Forgotten flowers: freesia blooms again in contemporary scents!

Flowers, like anything, fall in and out of fashion. There can be a snobbishness about who grows what and where – and of course, perfume falls foul of this penchant, too.

With so many of us glorying in our gardens if we’re lucky enough to have them – we felt it time to fling open the doors and invite you to Step Into the Garden with our latest edition of The Scented Letter Magazine.

In that issue, I explore flowers once religated as ‘old-fashioned’ – violet, peony, rose, magnolia and osmanthus – but which we’re seeing increasing bouquets of proffered to perfume lovers of any gender.

For floral perfumes were once for everyone, then marketing got involved and we were told only women wore flowery scents. But personal hygiene guides were published throughout the 19th Century, warning women to use floral fragrances ‘with caution’, and, as Cheryl Krueger explains in her essay Decadent Perfume: Under the Skin and Through the Page, they offered advice on ‘the careful selection of an appropriate scent, proper dosage and strategic application…’

There are so many other ‘forgotten flowers’ we’re loving to smell in scents these days, though! And freesia is a favourite. Originating in Africa, A plant collector, Christian Friedrich Ecklon, honoured his friend Friedrich Heinrich Theodor Freese (1795-1876) by naming the flower after him.

Filling a room with glorious sweetness, these delicate, multi-coloured flowers smell nose-tinglingly fresh with a hint of citrus, but they’re frustratingly elusive. Try as they might, perfumers have never been able to naturally capture the scent. As perfumer Alienor Massenet explains:

‘Freesia in perfumery is an imaginary reconstitution – but the smell is gorgeous.’ So: it’s produced synthetically, adding a hint of green sweetness – and airiness – to fragrance creations. Alienor adds: ‘It’s smells like tea, actually.’

And I just adore this quote about freesias that Hugh de Sélincourt wrote in The Way Things Happen:

‘The happiness of that afternoon was already fixed in her mind, and always would the scent of freesia return it to her mental sight, for among the roses and violets and lilies and wall-lowers, the smell of freesia penetrated, as a melody stands out from its accompaniment, and gave her the most pleasure.’

Why not capture a whole day of melodic happiness by trying one of these freesia-filled fragrances…?

A snapped-stalk, florist’s shop galbanum rush: nectar-drenched freesia amidst armfulls of orange blossom.
Miller Harris Sublime Blossom £85 for 50ml eau de parfum

Symphonies of fresh flowers, freesia sparkling dew drops over fruity rose petals on a powdery bed of musk.
Storie Veneziane Palazzo Nobile Blooming Ballet £136 for 100ml eau de parfum

Vintage vibes as carnation, daffodil, marigold and pepper spice up soapy white florals; the freesia resplendently poised.
Calvin Klein Eternity £35 for 30ml eau de parfum

Transcendental lotus flower and sheer jasmine float freesia atop creamy vanilla and sandalwood, laced with musk.
Kayali Musk 12 £84 for 50ml eau de parfum

A contemporary take on freesia’s fresh-airyness, contrasted with fiery black pepper and earthy clove-like carnation.
Diptyque Ofrésia £98 for 100ml eau de toilette

By Suzy Nightingale

Never putting a fragrant foot wrong: (more of) Alienor Massenet’s insights into bottling Mr. Beckham

In our new edition of The Scented Letter (which our VIP Subscribers can read in their downloadable edition), perfumer Alienor Massenet talks about ‘Bottling Mr. Beckham’ – and the creation of Aqua Classic, the latest to join an incredibly successful line-up of David Beckham scents produced in partnership with Coty. (We also reveal David Beckham’s ‘scent philosophy’: the type of smells he likes to wear – and how he likes a woman to smell…)

Here on the website, though, where we know you have a particular fascination with the creative process behind the scents we wear and love, we thought we’d share with you more of Alienor’s thoughts – beyond the creation of this ultra-fresh men’s fragrance…

Q. When did your passion for perfumery begin?
Since I was a child I used to exercise my sense of smell. I used it much more than any of my other senses: an aptitude I learned to play with and which in the end made me different. Then, when a friend of her mother’s told me about the existence of the perfumery profession, I didn’t even dare to think about it. It was too good to be true!

Q. What are your personal sources of inspiration?
I love to find new original ideas all the time I always try to surprise myself, that way I am more inventive. I get my inspiration from everywhere, but mostly from artistic fields. I often think of my perfume ideas in terms of colors, shapes and materials, like architecture or painting. I picture certain fragrances like solid blocks and others like staircases. It’s a very personal olfactive language with a spirit of independence and liberty, typical of each of my creations.

Q. What are your favourite notes or raw materials to work with?
I’m open to any kind of materials, but I like to work by theme – leathers, liqueurs, seeds, roses – to explore an olfactive territory. I also have ‘lucky’ ingredients – myrrh and labdanum – which I always include in my creations. This is maybe due to the fact that I’m very spiritual and that labdanum & myrrh have a mystical dimension for me.

Q. What is the secret of making good perfume?
There is no secret formula to create a good perfume. It’s all about the harmony between the name, the brand, the packaging and the scent. When all these elements are coherent, it’s much easier for the consumer to understand and appreciate the fragrance.

For David Beckham Aqua Classic, Alienor put a new spin on his Classic bestseller, enlivening it with lemon, violet leaves and cardamom, before the aromatic heart of sage, geranium and artemisia unfolds. Notes of patchouli, a suede accord and vetiver emerge later – making this one for nights out as well as days in the office.

David Beckham Aqua Classic £16.95 for 60ml eau de toilette
Buy it at Superdrug