How to Pick a Floral Fragrance

Florals may be the most popular scents, but choosing the right one is tricky. Here's how to find yours.

Excerpts from a fragrance editorial, Floral Fragrance, in Allure Magazine, December 2011 issue.

"A woman's perfume tells more about her than her handwriting," said Christian Dior. Nowadays, penned notes may be a dying art, but fragrance is still an effective way to express your personality, and the most popular choice by far have always been florals. "Whether they're soft or powerful, floral perfumes exude femininity," says Pascal Gaurin, a senior perfumer at International Flavors & Fragrances. "That's a huge part of their appeal." Plus, we have more intimate associations with flowers than with sunny citrus or exotic oriental notes. "Everyone lives with them, and you give them to people you love," say Kilian Hennessy, perfumer and founder of By Kilian. "They bring a familiarity to a perfume that other notes can't. We don't live with woods and ambers in the same way." That said, the variety of floral notes used in perfumes is huge, and each has a particular scent -- which can make finding the right floral fragrance something of a challenge. We asked top perfumers for their tips on choosing florals, so you can be sure you're making the perfect statement.

How to pick a floral scent

How to Pick a Floral Scent

1. Choose Your Flower

  • If you've always loved fresh scents, look for delicate floral notes, such as lily of the valley and peony.
  • If you prefer powdery fragrances, go with iris and violet.
  • Fans of deep, rich scents should try potent jasmine and tuberose.
  • If sweet fragrances are your thing, seek out tropical varieties, like orchid and frangipani.

2. Test the Fragrances

  • Spray fragrances on paper blotters, narrowing the selection down to four; that's the most you can process without being overwhelmed.
  • Spritz the top contenders on your forearms -- one on each wrist, and one on each of your inner elbows -- then give the scents time to develop. Floral notes typically take about 15 to 30 minutes to open up.

3. Spritz on the Winner

  • Once you've chosen a fragrance, spray it on your neck and wrists, without rubbing them together, which alters the scent.
  • You can also mist it on the backs of your knees, so the scent wafts up as it evaporates.
  • Floral notes are among the most volatile, so boost their longevity by applying them once in the morning and again before going out for the evening.

Floral Groups

Prada Infusion de Rose perfume

Rose can be either soft or intense. Rose is a chameleon, it can be delicate or sexy. A lush one is Prada Infusion de Rose, a lighter version is Dolce & Gabbana Rose The One.

Marc Jacobs Oh Lola perfume

Freesia, lily of the valley, peony, and magnolia are subtle. Marc Jacobs Oh, Lola! and Giorgio Armani Acqua di Gioia both have soft peony notes.

Tom Ford Violet Blonde perfume

Iris is the most powdery floral. Find it in Chanel No. 19 Poudre and Tom Ford Violet Blonde.

Diane by Diane Von Furstenberg perfume

Tropical flowers, including frangipani in Diane von Furstenberg Diane and orchid in Estee Lauder Beyond Paradise, have sweet scents.

Michael Kors Very Hollywood perfume

White flowers like gardenia, tuberose, and jasmine, have power. Michael Kors Very Hollywood is a gardenia and Guerlain Floral Romantique is a jasmine-based floral perfume.

Classic Floral Fragrances

There may be thousands of florals to choose from, but fans of these arrangements never stray.

Dior Diorissimo perfume

Dior Diorissimo
An ode to Christian Dior's favorite flower, lily of the valley, is a fresh floral scent.

Jean Patou 1000 perfume

Jean Patou 1000
Blending rose, jasmine, violet, and sandalwood in a spicy scent; Jacqueline Kennedy was a fan.

Lancome Tresor perfume

Lancome Tresor
Rose, violet, and lilac, with a peach-and-vanilla candied finish. One bottle is sold every 15 seconds.

Robert Piguet Fracas perfume

Robert Piguet Fracas
The archetypal tuberose, sensual and heady. Madonna made it her signature. If you like sexy fragrances, this is the floral for you.

Yves Saint Laurent Paris perfume

Yves Saint Laurent Paris
Smells just like tea rose. Unlike other rose scents, which traditionally contain amber, Paris isn't stodgy.

Giving Floral Scented Gifts

Giving a floral perfume requires more thought. The safest bet is to find out what fragrance the recipient already wears and look for a similar one. If you're not sure, you can still give one that feels personal; a favorite flower, and a meaningful name is a good start. Or go for one of the best-selling florals:

For men who think they don't like cologne, floral scents might be just the ticket. Most men's fragrance contain lavender, including popular ones like:

For home fragrance, skip light-floral candles. Instead, go with the more potent tuberose, a comforting scent for the bedroom; lavender, great for the kitchen; gardenia or rose absolute, in the living room or bathroom. Try candles by Thymes Lavender Aromatic Candle, Malin + Goetz Absolute Rose, and:

(Siegal, Elizabeth. "Beauty 101: Floral Fragrance." Allure Dec. 2011.)

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