of menthol wintermint, then settles into a sweet creaminess. Tuberose scents tend to be long-lasting, and it pairs well with fruity notes.” 

Ramon Monegal Pure Mariposa, $200, available at Neiman Marcus.



“A velvety, luxurious, intoxicating white floral,” says Wright. “It’s very feminine and, like tuberose, takes center stage. However, gardenia is more creamy and velvety than tuberose.” 

Creed Fleurs de Gardenia, $155, available at Bergdorf Goodman.


Orange Blossom

“Perhaps the most commonly used floral note in all of perfumery, orange blossom is used in masculine fragrances as well as feminine,” says Wright. “It’s less sweet than some of the other white florals, which makes it a more unisex note. Orange blossom fragrances tend to be on the lighter, fresher side and are not super long-lasting.” 

Fueguia 1833 Naranjo en Flor, $150, available at Lucky Scent.



“The scent of violet comes mostly from the leaves, rather than the blossoms, so the scent is often described as ‘green,'” says Gontarski. “Violet often appears in masculine fragrances, particularly in a style called ‘fougere’ — the masculine green, herbal scents. In feminine fragrances, violet is often featured as a sweeter, floral note and reminds many of the Parma Violet candies.” 

Anna Sui Forbidden Affair, $60, available at Sephora.


Lily Of The Valley

“A clean and green-smelling floral note, it exudes early springtime,” says Wright. “[It] appears in fragrances that can be described as fresh and bright.” 

Byredo Parfums Inflorescence, $220, available at Barneys New York.



“Similar to some rose notes, but greener, peony smells fresh and just-plucked from the garden,” says Gontarski. 

Penhaligon’s Peoneve, $109.14, available at QVC.



“The scent of iris comes from the root — also known as orris — rather than the blossom, so iris isn’t technically a floral,” says Gontarski. “The smell is earthy and sometimes a little vegetal. It is not sweet and combines nicely with wood and incense notes.” 

Olfactive Studio Lumière Blanche, $145, available at Lucky Scent.

Click HERE to read more from Refinery29.

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